Happy Mother’s Day to Mothers everywhere.
My Mom, my sister and myself.
My sister and her son.
Great Grandma holding my oldest for the first time.
Great Grandma holding my oldest for the first time.
Show us someone or something you admire (and tell us about them, too)!
I admire my mother for all she did for my sister and me, all she sacrificed so we could have wonderful childhoods.
It’s been over a year since my mother died. I no longer think about her death every moment of the day. Now, it’s the little things which stop me in my tracks. An old Christmas card with her signature. A new Christmas without her signature. My child calling on the phone, needing help, lost in the confusion of the world. I always want to say ‘figure it out on your own.’ I know I need to say ‘figure it out on your own.’ He needs to learn to stand on his own two feet, to take care of his problems, not to always think Mom will fix things for him. But I think of my Mom and ask, ‘What would Mom do?’
She would have done anything and everything in her power to help her child. To help me. To protect me from the world and even from myself. She would also pick up a broom as soon as she entered my house and start sweeping. Or folding laundry. Waxing the floors. Going to the Grocery Store. I hope I’m not that compulsive of a cleaner in my children’s homes (when they get homes other than mine), but for the rest….. how can I argue with my mother? How can I not follow her example?
Mothers are special. My Mom was special and I hope, one day, I will be as special to my own young men. I hope every day that I can live up her to legacy. To calmly say, ‘What can I do?’
WWMD – What Would Mom Do? Not a bad way to live my life.
I lie here wondering why, once again, I can’t sleep. I go in endless concentric circles, forbidden sleep by some force within my own mind until I’m so exhausted, day after day, I can’t stay awake and then, sleeping at the drop of a hat. Somehow, there must be a middle ground. I used to live on the middle ground. Bed by 8 pm every night, up in the morning, and over the first few months my sleeping gradually reverted back to normal. All the sleep lost over the years made right.
Which lasted until about….towards the end of the marriage and the struggle afterwards. Back to square one.
But wait. That’s not what this post is about, not really. I’m pretending, hiding, avoiding the reality that thirty-five minutes ago the clock clicked to 12:01 am and now it is June 7th, my mother’s birthday. The first birthday without her. No searching for the perfect present or baking cakes, finding the sweet treats she liked the most. My family is small. Celebrations are almost always meals, mostly at my parent’s house.
But there will be no meal this year. No one will gather, bustling in with gift bags and coolers full of food. There will be no gathering around the kitchen for the blessing, no filling plates from the counter between the kitchen and dining room. No bright paper. No candles. No laughter.
All my life, I tried to imagine what it would feel like to be without her, trying in my childish and then less than childish way to prepare myself for the dreadful moment I knew would eventually arrive. But no amount of preparations, no years of illness or the knowledge of what was to come, could possibly have prepared me for the reality of her emptiness. It couldn’t prepare any of us.
No balloons. No cards. Just sadness. Working later today. Needing to come home and accomplish something, anything, to keep from wasting away the hours of the day, minutes ticking like raindrops on glass. Each minute another tear. Each second another loss. Each tick or tock the feeling of being utterly alone in the thick dark when most children cry for their mother. I can only cry after. There is no more crying for her to come.
I would like to say there is a glaring riff in my soul, a chunk torn from my heart so large that it will never heal. That would be poetically beautiful, show me as the brave heroine standing fast against the pain. But I can’t. I don’t have a riff, just the tick tock of minutes moving me further and further away from the woman who showed me, both by example and by my refusing her example, how to be the person I have become in a world in which she has finally, inevitably, left me behind.
When you tell a lie, you steal someone’s right to the truth.
― Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner
How true. And how sad. Everybody has lied at one time or another. I won’t lie and say I’m any different, but I’ve written about lying before because it has become the major deal-breaker in my life. So apologizes if you’ve heard this before.
All children lie even if just by omission. My children lied. ‘I don’t know who squirted all the toothpaste out of the tube.’ ‘No, Mom, I didn’t eat the last of the pizza.’ Well, if neither child ate the pizza and they are the only two in the house…. hum…. But still they would maintain to the end of time that they hadn’t eaten the pizza. Where then are the stray kids hiding in my house, eating the pizza, squirting the toothpaste, and every other thing my children swore they never did.
