30 November 2009

The heart is a muscle

Turning 40 in 2008 did not break my stride, but as it happened to be the same year that Sarah turned ten, I've noticed that this year, the terrain has gotten noticeably steeper. I am still adjusting to the fact of my first-born reaching the decade mark – not only have I been a mother for ten years, but we have also reached the juncture where childhood wanes as adolescence waxes.
And so, what I've long known to be true is becoming a reality. While the first decade of child rearing was hard, the second promises to be harder. As the physical demands decrease, the emotional demands rise to fill the void, and they are far more taxing. Problems grow more complex, and resist simple, and sometimes any, solutions.

One of the great fallacies of the rise of psychoanalysis is the myth of closure. There can be resolution, or acceptance, but closure does not exist. It is analogous to the a scar; when fresh, it is prominent, but once it heals, a mark remains.

In Sanskrit, the word samskara refers to the behavioral and emotional grooves we can get stuck in; the holding patterns that manifest in our psyches, and the suffering they cause. Over time, the grooves become so well worn and habitual that we cease to be aware of them. These patterns may serve us well, but more often than not they have negative ramifications; samskara has the same English root as scar. With practice we can fill in the grooves, but the memory is never completely erased. 

I would rather have an appendectomy on a hot bed of nails without benefit of anesthesia than willingly relive my adolescence, but having a child reach that point in their life has the effect of occasionally transporting you back there with them, whether you like it or not. The tragedies of your children's youth awaken long dormant samskaras.

The heart has muscle memory, and as best I can, I am preparing to have mine broken wide open on a regular basis, hopeful that each time the it cracks, the healing will invoke a greater capacity to mother with grace and compassion. 


  1. beautiful. thank you.

  2. One of the most eloquently searing example of observation and reflection I have read in a long time! I'll need this as I weather the upcoming years with my own growing babes. To our paths! jo