Thursday, July 26, 2012
So often scientific discovery echoes what we already know instinctively and in our hearts. This article is awesome, and so is this video. And it goes with what I wrote yesterday. What a beautiful comfort.
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
"I'm starting to kinda freak out, Mom."
It was my oldest. He's nearly 20, and in a short while he'll be heading off to Texas for a great adventure. Some of the realities of his plans were starting to seem a little scary to him this morning.
So we grabbed our morning smoothies and sat on the couches in the living room early today and talked about it.
It was going well until he said, "So how do you really feel about all of this, Mom? You don't really ever say anything about how you really feel."
Well, what can I say?
When I think of you going all the way to Texas, I know you can do it.
I know you are going to be fine, that you can get a job and manage your life and eat decent food and make decent choices.
I'm happy that you are having a grand adventure because I know life will tend to funnel out those opportunities more and more as the years go by.
I know you will make some mistakes, too, but you'll be ok.
You've got everything you need to spread your wings and fly, which is exactly where you should be as a 20 year old young man.
But when I think of you going all the way to Texas, I know that
-I will miss being able to talk to you and work on projects together in person
-you might end up staying longer than expected, or putting down roots and living far away from us for a long time or forever. This could be a bigger goodbye than just a few months.
-and I think about my little boy that I adored to a level that I didn't even know was possible before he was placed in my arms. He is the one who brought out the warrior mother in me and changed me forever. He is the one I never slept without touching for years when he was little.
I won't tell you that the years go by quickly. If anything, having my oldest being a little tyke seems a million miles away from today. It's like a distant, beautiful dream that makes me cry just because of the overwhelming amount of pure love and joy that is contained in all of it.
Childhood memories often make me cry. I think it's because it seems like something has been lost. There once was a beautiful, curly-haired, spunky little boy who disappeared because he grew up. It's bittersweet. Yes, he's still in there, and I love it when I see glimpses of that same fun little character that was my close buddy for so many years. We have built upon an amazing storehouse of unconditional love, adoring companionship, laughter, memories, great conversations, and much more. I don't regret a minute of the time I spent lavishing love on any of my kids, and as I am now moving into this stage where they are starting to leave the nest at greater distances and for longer periods of time, I can see even more clearly the value of all the investments I have made as a mother.
You won't regret it, moms. Your generous, wholehearted love toward your children is what you are building on. It is a strong foundation. Build it up. You can do this.
Sunday, July 22, 2012
I read this post today, written buy a woman who was with her teens in the theater where so many people were shot and killed the other day. She shares her thoughts about realizing she was ready to die, if it came to that. While I am glad for her to have experienced peace at a horrible time like that, I found myself having quite a reaction.
Am I ready to die? Well, spiritually speaking, yes. I'm not worried about the condition of my soul or what will become of me after my time on earth is done. That's not really the issue.
The issue is this: I'm a mother. Therefore, I am not ready to die. Because God will not be mothering my children in the case of my absence.
I have two nieces who had the tragic experience of losing their mother when they were babies. These young women are now adults and mothers themselves. Although they still had their dad and later a new stepmother, I believe they bear the damage and pain of the loss of their first mother to this day.
I see teens that are friends with my kids who have mothers who barely take care of them, and of course completely invisible fathers.
There are children so dear to me who do not have parents who will do anything to be with them or take care of them, who cannot be counted on to protect, love, and guide them.
It's heartbreaking on all levels.
When we say, "God, break my heart for the things that break yours" doesn't that include the children with dead, invisible, or indifferent parents? I say yes.
Just because "God allows" things to happen does not mean everything is going to be ok. The ripples of the loss of a parent could be so powerful as to change the course of generations. The power of a mother that loves and cares for her children is a mighty thing that will also change the course of generations.
This is not about faith. This is about understanding the role I play in my children's lives, and in the heart of my home, and knowing that this cannot be replaced or done without easily or without consequence. I do not think I think too highly of myself. In fact, I wish more mothers would realize the crucial role they have in their family.
I am not ready to die. I still have children who need me.
Saturday, July 21, 2012
When you make all of the irritating people's posts disappear, your level of irritation is reduced dramatically!
