A Letter from my Mom
It’s not been long since I’ve been gone. You buried me last month. And my being on this side, in this world, isn’t something that words can even explain. But I didn’t write to explain where I am. I’m writing to tell you a few things now, that I couldn’t tell you while I was alive, especially in those many years towards the end, when I wasn’t completely your mother.
Life is mostly about working with what you have. I may have taught you differently; wanted you to be more, better than, excel. In fact, I know I did. But I was wrong. If what you have is all you have, that is ok. Because it is not what you make in life or the things you get to take from it. But what you get to learn.
You need to learn to let go. You aren’t like them; you don’t have to be and never will be like the ones whose favour you crave. And they aren’t what your mind says either. People are more receptive than you give them credit for and less mean-spirited than you think. I know that your boarding school years tell you otherwise. That was a period in your life I will never forgive myself for. Please forgive me. And re-believe in the good intention of the masculine spirit.
You need to know this: You are at your most alive, most attractive, your most fun when you are most at peace. Not only fun, but real. And this is difficult for you. There is a seriousness in your bedrock that drives you to focus and complete and succeed. I know it because I was the same way. You are me. But life isn’t all about completion and success. It often isn’t even about the task. It is most always about the people and the learning. People plug into the real you with ease because you have such grace and such wisdom. You are an open soul and people want to get some of the inside of you. But you need to let them. You need to reveal the real you and not hide behind the done things you can show them in your stead.
Be untroubled. Relaxed. Even when the stress of a moment puts a pause on your person and switches that beautifully faulty mind into get-it-done mode.
Don’t. Stop what you’re doing, look up and smile. Because smiles breed smiles. And making people smile is more important than making a success. Relationships are what see you through this world. And lessons are what see you through the next.
The thing I think you’re destined for is this: Shining a light for people to see their place and helping them to find their space. Proffer serenity. And please find yours. Find your soul partner. You have so many wonderful spirits in your life already. This is a thought that gives me the most delight. The beings you have surrounded yourself with — human and otherwise — are magical, warm wonders. Now find that one candle that will burn brighter with you by his side. Stop with your bull shit. Start saying yes to love. Stop thinking that your dad and I were perfect together. We weren’t. There were monumental mistakes. Your dad and I made them. You’ve made some gaffes in your own practice of romance too. That’s exactly part of the journey.
Love the longing. But don’t live for it. Find fulfillment. Love.
Practice. Even when you’re bad. Especially when you’re bad.
And please, please, always look at yourself as beautiful.
Sometimes ideas need time. And time needs ideas. Some good ideas don’t come at the right time. Don’t let any of that hinder the work that lies ahead of you. Your thinking is sometimes flawed — you yourself think of your wiring as defective — but all of your ideas are excellent. There are so many things you are good at. That can be more of a curse than a blessing. Choice can be its own paralyser. Where are you most comfortable? Decide. What is it that your true heart is yearning for? Telling you to do? Showing you the way to? Feel. Follow that path, even if it goes in the opposite direction to the journey your dad and I set you on so many years ago.
Whatever you do, please don’t hide. Don’t shy away from some of your colours or your thoughts or your feelings. No matter how odd you think they are. Tell people, tell yourself, allow yourself.
Be free and practice that freedom, no matter your fear of how others may respond. And get good at those things because you have learnt the practice of practice.
Ours is a magnificent country, but we lived through a demented time that was full of pain and lies and deception. But we were a blessed slice of the citizenry, blessed in our ignorance and paleness. Lucky, even in the poverty we grew up in. We made it because there was very little chance of failure if you were a white South African then. It seems unthinkable now, the things that happened. But they happened.
Please write our story. Tell it like you remember it. Don’t feel the need to polish or edit or change. Because what is memory? I lost my mind many years before I lost my body. The way memory works, I think, is that we exaggerate the bad and the good, but we tell only the exaggerated good. The exaggerated bad finds a place to nest below our hearts and it can fester there. If we let it. If we don’t interrogate it, unknot it and set it free.
And the good stuff? I think memory is selective and, absent a complete record to review, memoir is by definition false. So, seek the Truth my son, but don’t let the need for accuracy hinder that hunt.
We were not a perfect family. Our biggest flaw was in seeming to live perfectly. The thing we did do well, was love. In all of its messy and difficult and imperfect ways. We did love. We do love. We love.
Be ruthless. Be ruthless in your grieving for your mother that is no longer physically there. But know that I am always with you, in you and you. Be ruthless in your trudging. The path is often not clear, but that’s the plight of the seeker.
Some people like having a path.
You would find that life-stopping in it’s boredom.
Now go and write. I give you my blessing.