When I was a new mother, utterly and blissfully over the moon for my baby, I imagined that I would never feel anything less than that all-consuming, perfect love. It simply wasn’t possible.
Fast-forward twelve years to the Japanese Gardens in Portland, where a little family foray, meticulously planned by moi, precipitated a radical new experience of motherhood.
I arrived ready to take in the beauty with my brand new, fancy-pants camera. The gardens were my antidote for the dreadful forays to the zoo and museum. Here it was quiet, serene, lovely … except that it wasn’t. One child wanted only to go to the gift shop and complained bitterly throughout of tired feet. The other became uncharacteristically sullen when I refused him my camera. And then, after some minutes of this unrelenting onslaught, it happened. In the middle of the gardens, in a most surprising moment, I heard myself think: I don’t want my children.
“Surely you don’t mean that!” I thought. But this new “I” did mean it. In that moment, I absolutely meant it. I was done with grumpiness and catering to my children’s needs and desires: I wanted to satisfy my own desires. I wanted to take pictures with my new camera which should not have to be shared with my child. There are limits.
I once witnessed a mother deer, back when I was Blissful Mother, kick her fawn off of her teat. I remember feeling shocked at this and a bit horrified, but standing in the Japanese garden, I got it.
“Maya Angelou might know why the caged bird sings,” I thought, “but I know why mothers eat their young.”
Enantiodromia is a Greek word which, psychologically speaking, refers to the phenomenon whereby an extreme, one-sided tendency that dominates conscious life will elicit its unconscious opposite. In my honest love and desire to be all things wonderful for my children, a shadowy realm was constellated. This is the realm of the Hindu goddess Kali, a deity responsible for all of life from conception to death. She is creator, sustainer, and destroyer. Our one-sided cultural myth tends to limit mothers to the first two functions, but the truth is that our fierce destructive capacities are real and necessary facets of wholeness. Kali knows this.
I never imagined I would have a Kali moment in the Japanese Gardens, but there it was and interestingly, I allowed it. I allowed myself to feel it fully and completely and shamelessly. And in doing so, my understanding of what it is to be a mother expanded exponentially. Like that doe kicking her fawn, there comes a time when a mother reclaims a bit of herself, takes back her body, claims her own life (and camera) and says, “No.”
In that moment I found the fierceness I’ve been missing, and it felt oddly good. I’m tired of sharing everything. I’m tired of always wearing mom pants: those super comfortable, not-so-sexy jeans we seem to start wearing like a uniform once we have kids. I need to throw on the heels and tight jeans, grab my camera and take off by myself for a while, feed my own soul, remember my wilder nature lest I become unbalanced and kick someone, or devour them completely.
We all have a tendency to limit ourselves to what feels “nice” and acceptable. We try so hard to be less than who we are. Such self-denial aborts our aliveness. Embracing our wilder, fiercer natures might be messy and feel a bit scary, but it also makes for a richer, sexier, fuller life.
After all, Kali doesn’t wear mom pants.