There come these moments in every mom’s life (or so I assume, if only because I steadfastly refuse to accept that it is only in mine) when she finds herself lost, standing gape-mouthed, shell-shocked, mud-smeared, and barefoot in the middle of a sticky-hot domestic jungle and feeling smothered as she tries to breathe in a syrupy fug of vertigo-inducing exhaustion, self-doubt, unearned guilt, humble appreciation, and fierce unconditional love for the creatures who inhabit such a place.

Having walked freely and willingly into the cool green outskirts, guided only by her heart and complete devotion to those she cares for, she delved further into deeper green. Calling forth her inner She-Ra, she confidently brushed aside choking vines and carefully sidestepped massive, gnarled roots that threatened to pitch her into the spongy, rotted-leaf floor.

She has encountered stunningly beautiful blossoms in the most unlikely places and found herself parched when she had instead expected refreshment. She has found momentary reprieve in the cool, caressing shade puddles in between unrelenting bouts of chaos in the tangle of branches grabbing at her from every direction. Her surroundings have serenaded her, filling her heart with hope and joy, and screeched at her, making her cower like cornered prey.

This place is a disorienting labyrinth of sob-inducing beauty, bone-crunching tumbles, toe-tickling giggle fits, seductive caves of wracking guilt, and sudden, unexpected, open-canopied bursts of the most dazzling sunshine. Her heart has exploded with rapture a gazillion times over and needed stitching from the snares of the thorny underbrush, as well.

The trail has been harsh, and the journey the most beloved gift of her life. She will never be able to express her gratitude for being sent here, nor will she cease in the trying of it. And yet, as she looks around, taking stock of all that she has been gifted, of all the activity surrounding, of all the things she has learned and loves, she realizes that she has sacrificed the knowing of herself. It is lonely here in the middle of the jungle. For all of the magnificent, vibrant, fascinating creatures around her, the absence of one leaves a gaping hole. And so she takes a deep breath and one step forward into the next moment, setting out to find herself again, knowing she’s back there somewhere, waiting to meet up.

She is a mom.

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