Category Archives: mom

Hanging Tough

The New Kids on the Block aren’t so new or so together as they used to be. Prince has passed on. Robin Williams let go of life. Every day another shining star from our childhood dims from this earth into the subtle distance of memory. Our parents are aging or dying, and our favorite high school hang outs are closing or being torn down so that new Starbucks and Targets can emerge just like in every other city across America and beyond.

Life is like that. The older we become, the faster time flies by. It’s something we hear every day from our friends in real life to our virtual Facebook newsfeed friends.

And yet, here we are. We are leading our nation into new places, with new positive outlooks and perspective. Some would say we are becoming more self-aware, opening our minds to different cultures and lifestyles. Others would argue that we are moving further away from God. But something on which we can all agree is that life is a great big circle. We live, we learn, we die. It’s in that learning part that we learn purpose, and consequently feel what it truly means to be alive.

We exist day to day. We commute to work, milk our lunch breaks with the little errands we have no other time to complete, hustle back to work, and then commute back home & off to the extra stuff that makes us happy, but that we have to pay to do. We parents make choices that either enrich or compromise our children’s growth, and we constantly strive to find balance between the happiness of our children and the fulfillment of ourselves.

Life is like that too. The older we become, the easier we achieve balance, because we learn to meet our experiences halfway. We learn that just going through the motions is surviving, while growing through the emotions is thriving. But we are forced to be uncomfortable. Change does that. Relationships do that. And life demands that. We were not accidentally placed here on this planet simply to procreate. What would be the point in that? We are not amoebas. We are not ‘mere animals’. We are humans, with brains and feelings, and logic. If you ever doubt the reasoning behind the creation of Eve, try to live just 30 days completely solo, with no human interaction. We were not wired to be islands. We were wired to be continents, made up of millions of tiny countries.

Sure, it’s extremely important that we as individuals are strong and independent. But just being strong and individually independent isn’t all together satisfying. No. What truly satisfies us, and the human condition demands it, is the fulfillment that stems from having an overwhelming sense of community. So that when one of us dies, the ripples transcend us. We unite, become stronger, and emerge as complete and joyful as we were intended and created to be.

As an only, and as a human, I have always toyed with the idea of just going off alone and becoming this very self-sufficient, self-satisfying person. I would live off the land, disconnect from everyone and everything I’ve ever known, and morph into this superhuman specialty who depends on no one, and needs nothing for her survival. And then I watched ‘Into the Wild’. My world was forever changed.

My own life has echoed the theme of Chris McCandliss’s life, even though I never burned my money, threw away my car, and escaped to Alaska only to be killed by a tiny little berry.

Sorry for the spoiler alert.

But we can all learn so much from his story, and from the stories of all those great stars we looked up to as kids. Life is short. We are individually okay. But as a unite, as an unbreakable body of Christ, we are so powerful, just as God intended. Don’t deny your true self. Don’t deny your purpose. Don’t deny that you need others. Even if those others hurt you, you are better off for the experience.

Life is like that.

Only the Martyr

I was having lunch the other day with a new friend of mine, who happens to also be an only child, when it suddenly occurred to me. We onlies are expert martyrs. We stink at receiving. Not compliments. Not money. Not gifts. Sometimes, not even solicited advice is welcome.

Maybe it’s due to the fact that we spend our entire lives attempting to negate those stereotypical labels of being spoiled brats. Maybe it’s because we became SOOO good at sharing that it morphed into sacrifice. Whatever the case, it’s not ‘healthy’ to stink so badly at receiving. It’s not ‘healthy’ to play the martyr all the time no matter how naturally it comes for us.

So, why isn’t it good to be a martyr? I mean, giving is good, yes? Taking is bad, yes? Well, not all the time. Here’s the thing – martyrdom, like anything else, is good in small doses only. Here’s my experience-breeds-wisdom based list of WHY you should take up….errr…taking.

  • It makes others feel good to give or help – I am aware that this isn’t ALWAYS the case (but really, what is?), still…9 times out of 10, if someone is offering to help you with something, it’s because they can and they genuinely want to, and by giving them the satisfaction of helping you with something you need, you are actually still participating in a different form of giving, right?
  • Sanity Maintenance – The more we take on, the better we feel about ourselves, right? Wrong. Up until a certain point, we may feel quite impressed with ourselves, but if you keep throwing more balls into the juggling queue, eventually you’ll end up dropping them all, and it’s not so funny when someone signs you up for the funny farm.
  • Taking time for you and yours – Chances are, when we say ‘yes’ to help, we are also saying ‘yes’ to sharing that freed-up quality time with loved ones. While you may do no more than spend that time cuddling or sharing a meal and conversation, one thing is for sure, you won’t regret it. Life is so full of activity sometimes that we forget to enjoy the moments. The more moments we have in full presence, the fuller our lives. Period.
  • Reciprocity – If none of the other arguments worked, this one SHOULD. The more we allow others to give and ourselves to receive, the more others will allow us to give in the future. Nobody should keep score in love and friendship. I have bought into that philosophy since first watching ‘Love Story’ back in the 90’s (I know…. a little late). The motto for that movie was ‘Love means never having to say your sorry’. If either love or friendship were tallied on a simple putt-putt score card, I’m betting that neither the scores aren’t always tied. This is because we’re human! I’m also betting, however, that when all is said and done, the two most successful ‘players’ end up pretty close to each other – both numerically and emotionally.

