by Lisa Dion, LPC, RPT-S
I travel all around the world. Some months I travel a lot. In order for me to follow my heart and teach, I’m required to travel; to soar, I must board a plane and fly. And this means that I’m required to spend time away from my daughter. This is not always easy, for me or for her.
On my journey towards authenticity and doing what I love, I have repeatedly been forced to look at my roles as teacher and mother. I have been forced to make difficult decisions that sometimes leave both my daughter and I longing to be with each other.
I learned a long time ago that my daughter feels my inner conflicts. She knows when I’m being authentic and when I’m not. She knows when I’m holding back. She knows when I’m pretending to be happy, yet deep inside yearning for something that in that moment I can’t have.
She has taught me the value of talking to her and sharing my heart’s dilemmas. We discuss my love for her and for being her mom. We talk about the pull I also have towards other dreams that I have. She openly shares with me her feelings regarding my decisions and she tells me about her own dilemmas between wanting to be with me and wanting to spend time with her friends.
I believe that we all carry, to some degree, an inner struggle – a tug-of-war of wanting connection and independence. We’re stuck between wanting to experience parts of our lives together and parts of our lives separate from each other.
I heard a long time ago that quality over quantity makes a great impact. I take this to heart with my parenting. As we talk about our lives, I invite her into the discussion about our co-created future. I invite her to dream with me and I invite her to stay connected to the dreams that she has in her own heart.
We talk about how we will make the most out of our time together. We create ways of connecting that feel nourishing and we plan for quality ways to stay connected even when we’re oceans apart.
Sometimes we each pick an item from each other’s room and keep it with us. I have been known to take her blanket and wrap it around myself on airplanes and in my hotel beds; it allows me to feel connected to her. She has taken my pillow or my shirt and done the same.
When I travel, I’m always on the lookout for objects that she can keep to remind her of me – rocks, wooden hearts, jewelry. She can carry them in her pockets or wear them around her neck. She can know that I am always with her.
When we are doing something that we know the other person would love, we take photos or video (sometimes we even Facetime). This lets us share part of our experiences when we get home. Instead of feeling sad, I find myself excited and smiling, knowing that being reunited will allow me to share my dreams with her.
I’ve considered giving up my travel and waiting until she is eighteen before chasing my aspirations. When I have brought this up for discussion, I see a sadness in her eyes. She tells me not to do this. She tells me that she needs me to follow my dreams, so that I can teach her how to do the same. I tell her that I want her to follow her dreams too, even if it means separating from me. And then sometimes we both shed a tear together as we recognize that following dreams might mean letting go.
We have arrived at a place where we believe in each other and now talk about our time apart as “going on adventures.” We talk about how it is ok for each of us to have adventures separate from each other. We talk about how excited we are to see each other when we reunite and tell each other all about what we did, what we saw, and what we learned. We make this an important ritual between us.
Neither she nor I will be giving up our dreams anytime soon, but through discussion, creativity, and a deep commitment to making it work, we have reframed our time apart. We’ve taken it from loss to the opportunity for a greater connection.
Because we both know, as we go everywhere, our love for each other isn’t going anywhere.