So where do we draw the line between childhood lies when lying means ‘the thing never happened, was never eaten, because they don’t yet understand the difference between lies and truths,’ and adult lies meant to intentionally deceive? Or are they are both the same thing just on a different scale?
My children lie now, at 19 and 22. Small wonder. Their father taught them lying to avoid responsibility was the acceptable way to be a man. He also taught them that lying to their mother was an acceptable way to avoid taking responsibility for their own lives.
My Ex spent 20+ years lying about everything and, yes, he stole my right to a truthful life. In order to maintain the fantasy of what I thought life should be, I lied to cover him. In a previous job, I had to lie to cover the owner’s inability to run the business properly. I hated lying, but I didn’t know how else to survive. I wasn’t strong enough to stand up and say ‘no,’ when it might impact my job or my marriage.
I am strong now which goes a long way to explain why I now have an Ex and not a husband. I still have the same kids, however, and retraining them is a long, grueling battle. How do I show them that lying steals my right to the truth, and to a truthful life. How do I make them see, above and beyond anything else, lying is disrespectful, both to me and to themselves? How do I teach them the courage to stand up and tell the truth no matter the consequences and the courage not to steal anybody’s inherent right to truth?
In addition to saying nothing
negative to your (sons) again today,
do at least one unexpected gesture
as an act of kindness.
As many of you may have noticed, I am…ah… rather exacting over the meanings of words and sentences. I don’t do vague in day-by-day communications. The sentence means what it means. A ridiculously simple example would be the construction truck with the warning on the back – Working Vehicle Do Not Follow.
Okay. So the truck is working – usually a dump truck so I *assume* the fear is the back will give way and drown the close-following car in dirt or whatever happens to be lucky enough to be enclosed within.
Then my mind goes to work. (And yes, this will relate to the subject eventually…. sort of.) My first thought is, ‘So you can’t follow the truck…. for how long? A mile? Forever? Never?” Will all the traffic suddenly come to a stand-still while the truck drives off into the distance alone?’
The sign doesn’t even give you the respect of clarifying, ‘Do not follow behind this truck any closer than 60 yards. You might get smushed.’ There is still some vagueness here but never mind for now. You can undoubtedly see the point. I’m anal about words and grammar.
And now here is where I am going to make a flourish with my hands, say TA-DA, and suddenly spring a ‘new’ subject on you, even if I did just give you a hint of what was to come.
What does the Love Dare mean by Kind? Am I kind if I bake you cookies? How about if I mow your grass just because? Pick up your child from school so you don’t have to miss work? Send a card? Call? Flowers? Does kindness mean that I have to do something for somebody else whether physical, mental or emotional?
Or can kindness also be not doing something?
I thought about the ways and means of kindness this week, trying to figure out what kindness I could offer to my sons. Their suggestions would mostly likely cover the money or food avenue of giving them something of monetary value.
So, yes, kindness can be giving but must it always be giving?
Doing their chores for a day? What chores? The ones I have to threaten bodily harm to get done? Those chores? They wouldn’t even notice.
Take them to dinner? A dinner out would be kind if you mean kind as in ‘nice.’ But is nice what the Dare is asking me to be?
Nice is a ‘nice’ word. The sky is nice today. Tells me nothing about why the sky is nice. Or the clouds or the sun or your spotted dog. Nice really tells nothing more than the speaker doesn’t have the ability, time, care enough, or is afraid to, to say what is really meant.
I don’t want to be just *nice.* I want to show kindness with action or actions that are real and solid and meaningful. I want them to be able to say, ‘Wow, Mom sure was kind to me today. She…. fill in the blank as you wish.’
But kindness shouldn’t need shouting from the mountaintops. Kindness isn’t something done for praise. So maybe kindness should slip quietly into one’s life like a shadow, maybe not even realized until later.
Last Friday, as always, my oldest picked me up from work. He had just recently painted his room and I’d told him I would buy him a new rug. I was tired. I didn’t want to go to the store then, but he wanted to go and every other time I was off he had plans. So off to Kohl’s we go.
Found the rugs. He liked. We’re done. Right?
Ah, no. He’d been hinting that he needed shoes but I explained to him that was why he worked – so he could buy his own shoes. But I could tell he wanted something so I suggested maybe he might like to look at the clearance clothes. Instant smile and off he goes.
