Motherhood – yours, mine, ours

Last night I visited a lovely woman who is a member of our fellowship.  She is around 85 years old or so, and lives alone.  We were expecting a major snowstorm, and I wanted to know if she was prepared.  She was quite prepared, and delighted to see me.  I followed her into her home – a hodgepodge of collections from all eras of her life as well as leftover Christmas directions that have yet to be boxed and put away.  My guess is that they may linger awhile.  I wanted to chat quickly, give her some things I had brought, and get out to go home and warm myself by my own fire.  Living alone often includes being lonely.  Perhaps not everyone alone feels that way, but H is a very social woman who needs connection.  She is now the recipient of Meals on Wheels.  And as she stated, “I don’t need the food.  But I do need the company.”

Our conversation wandered as she pointed out photos of the people whom she loved and who had gone on to the next world.  Her beloved husband, a professor, and who was once a tall man who but ended up looking into her eyes at eye level.  She is about 5 feet tall.  How hard it must have been to watch the man of her dreams slowly become bent and stooped, but how proud she is of the opportunity to take care of him during his later years.  They were married 33 years when he died.  She maintains he was the love of her life.  For him, he believed the third time was a charm.  I think he was right.

She also showed me pictures of herself as a beautiful 17-year-old, photos of her mom as a lovely young bride, and a faded hard-to-see picture of her father.  Then we branched onto the discussion of children, and her eyes saddened terribly.  She had been telling me about dancing with her beloved this past New Year’s Eve, her arms tightly wrapped around herself, and her head leaning on her own hand as she imagined the spirit of her husband with her.  But the jolt of discussing her daughter brought such open grief.  She could rejoice with the memory of those she had lost but grieve one who is still here.

The daughter who continues to complain about her mother not being there for her.  The daughter is now 62.  The daughter who invited her to come live close to her a state away perhaps to assuage her own conscience.  Which would mean her mother would have to forgo all the friends she has here, along with her home, to live in a new possibly hostile place with a daughter who can only end conversations with screaming about her mother’s shortcomings.  I don’t think so.

Do we all have one child that harbors a hard heart?  I have so many friends who have at least one child who can’t accept his or her mother for who she is and was, and who continues to cause grief to that mother’s heart?  I pondered on it this morning.  Where did we get the notion that mothers are supposed to be all suffering and all giving?  Self-sacrificing to the end, and loving, generous, complimentary, supportive?  This woman spent her daughter’s young life working to keep food on the table and a roof over her head.  Her husband, this daughter’s father, was a useless gambler and alcoholic.  Where did this idea that parents are supposed to be wise and loving through all of the difficulties of life?

Perhaps that is inherent in the question.  They aren’t.  If we grew up with perfect parents, how could we possibly accept our imperfect spouses?  Or our imperfect children?  We are all, after all, only human. ” To err is to be human.”  That is the way of knowledge, wisdom, and growth for us, the fallible humans. Both mothers and fathers.   And mothers are human.

Here is the final tragedy.  This lovely woman wants to divorce her daughter.  She wants some final relief and release from the anger and hostility that her daughter continues to harbor.  I have no idea if this can be done legally or not.  In actuality, she needs to stop taking the painful phone calls that end in the same ole, same ole recriminations from a daughter who has refused at this point to take responsibility for her own life.  If you were fortunate enough to be born, you probably had a lousy childhood.  Get over it.  Get help.  Stop blaming everyone else – especially your mom – for your problems.  Better yet, have your own child and find out how hard it is.  But before you do, get help.  Gets lots of therapy.  And find out just how difficult it is to become an imperfect mother.

I write this entry because I was such an imperfect mom.  I screwed up more times than I care to count.  But I’ve finally realized that if I’m going to take the responsibility of being a the occasional terrible mother, I get to accept the credit for being a sensational one at other times.  And so the human race continues.  I love my children, I don’t often understand them, but I’m their mom.  For now, I don’t want a divorce.

All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That’s his.

Oscar Wilde

Even as we enumerate their shortcomings, the rigor of raising children ourselves makes clear to us our mothers’ incredible strength. We fear both. If they are not strong, who will protect us? If they are not imperfect, how can we equal them?
Anna Quindlen

End of the year 2010 meanderings

Here we are.  I’ve gotten through each day just planning on getting through each day.  My most recent challenge which I have accepted is to work The Artists’ Way.  What a great experience this is.  The first requirement is to write 3 morning pages each day.  Just streaming of consciousness writing.  Don’t plan, just write.  What has emerged is truly wonderful.  I am having thoughts – and accepting them – about changes which I have fought vigorously.  I am healing in areas of my life (if not my feet) that have not previously occurred.  I am accepting myself and my drive with this writing, learning about myself, and wondering what will be the next chapter.

