Category Archives: mother

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.

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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?/