Recently, I had a very interesting conversation with a woman from India. She is a very lively, entertaining person and the conversation, besides offering lots of opportunities for a good laugh, was filled with interesting and thought-provoking topics. At one point, she mentioned how her father died a couple of years ago from a chronic illness. I immediately said I was sorry, and I was, I am kind of familiar with that feeling. But she interrupted me with her incredible candor to say a word that was new for me but it resonated in my brain and my chest with the echo that important words carry…
Although my daughter makes fun of me because according to her I am buddhist-wannabe and for being a yoga aficionado, I had never heard that word.
The woman, with the same lightness she used when mentioning her kids’ anecdotes, explained the concept. She mentioned that her dad had moved on and in doing so he had been set free from his disease. At the same time, he had liberated his family of the responsibility of taking care of him while he carried the chronic illness, something they did out of the immense love they professed him. They were bound to his disease because of love. He was set free, emancipated from pain and that was a good thing. Moksha…what a beautiful, complex and selfless concept.
I felt a door opening inside me, as if I had been thrown in a forest where there were lots of fruits to collect. I knew I had to revisit the subject and explore why it has made such an impression on me. I could not stop thinking about it. I guess the fact that there was a word for such a complex process surprised me. But there was also the fact that setting free can a painful and inevitable process that we usually resist. Giving it a name seemed like a call to action to remember that it is actually a very natural notion that sooner or later will require us to act on its premise.
The following day I was distracted with other novelties. I was attending my oldest daughter parent orientation at college. It should have been an anxious day, after all it is not everyday that we send our first kid away for college. However, while sitting with the other parents I found myself like an outcast. I am proud we have raised independent kids. I am definitely not a ‘mama-hen”, if anything, I am more of a lioness like in “don’t hurt-my-cubs-or-you-will-have-to-deal-with-me” kind of mom. In fact, my daughter did all the college applications on her own, chose the school that was right for her and after taking a gap year after high school where she has blossomed into a very resourceful, motivated young woman, I know she is more than ready to leave the nest, to experience life, to carve her path, to make choices on her own, to make mistakes, to recalculate her journey. The day of her orientation I was filled with excitement for her more than fear.
During lunch, parents had the opportunity to sit down with professors from our kids’ majors. Next to me was a couple who talk incessantly. The kind of couple who speak on stereo: one shutdowns to let the other continue their story, and vice versa. They never let anybody talk because they monopolized the conversation in an orchestrated rhythm of back and forth interruptions. I was observing mostly, somewhat listening and honestly, mildly annoyed with the fact that in the short time we had I would not have the opportunity to ask the questions I had in my mind. Helicopter parents, no doubt. They even chose each of their son’s classes. Me, on the other hand, had been informed by my daughter all of the classes she had enrolled on without my assistance. I had to make a big effort not to judge, reminding myself that every parent is different and there was no good or wrong way to parent. But my mind kept insisting to go there and I kept fighting it. After all, it was clear that time was running down and I would not get another chance to sit down with my daughter’s professors ever again.
Then the loud couple, with their constant worries and intent to kidnap every intent of lunch discussion, told their story. When the woman was pregnant with their son, they were told he was not built for life and if he in fact was born, he only had a 10% chance of surviving. He was born and shortly after he had to had one of his several open heart surgeries. The boy’s heart was in the right side of his body, a very rare condition, and his circulation was inverted as well. Now, at seventeen, he was about to start college and be on his own for the first time. My own heart dropped. I felt so terrible at first for even having judged those parents who had fought for their son’s life and all the after effects of his disease. Then I felt my eyes filling with tears. What a miraculous and full of hope story! I put myself on their shoes. If you knew your kid had very small statistically chance of surviving, would you let him go? What would it take for you to set him free? They were bound to him and his disability by the love they profess him. Both parents were probably gone through so much together that they became a team who could finish each other sentences. There was “MOKSHA” all over that conversation. Two parents were bound to set their son free. And when we hold something so tight it is very hard to let go.
I went through my own moksha moment. I had to liberate myself from my bias. I had been through a lot of challenges as a mom and I have known first hand how it feels to suffer when seeing our kids go though terrible pain. I realized that those painful moments have only made my kids stronger and more mature. I did not want that to transform me into an anchor for them. I fought every instinct to become a helicopter parent, and I mostly achieved it. But having won that battle I forgot we are all different and our reactions differ. That moment, excited as I was to imagine my daughter starting her college career in a place where she could thrive, I realized that I am going to miss her terribly too: our conversations, she calling on my shit with her kindest words, challenging my beliefs, her constant efforts to make us all feel special. It is exciting to see her fly on her own but it will be sad too. As independent as she is, I still value our time when we can be together as mother and daughter and most of the time, as two adults. Deep down, below all that excitement for her future is my need to set her free. And as in death, as in letting a disabled kid leave the nest for the first time, as in realizing our belief system and our biases sometimes need to be shaken and let go of even when it is painful. Part of my propellers, the ones I was not even aware I had, fell down that day and in gaining that understanding I felt liberated.
On my way home that night, I became aware I might never become a moksha expert, but at least I was aware of it. Stuck in traffic coming back home I felt a few teardrops coming down my cheeks. They weren’t tears of apprehension, but rather of happiness for seeing my oldest on her way to building her own life as an incredibly wholesome, profound, kind human being. Everything she is, she has done it on her own. She is free to be who she wants to be. I felt free, as if I was noticing for the first time I did not have shackles, although I never felt motherhood imposed any kind of limitation. The freedom came from inside and it was reinforced with the knowledge that even when I think I know the answers, the universe will always put people on my way to teach me the most beautiful concepts of liberation and expansion.
Moksha today and tomorrow, because the more we love the more we need to set free!