Shrug your shoulders, but I took a head trip last month. In actuality, it was a real trip—one with an air-fare to a Florida time-share and a back-up plan of anti-diarrhea meds.
“She won’t come,” I could imagine my mom telling her two friends. And, Mom was right. Unless you think putting coffee in a kid's sippee cup will make Willy smile, leaving my own small spot on earth generally makes me want to spit up.
Still, as it happened, my mom’s two friends invited me anyway. They've been swigging from the flask of my blog, one of them—let's call her Sassy—even mentoring my writing, her having wielded a career in big time newspapers, academia and, given the gusto of her giggle, life's big ballocks in general. Yeah, that kind of cool woman.
But, never mind that, the aplomb of their invitation alone—so offhand but confident—lured me. Though not right away.
You know how, if you're taking your first cup of coffee in the dew of the drowsy garden, and that tricked-out but creepy caterpillar goes boo! out from under a leaf that your robe just brushed? You half-want to go "Fah! Flick it away," but you also half-want to go "Aw" and look closer.
Before I could flinch and flick, I boarded JetBlue.
Not long after that, in a balmy Orlando pool, there I was, bobbing on a taffy-colored noodle with a cast of strangers, sorta all looking like we were auditioning as extras for a Minions aquatics sequel. Nevertheless, it was then that I whiffed the warmest waft.
One of Mom's friends, also on a noodle—call her Marvee—was cracking my mom up—on her noodle—with a story from sixty years past, one from their shared Michigan childhood, something about ambushing my snoring grandma, the queen, which reportedly put Christ on a bicycle.
Whether Jesus rode a bike or not, it's a big blip of a breakthrough when you once knew something, but then, suddenly, you really know-know it. A true head trip. In this case, I thought: "My mom before me."
Like I said, not a brilliant a-ha, but eye-opening just the same.
Obviously, Mom has a life apart from me. (Don't look at me like that. Yes, I'm sure. I've seen photos.) Only, nothing makes you see the importance of something more than a pool noodle can.
With my mommy-and-me mindset, such noodle-ness provoked a plucky sort of permission: Please feel free to partake in your Mom the way her longtime pals do. I mean, look at them yucking it up together.
Forget umbilical cords and Bowlby's attachment theories.
Okay, let's not. I would do well to loosen Mom—and me—from what the child-expert D. W. Winnicott, M.D., professes to be the bind of "false compliance" versus "true authenticity."
False-comply-a-wha? Here's the quickie: Each of us was born to someone (Yes, you were. That belly button don't lie.) And, for feeding, swaddling and diapers, we needed them. Period.
After all, who wants to be abandoned in a diaper of despair? So, instinctually, with our just-born brains, we sought to please and comply with our parents' own unconscious stuff. A life-long psychic surrender.
Hang on. Skip past adolescent door-slammin' and, into adulthood, we still wrangle with the psychological power we gave them. However, it's no longer always with them. Not directly.
For starters, it's called displacement or transference: it's our view of a spouse, a boss, a vole, and even the gas pump that rejected your card. And, if it's a skewed view of yourself? Talk fancy and call it introjection. But, yeah, pretty much that too.
Yep: If it's not one thing, it's your mother.
On the contrary, what's funniest about that one-liner is we believe it for so long. Blamin' Mamma makes a good country song. But, I'm not in a diaper anymore. Maybe someday again, but not before they make them fashionable. So, no more momma myths. Just me, and maybe some pool noodles.
Yet, had I done what I usually do and stayed tucked-in at home, I'd not only have missed out on learning from three wonderful women, I'd have missed the unexpected chance to fling off the pinions of childhood—to take a tomboy's running dive-bomb into life's adult pool of more-possibilities. My mom before me.
In the end, I can’t be the only one that finds this so desirable as to want more head trips. My reclusive side, not spitting up at the thought.
Though you'd think, as a seasoned therapist, I'd get all this by now. But, there's no getting past being a human: We claim to look for connection, the thrill, but we don't let ourselves find it. Not really. We've uncanny ways of flicking away our chances.
But why? Even Willy grows up to love coffee.