During my own mind’s most confused hours, long gone Tolstoy spoke to me from beyond his grave. I am his spirit forever grateful for sharing his own struggle and awakening in A Confession. I know the publication of the same resulted in his exclusion from the circles in which he moved, but having experienced the same mental struggle as pre-revolution, privileged count Lev, I know that such things are merely superficial labels when you are determined to uncover the truth of existence.
Having grown up in a secular society, in a family of no particular religion, feeding my spirit was the last thing on my mind, until I found myself a young adult living abroad. I was struck by the reality of how we are all living in a universe we don’t understand, spinning around in space racing towards one certain ending: Death. With no familiar surroundings to lean on, my mind was growing out of control. Its only temporary cure was distraction.
Becoming a mother more than ten years later quelled the fear momentarily. I could now see meaning, purpose and love, and I felt connected to life and myself in a way that brought me harmony. This, however, was not to last. When my daughter rounded two years the neglected truth-seeking side started roaring. I had now made the ultimate investment in life, I had created another finite being that I cared about much more than myself, and now I had to believe in it.
The road from there was not easy, but as I slowly started rebuilding my reality and perception of the world, shedding everything I had been taught, I started creating a foundation and honest existence much stronger than anything I had previously stood on. My eldest daughter is now five and has started asking about and slowly forming a relationship with death, and by not ducking her questions but diving in with her, I hope I am assisting her in creating not a fear of death but a curiosity about life. Death and life are so closely interlinked that by denying one, I don’t think she can properly experience the other. In my motherhood role, I have become used to being the provider of immediately forthcoming answers that exploring questions with her doesn’t come naturally. It is an activity I have to practice. At the same time, I think it my duty to share some starting points with her, so she can explore from a better viewpoint than I had. And most importantly, I have to work hard not to relay any unnecessary fears. I want her to invest in life despite knowing that it won’t last. I want her to approach it with joy, despite knowing that it is a fleeting sensation. It is a difficult proposition, and so far the hardest parenting walk I have taken, well knowing that it will grow more difficult still as her mind grows more advanced.
However, as my amazing co-pilot (husband) and I often tell each other, being a parent is like the blind leading the blind in uncharted territory. Functioning well under uncertainty and accepting constant change are crucial life skills. The sooner we start introducing the concepts, the better. And the truer we can stay to life, the better her chances of an experience that is as good as it can be.
No matter how hard we try, though, we’ll make mistakes as parents. I have made mistakes as a mother, and I will make countless more. But by owning up to my humanity, my imperfections, I can at least ask for forgiveness from my one-day adult daughters and use the worn line I did the best I could, and all I did, I did from a place of love.
And if there is one thing I know is the absolute truth, it is that I will always love my daughters without boundaries; it’ll stretch across time, space and planets and tie my spirit to them in pretty little pink ribbons.