Ten Years Ago, Ten Pounds Ago

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This was me.  10 Years Ago with my 9 month old daughter.   I was a new mom and I was 27 years old, living in a home in Orlando, Florida. I look happy.  I look thin.  I remember posting this photo on MySpace at the time (before I dove off that cliff in exchange for the monster that is Facebook.)  I needed a recent photo of myself, so I staged this.  I asked my husband to take the picture.  I got some nice compliments.  “How did you lose the baby weight so quickly?”  “You look amazing!”

At the time, they were compliments I needed to hear.  They boosted me in the midst of what was the deepest depression I have ever known.

But see, you wouldn’t know this from the picture, right?  Of course I am smiling here.  I am holding the only part of my life that gave me joy – right there in my arms.  Wasn’t she adorable?  Not only that, but also consider this….who wants to post a bad photo on social media?  Who wants to own up to how awful they actually feel?

So, here is what is really happening in this photo:
1.  If you look closely at the wall behind me, there are cardboard boxes.  They have not yet been formed into boxes, but they are there for a very good reason.  The husband that took this photo was my first husband.  By this time, I had told him that I was leaving him.  The separation had not yet happened but it was happening within the week.  I already had airfare booked to move up to Maryland.  Days before this photo was taken, I laid on that tile floor and cried so hard you would think my arms were being ripped off.

2.  Yes, I was thin.  So thin.  And how did I get there?  Well, I did swim 2 days a week for 45 minutes.  Yes.  That must have been it.  No.  I was that thin because I was barely eating.  I was so miserable in my marriage that I spent a lot of time crying.  I was so miserable that I didn’t even want to eat.  Nothing even tasted good.  And when I did eat, I would feel guilty.  Maybe my marriage didn’t work because I wasn’t pretty enough, or because I didn’t have a perfect body.  That was how I thought of myself then.

Today, when I look at this woman from 10 years ago, I see a girl.  A girl who didn’t know her own strength or her own worth.  Today, I want to tell her this:

You will recover.  Ten years from now, you will be 10-20 pounds heavier than you are in this photo.  But it’s because you have grown strong, not just physically, but mentally as well.  Your body can now carry not one, but 2 babies, through sand & heat, one on each hip, and not falter.  You can still lift this little baby in the picture, although she’s not little anymore.

You will be loved and you will be able to give love again.  Life will still be life and you will be overwhelmed by it, overjoyed by it, saddened by it, enamored with it, and frustrated with it all at once.

You will be challenged and humbled by motherhood, but you are always doing the best you can.  It never feels like enough, but hopefully it is.

You will fail and succeed, wash-rinse-repeat, in so many professional endeavors, but you should not give up.  You should not be afraid to try…try something new.  You will be your own worst critic but don’t let her stop you from believing in yourself.

You will feel lonely, you will feel awkward, you will feel like you don’t fit anywhere, but you do.

You will have highs, and your ego will soar, feeling like you are invincible.  But you are not.  You should be ready for the fall, and ready again to pick yourself up and start again.

Most of all, please just stop and breathe.  Appreciate the joys that you do hold in your life. Ten years from now, you will still remember this pain, but it will be like a tiny faded scar on your little finger.  Your life will go on.  You will not be perfect and it will not be perfect.  But you will have so much love and so much happiness.  Believe it.  Reach for it.  It’s here waiting for you.

 

 

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An Undefined Life

It’s been 9 months since I have written anything at all.  This is primarily because about a year ago, I discovered a job opening at a local Wine & Paint venue and thought to myself, “hey, I paint,” and then, “maybe I’m good enough to teach these classes.”

It was a whim, but it carried so much hope.  Could I really have a job that would both allow me to continue to stay home raising my kids, and would be an artistic and creative outlet?  Could I meet & be inspired by other artists?  Could I improve as an artist myself?

Much to my surprise, I was hired and have been working as an “Artist Instructor” since September 2016.  Quite a 180 degree turn from my last career in Financial Planning.  The heart wants what it wants and I wanted to give the artist gig a try.  But, it has been a lot more difficult than I expected and a lot more time and work.  It has put a strain on my family more than I believed it would.  It’s just not quite the right fit.

The year prior to accepting the Artist Instructor position, I had spent time working on my painting skills – entering a Plein Air competition in my local town, taking watercolor classes, and even being commissioned to do a few portraits.  I have never for a second considered myself to be a great artist, but it has been something I have always enjoyed.  It helped me to unwind.  To chill out.  Most recently, 2 of my paintings were selected to be used on the calendar to be taught at the Wine and Paint bar.  But they were crappy paintings.  I feel like I should even delete this sentence so that it doesn’t sound like I’m bragging.  I was surprised, but not proud.  These were not the best I could do.  And maybe I still don’t even know what the “best” is, or if I will even come close to reaching it.

Hobby or not, “artist” title or not, I am still an impostor.  And this past 9 months has taught me that so many times over.  Being around other artists is inspiring.  Yes, absolutely.  But, it is also discouraging.  All I can see now is how much my own talent is drowned by the other more talented artists that surround me.  I am constantly wishing that I could be more talented than I am, but it’s a pointless wish.  It actually hurts when anyone even compliments my work, because I know the truth.  I know that the sands are running out of this hourglass as I type this.  It’s just not meant to be.  But I can’t regret the effort I put into it.  I don’t regret it because the entire experience has humbled me.

For a while, this little job had given me some direction.  It had been a stop-gap solution to a confusing time in my life – finding myself in some sort of motherhood purgatory – waiting for my youngest to go to kindergarten before I go back to “real work.”  What an optimistic fool I was to believe that I could put my creativity to work.