And there, in the middle of Kohl’s, I found myself in the middle of kindness. There is a reason why we disagree on clothes but it isn’t something I’m comfortable with at the moment. Suffice it to say, the greatest kindness I could have shown him at that moment was to tell him he could get clearance clothes and then walk away. To remain silent when he came up to me with clothes in hand, waiting for me to give the Mother’s ‘No.’
I said nothing except ‘do they fit’ and ‘do you want them.’ And then, ‘let’s go pay.’
At that moment, I was enfolded in the arms of kindness towards another person. Silent. Warm. And filled with overflowing love.
At that moment, I was kindness and isn’t that what the dare was really asking…
“Kindness is love in action. If patience is how love reacts in order to minimize a negative circumstance, kindness is how love acts to maximize a positive circumstance. Patience avoids a problem; kindness creates a blessing. One is preventive, the other proactive. These two sides of love are the cornerstones on which many of the other attributes we will discuss are built.”
‘It is difficult to demonstrate love when you feel little to no motivation. But love in its truest sense is not based on feelings. Rather, love determines to show thoughtful actions even when there seems to be no reward. You will never learn to love until you learn to demonstrate kindness.”
In addition to saying nothing
negative to your (sons) again today,
do at least one unexpected gesture
as an act of kindness.
What is desirable in a man is his kindness. (Proverbs 19:22)
Material taken from The Love Dare by Stephen and Alex Kendrick, copyright © 2009 by B&H Publishing Group.
All right – confession time. The reality is I am going to have to take each “day” of the Love Dare and spread it out over a week. The ability to accept the Dare on a daily basis is just too much right now. I want to do more than just skim each Dare. I want to be able to sink into the words, the emotions, the needs, of each day and understand them (and myself) completely.
So saying, I have to admit the first day (week) went well. I made a concerted attempt to censor my words and emotions around my sons, keep inside those words that would only cause hurt feelings or worse. My hardest challenge has been to remain in the present. Instead of thinking how much I would save in groceries or whatnot with them gone, I should be grateful for each day they are close. Instead of saying, “I could or should,” I need to say, “Thank you for each and every moment.”
There is truth to the old saying, ‘If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Can you image how patient and kind and loving the world would be if each of us lived by such a rule?
My take-away from this Dare is that I need to be more patient with not only my life and with theirs. What I *see* might be – and probably is – completely different from how they see themselves. I need to support them not only with my money, but with my trust and love and openness; allow my peace and love to support them to the highest level to which they dream of becoming.
We are all becoming. The mystery lies in how courageous we will be in our own lives, no matter what step we might be on at the moment.
There’s a funny thing about being invisible. The Invisible Man, Harry Potter and his Invisibility Cloak, One Ring to Rule Them All, The Tempest and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Being invisible has always been a popular item in literature and movies. When asked what superpower a person might like to possess, invisibility is usually high up on the list. But what if you were really invisible? Or what if you’d made yourself as invisible as possible all your life but when you decide you want to toss off the invisibility cloak no one sees you even then.
Growing up, I spend all my time trying to be invisible. I was horribly shy and inwards, mostly because of things that happened and because I’d never not known the feeling of depression. To protect myself, I became invisible, as skill I perfected over the years.
In college, I lived behind the mask of characters, terrified somebody would talk to me, I would freeze and look like an idiot. I didn’t trust anybody. I was afraid of everything and not just in that ‘I’m afraid of spiders’ way. I was drawn so far inward that I couldn’t make connections with the outer world.
And then I grew up. Don’t get me wrong, I was invisible well into adulthood and I liked it that way. It didn’t help that my ex liked me invisible. So, there I was, invisible until I had kids. I couldn’t be invisible with kids. I learned to speak up, defend them, because I didn’t have any other choice. The mother bear will protect her cubs even if she doesn’t want to come out of the den.
It took me years to come to the realization I didn’t have to live the life other people wanted for me. I could live life my way. Visible. I no longer had to be afraid. I was in charge of who I was and who I became. Not my Ex. Not my family. Not friends or acquaintances or bosses or TV or ads or anything else in the Universe.
