Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Mustard Seed as a Reset Button

My life has been rather frightening lately, and I have been seeking tokens or images that will help serve as anchors and inspirations. At about 4:15 this morning, I awoke and thought of the two above pieces of jewelry that have been stored in my dresser drawer, unworn for literally decades. Even at such an early hour, I got up and retrieved them, and even though I haven't worn anything but earrings for a long time, I'm resolved to make these my signature pieces from now on.

The small pewter cross was my maternal grandmother's. When I saw it again, I recalled the woman who, in the depths of the Great Depression, and with a sick husband and toddler daughter (my mother), decided to go to work rather than accept the welfare that was offered her. With only a high school diploma, she worked her way up in the New York State Welfare Department, first as a clerk, and many decades later, retiring as the head of that agency's accounting department. Grandma was feisty, smart, a woman of faith and self-confidence, and she wore this cross all the time. Her image is with me much of the day, and I'm trying to hear her courageous voice as I face the days ahead. Here she was in 1975:

Mom continues to hang in physically, with the tenacity she inherited from Grandma. The bracelet is one she had in her jewelry box, and I remember being fascinated as a child by the tiny globe charm with the mustard seed in the middle.

The Book of Mark gives this version of Jesus' parable, "He said, 'How will we liken the Kingdom of God? Or with what parable will we illustrate it? It’s like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, though it is less than all the seeds that are on the earth, yet when it is sown, grows up, and becomes greater than all the herbs, and puts out great branches, so that the birds of the sky can lodge under its shadow.' ”

Mom never really told me about this story; I had to find it out myself in my own meandering, lifelong spiritual quest. The small size of the seed, and how it comes to benefit nature, sort of calls to mind my diminutive mother. She, too, held together our often-fractious family, and forged her own nursing career in mid-life, against many odds. Mom became the the tree, one might say, whose branches provided nurturing and strength to the four generations that have passed through our family home. In the pictures below, Mom is the small, dark-haired nurse on the left.

So, as I have decided to wear these heirloom jewelry pieces, I want to recall the strength of my mother and grandmother, and be worthy of their legacies. Recently, especially as I work toward beginning the upgrades on our longtime home, I've begun to doubt myself. I wonder if I'm really up to the challenge of taking on the role of lady of this house. It's been my vision to have Mom live out her life here as comfortably as possible, and to make this place a residence to be proud of, and pass to my son and daughter-in-law. Also, when the caregivers aren't here, and I'm doing Mom's care myself, I wonder if I'm "doing it right," and if Grandma (who passed in 1996) is approving of how I'm taking care of Mom, her child.

Like many therapists, I have to chide myself to practice the interventions I give my clients. From now on, when the useless "What if I can't?" refrains begin playing in my head, I have to consider another text:

"He replied, 'Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.'" -- Matthew 17:20, New International Version.

Grandma and Mom each started at their crossroads with little or nothing, and ended up having beautifully successful lives. It's time to recall that, and step out in boldness.

Usually, when I doubt myself, I have to admit it's late at night, it's been a long day, and my fatigue and overwhelm are doing the talking. So, to wear my grandmother's and mother's jewelry, touch it, and honor them in my daily actions--that's the best I can do.