The Way We Were

I have been without internet at the farm since the beginning of August because the telephone cables have been stolen. Today, Telkom arrived with a wireless phone and I am now very happily connected to the internet again.

Kiera and James left the week before last to visit her friend, Louise, in Jo’burg before going on a trip to the States. It felt strange seeing them off at the airport instead of getting on the plane with them after we had spent so much time travelling together. Saying goodbye to my children is not my best thing and I do tend to get a bit emotional doing it, but I’m getting better at it.

When Kiera left home to go to China, three years ago, I knew that things would never be the same again; that the Kiera who eventually returned home would be a very different person to the one who left. I also knew that once she left Durban, she would never return to live there. I cried for days while I packed up her room and fretted about her having to cope in such a faraway foreign country. However we were soon talking on Skype and when I could actually see for myself how happy she was, I stopped fretting but I still missed her terribly.  She used to perch at our kitchen counter most evenings while I was preparing dinner, enjoying a glass of wine with me and chatting about this and that; we used to often pop into Adam’s Bookshop in Musgrave for cappuccinos and a browse around the books; and we used to go to morning yoga classes together and afterwards go out for lunch if she didn’t have lectures. Every time I cooked dinner, every time I went shopping at Musgrave Centre and every time I went to a yoga class my heart ached for her company. Eventually though I got used to living without her in my day-to-day life, as one does. After a year in China, Kiera came home for a visit and when she left for the second time to go back to China, I again felt utterly bereft. However this time it was for very different reasons. She was indeed a very different person to the Kiera who had left home the year before, she had moved on but I hadn’t and I now felt quite peripheral in her life. I was not prepared for that. A friend of mine, Hajira, phoned me after Kiera had left to see how I was coping. Her two daughters had left home, one for Australia and one for Jo’burg; she knew exactly what I was going through and reassured me that it was all quite normal. It was the natural order of things. Why had I not seen it coming?

Six months later, Alex left home to go to university in Stellenbosch. Omigod, that was another difficult goodbye. I was so worried that he was not going to cope. But, as the saying goes: “You spot it, you got it.” Of course he was going to cope; I was simply projecting my insecurities onto him, it was me who wasn’t coping. Unfortunately I hadn’t yet been able to let go of the need to be needed by my children. I had a lot of soul-searching to do and I was so lucky to have the farm to retreat to and start reflecting on my life and my relationship with my children. At the risk of creating the (wrong) impression that I spend a lot of time reading so-called self-help books , I would like to mention another book that I found really helpful, A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle, especially on the issue of being present. I realised that I was stuck in the past, hankering after the way things were when I read this in his book:  “The more shared past there is in a relationship, the more present you need to be; otherwise, you will be forced to relive the past again and again.”

I realised too that I was identifying too strongly with my function as a mother; and I needed to just be myself, but who was I, really? Eckhart (we’re on first name terms, like Martha and me!) writes:

Give up defining yourself – to yourself and others. You won’t die. You will come to life. And don’t be concerned with how others define you. When they define you, they are limiting themselves, so it’s their problem. Whenever you interact with people, don’t be there primarily as a function or a role, but as a field of conscious Presence.

It was then I knew that I was a child of the universe (just kidding)!

This brings me to my most recent farewells, which were so much easier this time. Kiera, Alex and I spent such wonderful quality time together on our travels because we could all just be ourselves, thanks to Eckhart. We all have our own lives and life is good, for all of us. I said goodbye to Alex in Stellenbosch knowing that he loves what he’s doing and is quite capable of standing on his own two feet. And when I said goodbye to Kiera, I was saying goodbye to a young, independent woman who knows exactly what she wants in life and how to go about getting it. And I too have a life of my own that I’m living on my terms. The umbilical cord has been well and truly severed. I’m still their mother but that doesn’t define me anymore, and I no longer need to be needed! That’s not to say I don’t still miss them terribly and worry about them but it doesn’t make me feel incomplete anymore.  And I still shed a tear or two saying goodbye but I’ve learned to let go. I know it’s corny but what the hell: if you love someone set them free, and that includes yourself.

10 years ago, my 44th birthday in Rome

10 years ago, my 44th birthday in Rome


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4 Responses to The Way We Were

  1. Mark Muggeridge says:

    what else could I say other than ‘lovely stuff’ good on you (all)!

    • Cathy says:

      It’s all trial and error really, sometimes you get it and sometimes you don’t, sometimes you think you’ve got it and you haven’t! One tends to talk about the successes more than the cock-ups! How’s life and art in Wales?

  2. Mark Muggeridge says:

    Life and art is Wales in beautiful, the summer is is gently receding now and the days are a little cooler and calmer as the plants and wildlife seem to slow down ready for the peace of winter…
    Art is going well and getting some breakthroughs, I am finding there is so much benefit to be gained from that slogan ‘just do it’…

    • Cathy says:

      leap, and the net will appear. Or perhaps more appropriate: “Everyone has talent. What’s rare is the courage to follow it to the dark places where it leads.”
      — Erica Jong

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