Tag Archives: parenting

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.

The branch and the tree

We’ve all heard that rusty old adage about the branch not falling far from the tree, but most of us were made from two trees. When you look deep inside yourself, do you see more of your mom or your dad? When you look on the surface of yourself, the physical traits, maybe the ‘you’ that you reveal to the outside world, do you see mama tree or papa tree? For whatever reason, during my morning meditation, my mind got stuck in this fascination, so much so that I started seeing everyone in my with their own bodies and their parents’ faces. It should be say that my mind is supposed to be clear for meditation and I take no drugs whatsoever.;)

My dad was the ‘people’ person of my parents. My mom also was a people person, but on a quieter less severe scale. Dad would do just about anything to make people laugh and he always wanted to rescue people & lift them up, even if sometimes there situations were much to heavy & they weren’t helping themselves. ‘That sounds a whole lot like me’ I think (outloud). And it does! Those are wonderful traits that can also be terrible traits when you allow yourself to fall too deeply into other peoples’ pits. Take that pit as a pun, if you want. As it is, I have completely and unintentionally duplicated my dad’s ‘good samaritan’ side, so much so that it almost destroyed me on numerous occasions. It turns out that dad’s ‘coat off his back’ looked better on him than on me.

Don’t get me wrong. I am Christian. I strive to be like Jesus every day, but I am trying to be more like the man and less like his shoes. Shoes always end up falling apart.

My mom was the ‘strong’ person of my parents. She was the spirit that held our family together. She was my ‘little voice’, and the reason I made so many of the right choices I’ve made in my life. Don’t get me wrong. My mom was extremely generous too. She would let people come back and work for the company more times than I would’ve ever thought to. She had more confidence than she ever let on, but sometimes her pride would fail her. She trusted until you gave her a reason not to, and she believed that everyone should be treated fairly and equally. She was one of the least judgemental people I ever knew and she believed that everyone should have a fighting chance at success. I like to think that I follow in her foot steps. I like to think I landed close to her tree too.

I honestly feel that most of our branches that have fallen close to both of our trees. We got through life, get buried with burden, survive and bloom and grow. That’s how life goes. Some of us were blessed with two amazing parents, whether they remained together or not.

I was blessed in that sense. While my dad was just on this eart for 44 years, and mom for 64, they squeezed more love into their short lives than I can fully comprehend, which is why I am happy that this branch did not fall far from her trees, that I can still see the forest, and that growth is forever possible even after older trees die out.

Inevitable Bubbles

There are lots of inevitables in life that we all have just, well, come to expect. Like the fact that Curious George will absolutely always and without fail get into some sort of trouble when the man-in-the-yellow-hat leaves him alone. Remember watching Southpark? Yeah, Kenny always died. The same as how every episode of the Waltons ended with ‘Goodnight John Boy’, and the same as the Cookie Monster always ate too many cookies. (By the way, I’m fairly certain that I WAS Cookie Monster in a far off life, not so far away). When we blow soapy water through a ring, we all have come to expect those magical fleeting bubbles that never go out of style, and for which we never really get to old to enjoy.

Predictability can be awesome. Predictability can be as warm and snuggly as the baby blanket with satin lining that some of us used to carry around until we were old enough to become aware of germs, at which point we finally stopped sucking the satin.

What? That was just me?

Anyway, predictability can be great, BUT predictability can also be a great big ginormous dinosaur of a thorn right in our sides. Like when an ex-husband has been struggling with an addiction for the last 8 years, and you know that no matter how much he loves his son, he’s probably not going to stay clean long enough to teach his son the sort of stability and security that he needs. And I’ve come to learn that no matter how many times Ethan’s dad tries, I’m still going to always end up being the ONLY responsible and dependable parent my youngest will know. His dad hasn’t had a job in three years, and has told more stories than are in the Bible over the last 8 years of his addiction. I can’t even listen anymore. And the older Ethan gets, the more difficult it becomes for me to keep all of this a secret.

But I will because I love my child. The longer I can protect him from the ugly parts of life, the better.

So, while today was like hundreds of other days, with the ‘dad’ not calling or picking him up as planned, and with Ethan having multiple meltdowns leading to me having multiple meltdowns, it could always be worse. Much worse.

And those are my thoughts, as I watch Ethan and his best pal Jackson relishing in the simplicity of bubbles, those inevitable, beautiful, dependable, timeless wonders. Like childhood, they are fleeting, but worthy of pause and gratitude. Goodnight John Boy.;) Namaste.

