October 5, 2016
by Ros Howell, East Sussex, United Kingdom
If Motherhood is a Cathedral built on the sweat of millions of unseen lives, then the 5 Rhythms are one of the few tools I can use to enter it without fear of guilt, reprisal, or eternal hellfire.
In class last week, I stalked around this echoing chamber, trying to enter into a different relationship with the vastness of this calling, this institution, this minutia of routine and drudgery. I am raging, one moment, at the high vaulted ceilings and the impossible demands for lifelong devotion and the next I’m finding surprising sweetness in how the shafts of light through the stained glass have forever altered my perspective on life.
I go at such a pace around the room these days: Up, Down, Back, Side, Twist. Can’t catch me. Can’t pin me down. It’s not just that at this speed a small child can’t keep up , would want to be picked up, would be calling ‘Can you carry my bike’. Without this extra weight, I can fly like the wind. How fast can I go? Part of the need for speed right now is to more easily shake off roles, reputation and restriction. At these times, my identity is up for grabs. And with one jab from my fingers and elbows, I can pierce right through Nature, Culture, Politics, Economics.
The more I weave through the room, the more the infinite possibility of different routes through the room opens up. In life, I get tangled in well-trodden wool threads that tie me from sink to cooker to car to school to toy box to washing machine to toothbrush. I used to walk around with my eyes fixed on the ground, but now the horizontal dimension has become over familiar and I have to remind myself I can jump in the kitchen, lie down in the playground, or, as my children do, stand on the roof of the car and shout out across the fields.
Oh, the places I go! The texture in my stomach that churns, and turns into a ripple in my pelvis, that shakes the whole torso, my mouth stretches wide as if there is something concrete I want to take out … words? Shapes? A gift for you, my dancing partner right now, or something to be vomited up and discarded?
And who knew, in our culture anyway, how vast the possibilities were for being in relationship? In a world where the mother-child relationship can feel so deadening in its rigidity and doom-laden finality – it better be good enough ‘cos it’s all going to lead back to her! Yet here, in class, I see how that view simply lacks imagination. Here, I can partner your elbow at the other side of the space and you don’t even know. I revel in my secret relationship to your body. Here too, my partner and I get further and further apart, stretching the thread of our connection until it nearly breaks, expanding the definition of what a relationship is. Here I can brush past your arm because it feels right to be that close for an instant but I leave it at that and I don’t look back.
If Motherhood is a Cathedral – a vast echoing chamber of political, cultural, emotional, psychological and economic restriction, then the 5 Rhythms is one of the best languages right now for me to enter into it in all its gargantuan complexity and pray, rage, delight, escape, and return anew.
This is a monstrous place of worship. For the prayers of beautiful monsters.