The last month has been a time of reckoning. Reckoning with bad actions, reckoning with failures, and reckoning with a year of ignoring the lessons I was supposed to learn. I have the uncanny habit — both nature and nurture — of turning up the music so I can’t hear when my life is talking to me. I am also highly skilled at putting lipstick on a pig. Keep denying and carry on.
I took up knitting again and — with help from William and Dizzy the Cat — made the most massive hairball of knotted yarn I couldn’t tease out. The more I worried at it, the more tangled it became. It was one infuriating clusterf*ck, and quite an apt metaphor for my life at the moment.
My ‘house’ was not in order. It still isn’t, but I’ve cleared out a lot of clutter and a lot of noise. I think I’ve even sledgehammered a few walls to let the light in so at least I can see what’s there and whether or not I need it.
I’ve heard again and again the last few years, via actual friends (you know who you are) and aspirational friends (Oprah, Brené, Glennon): You gotta let go of what isn’t serving you. I get that. Makes sense, seems easy enough.
But in my experience, there are more than a few things that won’t serve you in the long run, but feel like an okay decision in the moment. You think these choices are serving you, but they’re really serving themselves — to hell with you.
I’ll put it plainly: I don’t always recognize what’s good for me and what’s not. This can be habits, practices, friend groups, exercise moves — anything really. I’m the kind of girl who pulls the same hamstring at least three times a year. ‘This time it will be different!’ I say. Ouch. Cue the ice pack.
Lucky for me, God showed up. Well, not exactly, but he sent my mother, who is One Holy Force of Greatness. After my recent turmoil, I got to see her twice — at length — in the space of a month, and she made it her personal mission to get my head right. Hell hath no fury like a Muffles on a Mission.
She came for Christmas, and then last week I went to her home on Johns Island, which is on the eastern coast of Florida not far from Vero Beach, in Indian River County. I took the red eye alone, and pressed pause on my life for a few days. I arrived at 6:00 am after a nearly two-hour drive from Orlando. It was worth it. Mom had turned down the bed for me and left a note: Welcome home, I love you.
Everything about those four days was cleansing. In my shower at the house, there is a circular porthole window with fuchsia bougainvillea in the foreground, a pond of shining water in the middle ground, and live oaks and palm trees on the horizon. I could be baptized in that shower for hours, like Roosevelt at Warm Springs.
Mom’s particular brand of self-care is steeped in three cups of coffee each morning on the porch, Celestial Seasonings Mandarin Orange Spice tea in the afternoons, and lots of deep talks gifting hard-earned wisdom, along with daily asparagus, combing for shells, visiting all the best shops ‘just to see what they have’, and drinking spritzers and playing cards.
I didn’t think I could know my mom any more intimately than I do already, but I was wrong. As we diverge and intersect over decades and space and time, it’s like I get to meet her again and again in different iterations, each one wiser and more authentic than the last. She’s like a poem I find a different line to love each time I read it.
The shorthand we’ve always had was there — the same silly humor in the late afternoon, the shared shoe size, the distinct cock of the head, the love of words and birds — but there’s a longer form exchange we have now.
Life is a million-piece puzzle we work on together over time. We find the corner pieces at the start of a new year — health, family, conflicts, and resolutions; work the edges over the spring and summer months — books, podcasts, shows and articles; fill in the center each fall with back-to-school photos and hour-long phone calls; and complete the image at Christmas, with Eloise’s help and William’s cheerleading. Each year, both together and separately, my mom and I make progress together.
I cannot tell you what she means to me. She gave me life and gives it still. I am a needy soul, and she always lets me need her. When I am with her nothing seems so painful and so wrong; with her, I am safe and I am strong. As she would say, ‘Could there be anything better?’
My mom, Rillann Fuller Van Epps Metcalfe….aka Muffe, is a woman to love, and I could not love her more.
Muffles: I am so proud of who you are and why you are, and I’m so damn lucky your mine. And Teaser’s. But you were mine first, so there. I jest; I give you freely so that others may be saved as well.
Thank you, Mom, for picking me up off the floor. This one’s for you. xx
The Beth List
A Selection of Muffe’s Pearls of Wisdom
- On an average day, take thirty minutes for yourself; on busy days, take an hour.
- Each day, you can look for the good in the world, or you can look at the bad. They’ll be there either way — so look for the good.
- A soft answer turneth away wrath while a harsh word stirreth up anger.
- Love has the patience to endure the fault it sees and cannot cure.
- There is nowhere in the world I’d rather be than here with you.