There is a feeling that overwhelms when you are stuck somewhere between sadness and a sticky kind of empathy. It’s a blue feeling that mixes with some sort of soul-reaching heart string pulling. My friend Tamara at Tamara Like Camera
calls this the “squishy” feeling. It happens when I see toddlers cry for their mom or elderly people struggling in any way, shape or form…especially with shaky hands. It’s the worst when I see disappointment or sadness on my son’s face. It reaches into your insides and touches your soul in a weird place. She wrote a whole blog about it recently and maybe that is what caused all these thoughts to stir up. I don’t know, but they did. Like silt on the bottom of a suddenly rushing river. I have been overcome by the thoughts in my own head again.
When I was a kid and I would find myself with this squishy feeling, I used to equate it with an overwhelming need for my mom’s presence. I would attempt to rectify the issue by clinging to my mom. I am sure she did not know why I would all of a sudden need to be near her, but I did. And while it would not cure the squishy, it would quiet the squishy and that was good enough then. As I got older and my depression was diagnosed as an illness and not just a fleeting teenage hormonal issue, I started to dismiss the squishy as just another symptom…the way I did with a lot of my feelings and emotions that did not have a clear-cut explanation. It was just easier.
Now I am in my mid-thirties (that sounds weird to say) and finally treating this disease as the disease that it is and not just as a passing annoyance that would occasionally become overwhelming and screw up my entire life for a few years. It’s never been easy. I just figured out how to hide it. I found every metaphorical rug that I could possibly shove it under and I did. But that squishy was always there. And it recently has reminded me how many of those rugs I need to lift up, sweep out, and lay back down flat again. But that is another chapter.
For a while I thought that feeling was what happened when my medication was starting to wear off and it was time to take more. For a brief time I thought it was the actual feeling of a hormone of some sort being released into my body. Since reading that blog, I have revisited the reality that maybe it is my soul telling me that I need my mom.
I am very close to my mom. Her presence calms me. She usually knows what to say to make things make sense to me when I have knotted them up to an incredible tangle in my head. And that makes sense…she is my mom. She created me and brought me into the world. When I was at my mentally screwiest in my teens, she never gave up on me. She didn’t know what in the hell to do with me, but that didn’t stop her from keeping an eye on me any way she could. She would take me out to lunch just to try and get me to talk. It didn’t matter what we talked about…just that we did and that she had a way to keep in touch with me, no matter how long I locked myself away in my bedroom or my own head. And I did that. A lot. So we would pick a spot and go eat. Food gets me talking I guess.
To this day, our lunches are something I cherish. Over the weekend we went out to a favorite little café, had delicious soups and sandwiches, and talked about childbirth. I don’t know why, it was just what came up. That is how we roll.
I know a lot of people who don’t have a great relationship with their mom and they don’t understand mine. I can’t at all expect them to. But they sometimes don’t grasp the importance of what I have with her either. Maybe they don’t have a squishy to chase away. I feel sorry for them. I know I can go to her with sorrow, with anger, with joy, with hilarity, with the squishy, and she is there with open arms to receive it all. We will sit and talk about everything or nothing and it sorts out and files away all the things that clog up my head. We don’t have to talk specifically about anything in my head, but it’s like all of the silt from that raging river just settles to the bottom again and the waters run clear.
Now, I am a mom. And that comes with a new squishy. The squishy I get when I need my son’s presence. He is equally calming, but on the other side of my soul. Where my mom is the wisdom, my son is the innocence. Where my mom is the protector, I am the protector for my son. It’s almost as though I can feel the winds of change merging me across that spectrum. And I know my son gets his own squishy. He comes to me when he does and hugs me, wraps himself around me, lays his head against me. When he was little, he would tell me it was because he just needed cuddles. I would plug him for reasons. Was he sick? Did something happen? Nothing was wrong, no sadness or fear. He just needed cuddles.
Every so often now when he comes to me and gives me an especially long hug, I will whisper, “Do you need cuddles?” and he will nod. And I will stop what I am doing to wrap him in the best mom hug I have and chase away his squishy.