Saturday, May 9, 2009

Reflections on Motherhood, Perfection and Forgiveness

As some of you know I took an emotional plunge this spring and entered my novel, now in its 8th revision and NOT really ready for pitching to an editor, in Amazon's Amazing Breakthrough Novel Contest. Theoretically they accept 10,000 entries though they don't say how many actually enter.

The first phase eliminates all but 2,000 entries. The second phase eliminates all but 500. This is where my novel landed and I was pleasantly surprised. True confessions---I wanted to get some feedback from total strangers, specifically to the plot's potential and generally to my writing...which I know is amateurish at best. My writing is, however, improving and I do see light at the end of the endless tunnel.

Anyway, one thing this little exercise taught me was the power of the written word to reach people in ways I never expected. My novel contains a fair amount of pretty uncomfortable issues--alcoholism, child abandonment, homosexuality and incest. I did not set out to address these issues --my characters took me there and I did not think it fair to deny them their soap box. You might think this is strange but if you are a writer you will have a better understanding of this phenomenon.

The biggest reaction came to the alcohol and incest issues--mainly because the excerpt printed on Amazon contained such scenes. I was taken aback by how many persons have had experience with both of these human problems.

So, what is motherhood? And more importantly, how does it fail those it is supposed to nurture? There are as many answers to these two questions as there are mothers and children.

The bottom line is that even mothers, human ones that is, are human--yes, children, I hate to be the one to reveal such an overwhelming truth, but we are. This is not to say I am excusing what horrific or less than horrific failings most of us have as mothers--it is to say we need you to forgive us.

We need our children (and this can be extended to the most generic relationships) to accept us for what we are, make peace with us, and move on.

I think this is the essence of Mother's Day.

As a florist, which I was for 35 years, Mother's Day is by far the biggest holiday. Everyone has a mother. Children may only sneak out from under the woodwork on the second Sunday of every May--but they do sneak out. Let's be honest, some are driven by social pressure more than anything else. And, these were the customers who, I can admit now being retired, as a florist I looked upon with no small amount of skepticism.

But much of the country, in a collective quest for inner calm, recognizes their mothers and Mother's Day regularly and with a sense of compassion and affection and perhaps only a pinch of resentment over the eighteen or so years of putting up with our shortcomings.

I am not saying go out and buy your mother flowers, although that would help out the few remaining shop owners I knew. What I am saying is, if you feel that pinch (or more) of resentment, take a good hard look at it. You'll have to look inside to find its source and when you do, toss a rock at it. Surely, as your mother's child, you're perfect and will not miss your mark.

Then, when you feel a little better take another look inside. You might just find something about yourself that isn't so perfect either--you have no idea how it got there, but it did.

Then tell yourself that's okay. "If it's okay for Mom to be imperfect maybe its okay for me too."

And before you move on with the rest of your day, pick up one more rock, maybe a little larger this time, and kill two birds with it...the ones named 'Mom's Mistakes' and 'My Mistakes.'

Happy Mother's Day!