Ah.....facebook is a happy place again. Forevermore I shall remember to use the -uncheck- next to Show in News Feed liberally. It's good medicine.
Friday, July 13, 2012
I wrote an entire other post about someone I used to be friends with who was a chronic wanter. She never felt the need to edit her wants, no matter how frivolous, expensive, or how much they would cost the rest of her family in resources/time/attention. I ultimately decided not to publish it because I don't want to smack the hornets nest and end up having to hear from her or anyone close to her. The bottom line is that I had many, many years to closely observe her pattern of dissatisfaction, always wanting more, getting more, being in debt, and sometimes even shortchanging her children in favor of something she wanted and got. It was my only example of seeing someone want so much, and it was not admirable. I never saw contentment. I never saw that there was a point where she could just stop asking for more of everything. It didn't do anything to make me think it would be better for me to start wanting. It made me wonder if once you start asking for one thing after another, maybe it snowballs and you just don't know how to stop yourself.
Also, I guess I've just never believed that I needed something else to make life okay. Even though I may have a dysfunctional way of avoiding wanting things, and not trusting that other people could -or would- even give me what I want, I do think that the lifetime cultivation of contentment, and knowing who I am despite what I'm wearing/how my hair looks/how much money I have/where I live/where I shop/what I do for a living/who I'm related to/or anything else. Nothing on the outside gets a vote about who I am and what my potential is. I am firmly in charge of myself, and can stand solo and be comfortable knowing that.
So maybe this little soul-searching series has only served to tell me that even though it may be good for me to be less afraid of wanting some things, that I still believe this is a pretty good way for me to be. I don't spend my mental energy pining away for stuff I don't have. I'm free to enjoy the blessings of my life and continue living without feeling disappointed by what isn't.
I found this chart on facebook this morning, and it said for me what I was already thinking about in relation to my former friend. My cultivation of contentment has allowed me to be generally positive and happy and moving forward in my life.
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
By the time I was heading to the altar, my parents were headed toward divorce.
As always, finances were tight, and I was going my best to plan even my wedding to be as inexpensive as possible. Even so, there were some things that were important to my parents that were more expensive than what I would have been happy with. One of those things was wedding pictures.
Ever since I was a little girl, my mom had wanted to have this particular photographer do my wedding photos. He was a family friend and a popular photographer. An expensive one, too! Still, that's what my mom wanted, so that's what we planned to do.
When push came to shove, and things were getting uglier between my parents after I was married, my dad wasn't going to fork over any money to pay the balance due on the wedding photos. It was about a year after my wedding before I even got to see the proofs, and that was only because my mom had scrimped and saved to finally pay the bill. :(
Again, that feeling of guilt and sadness that my mom had sacrificed so much to do something for me. She was struggling as a single mom with two teenagers at home and a difficult pending divorce without her former spouse paying anything toward support. How I wish I could have spared my mom that burden!
Monday, July 09, 2012
I went to a high school that strongly promoted private 4-year colleges for pretty much all students that were seen as having any sort of professional potential whatsoever. Community college seemed to be an option only for struggling students, aimless kids, and losers. Nothing was ever explained about the financial savings, transferring credits, or about the many basic courses that could be taken via community college for a substantial savings, and then rolled into a 4-year college degree someplace else.
It is possible that we were told these things, but the only message I heard was FOUR YEAR COLLEGE.
Also, my home life situation was not the best. I had no intention of staying at home any longer than absolutely necessary.
I worked two jobs through the summer, saved my money, and headed off to college where I got jobs on campus as well. My parents had agreed to pay part of the tuition as well.
I had been interested in majoring in social work or psychology, but my father told me he would not support me going to college for these things because it would only get me a degree that would cause me to end up in a low-paying job "working with the dregs of society." He wanted me to be a business major.
For three semesters I went to college, trying to major in something my father said was acceptable, while not really enjoying it or having a vision, plan, or inspiration for my future. Up until just a few months ago, I believed that in my third semester of college I felt so confused about what I was doing there and what my purpose was for that education, that I decided to take a break so I could figure it out. (And not spend money while figuring it out. Thematic!)
Several months back I remembered that there was something more.
