Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Spilling Love

I just had my first Mother's Day in Qatar, and I have to admit it's been wonderful to hear the Mother's Day wishes from around the world. One young man from Cameroon sweetly said to me, "Happy Mothering Day." I don't think he meant a play on words, but the phrase caught my attention. I know I am inordinately blessed to have birthed some amazing children who have given me more joy than I thought possible. I have loved my children completely, unabashedly, fiercely, and each has brought me on a unique journey of love--learning how to give and love in all different ways and emotions. But I have also found joy in loving others who may have another mother. I believe that we as humans underestimate how much we need a community--even if we are not related.

I have been "mothered" or taken care of by so many people who have stepped up  to welcome, invite, and love me--in many stages and ages of my life. I am sure sometimes it was inconvenient for them, but their words, notes, embraces still live on with me. One of the many "mothers" who I remember growing up was Josephine Kirkman, an elderly woman in our church. We even called her Grandma. She was a captivating storyteller and could laugh and joke with a child. But she imprinted herself on my young heart forever at my grandfather's funeral. Everyone else seemed to be engaged or disconsolate. Yet she spotted me with a tear dripping to the ground, and picked me up, hugging me to her bosom. I felt her big heart beat next to mine. I smelled her faint lavender perfume as I sobbed into her enveloping dress. She pulled me in tighter, and just held me until the tears did not flow anymore. If I close my eyes for a minute, I can still feel all that love she spilled on me that day.

Being a mother and "mothering" others, meaning being another layer of kindness and attentiveness to another person, is "that kind of love that de-centers the self, and learning that your true riches are in another," says David Brooks, the NYT columnist. Although you may have never birthed a child, we can all reach down and scoop some love that is spilling over--waiting to be lapped up by someone who needs some cheer, comfort, and community. I know because I have raised six children, and I could have never have done it alone-ever. The villages I have lived in with my children in New York City, Beijing, Los Angeles, Baltimore, St. Louis, and now Doha have been more wonderful because there were people who cared and spilled the love. Sure, sometimes it got lonely a few times, but I had grown up in a loving community as a child, and I knew with some plotting and effort, it could work anywhere.

I have loved being a mother to my children, but I have taken immense joy in loving and cheering others' children too.  I miss all the children, many who are now adults, who were in my villages. This time of year when there are graduations, I think of them. I am proud of their achievements and who they are becoming. I may not be their mother, but I have loved being a part of their village--wherever that is in the world. Here is a youtube from my son's friends three years ago when we went on a one day trip. Making this video was how they amused themselves on the trip. Watching it makes me remember the good times we had together, and all the kids who have taught me so much.

These are part of my "tennis kids" who I teach every week. A tear came to my eye (glad I had on my sunglasses) when these kids decided to give me a Mother's Day party at our tennis class. One of them said to me, "We are your tennis kids, and we love you." One of them just learned how to serve with a topspin. So proud! Another post about my "tennis kids":

The cake my tennis girls made for me for Mother's Day

Being a part of this new Doha village has affirmed to me once again that it is possible to create and build a village anywhere--even in a compound with expats from all over the world living together. Anjoli Joshi, a new mother, wrote this about finding a community: "I refuse to shed tears in solitude. I will find a shoulder. I refuse to settle with smiles and looks. I will strike up a conversation, and learn about you and your children. I refuse to raise my son alone. I will be your eyes and ears, and you'll be mine. I refuse to experience the greatest joy of my life without another mother to share it with. I will rejoice in the sound of your baby's laughter and take pride in her accomplishments. I refuse to collapse in exhaustion each night. I will be more than a helping hand. I will be a voice of reassurance in moments of uncertainty, and a warm embrace in moments of loneliness. I refuse to walk alone. I will rediscover that lost village."

I believe there is always enough love to spill, an ample supply in all of us--to nurture, affirm, and support our other fellow villagers. Maybe sometimes we have to excavate and dig deeper to get more love, but it will always be there if we look for it.


  1. I loved that last quote. I feel the same way;I NEED people and want to share life with others. Love you Maryan!

  2. Thank you Maryan for sharing my thoughts of gratitude and helping me recognize how much I need to share my life, even the challenging parts with others. I love you!

  3. Thanks for providing some of that "mothering" on many occasions in my own life, Mar Bear. You've always been one to do plenty of spilling on plenty of people!!!

  4. Thank you sweet Maryan. I hope you don't mind that I am sharing both your thoughts and Anjoli's.