When it’s late summer and the heat has passed, you find yourself deflating the pool floaties and moving the sunscreen to the back shelf of the medicine cabinet. You wash and fold swimsuits, beach towels; find storage for that massive sun hat. Sprinkler to the attic.
You get to work. You meet deadlines, schedule meetings, organize the pantry. You focus in, hone in, eyes fixed on school year goals, on winter survival, on what feels like a hundred pending projects on the horizon.
And then you break your gaze and hop a flight to the pink city for one last hot summery hurrah.
I’ll be Instagramming it (#ofcourse). I’ve never been to India, after all.
Ken and I make it a point to travel internationally as often as we can, mostly annually, mostly as a family. It’s easy to forget that the world is our backyard, easy to forget to teach Bee the same. It’s easy to fritter away that hard-earned money elsewhere, on soy candles or hand cream, pitted dates. It’s easy to choose convenience over experience.
This trip won’t be easy.
(Experience often isn’t.)
I sometimes grapple with balancing what seems like two opposing purposes: to be a fully available mother or a fully available human. In this season of sticky banana fingers and incessant nursery rhymes, it feels like one must choose. Energy is scarce, and shouldn’t my portion be used up and poured out on the toddler in braids running underfoot? Shouldn’t I be of service to others later? Isn’t my place, my purpose here, now?
But then I remember that availability isn’t the only goal. That there is a very real difference between becoming a fully available mother and a fully alive one.
One of my past tendencies has always been to martyr myself, to wring out my days like a dish rag until I’m lying on the floor, a dry and shriveled mess. Used up and useless to any.
I no longer do this (Ken is ever grateful).
Instead, I have learned to allow Bee to see me as a whole person. One with many needs, gifts, responsibilities. One who works hard to prioritize what matters to her. One who loves her family and loves the world, who holds great purpose here and elsewhere. One who is willing to serve when asked.
I will always get homesick for this place, for my own kitchen counter with the marker smudges and pistachio crumbs. I will always have a hard time leaving my official post as She Who Cuts The Strawberries, She Who Bandages Knees. But I know I have the opportunity to show Bee what a mother’s love is capable of – living and breathing, changing, growing, forever spanning the distance of oceans. It is a big love. Wide for miles.
And I know that to mother others, we must mother ourselves.
I know a dry rag never offered much. That sometimes, you’ve got to pick yourself off the floor and find the rain – fully available, fully alive.
That when you do, you let it flood every corner of your suitcase, wet and happy, and you return home to pour it on the ones you love most.