I hope that everyone had a lovely weekend, including a very happy Mother's Day! I honored our relationship in a form of slight self-humiliation, sharing a stunning photo of mom and me (age 7) at what is possibly the height of 90s awkwardness. She has a perm, I have a bowl cut, and we both have some sweet glasses, which are once again considered trendy. Go figure. It's not beautiful, but it's love.
My mom is pretty amazing. I feel bad because I forgot her card on my desk this weekend while we were in Virginia visiting her mom, so this post is for her. She is brilliant and thoughtful. She has been though things that would break most people, and still she continues to dedicate her life to helping others. Thank you for teaching me to be strong, and to have grace and a clear mind under pressure. I still want to be you when I grow up (even though technically, I already am.) I love you!
Each time I post something that makes me pause (or cringe, truthfully) I get a great response from my circle of friends and followers.
No, they don't always leave comments, but they sure do let me know how they feel. They call, they tweet, they make comments days or weeks later.
I find that the more I share honestly -- without deliberately trying to be provacative or over the line -- the more I connect deeper with people who mean a lot to me.
It's like there is a little window on the side of my head.
When I pull back the curtains and allow a peek inside, then close them back again, it seems to turn on lights in other people's heads. (Does that even make any sense at all?)
We all have things that float around up there. No matter who we are, how loving, how kind, how forgiving -- we are all judgemental. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, taking the time to form an opinion means that you care. Apathy is when you just ignore it and move on. When you take the time to judge (not just "pass judgement" but really THINK,) then you are actually participating.
By sharing our views with others we allow people into our own unique thought process. That in turn, frees them to share what they think, and a dialogue is opened. I have changed my opinion on many things because I've expressed my point of view -- and have taken the time to read others thoughful responses. I feel compelled to respond, too. Not always directly, but through my interactions with them not just online. We don't always agree. Heck, most of the time we are not in complete agreement, however, there is a true respect for the other person's view point.
I think that Social Media -- whether that's blogging, tweeting, posting on Facebook -- anything that is more than a "like" -- allows us to become closer even when we aren't together. These tools are amazing because they let us share what is important to us, let us celebrate the silly, and let us contemplate the serious.
My social circle includes a few girlfriends going through tough divorces, people with serious health issues, romance challenges, work challenges, as well as those on a quest to do more, do better. How fortunate we are to be able to give each other glimpses behind the curtain.
Do you like to comment on blogs? Posts? Do you feel like you know someone better when you read what they write?
Your mom is your mom, no matter what. Her womb/egg + your dad's sperm (whether you know him or he contributed via a turkey baster) = the magic, unique you. You wouldn't be here if it weren't for them so you have an obligation to acknowledge them regardless of your relationship.
Notice, I said acknowledge. I used to think you had to "love" someone because of that blood relationship. I no longer think that is true. I know for certain that you can't force someone to like or respect you. That has to be earned.
Some people lose their moms very early in life to death. Others lose them through illness. But many of us have complicated relationships with the woman we call "mom" no matter if she is still alive, dead, estranged or even adopted. The one saving grace is that when you are a mom yourself, you have the opportunity to review your own childhood (although never objectively!) and do it your own way.
I've learned a few key lessons from my own mom, and several more from listening my friends recounting stories from their childhood. Funny how animated we all get when the topic comes up. We are all both rightous and humbled. As we share our stories, we find it crazy that our mothers ever thought it was right to say and do the things they did to us!
No one teaches you how to be a mother. You have to develop your own style. There are some moms though, who are mentor, teacher, nurse, comforter, friend, and sage all in one. They earn the respect of their families by their strength and conviction. Then there are those who we don't understand -- and who we try NOT to emulate.
If you are a "Mom" do you see yourself saying these things? Cause trust me, when your kids are in their middle ages, trying to negotiate parenthood with their own children -- these are the things they think about.
"I gave up my life for you."
"I gave up my career to be a mother."
"You are a good ______ because I was a good ______."
"You must respect me, it says so in the bible."
