The Best Literary Writing About Mothers and Motherhood

Unending Potential by Carmel Mawle

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When I was young, engulfed in a hazy half-life of drug and alcohol- induced close calls, I never imagined that I would live to see children or grandchildren. I could more readily see my spirit sinking away from an emaciated body in a trash bin than looking back on a jumble of lessons learned through years of completions and failures, the continual unveiling of living.

Morbid teenaged ruminations have long ago dissolved into a reality-based curiosity. Yes, death will eventually come — there’s no guarantee of a next heartbeat — but more interesting are the infinite unimaginable possibilities of life.

It’s easy to recognize unlimited potential in youth, to hold an infant in our arms and feel the weight of his life stretched before him, but what if our potential increases exponentially with age? I think of Diana Nyad who swam the Straights of Florida, walking onto a Cuban beach at 64, or Harry Bernstein who published his first book, a memoir, at 96. At the age of 85, Sister Megan Rice has the oligarchy quaking in its jackboots. Consider that there is more power in the greater perspective and wisdom acquired from accumulated experience than ever there was in our young bodies.

Today I see something of my future in my mother, smaller than I remember her during my childhood, but still contributing, questioning, still brimming with unfulfilled potential. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but the greatest mysteries — a breath, a turning — are inevitably found in this day, this moment. And it’s the reaching, the dreaming, that keeps us young.

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