Written by: Leslie Ahmadi
Date: November 12, 2015
There’s a popular expression in the Persian Language: “Del beh del rah dareh,” roughly translated as “A road can always be found between two hearts.” That is to say: When seeking each other, hearts find a way.
In the past four years I’ve striven to grow heart connections with my two college-age children in a long-distance context. Having myself graduated from a small, church-affiliated college in 1977, I realized they might face pressures and challenges in ways that I never did, and I wanted to offer them strength and encouragement.
What better way, I thought, than to write them letters? I found the thought ever so comforting. But when the moments came to sit down and write, all too often I found myself stalemated. I’d just be sitting there quietly stewing–pen in hand eagerly posed for the task, but nothing to show after forty-five minutes but a few stilted lines on a half-empty page.
I knew exactly what was holding me hold back. I feared I might just impose my own agenda and say more than what might be welcome or useful. After all, I realized that my children were entitled to their own ideas, their own solutions, their own successes and their own mistakes. I had to allow them the right and satisfaction of figuring things out. Yet when I tried writing to bring “strength” or “encouragement,” I wondered if it smacked of advice in disguise.
There was just one problem with all this (over)thinking: my children were not getting letters from me! I was just plain stuck between wanting to share everything and feeling I could share absolutely nothing. So when seeking the road between me and my children, what could my heart do to find a way?
The first breakthroughs came in the carefree moments I threw off the well-worn mantel of parent–and let my children see what lay underneath. When I think back on the letters I’ve saved from my own mother, I recall that some of the most cherished pieces were when Mom shared the human side of herself. The time she laughed (from embarrassment) at her grandmother’s funeral. The time she confessed how envious she was of her neighbor’s camelhair outfit. Those “moments of truth” in dating relationships. How she felt about death in the face of cancer.
Yes, there were times when she inserted bits of advice, or comments that she hoped her daughters would stay close. And yes, she told me she prayed fervently for me. And you know what . . . it was all good. When I think about it, what made it so good was that she wasn’t trying to be my mother, she wasn’t trying to be anything. She was sharing from the heart–and in so doing, she genuinely connected and I responded.
It brings to mind a favorite poem of mine learned in college. It was written by 19th century English poet Mary Ann Evans, better known by the pen name of George Eliot. I haven’t thought about it in 40 years:
Oh the comfort,
The inexpressible comfort
of feeling safe with a person,
Having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words,
But pouring them all right out, just as they are,
Chaff and grain together,
Certain that a hand
Will take them, sift them,
Keep what is worth keeping,
And then, with the Breath of Kindness,
Blow the rest away.
As I grow as a parent and my children in adulthood, that’s the kind of relationship I hope for between us.