To understand your daughter, you must first understand yourself…

His voice on the phone was calm and firm. “She’s you. What would be best for you? Then you’ll know what’s best for her.”

Why was it so easy to know the sons, to clearly see their needs like the outline of a leaf landing on the water of a simple pond? And the daughter, her sweet face, her bright smile, with one little reach of the mother’s hand, one eye-to-eye connect, one Hannah Montana song spent dancing together in the family room, she came alive with the vibrant smile and 5-year-old abandon that always lurked beneath the surface.

What is best for me, so best for her? The mother contemplated in the streaks of sunlight that day and then as night fell, and the candles flickered against the backdrop of the red dining room walls, and the daughter burrowed into the ex-husband, spending the weekend alone with her father.

The mother had walked every path toward knowledge and enlightenment, some extreme, some narrow and winding through familiar forests so serene she could breathe as if taking the very first breath beneath a canopy of trees that understood their unique place in the world. She was 37 years old and she still didn’t know.

The moment is the reality. She had only now. The candle flickered its yellow wick. Pandora radio played songs emblematic of her tastes at this moment – so quickly, it created a perfect playlist. She saw metaphor.

What is my purpose? What is my passion? What would I be happiest doing every single day, knowing it was my calling, my talent, my inherent joy?

The furnace blew heat through the vent at her feet. It was almost 11 o’clock and she still hadn’t accomplished much for the day. In the kitchen, roast slow-cooked under beer, tomato sauce, onion soup mix. There would be a full table for Shabbat that night, though her daughter would be gone.

Earlier that morning, before it was necessary to awake, the littlest boy came coughing into the mother’s bed. The oldest boy groped his way through the foggy dark to climb up onto the second pillow. And just as the mother almost fell back into a light sleep, the daughter appeared like an apparition or a mirage or a dream not yet dreamt at the side of her bed.

“Oh! You scared me,” she said, grabbing the girl in a purple flannel nightgown and pulling her on top of the mother and holding her there, their hearts beating one against the other, their skin intermingling as if the same. She stroked her daughter’s silken hair. She held her against her body.

She thought of the Winston Churchill quote: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

She held the daughter as long as the little girl would lay there and thought of nothing but the warmth beneath her hands and the sweet softness inside her arms.

As in the words of Anais Nin, “Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.”

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