My darling child,
It was so good to see you looking strong and healthy, navigating the streets, and participating in the culture of a new and different city of your dreams. As we wrapped our arms around each other and talked of this and that I realized your questions and confusion about advice I have given you over the years. How right you are to question it! How courageous and strong you are! I have always loved and admired your intelligent, inquiring mind, even from the very day you were born. I could see it in your bright, searching, and sensitive eyes as you stared back at me from your little newborn-crib – sizing me up through your long intent gaze.
The older I become, the more I understand my own psychic and emotional development, the more life experience I acquire, and the more I work with teachers of young children and their families, I have come to realize that advice giving is a treacherous and risky business. Especially between parents and their children.
Especially between you and me. The desire to give my child the very best that life has to offer clouds my clarity of vision or understanding of where you actually are in your own psychic and emotional development, or what would really be good, or make sense for your present and future. Indeed, my advice is subjective in the extreme, made up of painful life experiences, dreams and fantasies of how I would have liked to be.
Follow your heart, was just one of those types of advice that I metered out to you immediately, spontaneously, and generously – or so I thought. Based on pure fantasy, I might add, and not coupled for one instant with any details about the trials and tribulations, payments and punishments that come with such a dream – a notion. For, following one's heart, is made up of other people's dreams and fantasies, poetry and fiction, movies, plays and songs. It is a dream that inspires great art. For example, recently I realized that Jane Austen wrote the most inspired stories that have lasted for generations. They are all based on magnificent happy endings where her characters achieve all their desired dreams. In point of fact, she never married herself, and one has no idea what loneliness she might have experienced in her own life. Following one's heart, is advice given by sages and artists, many of whom have paid the price for it in other ways. It is a dream that gives us hope and inspires creativity.
In point of fact, I have found that for me to be successful, belonging or accepted, or taken even half-way seriously in real-life society, professionally and personally, whether in Africa, Israel or the United States, no matter whom I married or worked with, I had to bind myself to a life of obligation, duty, commitment, resignation, and compromise – laced with healthy doses of guilt and shame. When I was young I felt trapped in conformity or obligation, and tried time and again to follow my heart. Each time was met with self destruction, and most of all I seemed to cause pain for those closest, the most dear to me. When I said to you, "Follow your heart," I gave you advice that I could not use. It was the advice of my dreams. For, as Bob the therapist told me more than once, most of us live quiet lives of desperation.
I have tried to weave joy, music, love, and creativity into a life of obligation and responsibility, and always seem to find strength, courage and hope through it. So, please, do not think I am sad or wistful about how I see my reality of now. Indeed, it feels like a relief for me to face these things realistically. I feel as if I am finally mature – have grown into an adult, even at age 59.
I want to tell you, and I wish I could do it with my arms wrapped around you like yesterday as we walked through those busy and intense streets surrounded by the noise and bustle of that wonderful city of your dreams. I want to tell you not to take my advice. I really do not have any idea what is best for you or what makes sense for your psychic and emotional development right now or ever, really. I want you to be happy. Even though I know that's a crazy notion. For I grab at moments of happiness and peace of mind. They are not constant for me – they cannot be – not based on my life, past and present. Just not my reality. I want you to feel successful for being who you are: sensitive, loyal, courageous, creative, talented, intelligent and full of love to give and receive. Even though I know that it is so hard to feel successful or know what one is capable of. Self confidence is something that eludes me. I hold onto brief moments of that feeling. I hardly know myself what it is like to feel successful – indeed, by whose measure? Whose definition? I want you not to feel alone or lonely. Even though I have always felt alone and lonely even when surrounded by friends or family. For, now and again I have sensed belonging and comfort, not often, and often when I was alone, with nature, or Ada, or in the quiet of my study. Feelings of happiness, belonging and self-confidence, have always been elusive to me, and yet I want all of them for you!
And so, I do not want to give you my advice unless you can see it for what it is. Stuff about me! As most advice is – stuff about the people who dish it out! Mostly, and most importantly, though, I want to tell you that I have loved you, do love you, and will always love you with all of my heart, mind and soul, and as long as I can and am able, I will support you in any way I can through whatever you choose to do with your life.
I will always be your mother and friend.
With great love I write these words to you.