"Why can't you be more like the "Smith's" (three kids same ages)
"Everyone else visits their mom every, single day."
"If you loved me, you would let me live with you."
"Your father loves you more than he loves me."
"My thighs are thinner than yours. You really need to lose weight."
"I could have married many very successful men. I felt sorry for your father."
"I can't visit you, you have to visit me. Yes I know you both work and kids have activities everyday. I know I sit on my couch everyday. No, I can't possibly put the cat in the kennel."
"Your children didn't say I love you to me. What do you teach them?"
"You spoiled your children, I never spoiled you."
Some moms cursed AT us. (Not just used curses to express anger or shock, but literally cursed us for not being who they wanted.) Others refused to get help for depression, alcoholism, or other health problems. Some thought that everything was a "family secret" and they taught their kids to lie to protect them from people learning about their inadequacies.
I think what burns me up more than any of those things is the idea -- or the line of reasoning -- "I did my best."
It's not good enough when your kids cry all the time. It's not good enough when you resort to hitting them because you can't control your temper. It's not good enough to be cursed at constantly. It's not good enough when you can't find a way to let them live in a clean, safe environment. It's not good enough when they go hungry because you don't want to find a job to support them. And its not fair to them for you to continue to have babies when you can't take care of the ones you have.
Collectively, my sisters, my closest girlfriends and I have agreed to be straight shooters with each other -- no matter what damage that may cause to our relationships. What I mean is that if I ever became "that person" -- that whiner, complainer, twisted, person who has excuses a mile long who would be the cause of problems in my marriage or as a mother -- then I expect my closest friends and family to take me aside and demand that I get help. And I would do the same for them. There are many women I meet and I cringe when I hear them complain about their circumstances and yet they don't do anything about it. What do you think children are learning when they watch you? If you want to raise strong, independent children who are responsible, good citizens, spouses, and parents -- you need to teach them!
Really good moms are those women who make you feel glad you are alive. They support you, they challenge you. They make you laugh, they make you cry. You want to be with them. They have their own lives, their own interests, they don't live for you they live WITH you. They aren't completely grown up, they grow up and learn from you and with you! They have healthy relationships with the other parent (or other adults in their lives.) They are fully formed, healthy people (at least mentally) and don't try to put their expectations, failures and faults on you. You don't have to walk on eggshells with them.
Each day, I try to be a better mother to my children by remembering to make sure that I am taking care of myself so that I can take care of them. Lord knows, I'm far from perfect. In fact, just this week, my 10 year-old told me "You're the worst mom EVER!" when I told her that she could not go to a friend's house after school because her room was filthy. She pouted. She cried. She ran to her room. Slammed the door. I didn't yell. I didn't chase after her. I let her stew.
The next morning -- we had a staring contest. I smiled at her. Then she reached out to hug me and I said "Do you have something to say to me?" And crying, she apologized. She was just frustrated because she "really, really wanted to go."
I consider that a badge of honor. A right of passage.
She can talk about that when she's 40.
I'm OK with that.
Why you live where you live?
Why you are married to your spouse?
Why you are friends with some people and not others?
Why you are working, or why you aren't?
What you do with all that time each and every day that passes?
I find myself wondering a lot. In between living of course. Most of the time, I'm caught in the moment, engaged fully, locked, loaded, ready to spring, or resting after the recoil.
But in those down times, when I can hear the crickets chirp or the birds start their morning routines, I am left with the great solitude of my thoughts. I find myself wondering how all of my choices up to this point have led me to this exact moment in time. I look back...
I wonder "if" but not ruefully. My wondering leads often to the pattern that I can see when I step away-- and look at my life without any real focus. Often, random opportunities taken, people met, books read, songs sung -- have led to something else bigger and better a few years down the road.
When I do the "if only" routine... (I'd be lying if I said that I don't ever think about what might have been) I do come back to the "but, no!" thoughts. If only, for example, I chose a different college -- "but no!" -- because I wouldn't have had that internship which led me to my girlfriend which led me to my husband with whom I've made my children. See what I mean?
