In yoga class last week, my teacher, Susan Hauser, explained that she wanted us to work on transitioning smoothly from one posture to the next.
"Think yoga dance," she said. "Practice flowing between postures and making it fluid."
Susan called out the sequence of poses, "Warrior 2, Crescent Lunge, Side Angle, Warrior 3." I tried to imagine my arms moving slowly from one posture to the next, but I find transitions tough -- on the yoga mat and in life.
My youngest child is now driving. This means he has keys that jangle, and I have more time. The question becomes: Do I fill it with worry? This motherhood thing is insane really. Having a baby and nursing meant waking often from a deep sleep to feed and care for this new being. And now with two teens and a 22-year-old, I find motherhood now means waking often to pray.
The other day my daughter, my oldest, told me she was going to Vegas with girlfriends. I felt myself fall over. A few days later, she texted me that she had found the perfect dress to wear on her trip.
"It was on sale," she texted. "$25!"
Later my daughter showed me the dress -- she was full of delight and I had a terrible motherhood moment.
"It's cute," I said barely able to breathe and added, "You're going to wear a coat over it, right?"
My middle son is currently missing a front tooth -- a loss that occurred on a late night during his freshman year in college. The dentist was solemn while he assessed the problem, and then the doctor told my son that he had lost a patient who had fallen while drinking during his freshman year.
My youngest, the one who has his driver's license, is elated about being able to surf with friends. He keeps his board in the back of the minivan and watches the size of the waves on an app on his phone. When the waves are good, he heads to the beach. He also uses an app that tracks great white sharks. Some of the great whites have been tagged, and my son follows their migration. Fall where we live is not a good time to surf. As days shorten, big sharks start to arrive.
"Lunchbox is getting closer," my son casually said to me.
"Lunchbox?" I asked.
"Yeah, it's the name of one of the great whites," he said.
"Great," I said.
I confided in a friend, "Several times a day," I told her, "I want to hide under our kitchen table and sit there." She laughed. "It's true," I said, "that way if an earthquake happens, (we live in earthquake land) I'm already safe."
When the kids were young, we would cover the kitchen table with a bed sheet and have tea parties. I loved the feeling of sitting under the tent with cookies, tea, my kids and their stuffed animal friends. It was never as ideal as it looks now. Someone always knocked over tea and someone else always complained that so and so took too many cookies. But I knew even then that there was a particular bliss to having us all safe under the kitchen table.
Where does this leave me now?
"If you go more slowly between poses, you will be able to maintain proper alignment and keep your balance better," Susan suggested to our yoga class.
I remember trying to transition into being a mother. Sometimes it felt rude that I had to stop my life to care for another. What do you mean we can't eat at restaurants anymore? Now it feels rude that I'm supposed to let go of taking care of another.
The other day, I found myself chasing our youngest out the door with food. "Eat, eat something," I said running after him down the street.
"I'm fine, mom, really. I'll get food on the way."
I could see neighbors peeking out their windows watching the woman in the bathrobe caring an apple running after a minivan.
If I go more slowly, will I stop and savor the heartache of them leaving? Will I see what a privilege it has been to love them?
Years ago, I read a quote in a book written by a famous Japanese artist named Kuboku Takaku. He painted silk that was used to make kimonos. His work was exquisite. The quote struck me, and I wrote it down on a yellow, sticky paper and put it on my wall.
"Because you can never live life without anguish and exertion, you must accept them, without considering them to be hardship."
And then there was the woman from Mexico who sat next to me on a plane. She told me about her mother who had lost 3 out of 9 children.
"My mother always said that when God gave her children they were not hers, and that her job was to love them, and then she had to give them back or let them go."
This time in my life feels awkward, unfamiliar and off-balance. But as I return to these stories of humor, pain and sweetness, I see that experiencing deep love is a gift even though I'm stumbling through the transitions.
Kathleen Buckstaff is the author of two books that celebrate life and motherhood:Mother Advice To Take With You To College, a collection of hilarious drawings and wise sayings for college students and their parents, and The Tiffany Box: A Memoir, an International Best Book Awards Finalist, a true story told through emails and letters about the last two years of Kathleen's mother's life--full of heartache, humor and love. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.