mothering on the inside

Each Month, I Answer the Call to Speak from Someplace Deeper in Me,
To Someplace Deeper in You.

parts in a circle

a question

Dear Anna,

What is the “Anna Huckabee Tull” take on Mother’s Day? What are we celebrating? And what are we missing?

— Curious

a response from someplace deeper

Dear Curious,

I have been finding myself talking about this Blog lately as sort of a “Dear-Abby-but Deeper.” By that I mean: Taking the extra moment and the extra breath to look not just at the LOGISTICAL Level of a question or idea, but to look deeper, at the ESSENCE Level of it as well. I think that’s what you’re asking for, so that’s where I am headed. But humor me for a moment. Let’s start up on the surface. It’s where most of us are, most of the time, and it can be a good place from which to start breathing more purposefully and inviting our perspective to deepen.

On the LOGISTICAL Level, Mother’s Day is celebratory, easy and joyful for some, and challenging, or filled with “shoulds” or “can’ts” for others. Some people want to be mothers and are not. Others are mothers who have lost children and must face this day braced, or feeling broken, or deprived. Others were born to one mother and raised by another—perhaps left to wonder who that birth mother was…perhaps left with a burning ache, or an absence, or an anger. Still others experience this day in an obligatory way. Some of the feelings of gratitude or appreciation can get sucked away by a sense of being “commanded” by Hallmark, or a sense of tradition, or mass cultural focus, to orient yourself toward someone you love but might rather express gratitude to on a different day, when it feels more organic and not so “forced.”

I don’t know how it is for you, Curious. For myself, I have enjoyed Mother’s Day a lot these past eighteen years, in that I have a husband who creatively corrals my sons, and two boys (now teenagers) who, happily, are still very willing and able to be corralled. With only a tiny bit of prompting or reminding, they both rise to the occasion beautifully, in ways that are warm, inspired, generous, and articulate.

With my oldest son heading off to college in the fall, I am poignantly aware of my good fortune at the family I have and the loving, communicative and inclusive sons I get to share my life and home with. Each day lately, I feel the fullness of my family and I say a silent thank you. Soon it will be forever different, but for right now we are all four here, and loving each other, and sharing our days, and I am doing all I can to dare to let myself really FEEL it. When the occasion invites, I note this feeling and say something about it out loud to my family as well.

In addition to all this, I have a spectacular mother of my own. She loved me well, cheers me on and encourages me still, and her steadfast love is a huge part of the reason I feel happy and connected and centered as often as I do.

Maybe you have kids, Curious. Maybe the connection is strong, or growing, or sweet, or easy. I hope so. Maybe it’s not so straightforward, and if so, I send you my love and acknowledgement of the challenges of your journey. That said, no matter WHAT the configuration is in terms of the presence and ease of your own parenting, this much is true: You…and every other human being reading this blog, for that matter…have a mother.

There is not a single human on the planet who did not get here because of a mom. Present mom or absent mom, easy relationship or impossibly complex one, we all came here because someone held us within them for nine months, and then pushed and struggled with all their might to bring us into this world. Quite simply, we are all children of a mother. And we all received from that mother some astonishing and powerful gifts (whether we are fully aware of them or not). And, that said, we also a-l-l-l-l-l-l-l-l-l had at least something that we desperately needed from this mother figure that we did not get.

What it was that you, in particular, desperately needed from your mother and did not get is one of the deepest elements of your life’s journey, if you ask me.

For many on this planet, the “missing piece” was something as primal as not getting enough food or proper shelter, or it was a mother’s inability to stay sober or keep her child protected from predators or disease. For others of you, the missing piece was something more subtle or nuanced: a level of attention and attune-ment you needed at a critical moment when you were overlooked or forgotten instead. Or, conversely, a level of freedom and trust you needed when what you got was smothering instruction and too much scrutiny.

Whatever it was, it is my belief that this Universe we all live in is rather brilliantly designed to ensure that each of us emerges from childhood deeply pining for at least one thing that we truly needed and yet were not provided with by our dear mother.

The real journey of growing into yourself, then, is not about fixating on WHY you didn’t get this one thing from this one person (even though others did, and it really seemed like you should!). Rather, it’s about daring to cultivate within yourself a willingness to ACCEPT that you did not get this thing, and then to start asking enlivening, deeply engaging, life-expanding questions, such as these:

“How can I procure for myself this thing that I need, and always assumed I would/could/should get from my mother? How do I generate, in my own way, in my own life, that missing sense of…whatever it might be: safety, or courage, or playfulness, attunement, lightness, encouragement, etc?”

mothering ourselves

There is an oft-shared story in my family about a gentleman—a friend of the family, apparently—who pulled my grandmother aside when she was only five years old and attending the funeral of her very own mother who had just passed away from a prolonged illness. He handed my little-girl grandmother a mirror and invited her to look into it, asking her, “Do you see that face? Those eyes? Look carefully into that face, because that young girl you see in the mirror is someone you are going to need to look out for, to listen to, and to be a mother to. You are going to need to do it yourself, now. You are capable of this.”

I find it staggering that someone had the wisdom, foresight, and courage to make such a bold and unusual suggestion to such a tiny little girl, at such a momentous moment. I know this had to be one of those rare moments that you know is meaningful as it is unfolding, since the recounting of that singular moment has been passed down the line to me and others in my family for over a century now. I feel grateful that a few years later, a step-mother came along in the life of little Leona, my grandmother, and was loving to her in a number of important ways. But most of all, I feel like this family friend at the funeral spoke a deep and powerful truth that rings out and that applies, ultimately, to all of us.