You can do the "if only" but because everything is connected in your continuum, if you change one thing -- the rest of the path is altered dramatically leaving you without people, experiences and lessons which make you who you are. For some people, that one little change may change more bad than good. But for me? Not so much.
So yes. I do wonder.
And I'm filled with wonder.
Wonder that I've been so lucky to have had such a wild ride. Wonder that I have a full, rich, life and am surrounded by people who I love and who love me back.
Pretty cool thought train today...
Given all the craziness of the last week -- Boston, West, Texas, etc. it is a perfect time to reflect on all the things you should have, could have, would have said ..."if only." As they said in the commentary, we don't get to set Mother Nature's clock. You have to do it now before your chance is forever taken from you.
Author Jackie Hooper started thinking about this concept when Natasha Richardson died unexpectedly a couple of years ago. The actress developed a brain hemmorage after a seemingly innocuous hit to the head while on the ski slopes. Her family and friends never had a chance to say what they needed to say as she died within two days of her fall. Jackie sent out a note to friends, family and elsewhere -- asking people to write to her with those things that they wish they had said. Letters poured in from all over the world. She turned that into a book.
Watching this piece brought upon so many emotions at once. I miss my dad, and I know I would have liked to tell him things -- maybe correct things I said in anger -- or at least explain them -- and now I can't. I also think of times when I was really a jerk. Not quite a bully, but I didn't have the best intentions when I opened my mouth. I wince internally when I try to figure out why I reacted in the way I did, so many years ago. Occasionally, I reach out to people (and they must think I've lost my marbles) and say -- remember about oh, 25 years ago, I said...
On the other hand, I really try to tell people who are in my life why they are important to me. My kids and husband are smothered sometimes -- as I think you should say "I love you" and mean it -- and I always feel so filled with gratitude when they spontaneously burst with emotion. My close friends know that I love them, and care for them, and feel better because they are in my life. I say so only when I mean it -- because I think you can feel when someone truly loves you, regardless of what words they may use or choose not to say. It's always tricky to put yourself out there, especially with declarations of love. Maybe the other person doesn't think you are a best friend, maybe she feels funny -- as we all have our internal scripts about loyalty and devotion.
Say what you have to say. It's hard, it's scary, it can be fraught with its own "what if's." But if you need to apologize, explain, or express something -- just do it. Your very world may change because of it. I know mine has. And it will continue -- as I push myself to be honest with the people who have brought so much into my life.
Like many, I am finding it very difficult to concentrate.
What. A. Week. It. Has. Been.
I've been reading, watching, listening wondering -- why?
What makes two young men, brought to the US at 9 and 16 as refugees -- what makes them feel so displaced that they turn against those in their own community? What makes some one adopt such radical beliefs that he is willing to sacrifice everything including his own life and the lives of innocents for a cause that he is removed from (as US citizens.)
I cannot imagine what their family members are going through. When someone you know (and love) does something so unthinkable one can only go into a state of shock. I saw a clip showing the boys' uncle expressing anger and disbelief that this could happen. It is so frustrating that anyone would assume this reflects on the Chechen community or Muslims. Those extremists of any nationality, any religion are not representative of there people not matter how you try to profile them.
The other thought in my head goes back to the analysis. Amazing isn't it? Authorities were able to comb through video, pictures, phone records so quickly, almost magically. Pattern recognition algorithms must have been used to scan through all those digital records. Our military, our police, CIA and FBI need to have the best equipment and software to be both proactive and reactive. Our best minds must be put to work creating tools which let us look beyond the obvious in order to thwart the cowardly acts of terror being brewed here right at home.
I hate the term, rubber necking, but it is almost impossible to turn off the news, to turn down the twitter chatter. I can't help but participate by observing while this unfolds in front of all of us. I imagine the victims of the bombing on Monday, still in their hospital beds, lives forever changed, are watching, too.
This week, we all are from Boston, aren't we?