For some reason, which still escapes my memory, my father and I had some conflict related to college. I have smidgens of memories of things it might have been about. The biggest recollection I have about it is that I knew he was manufacturing some conflict, because the real punchline in the whole thing was that he was not going to send in the money to the school that he had agreed to pay.
As has been typical for my father, rather than just fessing up about his inability to provide something financially, he would try to make it be about a punishment. That way he can create an alternate reality that portrays him as the wise potential benefactor who had his hand forced to deny something to someone because of some higher standard of parenting, Christianity, morality, or something.
So, long story short, the relatively minor financial support (I think it may have been around $1200) that I had been promised, was now not coming. I felt I had no choice but to leave college.
I remember the awkwardness of having to go into the office of the financial dean to explain that my bill was not going to be paid, because my father was not going to send the money, and so I was going to be dropping out of school. I recall the kind man's face as he looked so sorry for me. It seems like he tried to offer me some sort of solutions, but my mind was made up. I accepted the current debt, which seemed insurmountable to me at the time, and walked away from college half-way through my sophomore year.
I guess I learned well about alternate realities from my father, because I quickly focused on the positives, as well as the things I could stomach: I don't know what I'm doing here in college anyhow, so I'm taking a break! It costs too much for me to waste money not knowing my goals here!
I learned it so well that for 20+ years I didn't even remember what really pushed me out of school, and nobody else did either. My mom barely remembers it, and my husband remembers it a little bit. I know how to spin. What can I say?
Sunday, July 08, 2012
When friends were getting class rings in high school, I couldn't imagine asking my parents to spend so much money on a Jostens ring that wouldn't even be something I would want to wear past high school. I don't know how much of my thinking came from money guilt issues, and how much came from knowing that I didn't really like the rings and knew they were very temporary items.
I got the idea from a friend to see about getting some sort of gemstone ring instead. Something that I would enjoy wearing long-term, and that would have lasting value. I did ask my parents about this idea, and they had agreed to do that for me. I had tried on some rings various times when I was at the mall with friends, and had some ideas about what I would like, but all of them seemed like too much to ask for.
One day I was in our local jewelry store in our town, and I found a beautiful pearl-and-diamond ring that I really, really, really loved. I tried it on, loved it even more, and when trying to understand the various numbers handwritten on the price tag, the salesperson told me it was something like $85. That was way less than anything I was expecting it to be, and was less than any other rings I had seen at other stores. I drove home to tell my parents about this ring. My father seemed excited to go back to the store with me to get the ring. I could see the strain on my mom's face, and I felt bad to even be asking for a ring at all. But by then the request was known, and my dad took me back to the store.
Once we got there and I tried it on, I commented to the (different than the first) salesperson that I had seen it earlier in the day and was so surprised that it was only $85! I then got the awkward news that the first salesperson had misread the numbers on the price tag. It wasn't $85. It was considerably more. :( My dad told me it was ok, and bought me the ring, and he was really nice about it and seemed pleased to be able to do that for me. But it stuck with me that I never would have asked for it or even told him about it if I thought that it would be as much as it was, and I knew that my mom was stressing that my dad had gone ahead and spent money on the ring. I felt bad to have made something happen that they clearly weren't in agreement about and that my mom was uncomfortable with. I imagine that they probably had real pressing needs that those funds should have gone to. I felt bad that she might have had to struggle even more than usual because that money was spent on me. As an adult, I feel even worse about it, knowing how much my mom was probably going without while that non-essential purchase was made.
So, even though my dad did such a nice thing for me, it left me feeling at least vaguely ashamed for asking for something frivolous. I have absolutely continued to feel this way about optional expenditures in my adult life.
Am I the only one, or does facebook tend to make you hate people?
I'm thinking of that saying, "Familiarity breeds contempt."
In the wild and wooly world of facebook I see way too much of other people's opinions, pithy sayings, garish graphics, and more. Facebook is like a giant runaway train/crazy quilt/small town newspaper, and everybody uses it in their own way. With no rules, no one agenda, it's schizo all the time.
And the politics. Lawsy lawsy. The level of thinking in some of these posts and ensuing discussions is depressing, to say the least. Critical thinking is dead in our society.
