Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Houdini Mama

On Father’s Day, my dad suggested watching Into the Wild. It’s a true story about a young man who is disgusted with his dysfunctional family and disillusioned with society. He breaks all ties and embarks on a quest. Many a young person has set out on such a quest. I did. I wanted to break free from old childhood wounds. I wanted to run wild and free.

During pregnancy, I began thinking about my childhood and what I wanted for my daughter. I found myself excavating old wounds and crying on my husband’s shoulder. While his doublespeak and reflectiveness were not what I was looking for, he helped me to realize that blaming my parents or society was not serving me, that, as an adult, I needed to take control of and move forward in my life—instead of dragging the past around like a ball and chain. When I looked down, I saw that there were others, many of my own device. And, I, like Houdini.

On this journey of motherhood, I have wriggled out of many a chain. But I realized that I am not a supermom. I believe that it is an illusion. As much as we try, we cannot possibly be Ideal parents. My childhood was not ideal…but it was good. It was enough. We cannot be everything for each other. My parents couldn’t be everything for me. My partner can’t be everything for me. And, as much as I yearn to, I can’t be everything for my daughter. We each have our own life path, our own search for meaning and reconciliation. Sure we influence each other, but we can’t fulfill each other completely.

Oh, there are days. Days when I look down, and there’s that ball and chain again, with my initials carved into it. I can envision an ideal and am very hard on myself when I see those chains there—again! Know what I mean?!

We can’t fulfill each other, because we’re already whole. We’ve just forgotten. We must forgive ourselves and move again towards awareness. We all do our best with what we’ve got. The more we connect with each other, the more we “get.” We are not really separate.

“Driven by the force of love, the fragments of the world seek each other that the world may come into being.” Tiellhard de Chardin


  1. Jenell, wow...I relate to so much of what you've said. How does that saying go? "Yesterday was the PAST, tomorrow is the FUTURE, today is a GIFT." This helps me affirm the good in my life and every day is a blessing that I co-create. With that said, I read the book and watched the movie...it was a definite tear jerker. I can relate to his disgust with the superficiality of society at that age, I think that's why it got to me so much. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Thank you Jenell for sharing such an intimate and meaningful piece of yourself. I appreciate your words so very much, you speak such truth and you have brought light to the raw and real parts of life that should be and need to be thought about. I enjoyed your writing about who we are to ourselves, to others and who others are to us. It is so true, we are not 'super people' we all have gifts to give and share, we are all different and your right... "we are already whole" what a great reminder and inspiration.
    I enjoyed that movie and it certainly made me cry for many reasons!

  3. I feel your words Jenelle.

  4. Beautiful words, Jenelle.

    I love the Chardin quote.

    Unity is something I've been pondering a lot the last few years.

  5. I love this - "We can’t fulfill each other, because we’re already whole. We’ve just forgotten."

    What a stunningly beautiful truth. Thank you so much for writing that!

  6. Blogger just ated my comment, so here goes again...

    Just wanted to say that this post struck a chord with me, as this very issue is one that I've been musing on of late in regards to the relationship I have with my little girl. I've had regrets about lost time, (not spent with her). But you offer some wise words here, and yes, we are already whole. A good reminder to me, and maybe instead of trying to fulfil each other, I can try to remind my little girl of her wholeness.

    And btw - I saw Into the Wild a little while ago, and really enjoyed it. Certainly food for thought re parental wounding of children...phew! I'm liking Sean Penn's choices these days.

  7. I love Into the Wild! Alexander Supertramp rocked! I try my best to stay true to who I am, even though that concept is constantly evolving. There are days when I feel like I play too many roles, but I just try to do something authentically Cam. Like, putting on my purple wig and playing the flyswatter, or walking barefoot through the woods. It works like a charm for me. I try to give Dylan the freedom to do the same. You are right, we are walking our own path, and we might see each other in passing, or lend a hand to help, but ultimately, the path must be our own, and we must go our own way.

  8. I read "Into the Wild" first and then saw the movie and I have to say this is one time when the movie trumped the book big time. I loved it.
    We all carry our ball and chain from time to time, it's part of what makes us who we are, but I figure dragging that thing around has built up my endurance so that I hardly ever notice it anymore.

  9. Oh yes, I've wriggled out of many chains, especially since motherhood. Some I've downright smashed to pieces.
    Must look up at that film.

  10. MamaRose, I don't think I've ever heard that one. I love it! Yes, it is a gift. And if you can live through it, the bad stuff can even be a gift. It's hard to write that. It was hard to write this post. I know people who have survived horrible things. HORRIBLE. Violence is a hard one. Was that a gift?! I would not dare say that. I have known people who have not only survived, but transformed themselves. But I have also known people who did not survive or overcome. It is hard to see the gift there.

    gardenmama! Well, I try to speak my truth. I always pray that it is only received that way and not as THE TRUTH. I hope to share a little of my process--the gratitude and the groaning, the sunshine and the stormy days. I want others to feel safe expressing their complexity, too.

    Sara, thanks, sister.... xx back atcha!

    Stephanie, unity, huh? Your family seems like the vision of unity, or mindfulness, at least. Yes, I saw the Thich Nhat Hanh book in your book stack!

    sarah, that means a lot to me.

    docwitch, that IS something to keep in mind with our children. I was just kind of meandering through my own journey, but YES! For sure. You said something about maybe unschooling, and this seems to me one of the leading ideas behind it. It is a mantra.

    Oh, Cam! You're so playful. I think I came out of the womb serious! Seriously. Then I had my Alexander Supertramp days of trying to lose myself. Then I had a kid and somehow found myself. And now...well, this last year has been one of the hardest years of my life, and I'm ready for a little more playfulness. Thanks for being inspiring by being who you are.

    marjean, I used to work in a bookstore (yep, born with reading glasses and a bun in my hair!). So I read this book when it came out. Cried my eyes out! And this was the second time seeing the movie. I warned my dad...wasn't sure if it was what he needed this father's day. But, yes, the movie is very good. I like Eddie Vedder's music with it, too. Ha-ha! I know! You should see my calves!

    Mon, yay for smashing chains, wrestling giants, taming (or slaying?) dragons! The movie and the book are both good, Mon.

  11. Yes, I so know what you mean!!
    Yes, tragic story really abou his life Into the Wild, but I admired his courage to travel around in a serendipitous way with his trust in the world and people.
    Thanks for your comment on my post. For me, I need a creative outlet outside of motherhood. I need this to get energy for myself in order to do motherhood well. I think for some, motherhood in itself is the creative process and there is no desire for anything outside this. Wish I was one of those mums but I'm not. Therefore I need courage to make choices that make me feel good about the future in a creative way, that also help me from not going about with ball and chain. :)

  12. I am one of those moms who sees motherhood as a creative outlet, but, like you, Ruth, I realize (over and again) that I have to live for myself, too. And my daughter needs to see me pursuing what is meaningful to me (mothering and beyond).

    And then, eventually, they do grow up, right? We have to prepare ourselves for that day, too. My husband asked me a little while back what I was going to do when my daughter goes to school or leaves the nest. I was insulted at first! It was a little bit of a wake up call. But it's true, we have to pursue our passions, too...and not wait for that time...or retirement...or....