Mama guilt is a real thing. I wonder if any mother gets away from it. If I am not careful it can grip me so hard it stops me in my tracks and makes it difficult to breath. It is through meditation and inviting it in to my heart space, that I have been able to change my relationship with it. The saying “keep your enemy’s close” comes to mind when I think about how I have learned to deal with it.
Instead of reacting and running when the guilt fog comes in, I step outside of myself and sit with it. I do this same method when I am working with and sitting with the grief and guilt I have around my son Spirit B. Sitting with it, and not running or feeling dread has taught me that it is a natural and necessary part of being a mother. However, just because it is a thing, doesn’t mean that I need to let it control me.
This past month has been especially hard in the guilt department. In the mist of training for the longest event in the adventure racing world and putting together an acro teaching tour, I have been eeking out as much quality time as I can with Max. I still feel guilty. But what I have seen is that this feeling does not do anything productive for me. It makes me anxious, and not present – which is exactly the opposite of what I want my time with Max to be.
In my fantasy world there would be two of me. A “normal mom” me that would be ok staying home every day and an “adventurer mom” me that would go on excursions when ever I pleased. But that is not the reality. Instead, I have been waking up every morning and letting the guilt take me deep. I let myself sit in the muck of it and soak it all up. Acknowledging the guilt and inviting it in, lets me feel all of the edges of this emotion. I work to process it. Some days pieces of it linger, but the vice grip on me is not as tight.
In ten days Jason and I will be on a plane headed down to the remote region of southern Chile. Max will not be going with us. We’ll be gone for nearly three weeks, and he will be staying with two sets of his grandparents. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t anxious and sad about leaving, but I would also be lying if I said I wasn’t excited.
I’ve told Max about “Daddy and Mama’s big adventure” for weeks now. Every afternoon we play with the magnets on our wall size map. Conveniently Punta Arenas is close to the bottom of the map which is right above Max’s eye level. Among his many signs and words, he has honed in on the signs for airplane and work and can say “Mama, Dada, bike, climb and boat.”
I tell him that we are going into the mountains, over glaciers, across rivers. That we will be paddling, biking and trekking into the wind, and that we will see and connect with Spirit B everyday. I end our map sessions with assurances that I will be thinking of Max every minute of everyday. He is not the one that needs to hear this though. I am.
I tell him all of this with excitement and enthusiasm in my voice because this is who I am. I want him to know what ELSE makes his mama tick, what sets her spirit on fire and how much she loves him. Because, I know what it is like to not do something because I am scared. But I DON’T know what it will be like to go and do this race as a new mother.
When I say goodbye in 10 days, I will be leaving him in the greatest care and for that I am so grateful. But I will miss him with all my being. What will bring me comfort is the wildness of Patagonia – a place that fills my soul and strips me down to nothing all at the same time.
It is here that I have had the biggest shifts in my life – lessons and self discoveries while trudging across the never ending turbal fields, on the way up to an unknown mountain pass and down unknown rivers. Biking into 60 mph winds and stopping to ponder life and death underneath the most beautiful rainbow I have ever seen.
This time, I am going back with a drive like no other: to be fully present and in tune with every single step, to connect with Spirit B and…. and to go as fast as I possibly can! And when the guilt and sadness comes flooding back in, I hope that my coping tools help while being thousands of miles away from my little Max.