Add to that the fact that people seem to not know how to discuss hot topics with civility, charity, and clarity.....it's miserable.
Tonite I struck a large number of facebook "Friends" from my news feed. I have learned the hard way in real life that knowing too much about some people is enough to make me not like them very much. Facebook is turning out to be much the same. Seeing fewer pretentious, callous, paranoid, or pithy posts may help me be able to stay an active member of society for a little while longer. And hopefully be able to still like a few people that I have to see while I'm out and about.
In other thoughts: Does menopause tend to make you hate people? If so, I am going to have to reserve a spot on an ice floe because I am not going to be able to bear it.
Saturday, July 07, 2012
Monday, July 02, 2012
Lesson: If I get what I want, someone else may be suffering in order to give it to me. Another lesson that I learned early and learned well was that it is risky to want things, because getting what I want might mean that someone else does not get what they want or need, or that someone will sacrifice something in order for me to have my want. That solidly strikes me as a bad thing, and I have an easy time relegating my wants to the back burner in the face of just about any other legitimate thing that seems to be at odds with it.
Lesson: Being financially invisible is less upsetting than having someone have to support me. As a child and teen I remember being aware of financial strains in my family, and the logical solution that I resolved upon within myself was to try to be financially invisible as much as possible. I got jobs as early as I could be hired, and then almost never had to ask my parents for a few bucks to go to a youth group event or to go out for pizza with my friends. It wasn't that my parents were trying to make me feel bad about money. It's just something I knew about and internalized in a way that was striving to be as little trouble as possible, and also to insulate myself from the uncomfortable feelings that came with asking for things, or needing things.
I would feel bad about needing money from my parents for my school vocal ensemble uniform, or to go on a retreat. That sense of feeling guilty and like a burden poked at my conscience. I always had those things, but I worried that I had somehow caused a strain on my parents.
My brother played hockey. It's an expensive sport. Between the fees, equipment, extra skate time, the skates and laces, admission to the games, snacks during the games, and trips to away games, even all the way to Canada, I'm sure my parents spent a lot more on all of that than anything I did. I'm sure it was probably a challenge, at times, for them to afford to do all of that as well. I don't remember ever feeling anything about the financial side of that. I just think of it now, and wonder why I was the kid that felt like I had to suppress the normal expenses that went with being a kid in my family.
Sunday, July 01, 2012
It's risky to want something. Isn't it?
Somewhere early on, I learned well that to want is to be disappointed, and possibly to hurt. And the hurt must be avoided.
The antidote? To be strong. To be content. And to not dare want anything too big, too risky, or too unlikely.
Contentment is a virtue! Right? Yes! When I combine my strength, my contentment, my mental control, I can bloom where I'm planted and be happy and free to focus on the many, many blessings in my life.
And that is how I have lived for a very long time.
My husband asked me the other day, what could he give me that would mean a lot and last forever?
What a perplexing question.
My mind went in several directions, trying to figure out an answer. How do I answer this in truth? How do I answer this without daring to want? To desire something I do not have?
The safe-and-true answer came forth first: What I want is for us to keep moving forward, keeping on saying yes to our marriage and our family and our life that we have been building together for all of these years. What I want is to keep digging in, keep turning back to each other, keep holding hands and moving forward and working together, even when things feel hard or disappointing or scary or hopeless.
Yes. That's true. Honestly.
But I felt more wishes welling up in me. More answers bubbling to the surface. And right away, as I could start to identify them, I could feel the pain of feeling (knowing?) that I could not have those things, and that verbalizing them would make the wants real, and that would be too risky. Too dangerous. Too scary. Tears were welling up in my eyes before my mind had fully formed my desires.
Such a strong emotional reaction. Obviously there is something there that needs some work.
It is pretty tricky to be in the midst of so many emotional thoughts, the emotional reaction, and then also trying to play armchair psychologist to oneself.
I won't pretend that I fully managed to pull it off.
The one thought that came to me was that the risk of wanting seems too great to contend with. There is a big part of me that feels that to dare to really want something is so risky that it should be avoided as much as possible. I fear that if I put my whole heart into wanting something, not getting it would be so painful that it could destroy me, or something.
Really. It feels that big.
Desire: Maybe I just don't know how to do it right?