The School of Life is a YouTube channel I wish I had been able to watch as a teenager, when my views of the world and myself were first beginning to harden. Last night I watched this one.
Journaling has been a big part of my life since I was eight years old. I remember writing about my crushes in my journal. I think I had a crush on half the boys in my graduating class before I graduated high school. As I got older, I would re-read my journal entries and make commentary in the margins disparaging myself for silly and immature things. Eventually I would re-read my commentary and make commentary on that. I was so embarrassed of my former immature self that I was compelled to shame her in order to show that I was no longer so foolish. In doing this, I only served to make myself seem more insecure and silly.
It wasn’t until I was much older that I stopped making commentary in my former journals. As I look back on my former self, I try to withhold judgment and allow myself to be who I was. Doing that has helped me to accept myself in the present as well, knowing that I am in a process of becoming. No stage in that process is bad or ugly; it simply is. That attitude makes self-reflection much less painful.
In college I learned about meta-cognition. I finally had a term for what I was doing as I read through my old journals. Metacognition means “thinking about thinking.” The concept of metacognition was fascinating to me and still is. I remember thinking, “What is it called when you think about yourself thinking about thinking? Meta-metacognition?” I supposed you could keep adding metas as you think about the levels of thinking until you finally reach true consciousness.
Jung wrote a lot about consciousness. We all come upon consciousness slowly. As a baby we are conscious of very little about ourselves and the world around us. Even the most intellegent baby has a fuzzy look in their eyes. Animals have the same look. It is that blissful unawareness, that trust, that dependence, that innocence that is the hallmark of the unconscious.
I think of Adam and Eve in the garden. They existed in innocence. They were not conscious. Each of us is born innocent, unconscious, and incapable of sin. It is only as we partake of that forbidden fruit the knowledge of good and evil that we become conscious. That knowledge enables us to become as God. Able to see beyond our own actions and thoughts to look outside of ourselves. We see how our actions impact others. We can plan and calculate, make and break rules, use and abuse others to get what we want. Then we can see the hurt in another person’s eyes. We feel the consequences of broken trust and the disappointment in others. We can think and rethink our choices.
My four year old has been trying on the bossy hat these days. He will order me around. He uses a very stern voice, “Momma, you make me a sandwich NOW!” And then he proceeds to count in imitation of me. I’ve been guiding him to better behavior. I put on my sad disappointed face and say, “I don’t like that. It makes me sad when you talk to me like that.” Then I put on my new idea face. “Let’s have a do-over! This time use your kind words.” He sighs in irritation, but then says, “Momma, you please make me a sandwich. Thank you.” Then I gush and flow over how happy I feel when he uses his kind words. He gets his sandwich and the lesson is taught.
As he becomes conscious of his behavior and how it impacts those around him he has been experimenting. He says, “Mom, I like you.” Then I tell him I love him too. Then he says, “Mom, I don’t like you.” I tell him that makes me so sad. Then he repeats, “Mom, I like you.” He loves to see that he can manipulate my emotions. He learns that what he says impacts me. His behavior has consequences. He is becoming conscious. He is also learning the most important lesson of all, that I will always love him no matter what choices he makes. His choices will impact me, but not the love that I have for him which will remain constant.
Mother’s love is like that. Constant, dependable, and unconditional. And vital. So vital. That is why last night when my temp was 100.1, I was afraid. They are cremating 10,000 bodies per day in China right now, dealing with the tragic fallout from this global disaster. They are carting bodies away in tractor trailers from New York City. Mothers are dying every day and leaving their children without a mother’s love.
Sixty six years ago in 1954 a woman lay dying. Her seven children, her husband, her ward and stake family, and all her friends prayed and fasted that she would make a full recovery, but day by day she didn’t recover. She died on April 8th, a little more than a month before her 41st birthday. Her son, my father, was six years old.
I have her name. Eva. I was born on her birthday, and this May 24th, I will be 41 years old. If I live past April 8th, I will have lived to be older than my namesake. If I have the coronavirus, and I die, I would leave my four boys, just as Eva left her little children, with no mother.
This morning I lay in bed late into the morning snuggling with my four year old. I know that if I do have the coronavirus that those snuggles should not happen, but they did and I’m not sorry. As we looked out the window, we saw two cardinals flying in the backyard trees. Two squirrels chased one another up the trunk of one tree, startling the birds, but still they stayed, poking around for worms and insects maybe to take back to their nest of babies.
Tears ran down my cheeks as I thought of how fragile life is and that perfect and precious moments need to be treasured and remembered and written down. They are God’s sweet tender mercies, his gifts to us as we face the tragedy and heartache of a fallen world.
If I die young, as Eva did, I want my children to know that every day for the rest of their lives, I will be there watching over them. I will pray to the Lord for them day and night. I hope that there will be family and friends who will love and nurture them when I can’t. I have faith in the plan of a merciful God who sees what I don’t understand and who will turn our trials and suffering to our blessing.
I pray today for all the children whose mother’s died too early, leaving gaping psychological wounds that last a lifetime. If I live to see the end of this epidemic, I hope that I can be more mindful of those who have lost their mothers. Especially boys. Boys need their mothers.