There is something about Mother’s Day that makes it completely unlike other holidays. It has a particular loveliness to it, a personal resonance, that is not quite like anything else. This year I journeyed more than sixteen hours non-stop to see my mom, traversing a significant portion of the globe along the way by a combination of two flights, a train, two car rides, a bus, and a lot of walking, and it seemed like the most natural thing in the world to do so.
There are theories in psychology that suggest that many of the most important aspects of our individuality are formed out of our relationship with out mother — because this is the relationship we form when our mind is at its youngest and most protean. Long before we are old enough to think “rationally”, we try to build a model of what our mother expects. In consequence, each individual’s personality splits, to some extent, into one self that is always putting on show for this all powerful being, and another self that harbors a secret nature, outside of the demands of connecting to another human being. It is the goal of much therapy to help these two selves — so different from each other — to work together in some reasonable way.
By the age of three — according to such theories — one’s mother develops into this strangely dual being. She is all powerful, simultaneously loved and feared, for her ability to approve our essential soundness. Yet she also represents that fact that all people are apart, on some level unknowable to each other. The striving to connect, despite the fear and the knowledge of how great is the gulf between us, becomes, as we grow older, an essential part of the bittersweet beauty of human existence.
Of course we rarely think about these conflicts on a conscious level. We integrate them, make them part of ourselves. Long before we reach adulthood, most of us have taken great steps to master these struggles, or at least to incorporate them usefully into our lives, or relationships, our art.
So on Mother’s day, we honor the connection with this person who has had such a profound effect upon our essential nature, but in a way that is usually simple, and rather sweet. In my case, it was really about showing up. I brought my mom flowers, and she made me dinner, and all was right with the world.