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The Good Within Our Midst: A Memoir on Faith and Flourishing in Motherhood


Our family of 7 & theTeton Mountains on an adventure around the world and back — 2021 by Peter Lobozzo.

The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all,

and then stands back to see if we can find them.

-Elizabeth Gilbert


The wheels of the airplane lift off the ground, and I feel the weightlessness of acceleration that’s different than any other time I’ve taken off to travel. Tears begin running down my face, and I realize I’m in the process of “letting go” of all I’ve been holding onto, perhaps too tightly. With nothing to do but embrace the strangeness of being physically untethered from my husband and the five children I’ve left behind, I find myself looking back across the trajectory of my motherhood experience that began almost 15 years ago to the date when I first saw two blue lines on a stick.


I ride this jet stream towards France, away from the familiar ties that bound me as I brought my children into this world. I am unlike the woman I once was, and I feel into this new vastness of my being. Suddenly, there is no new life growing in my womb, no infant needing to nurse, no toddler tugging at my side, no one asking for another “thing” they want, and the cavernous space that is now my heart, which has swollen to meet the demands of nurturing, feels like miraculous growth. Yet I know my capacity to hold, witness, and love unconditionally has expanded perhaps as slowly and unseen as my womb each time it stretched with life over a nine-month period. 


At some point in the overwhelm of responsibility, I realized that each day my children woke up different—with new words, skills, and nuances to their personalities they didn’t have when I tucked them in the night before. “This too shall pass,” a phrase I often spoke to myself, referred to all of it—from the infant musk and sleepless nights to snuggles and tantrums. Indeed, I’ve been enveloped by the sea of impermanence since the day my heart cracked open with the vulnerability that became my birthplace of growth. That’s when I started treading water to stay afloat in those dichotomous emotions that crashed against me, asking,


“Are you going to sink or are you going to swim?”


I tried valiantly to swim against the tides, each stroke a monumental effort fueled by those great expectations of all I needed to be or do more of. My oldest now bleeds with the cycles of the moon, and my youngest recently freed me from 14 years of diapers when he finally decided to potty train. I’ve made it this far because I learned how to roll over onto my back and float, allowing the weight of the water to hold me as I surrendered to the current that carried me in new and unusual directions.


When my ears are immersed in the water, just below the surface, I can hear the channel of awareness that runs within me, perhaps as powerfully as the tide of life that carries me into the space of unknowing. Flourishing is not a stagnant state we arrive at but rather a continual process of growth that requires moments where we feel and look a bit messy. Yet how easy it is to believe what is taught—that I should stifle my authenticity and speak only with grace, containing the rage that shouts in another vibration of truth. It seems I must hold back the frustration, sadness, shame, guilt, fear, and everything else that must be silenced by the boulder of perfection in my stream of consciousness. Yet the question I’ve long been contemplating as I seek to transcend my ancient fight or flight wiring and raise thriving kids in this modern world is:


What determines a “good mom” anyway?


Without the undoing and the cracking open of my heart a bit more with each new life I couldn’t fathom being “enough” for, I wouldn’t have had the space to swell with the love each child has asked of me. Without roaring like a lion over spilled breastmilk or the doctor who brushed off my intuition, which was indeed accurate, I might not have understood the fullness of this Love that I am. Ultimately, without the shattering of my expectations into a million pieces over and over again, I’m not sure how I would have tapped into that peace within me—where I am both broken and whole in the eye of the storm—an eternal process of death and rebirth that is parenting in a noisy world where the research on what determines how our children will thrive is as discordant as the emotions I feel during the witching hour. This is the wholeness of the truth that must be spoken about flourishing in motherhood and, ultimately, in life.


And what of faith? That’s what might begin where science leaves off—when every article, book, or expert voice has been turned inside out and there is no one “right” way to do anything, let alone begin to explain the losses or the miracles. Faith is perhaps what I needed all along, and I discovered it by diving into the depths of my soul, where I gathered the pearls of Knowing that had been ground into treasure under the pressure of the darkness. 


On Faith and Flourishing in Motherhood


I’d say I went to France to find the words I write now, like Hemingway and Fitzgerald at La Closerie des Lilas, but the writing that pours forth reflects the years I spent pecking away within the confines of being a stay-at-home mom who was so “stuck,” so “stagnant,” so “trapped” within an experience I chose and cherished.  


I wanted to find myself before motherhood and lose myself to all that I thought was bigger and more important than me, perhaps like Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love. But my bathroom floor moment of despair triggered by the sight of two blue lines on a stick led to macaroni and cheese-stained yoga pants while I dreamed of eating pasta in Italy, the transcendent ability to not hear “Mom” while I was wondering what it would be like to pray (in silence) in an ashram in India, and the hope that if I could just keep showing up with love, I’d come to believe that I already had everything Gilbert was seeking in Indonesia. 


Still, I tried to be more than I was in any given moment, blinded by the “Goddess Myth,” which manifested as my determination to be one of those “natural birth warrior” moms. Then, I reasoned, I would be something “more” than “just a mom” who “dabbled” in writing to create something meaningful outside of the kids. But the truth about my creative output is that I didn’t write a word worth sharing before I became a mom, and the illusion of perfection started to crack when I woke up after my intervention-clad birth wondering what I had done wrong and how I was going to keep my daughter safe as the “failure” I felt I was. Postpartum anxiety is something I desperately fought from the day I brought life into this world. But then again, all those irrational fears and the negative chatter might have been a reaction to the half of me I tried to run from, cover up, and avoid—until I almost lost my son to an accidental scald burn. 