I know I’m struggling with aging.  Beauty and attractiveness have always been part of my mode of operation.  Even when I didn’t believe it was completely true, I knew that I could dress up and clean up and make it work.  I have gotten to the age where the 2nd looks are not happening, I’m arriving at the age of the “invisible woman” (unless I get loud) and the visual nods of approval are not coming my way often (except from loved ones and friends). I’m adjusting to the last year having taken its toll on me.  But I’m getting better with it.  If only friends and family tell you that you are lovely, isn’t that the most loving and important people to care?  Truly it must be.

Back to The Artist’s Way.  IF you desire to have your creativity unlocked, please pursue this book.  You notice I did not say read it.  Pursue it.  Internalize it.  Make it part of your daily habit to know YOU better than you know anyone else.  The changes which come to you in life – be it in physical, mental, emotional, intellectual form – can be embraced and accepted.  I am practicing loving me, and in association, loving my family and dealing with my problems in a more directed and self considering manner than ever before.

Additionally, for the new year, I am hiring a personal coach.  A woman I have known for years who I am aware is extremely talented at what she does.  I am investing in me.  This will not be an inexpensive expense.  I will have to budget my money and monitor what I spend.  I will have to be financially frugal and fiscally responsible.  I will have to say no to the random, addicted purchase, and use what I have.  I believe that this will be worth the investment.  I have goals to accomplish, I’m 56 years old, and I want this next chapter to move forward with purpose and dynamic action.  I want to live hard until I die.  And this is my plan on how to accomplish it.

Today’s writing is almost a “stream of consciousness” writing, much like my morning pages.  But it feels good to do this, and I hope it feels good to you to read it.  Invest in you for the new year.  If that means one yoga class a week, or a new pair of walking shoes, or a makover, or going back to school.  Live hard.  Love hard. Do it for you for 2011.

Wtf?

Watch the following. Wow, you thought it was going to be a very ugly post, didn’t you?  No, no, no.  I can do this on my time, but not on VN’s nickel.  Ahem.

How much have you changed?  Think about that for a moment.  1….2….3…. and so on.  How different do you feel today from, let’s say, five years ago?  10?  25?

We change.  Yeah, that’s the good news and the bad.  Women change.  And sometimes we don’t want it to happen.  Who deals with change well?  The human condition says you don’t do it.  Well.  Yet, it is the one constant in life.  That changes will happen.

So you’ve changed.  Do you feel less maternal?  Less willing to give until you drop?  I do.  This will be my last Thanksgiving cooked at my house.  Everyone is welcome to come again next year and the year after and the years after that.  I hope to be living somewhere else next year.  That is part of my change.  I have been in the same house for 26 – YEAH – 26  years.  I want new living arrangements.  I want a downtown condo without two huge german shepherds.  I don’t exactly know what to do about that, but it suddenly occurs to me that this is not where I want to be now.  I don’t want to be and do and act like others think I should.  I want to live in my skin without the care taking of previous years.  I’m not in charge of anyone else nor do I want to be.

So here’s the deal.  (One of my most hated statements.)  I want to choose for a change.  I want to be me in such a real way that others may hate it.  Sons may wonder where their mother went.  Perhaps when I’m 70, I will want some of this back.  I rather doubt it.  I want to pursue my path and my direction without the endless demands of a mother and, quite frankly, a wife.   I finally just want to be me.

I have recently begun HRT.  Pellets.  I feel very good now.  Energy is popping out all over.  Check your research, and see if you need the benefits of estrogen.  testosterone.  progesterone.  Check out Milleniumwellnessusa.org.  Its worth considering.

Where are you in your life changes?  Do you have less need to be the care-taking woman who you’ve been?  Man, have I been that.  If you still want it, tell me.  I would love to hear from all of you whether your body is changing your life or you are choosing the path you chose.  I need to know.

 

Just watch the sidewalk right in front of you

I have a new bike.  It is fabulous.  I think it is one of the greatest bikes every created.  Did I mention its fabulous?  A Trek – lightweight, responsive, pads on the handlebars on which to rest the pads of my hands.  I’m in love with this gorgeous bike.  When I ride, I feel like all the cobwebs of burdens, uncertainty, self-doubt, and fear are blown from my mind away in the wind as I sail down a hill.  Pumping my legs up the hill is another thing entirely, but the focus remains so intense that I have a feeling of bike-induced meditation.  It is a wonderful experience.

