The female energy, which courses from women and out into the world, flows from it’s source within the Mother Heart. It is no real surprise that the field of caregiving is dominated by women, who by nature (and there is of course a spectrum here), possess a higher level of empathy, are more nurturing, and have a maternal instinct that reaches beyond the children they may or may not have.
This is not to say that men can’t make great caregivers too. Many husbands and fathers care full-time for their children and wives after catastrophic injuries, or debilitating disease. But the Mother Heart, the sacred female energy moving through the world, represents to me all that is sanctuary and safety. It represents unconditional compassion and caring. The Mother Heart is willing to do anything for another person, in order to see them grow, blossom and expand. I’m very grateful to have connected with mine, which allowed me to transform and deepen my love for Patrick when he needed guidance like a child, into something that served him better than a romantic love.
Having no children of my own, I suspected this to be a difficult process, and was surprised to find that it came relatively natural to me. I never saw Patrick as less than a man, but was able to connect somehow with his most vulnerable self; the child that still lived within him, when he was tremendously hurt and reduced back to infancy. For this I truly believe I am most blessed, because my love for Patrick is so much deeper and multifaceted, than many women will ever experience.
Fast forward to this afternoon: the house is eerily quiet. I can actually hear the heater warming the air. My fluffy fur-ball of a cat is asleep at my feet. I cannot remember a peace this wide in these four walls, since we moved in. Ironically, now that there is quiet abounding, the noise of my heart is suddenly deafening. It screams out in fear. It screams out in worry. It screams out in what-ifs. It battles my mother heart, which is telling me that I’ve made a mistake, that I need to be with Patrick, and that I’m failing my job as guardian. It’s all I can do to reassure myself that I am on the contrary, doing just what I’m supposed to do. Because my job this time, is to once again, let go.
Two and a half years ago, I got a fair amount of preparation from doctors and nurses, on what it would be like to “raise” Patrick all over again. But nobody ever told me what was on the other side of all that hard work, should we succeed at our goal. No one ever counseled me on how hard the transition would be towards independence; not for Patrick, but for me. I’ve been teaching Patrick to fly for such a long time, never thinking about what it would feel like for him to actually spread his wings and leave the nest. I never thought about what the nest would feel like empty. I never thought about the worries that would plague my heart, when he flew away from me and out of sight.
Today he took his first solo flight. About an hour ago, Patrick was picked up in a van by his new friend, who he met last week. The friend is taking him to a meeting with a support group, and to maybe hang out afterwards. As the van pulled up, I could tell Patrick was excited. The van was tall, and there was a moment where he was unsure how to get inside it. He looked to me briefly for assistance. I wanted to help. I had to stop myself from stepping in and showing him the way. Without much trouble, he hoisted himself all the way up and into his seat. And then, even my stormy Patrick could not hold back the smile of accomplishment from spreading across his face.
I had only met this friend 3x, but could tell he was a good guy. Yet my mother heart was badgering me to ask him a million questions. I wanted to be sure he knew exactly how to walk with Patrick, how to get up and down the stairs, to be aware (even though he already knows) that Patrick has a brain injury. I wanted to know exactly when they would be home. As I tried to convey all of this to him, he kept reassuring me he was fine, not to worry, to go take a bubble bath and call his cell if I needed them, and that they’d be back soon. For a moment I saw myself outside my body and recognized that I looked a little unhinged. I didn’t care if he judged me, but knew I had an opportunity to help Patrick normalize his life, or further isolate him. I could let go, or I could hover. He was ready for some independence, and Lord knows it would be a good thing for him and for me also, if he were to have some.
So here I am in our apartment, alone for the first time since we moved in October 2014 (other than his hospital stays). And do you know what is really crazy? That even though we are together 24/7 and I typically long for some time to myself, now that I have it, I find myself missing Patrick. The nest is not the same without my green-eyed bird beside me. I’m grateful for this change, for Patrick’s exploration of the world with his new eyes, and my mother heart rejoices in his freedom and happiness. But I finally understand why it is so hard for mothers to let go of their children’s hands on the first day of school. It’s hard to let go of the control, and to trust the broken world to handle your loved one with care. This is true perhaps 100x more with a brain injured loved one, because you’ve already suffered the tragedy of their near-death experience. I almost lost Patrick once. I have fiercely protected him against danger since the night of his accident. I am terrified of losing him again. But life doesn’t exist in a vacuum or a bubble. And recovery for Patrick lies partly, if not largely, outside the nest now. And so, he must go.
He’ll fly back home soon. I’ve got dinner on the table waiting for him. And as recovery continues, my mother heart will eventually retreat to the background, and romantic love will take the lead. But it will always be there, beating wildly like the wings of a bird in my rib cage, singing a song of love and fear. It will always be part of the nuanced and special relationship that we have. I’ll always love him with a mother heart, because I’ll never forget the time when he needed me for everything. No matter how big his wings get, or how far away he flies, that love will always be woven into the stitchings of our story.
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