It wasn’t just the social worker’s inference that I was a “bad mom” for not preventing the injury; it was the world we inhabit that doesn’t like scars. I thought the journey I needed to be on was to fix what was emotionally wrong both within me and then physically wrong with my son, but it was a losing battle that forced me to own my truth about the nature of my being and learn to dance within the duality of my wholeness. I, like my son, am scarred but brave in the way that The Thunder, Perfect Mind suggests:


…I am the honored one and the scorned one. 

I am the whore and the holy one…


But this ancient text which reflects the potential of unity from the shadows of reality isn't something that called to me from a prominent display of bookstores or our local library. It was buried as deep as The Gospel of Mary, hidden in the shadow of orthodoxy and concealed by sermons on sin and separation. 


Eternally, I am as cleaved as Mary Magdalene, for she who bore witness was she who was deemed the worthless prostitute, who in the biblical literature was either conflated with other women or erased. Magdalene, a “tower of strength,” who spoke of Goodness, Love, and inner Knowing with words that resurfaced after thousands of years has been a penitent footnote in every version of Christianity I clung to for hope and comfort. For me, she is every woman who is “not enough,” yet “strong enough” to hold space in a storm, bearing witness to suffering and transformation. She is the working mom riddled with guilt, the stay-at-home mom who is silently imploding, and every projection in between cast through the lens of negativity. This is why I left my family to find her in southern France, where legends say Magdalene lived and taught, and I wandered through an ancient forest to a cave, thinking I could reclaim what was lost by walking in her sacred footsteps.


Yet despite all my seeking, Magdalene remains shrouded in eternal mystery because she was never the point. For me, Mary Magdalene was the space of possibility, a guide, the voice in the desert calling me to remember the truth, and, in many ways, the energy of hope itself that led me “home.” For what I was meant to find was not beyond me in the distant horizon, but within me all along: the happiness I sought by climbing mountains of accomplishment, the whole self I wanted to be the day I became a mom, or the enlightened narrator of the book I expected to have published in a year, then two, then decades after I first felt the creative rush of something to be born of my most authentic voice. 


I started writing simply to cope when my heart cracked open with maternal love, wondering if I would ever have the courage to share my truth about the wholeness of my motherhood experience. But as the story goes, my words emerged in the world at my son's bedside in an ICU Burn Unit when I sent an email asking for help. I've written since to heal, thinking that when the kids were a little older and I was closer to the milestone age of 40, I would have reached that rainbow in my horizon—all grown up (finally) with answers to all the hard questions I sought so fervently. But growth doesn't happen on a linear trajectory, and I remain in the cyclical process of expansion where I am still living out the questions long held in my heart, knowing that it's time to write about this journey of becoming where my only certainty is that I’ll never be finished growing, shifting, learning, and trying to make sense of all I feel and Know, but somehow this is what I understand it is to be WHOLE


​A Journey to be WHOLE

To be Well-nourished, Hopeful, Open, Loving, and Engaged (WHOLE) is an acronym I created to organize and apply the research of positive psychology to my experience as a mom. Inspired by the tenants of flourishing developed by Marty Seligman, WHOLE was a failed experiment in translating linear theory on hope and accomplishment into the cyclical reality of life's unpredictable experiences until I stepped outside the boundaries of academia and then the Christian traditions I’d been raised in. I started color coding theory and looking for patterns when sacred geometry, numerology, the chakra system, color, and astrology helped me integrate a theoretical square peg into an experiential round hole. But my daily routine of following flow and synchronicities inspired more than clarity and coherence, for it became a spiritual practice that transformed my life from the inside out.

 

While there is a list of concrete reasons for our sudden move to the other side of the world in 2018, the breakdown of our suburban existence coincided with my awakening to awe. No, I cannot prove how a unique blend of science, ancient spiritual wisdom and creativity influenced my physical reality. However, I can offer the truest answer I never spoke to the endless questions about why we dared to give up the suburban dream we'd built or how I found the courage to board an airplane with my husband, four kids under nine, and one-way tickets to expat life in Asia:


​My intention to be WHOLE.


For years, my writing was interrupted by another baby, another move, another thing “distracting me” from expressing myself and speaking my truth through this work I called “WHOLE.”  Now I see how the years in the “desert” allowed me the space I needed to process and grow into the voice with which I now write. At times, I thought I was avoiding the discomfort of sharing from the most intimate chambers of my heart. Some assumed it was my perfectionism that kept me writing the same darn book for years because, draft by draft, I let every word written go. I would carry on living, experiencing, feeling, and being, and in time, often when I least expected it, the words would begin to flow again. Nothing was ever lost in a carpool shuffle or another meal prepared, and the W-H-O-L-E I always returned to was a mysterious rhythm that beckoned me to “know thyself” above all.


My journey to be WHOLE might have culminated in France, but it was lived in everyday life, where I would pull threads of thoughts in stolen moments from that space beneath the surface. I heard and gathered it all amidst the bickering, playdates, games, recitals, milestones, laundry, and meals. There were times I rose before my family to connect with the light within me and write. There were times I rolled out of bed and was swept up by the tides of life that left me feeling washed up in a creative desert. But those periods of wandering with parched lips and blistered feet in search of flow were a crucial part of my everyday pilgrimage. For that’s how I learned to discern the oasis from the mirage, surrendering every last expectation I had about this body of work that is nothing short of a calling. 


The Good Within Our Midst

Subscribe here for updates on The Good Within Our Midst: A Memoir on Faith and Flourishing in Motherhood or head over to Substack and subscribe to my newsletter, The Artistry of Faith to receive my notes on love and miracles filled with the sort of awe and sacred creativity I write about here.

You will also find me @TheMagdaleneThread, where there is a growing treasure of stories, science, and ancient spiritual wisdom on the divine femininefrom the ancient goddess to Mary Magdalene, shared in essays and podcasts for the modern woman.







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