In Greenville, SC, we have a new “rails to trails” bike path, named the Swamp Rabbit Trail, in honor of the former Swamp Rabbit train that cruised the same path.  This is a 14-mile-long path that has slight inclines and gorgeous sites as the trip takes you from Cleveland Street (on the south side of downtown) back through the breath-taking Falls Park in downtown, meandering through an older section of town, winding among trees and along a small river, along the backside of Furman University, and then onward and slightly upward to Travelers Rest, SC.  On warm evenings, and Saturday mornings, the trail is filled with bikers, runners and walkers, strollers, dogs walking their owners, and families.  People that appear to have never ridden a bike before are precariously teetering on pedals that push their knees to their chins.  Finding a bicycle that fits can be a challenge in itself.  I love the whole scene.

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Several weeks ago, my husband and I were riding the trail, but we decided to take a detour.  Hundreds of runners were participating in a local marathon.  26+ miles.  I’m not a runner.  I like my bike.  The runners deserved their space and dodging bikes can be difficult on the 20th mile of a marathon, so we headed off the trail and up Hunts Bridge Road.  Sometimes, when you ride, you encounter mean-little-hills.  These are not the lengthy heart palpitating inclines that will make your legs burn with pumping, but a simple mean-little-hill that will lure you with its short length, but bite you as your breath comes in ragged wheezes and you realize that the hill might win.  Mean-little-hills are almost always a surprise, even if you’ve ridden them before.   I’m not crazy about riding on 4-lane highways, as this one is, so I got off on the cracked and gravel-covered sidewalk.  Not a good place for a lightweight trek.  A new lightweight beloved trek bike.  On a mean-little-hill.

I noticed immediately, however, if I shifted my attention to the sidewalk right in front of my bike, I didn’t fear the hill so much.  I could stare at the two feet or so that was directly in front of my tire, and the “idea” of the hill went away. (was Plato speaking directly to me?)  This was not about beating a little hill, but it became the process of peddling through the two – three feet that were right in front of me.  And I also noticed that with that kind of focus, I didn’t notice the hill part.  All I saw was that short amount of cracked sidewalk that, with this kind of focus, would allow me to miss the particularly deep cracks and huge rocks.  Hmmm.

This felt like an analogy to life.  If, on a day-to-day basis, I focus on what I need to do that day, and not what the longterm scary goal is, I don’t notice that the goal has not been reached that day.  I only notice that I’m doing what needs to be done.  On that day.  In that hour.  In that moment.

This is referred to as mindful living.  I haven’t actually looked it up, so I can’t see that is what anyone else calls it.  But it is what I call it.  It is paying attention to the person to whom you are speaking at that moment.  Sincere undistracted attention.  It is finishing the creation of one quiz for my history class.  It is writing the next 2000 words of my book for today.  It is making that appointment that I wrote in my daybook that I will make today.  It is being present in my mind while I hold my grandchild, talk to my son, or read a book.

Just watch the sidewalk in front of you.  The rest of the hill does not have to be conquered at the same time.  You won’t even notice it is a hill.  Because your daily bites and successes can come two – three feet at a time.

Gratitude List

Many years ago during a tough emotional time and depression, a friend suggested that I do a gratitude list.  At that moment, it seemed such a trivial thing and frankly, a lousy answer to my problem.  After a few days, I decided to give it a try.  I found out that it wasn’t so trivial, and the suggestion helped.  Actually, it did more than help.  I caused me to change my perspective, and assisted in leading me out of a difficult depression.  I think its time again.

1)  I am grateful for a spouse who supports me and is there for me.

2) I am grateful for 2 incredible sons whose lives are going quite well, and who are working on making positive and rewarding decisions in their lives.

3) I have a three wonderful friends who I can call on at anytime, and an incredible sister who offers the same.

4) I have plenty of food each day, a warm house, and a job.

5) My immediate family is healthy, as well as my family of origin.

6) My mom is still living and her mind is strong.

7) I can drive a car anywhere I want to provided I have enough time.

8) I have plenty of money, and with better management, it supports me well.

9) I can read.  And write.  And create.

10) I live in a country that allows me to vote, to disagree with the government without censor (or worse), provides roads and schools and electricity and water for my use and consumption.

I could go on and on.  And on.  When the tough times come, my tendency is to focus too much on the tough things.  Just to pause and to remember that the good outweighs the bad so greatly is an needed adjustment in my perspective and attitude.

Over-50 Entrepreneurs just as successful

Think you must be young to start a business and make it successful?  Think again.  This study shows that the over 50’s are even more likely to get over the hump – including the technological industries.

Take a look.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2009/sep/26/starting-business-over-50s