We must, in the end, discover how to fill that empty, waiting, expectant, hungry place within us, ourselves.

Those people I know who are most peaceful, most at-agency in their own lives, most able to access inner resources and dance and play among the rich resources in the world all around them, are the ones who have discovered–through trial and error, through bumping into walls and sprinting when the opportunities arose—how to (1) appreciate what they DID get from their mother, however much or little it might have been, to (2) let go of the idea that there is more their mother “should” be giving or should have given them, so that (3) they can get on with the—joyful, if you let it be—task of filling in the missing pieces themselves.

How is this accomplished? There are an infinite number of ways every second. Part of the expansion of your own consciousness happens when you begin to use the energy freed up from feeling resentful to begin exploring how to help yourself get what you need, elsewhere.

What are the voices inside you, calling out for needs to be met? How many creative solutions become possible the moment resentment and waiting turn into curiosity, creativity, and a new mission to listen more closely on the inside, and consider the wide range of solutions on the outside?!

We are all five years old, in some ways. And we all were deprived of something we needed, when we were small. We can all find a mirror and look into it, peering into the eyes of our tiny little selves, who were so expectant and waiting, so needy and so deprived in one important way or another.

On this Mother’s Day I invite you, Curious, and any of you who are reading this, to make the bold move of separating your feelings about your mother into two clean piles: ONE – what she actually really did give me, pass on to me, provide me with—it’s more than you might think, unless you consciously stop to ponder it. And then, TWO, separate out all the things you wished she would do, be, say, intuit, ask about, or provide that, in fact she did not, and LET IT NOT BE HER JOB ANY MORE. Let it be the end of resentment and the beginning of a moment that starts right now, when you dare to look carefully into the mirror, see that little being that you are and have always been, and tell him, or her:

“I’m here, I’m listening. I can hear you, and I have the power, better than anyone else on the planet, to help you get what you need.”

And then? Let this Mother’s Day be the beginning of a new level of love within you, not just for that mother that worked so hard to get you here, and gave you all that she did, but for all the many voices within you that are ready to be loved, be heard, and to work with you in order to light the way forward.

Happy “Mothering” Day – to YOU.

— Anna Huckabee Tull

a song for you

Writing songs on commission for others who have a story to tell or a message to share is one of my most favorite aspects of my life’s work, and one of the great honors that others, who choose to work with me in this way, bestow upon me, as they share their truth. This month, I choose this very rare and unusual song I wrote many years ago, called “Little Peacock” because I think it brings to life what I have written above on many different levels.

“Little Peacock” was written as a love song from a father to his baby-to-be, imagining his first encounter with this little being, and doing his best to voice the kind of calibrated and unconditional love he longed for and wished he had received from his own mother. Listen to it any way you like – as the song you might imagine or wish your own mother had sung to you, as the song you might sing to a little one new to the planet who you love, or…maybe, just maybe…as a song from you to all the little voices and places within you that are ready, now, for soothing, for connection, and for all that suddenly becomes possible when we accept the baton from our own mother, tune inward, and begin the journey of being a mothering presence to ourselves, at the helm in new, intentional ways, within our own rich inner life.


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5 thoughts on “mothering on the inside

  1. Pingback: Mothering on the Inside by Anna Huckabee Tull | TwinklesPlace

  2. what a beautiful song ..your voice is such a joy to listen to, Anna..thank-you for sharing – what a magical & special gift…..

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    • THANK YOU! I’m so happy this song could help to amplify the ideas in this post, and that you found it uplifting!! oxoxo

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  3. Darling Anna girl,
    I hate to admit I just now heard this because I did not quite know how to manage a blog.
    Thank you for your kind, loving words. Sorry for what I did not give you. Glad we are still living a part of each other’s life. What a tender and beautiful song this, my little peacock.
    Mama

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    • That’s the beauty of this universe we live in: anything you did not end up giving me, Mom, I have learned I can discover and procure for myself in other unexpected places, and thereby I can feel whole. And MORE to the point, there is soooooooooo much you DID give me! And what a joy to be able to acknowledge, celebrate and focus my energies and appreciations THERE! Thank you for loving dad so much that it spilled over into me. Thank you for how enamored of me you were, not just when I was a cute little baby but always. Thank you for all the times we laughed deeply together (one of the greatest signs of health in a relationship that I know!), for the times you surprised me with your love (an unexpected sweet 16 party, and a whole day calling in “sick” for me AND for you when you sensed i needed a mom to just be by my side to get through a hard time. Thank you for your never-ending generosity when it comes to ideas, enthusiasms, insights, and sharing the space and places you have created in this world (Ohio, Camden, Winthrop, Hightstown, Worthington) designed to be inviting and welcoming. Thanks for our weekly phone calls, for your always believing in me and asking about what is going on and then really listening, with true curiosity. Thanks for the amazing courage and dedication you showed when dad got sick. And thanks for the way you model today what life after the loss of a beloved partner can look like: joyful, active, engaged, enlivened, creating, exploring, and daring to pick yourself up anew and reinvent. I LOVE YOU, MY MAMA!!!!!

      – Your Girl

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