I. Was. In. Charge. Of. Me.
Apparently, no one else got the memo. I learned quickly that once people lose sight of you, you don’t appear just because you’ve decided to appear again. I’m not talking about people I knew casually, but family. When I finally separated from my ex, they were glad. Why had it taken me so long? When I became my own person, they weren’t happy. I was no longer the person they expected me to be and they didn’t want that. They wanted me to stand on my own two feet but only if I stayed the same person I was before. But I wasn’t the same person. How could I stay the same and change? Not possible.
I’ve had to write the remainder of this post several times. Each former attempt came out bitchy and childish. I don’t mean to be. I like taking the higher road, but sometimes I just need to express myself, bitchy or not. I know what you are going to say. ‘Are you sure it’s all them?’ Probably not. I’ve never claimed I was perfect. I don’t return phone calls in the time frame they expect. Bad? Yes, but I’m not a phone person and when I get overwhelmed by things, I just ‘turtle’ and do nothing. Could I do better? Yes. Try harder? Yes. Do I want to do better? I used to say yes, but now, I’m not so sure.
Three examples (yes there are so many more but that’s where the bitchy comes in). One – I wrote and read a short essay at my mother’s funeral. Except for my Aunt, no one in my family acknowledged I had even spoken. No ‘thank you,’ no ‘I know this must have been hard for you’. Nothing. Friends of the family (and even people I didn’t know) came up to say how touched they had been by my words, wanting a copy. Family. Not a word.
Two – After years of cutting my own hair (not pretty I assure you), I got my hair cut and styled at a salon. Nobody in my family noticed.
Three- I lost a noticeable amount of weight. Did my family notice? Nope. Not a word.
Bitch over (maybe). Truth is I am hurt and angry. I am willing to do anything they need. All they need to do is ask. Do they? No, they don’t and then are angry that I ‘never’ help. To hear them, I am selfish and think of nobody but myself. So sorry for thinking we are all adults and should not expect mind-reading among us.
Perhaps I should accept that I am, and will be, invisible to them. The sad part is I am almost at the point I don’t care. Is it worth fighting invisibility in their eyes when I will never be visible for who I am? How many times am I expected to try to explain who I am and why? It is hard enough to fight depression every day without living up to somebody else’s expectations.
The sad truth is I no longer feel comfortable at family gatherings.
I am the invisible woman.
“We all do things we desperately wish we could undo. Those regrets just become part of who we are, along with everything else. To spend time trying to change that, well, it’s like chasing clouds.”
Everybody has regrets. We all live with the what-ifs, the should-have-beens and could-have-beens. I’ve had my share and more. Most have faded away, others remain with me to this day. The maxims suggest you live without regret. I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time working that sentiment into daily life. If I deny those feeling, don’t I deny a part of me I don’t want to lose? I don’t want to live in the past, but how can I change my future if I don’t understand what molded my past?
I regret when my first tabby cat, Dandor, died trying to get to the bedroom to be with me. I was asleep and didn’t know until the next day. It was a natural death, don’t get me wrong, but that didn’t make it hurt any less. Didn’t make my regret any easier. I regret that I wasn’t more self-away when I first met my ex because then he wouldn’t have been anything to me. I would have seen through his lies and been strong enough to say, ‘I deserve better.’
Regret. Regret. Regret. So many regrets in one lifetime. I treasure these regrets because they are the building blocks upon which my life has been constructed, stepping stones to a stronger and calmer and happier me. That doesn’t mean I will never have another regret. I know I will and trying to pretend otherwise is like turning a blind eye to reality.
My biggest regret now is that I didn’t keep the last promise I made to my Mother. When we put her in respite care while my Dad was in the hospital, I promised I would take her home. Every time I saw her, I promised. She would cry and I would remind her of the promise and the tears would stop. When Dad got better, he realized he couldn’t care for her by himself any longer. The result – leaving her where she didn’t want to be. Promise broken. Not my fault. Not anybody’s fault. It was what it was. A broken promise never to be mended. An ache of pain which will linger for a long time to come.
How do we survive the avalanche of regret? One step at a time. One day at a time. One moment at a time. Forgiving yourself is a lifetime project. No one conquers those pains in an hour or a day. Sometimes it takes the lifetime. We learn to crawl, then walk, and then run from the hurt behind. Other times, we sit still and silent, letting the pain and regret settle deep inside us until we realized that, no matter how bad, the regret and the pain is not going to kill us.