Back to Strife

Seven hours of staring at the long and not-so-winding road. Seven hours of listening to the same four CDs, the same sibling arguments, the same milling around for more snacks of blueberries & beef jerky. This was the same seven hours that reminded me of the old game ‘seven minutes in heaven’ that we all remember from our little middle school co-ed parties. The nerves, the anticipation, the  imagination getting the best of me, all of that rolled into seven LONG hours of road trip left before we were all back to these dark clouds that have become our life.

It was only this time last year that I was counting my blessings. I couldn’t believe how kind life had been since mom’s passing, how easy everything had seemed. I was entering into a new relationship with the man of my dreams, the one I had ‘ordered’ from the universe itself. I had just spent the weekend becoming Reiki 1 certified, and work was going splendidly down the path of growth and prosperity. I had an assistant who was organized, and quite the initiative taker, and she would be my first assistant ever. I was blessed to have her running the show while I was running the business. I was lucky. Blessed. And I loved every minute of it, all the while feeling that tinge of ‘it can’t last’ that always seems to swoop in and sabotage things. I didn’t order THAT! Or did I?

Fast forward to now. I am still blessed, and still lucky to have the man of my dreams at my side through thick and thin. I am still blessed, and still lucky to have two very healthy boys who I love with everything I am. I am still blessed, and still lucky to have an assistant who knows the company inside and out and gives as much as she can of herself to make things run when I am away. But I am struggling with family issues, past mistakes, poor choices, and silly decisions made during less confident, and less courageous periods of my life. It just goes to show that we can only sweep the junk in our lives under the rug for so long until it starts seeping out of the edges, forming unmercifully into blinding tears at the most inopportune moments of our lives. Generally, it all happens at once too, just like a great big crap-storm from which we are never truly prepared to take cover.

So now that we’re home, and swimming in this flood of muck created by the jaws of strife, it’s almost reassuring to know that if we’re going through THIS NOW, we will be going through much MUCH better stuff later, because that’s how life rolls. And maybe next time that ‘it can’t last’ voice switches on, I will switch it right back off into the great big crap-storm of not-my-problemville where it belongs.  Be lucky. Feel blessed. I do. Just because I’m here to write this.

Namaste.

 

Good, Better, Best

When I was but a wee teen, I had the privilege of hearing the first most influential speaker of my life. It was at a church retreat, and the speaker went by ‘Deacon Don’. Although he was of my mom’s generation, and we teens were of the mentality that our parents knew nothing, most of us were captivated by his talk. His story was both universally appealing and personal, and his message resonated with us, not necessarily because we had been raised in as rigid of an environment as he, but because we had all felt the pressures of being human and living the tedious and sometimes tumultuous process of developing into young adults.

While I don’t recall the exact stories he told, the message lives within me to this day. As a child growing up, his father challenged him in every aspect, always responding to Don’s successes by saying ‘Good, better, best, never let it rest. Make the good better and the better best.’. If he brought home a report card with all A’s and one B, his father would challenge him to bring up that B. When he won a race in track, it would be the same. How could he improve upon winning an entire race? By achieving a faster race time, the next go around of course.

I remember thinking, ‘Geez, how much better can he get Mr. Dad? He won the race, he achieved perfect scores, what do you want from him?’. As a parent, I still agree that this level of expectation and pressure is overkill. However, as an adult, I must say that I finally understand the true point of this. On an individual level, if we’re always striving to be better than the self we were yesterday, we’re always going to be moving in the right direction. How can one truly digress if we’re so focused on progress? This isn’t to say we won’t have failures, pitfalls, and straight-up rock bottoms. But if we’re focused on improvement, we won’t find ourselves trapped there at rock bottom, because we always have our old selves as a shadow competitor. Therefore, we always have something to accomplish – a purpose, a goal, a record, something tangible and close in memory to better and a reason to make the best of ourselves.

In this journey called life, we will always encounter someone who is better, stronger, faster, wiser, funnier, ‘better’ than we are. If we have that innate competitive spirit, those are the people that can make us or break us, if we choose to focus on our competition. By focusing on outside competition, however, we lose sight of the internal workings of our own psyche and accountability is lost. Blame is always directed at someone outside of ourselves. In truth, our harshest competition lies within. We have demons. Each and every one of us.

