Sunday, June 23, 2013

Lessons from Lincoln

Lincoln engaged in his favorite activity - tearing the stuffing from his bed

Navigating life with three children--two grown and one still under my care--after divorce has been the greatest lesson of my life.  When I can step back and have awareness of what living beyond a 19 year marriage has yielded in terms of growth, I am so very grateful.  Yet, I am not immune to moments of anger, sadness, loneliness and simply being misunderstood and under-appreciated. This week, I felt a sense of being under-appreciated by an adult child.  I wanted my child to acknowledge my sacrifices, my this, my that....  In short, I expected to be validated in a way that only I can give to myself.  Those who have college-age kids can relate to the competing forces of guiding while letting go as our adult children search for a balance between independence and autonomy while still needing support and acceptance.  The answer to balancing those contrasting ideals came to me from an unlikely source--my dog, Lincoln.

Spiritual writer and philosopher, Mark Nepo, said when recounting the words of a Native American elder, "Animals never forget their original instructions, but human beings do."  Those instructions are to love and accept unconditionally.  When my adult children show up during summer breaks and holidays, they are met with the embrace of Lincoln shaking his tail uncontrollably at the door and jumping with excitement because they are simply in the room.  His excitement belies anything given in return.  If they ignore him when they came in, Lincoln holds the same enthusiasm.  He has no expectation of outcome.  He only wants to express his love.

As my adult child left our home, stooping to pet our precious Lincoln with a pure sense of love toward our rescued Pitbull from a just outside of the beltway Washington, D.C. shelter (thus the name, Lincoln), a flood of understanding filled my body.

I had forgotten my original instruction as a mother--to love and accept unconditionally.  I was not in the moment of the gift of my child visiting.  I was outside of that moment in my head with all kinds of expectations from my child, from myself and for the future of our separate and mutual lives.  I fell outside of experiencing what was right before me--the loving gift of being a mother. 

Lincoln taught me to release my grown children to their own journeys and to honor their choices while I honor my own.  Like Lincoln standing at the front door sensing the beauty of his beloved family before they even come into view, I will no longer take for granted the gift of having a beautiful soul come to me, a soul that come through me, by allowing that soul to walk at their own pace along side of me in this life.  Whether or not I see them next to me, behind me, in front of me or not at all, I can sense them, like Lincoln, being not too far off in the distance.