We’re on holiday at an awkward time; are we insensitive for being fortunate? I’m relaxing as best as possible with a six week old who manages to keep me in a constantly distracted state even when he’s perfectly content or passed out cold. In relaxing, I’m reflecting on the current highlighting of the fractured status of our society, fractured by racism and classism, discrimination and privilege. … And conversely: what is strongly present for me right now, given my new all encompassing experience of motherhood, is our shared humanity.
I adore the historical fiction genre of writing. My state of mind of late harkens to Tracy Chevalier’s 1999 historical novel Girl with a Pearl Earring surrounding 17 century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer’s classic piece by the same name. The impromptu and mildly brutal piercing of the ear to hold the luminous large pearl stands out. (My visual image is the ear piercing scene from Wes Anderson’s Moonlight Kingdom.) I’ve recently experienced the opposite: I lost one of my diamond earrings the other night in the hot tub/showering facilities at Black Butte Ranch. Not in a brutal fashion, but potentially just as traumatic.
Jewelry being representative of class, status, wealth, beauty, privilege, family standing… I can’t help but feel it that way. The remaining single earring is a classic first world problem, but more than that, it feels to be a distinctly middle class problem. The “haves” would not be particularly troubled, finding it an opportunity perhaps to replace them with a more grandiose pair, and the “have nots” would not have the diamond earrings to lose to begin with.
The loss of this meaningful earring that my brother gave me as a final gift as his unmarried sister. Coming a few years after the devestating burglary resulting in the evacuation of tens of thousands of dollars of uninsured family heirloom gold, precious gemstones and jewels, all Chum, my great grandfather the dentist’s, hand forged gold jewelry which he had made for my great grandmother Echo, and all my diamonds except for the earrings which I was wearing. Still I would expect to be more distraught over the loss of one of my few remaining diamonds. Except maybe Diamonds are a Girl’s best Friend doesn’t apply to me anymore. Not when I’m on holiday with my real best friends surrounded by love, support, generosity, health, good food, and friendship. All of this loss of material wealth somehow pales in comparison to the precious gift of riches and blessings that are my friends, family, and life itself.
I attribute this response mostly to the birth of my son. All the yoga helps, but my mind is processing the earring loss so differently than the loss of my previous jewelry. Maybe it was the sheer volume before, but more probably it’s my son, the game changer. Somehow the diamonds are nice to have and to wear, especially in the setting of all other diamond wearing women honestly, but not holding the same importance now.
What feels most real and relevant is the richness of my son. And this mothers’ blessing transcends all races, classes and ethnicities. I am struck by the weight and depth of the work of bringing a new life into the world. And caring for him. I have such an appreciation for all mothers now, that I didn’t truly comprehend before. Practically half the world are mothers, let’s have compassion for each other. What we do for our children, let’s extend that towards each other. We are all in it together and all working so hard caring for loved ones. Each human was given birth to by their mother; such a profound thought after having so recently been through the birth experience. Let’s honor the mother by relating to each other’s humanity: treating each person like the precious baby that they will always be to their parents.
Somehow that thought catapults my focus past my (one) earring. It gives me an avenue to be part of the solution of compassion with every breath no matter where I am. I am free to be at home in the city or heading to the pool and the tennis court with a heart overflowing with gratitude and love.