In other words, we have to work on being REAL. Being real means admitting when we’re exhausted, lazy, overwhelmed, or just plain over-committed. For the sake of our sanity and the sanity of our loved ones, we’re doing no one any favors by playing the martyr, no matter how naturally it comes to us.

So go on…take that outreached hand. It’s actually comforting to know that we onlies are not doomed to forever be lonely, but we have to make that choice to ‘take’ a chance on others.

Why Worry?

My mamaw was like many downhome Southern grandmothers who had been raised poor and gone through lots of unspeakable hardships. She worried. Constantly. And about everything.

The sun could be shining, everyone employed, everyone healthy, garden growing, food in the pantry and fridge. Everything could be perfect in our family, but she would seek out someone – a cousin of a friend’s sister’s aunt – and worry about her sad diagnosis at the doctor.

This isn’t to say that she was a ‘negative’ person. Not at all. We would pull over on the side of the road in late spring to pluck daisies and black-eyed Susan’s and make bouquets for neighbors. I can’t remember a single night spent with her that I wouldn’t awaken to the sounds of her singing a beautiful gospel song while she fixed up her famous sausage, eggs, biscuits and gravy.

She was so positive in fact, that I can’t see a sunrise, a sunset, or a butterfly without feeling her presence even though she died over 4 years ago.

We’ve all heard it said that ‘worrying does not empty tomorrow of its troubles, it empties today of its strength’. For the most part, this is true. Like anything else in life, too much worry is bad. But what is worry in the first place but sympathy or empathy ignited by a genuine love of others or self?

Worry in and of itself is not bad because it fills today with a reason to pray, to talk with God, to think about what is on your heart and ask for God’s hand in your life. Should that be the only time we pray? No way! We should always give praise and thanks. But when we come to God as vulnerable, flawed humans asking for help, we are coming to God as naked and raw as the day we were born. This is when we get to experience true closeness to God.

However, like most things in life, we don’t need to dwell in the land of worry for too long. My contention is that worry gets us started in prayer, and that is wonderful, but by the end of the prayer, we should completely give it to God. We do this with sins, with gratitude, with bad memories, but sometimes we surrender to worry and live there forever. This lifestyle spits in the face of Christ. It’s like saying ‘I don’t like what you’ve done with my life, and I’m going to make you suffer through me for the rest of my days’. We’ve all known people like this, right?

Let’s not be that person. Let’s NOT spit in the face of Christ. But let’s do worry. Just a little. A little worry goes a long way in prayer. Just don’t live there! It’s like a houseguest or a vacation – while small doses are appreciated, long stays are overkill. Don’t let worry control you, rather let it guide you gently to prayer.

 

Mother’s Way

She had a way. I remember watching her from the back seat of our Cutlass Supreme, high cheeckbones, delicate jawline, the beginnings of happy lines darting from the corners of her eyes. When she spoke to my dad, her voice softened and even rose a couple octives. It was her special way that she set aside just for my dad, that let me know that he came first. I was at peace with that. That devotion comforted me. I didn’t have to be at the helm of the ship or at the top of the food chain to feel important, worthwhile, or even loved. I just needeed to know my place, and that gave me all the solace I craved as a kid.

When dad’s kidneys failed, she set aside Saturdays for she and I to escape to the local skating rink. She invested in lessons & encouraged me to throw myself into whatever made me happy & gave me a childhood. That was roller skating. I didn’t even need to think about it. Since she was the breadwinner through the week, those Saturdays served as our bonding time. She saw my need to belong to a team, and she always had a way of knowing exactly what I needed months before even I could recognize it.

Watching her run a business, manage employees, talk with potential and existing customers was a true learning experience. I remember thinking  how much I admired her, and also becoming more aware of our differences. We were like a mullet, mom and I. She was the business in the front, while I was the party in the back. It wasn’t that I was ‘bad’ really. It was more that I was the one who wore her heart on her sleeve, had the worst poker face in history, and couldn’t hide anything from anyone. Ever. I am still terrible at all of that, which explains my blogging fetish.

But my mom taught me how to be a lady. She taught me that even if I couldn’t hide my emotions, I should always allow my dignity to outshine them. She taught me that class was a far more desirable trait than pretentiousness, and that the only way we could make it through the hard times was to pray – to believe in something greater than ourselves, and to believe that everyone was created in love. She taught me how to forgive, how to trust, how to love, and how I could always, always depend on her even when everyone else turned away. Which leads me to this – the pain, the grief, the never-fully-healed part of losing a mother that hung my moon.

Sure, sometimes I’m a ship lost at sea. I’m constantly trying to find a shore that has vanished entirely. I don’t want to plant my feet on any other island. It doesn’t know me, and it didn’t grow me in its womb. It sounds silly, I know. But there’s something impossible about completely cutting a cord when that cord feels more like a limb, and maybe even more like a root.

In truth, I am pretty certain I really will never be healed, but I am also pretty certain that my mom knew I needed to cut that cord, because she always knew. When she looked at me and told me that she needed me to encourage others to let go because she knew that I could help, that was HER cutting the cord for me, empowering me to have confidence, and strengthening me for the battle ahead. But then, hadn’t she spent her whole life doing just that?/