Motherhood Mantras: Words of Transformation


Although I was a Religious Studies major for my undergrad studies and took classes on Eastern religions, and also studied them again in the context of pluralism and interreligious dialogue in seminary…I can’t remember the exact origin or meaning of “mantra.” I have a vague American-cultural-appropriation sense that they have something to do with meditation, repeating words over and over to attain a different state of mind/spirit, and steadying oneself in situations that are difficult. Of course, I also wiki-ed it and if the following definition is accurate I LOVE IT.

A mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of “creating transformation.”

Back in the day when I was reading the Bible on a regular basis, I’d carry a phrase or verse around with me the rest of the day to carry me or pull me out of whatever insanity or stress. Maybe I’d remember those words as a prayer of thanks for particularly good moments, but more often than not, the verse would transport me back to the moments of quiet I had in the morning whenever I needed something to help me breathe and get perspective.

I should revisit this practice again. Soon. Meanwhile, I’ve discovered mantras – phrases – that I say outloud to myself whenever I feel…on the verge of running away. Which, seems to coincide with the babies’ and a high level of fussiness or neediness.

Some of these include:

Survive and advance.

Andy came up with this one back in March. The babies were in their first month of life, and we were in the throes of March Madness. And it was a crazy tournament. And it was a crazy house. But the words that fueled teams made us realize we, too, needed to only take it ONE DAY AT A TIME. That’s all we could do – focus on what was before us at that moment.

Lately the words that have come to me are:

Accept the mess.

I’ve discovered the one thing I have any semblance of control over is the cleanliness of the house. There are few things more satisfying than a clean kitchen after the babies are in their cribs. I literally plop down on the couch afterwards and say to myself, “All is right with the world.” Throughout the day, though, is a different story. I can’t go into details right now without feeling myself start to seize up. But, I’m starting to think that too much needless energy is going towards stressing out about the disorder of the house when the babies are doing their thing. I need to let that go and embrace the place…as the babies inhabit it. Let them be little creators, multiplying messes and being fruitful in their crawling and screeching endeavors. I love this quote from Anne Lamott:

“Clutter and mess show us that life is being lived…Tidiness makes me think of held breath, of suspended animation… Perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism, while messes are the artist’s true friend. What people somehow forgot to mention when we were children was that we need to make messes in order to find out who we are and why we are here.”

She’s good. Love the reminder that these are little people-in-training, and actually I am, too. I’m just bigger.

One more:

Savor it.

This is hard. There are some days the taste is bitter, and I just want to crawl under my blankets and forget eating, and sleep. But, there’s so much to enjoy and love and so many reasons to be thankful. I have to keep trying to do it, even if people telling me “make the most of this – it goes quickly,” makes me want run away screaming.

There’s more here and there that flutter through my mind and stay for a little (like “They’re just babies,” and “Breathe”), but I can’t remember any other specific ones right now. But I do know that there is definitely something transformative happening in these moments. And it is more than survival. I need these words to transport me out of spiraling down, to make me see colors instead of just red, but also to bring me peace. And they do it…as vehicles of God’s grace, no doubt.

(Maybe I’ll have to make this a periodic series as they come to me.)

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