For me, this demon takes physical form. I have never been in battle with myself on a mental, emotional, or spiritual level. However, my physical form at 5′ with a muscular ‘stout’ build, has always been my arch enemy. No matter how much I try and become less ‘stout’, no matter how many miles I run, no matter how many times I kick the old rugged bag or lift weights, it’s never enough to transform the reflection I see. I never make the good better and the better best, but it doesn’t stop me from trying.

While that may sound depressing, even hopeless, I think I have finally found a silver lining, and therefore, a victory in my own war. The fact that I love the internal Heather, the ‘light’ that shines through me and encompasses and sometimes even (hopefully) helps others, is healthy – even purposeful and fulfilling enough to keep me sane and motivated. Still, in a very simple sense, staying active in my physical battle, and never throwing in the towel means that I stay physically healthy and driven. I am fully aware, at 37, that my battle has everything to do with vanity and nothing to do with actual health, as I am not overweight or unhealthy. I am also fully aware of why I am never satisfied. I was targeted as a chubby teenager, made fun of, even laughed at. I wasn’t asked to prom, and didn’t date anyone worthwhile. I watched as my mother constantly struggled with self-image, and constantly battled the same war as me. However, my mom didn’t commit. She didn’t keep fighting the fight. While she spent her life taking care of others, she didn’t take care of herself. I always wanted to be a mom just like her, except that I didn’t want to give up on me. And on the day that she took her last breath, what she didn’t know was that my prayer and promise to myself was to keep fighting for the sake of me as well as for my children. I felt her regret, and there was only the one.

So I wake up each day with a purpose, and usually many purposes, but one thing holds true; I want to remain focused on making the ‘me’ better, so that I can be the best me I can be. While I know that I will never ‘win’ that victory, and that my reflection will never be the ‘best’, I at least know that I’m doing everything in my power to make that a reality. In the end, I want no regrets. In the end, I will know I have done my best. Ironically, that is exactly what my mom always told me was THE most important thing I could do.

 

Anticipation Proclamation

It’s been 26 years since the passing of my dad from his terrible suffering here on Earth, to the warm comforting arms of Heaven. It’s been 25 dreaded Father’s Days for me, his only child. Yet, for the first time since his passing, I am actually looking forward to this Father’s Day, and I had forgotten what it was like to anticipate, even become giddy at the thought of celebrating the life of a father. I am meeting the parents of my boyfriend for the first time this Sunday, and I could not be more honored. As an only himself, Doug’s relationship with his parents is incredibly strong. How could I not love these parents that created and raised such an amazing son?

As my mind has played around with this notion for the past week, I’ve experienced everything from shyness and hesitation to excitement and anticipation. Meanwhile, Doug has assured me that they will absolutely ‘love me’ every step of the way. That’s how he rolls, after all. As I step back, four days out, I’ve come to realize some things. Fatherhood is every bit as important as motherhood. Being raised (after the age of 11) by a single mom, and being one myself, I tend to take for granted the roles that fathers play in the lives of their children. Whereas moms are typically the ‘easy’, father’s take on the more difficult role as the ‘heavy’. I’ve seen this with my own 13 year old’s father, but it’s only now that I’m truly understanding the difficulty in assuming that role.

No matter how much you love your child, as a father, you are expected to always be the parent, the disciplinarian, the ruler. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen fathers that would sooner shoot themselves in the foot than take on that role. But in the case of Doug, that simply was not the case. When it was time for the business of parenting, the tough-love to come into play, Jim was the man for the job just as my dad had been. That sort of ‘no-nonsense’ parenting has fallen off the wayside with many in my generation. Yet I know, for a fact, that it’s effective. Tough love can mean the difference between raising a self-sustaining adult and an adult who still possesses entitlement issues, expecting everyone and anyone to come to their rescue. I’m not saying that mother’s cannot also demonstrate this style of parenting, of course. My mom, due to circumstances, had no choice but to parent this way. But by and large, for most two-parent families, this is the norm, and fathers tend to get sadly overlooked.

So this Father’s Day, if you have a dad, give him a big hug and say ‘thank you’. I’ve had a stepfather for the past 16 years, and he took that role on in the most loving and selfless way, even though I was already an adult when he officially stepped in. Even after my mom’s passing, he continues to succeed in his role, and I couldn’t be more grateful. Dads are strong, protective, and wise. Let’s give them their due. Without them, we would be in a much darker place.