So many times in life, I have made the right choices, the smart choices, the practical ones.  And those choices pushed me in the direction of practical careers.  And I was good at those jobs.  And I should have stayed with them.  Nothing, absolutely nothing, is more soul-crushing than having a passion for creativity, and feeling like you will never be good enough to create.

And so in the midst of feeling very sorry for myself, I imagine I sound rather dull.  And that’s ok.  Maybe I am.  But I think that I have finally realized that I am not a round peg made for a round hole.  I will never quite fit anywhere.  I am perfectly happy knowing that my life is undefined, that I cannot be summarized by the work I do, or any ridiculous measures of success that weigh heavy upon my heart.

I will never stop painting.  I will never stop writing.  But I will stop believing that I can ever live up to the titles that carry so much weight.

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“Sorry, not sorry,” – The Watering Down of Apologies

My grandmother was one of my favorite people in the world.  She was a sweet woman with an intuitive sense and an appreciation for the little things in life – butterflies, birds, gumdrops, sugar cookies, and pies.  She could make a mean lemon meringue pie, but one thing I always remember about her pies was not only their deliciousness, but the apology that came along with each one, as if it was the final touch on her culinary masterpiece.  “I’m sorry, the meringue just wasn’t quite right this time,” or “the lemon curd is too thin,” or “the crust is too soggy.”  I’m still not sure if she apologized in advance because she actually felt those things about each pie, or if she was overly critical of herself, or if she was trying not to seem too proud.  Maybe all of those things and more.  In any case, the apologies were misplaced and ill-used.  I always ate every scrumptious bite of her pies.

The words, “I’m sorry,” have become a watered down pathetic excuse for an apology in our society.  The new colloquialism, “Sorry, not sorry,” has even acknowledged the loss of meaning in the common, “I’m sorry,” by blatantly pointing out that the speaker that uses “I’m sorry,” typically isn’t very sorry at all.  Variations on the phrase also even proudly ring false such as, “My bad,” or “Whoops.”  I guess the questions that are rattling around in my brain are, Why make any apology at all?  Why do we apologize for trivial mistakes/inconveniences?  Why should “Sorry” be the word we use when we do something wrong and the word we use when we are trying to express empathy for someone else’s situation?

We teach our children to “Say you’re sorry,” without driving home to them why they should feel sorry and what they should do differently.  It’s like a shrug of the shoulders if you don’t really care what people think, and a way to head off an argument if you care too much. “Sorry,” has become as contagious as a sneeze, and the more you hear it around you, the more you say it.

I’ve noticed my 10-year-old daughter defaulting to, “I’m sorry,” when she makes a mistake, no matter how small, or if she is trying to show empathy.  My husband does it too.  And I know I do it.  It’s a filler word for when you don’t know what else to say.  I wonder if we could try to say something more meaningful to one another instead.  It’s a laziness of speech and thought that keeps bringing us back to that default apology.  And even if you say, “I apologize,” that seems too formal and ridiculous as well.  Perhaps apologies should all be replaced with explanations, positive phrases about how you will try to do things differently, or simply nothing at all.  Any of those would seem more meaningful than “I’m sorry.”

I also worry about young women who seem to apologize for everything…even when they haven’t done anything wrong.  “I’m sorry for saying this, but maybe we could look at another option instead of the one you presented?”  In business especially, I saw myself and other female colleagues taking a demure, apologetic tone whenever they wanted to present something different from the status quo.  Why should we be sorry for having different ideas?

What started my train of thought on this topic was actually witnessing this learned behavior of apologizing for nothing from a team of 9-11 year old female volleyball players.  Every time the ball went anywhere except directly to another player, the girls would chime in with their sing-song, “Sorry!”  It drove me crazy!  Why are you sorry?  You’re trying to do it correctly, aren’t you?  You aren’t trying to send the ball in another direction, so why should you be sorry?  Especially for women, if you’re not doing something perfectly, or you feel you’re inconveniencing someone else, we use “I’m sorry,” to soften our position.  It’s ludicrous.

So, I’m making a concerted effort from here to eliminate all the unnecessary “I’m Sorry’s” that are building on my tongue as filler for actual meaningful understanding and explanation to my fellow humans.  I’m hopeful that I can at least reduce the use of this word in my house.  I don’t want my children to grow up thinking they have to be sorry for not being perfect, or that a quick “I’m sorry,” can act as a Bandaid for a situation that needs more serious resolution.  If you’re really sorry, be sorry.  Change your behavior.  Do something nice for someone.  Ask for help.  Offer help.  Ask intelligent questions to learn more about other people.  And please, let’s stop defaulting to “I’m sorry.”

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Someone thinks you’re beautiful

A little over a month ago, I was embarking on a quest…a quest that most women and I bet many men dread.  Alone, at Target, I was in the bathing suit section perusing a selection of suits that looked to be designed for 13-year-old girls.  Ugh, here we go, I thought.  It was early June and I was determined to get a new cute suit for our family’s upcoming beach trip.

I was actually feeling pretty proud of myself in terms of my health and my body.  I have been working out regularly and eating healthy for the most part.  I am not in the same shape or size as I was in my early 20s before I had my three girls, but I feel good.  I think I look good.  In clothes.

After trying on a few handfuls of suits and pushing the dressing room item limit, I gave up. Absolutely nothing – not one suit – looked or felt right for my body.  See above first paragraph –  I am most definitely not a 13-year-old girl.  The harshness of fluorescent lighting, coupled with mirrors that show parts of our bodies we simply weren’t meant to see, made me feel – less than.  Not tan enough.  Not fit enough.  Not young enough.

I stormed out of there empty handed, feeling defeated and annoyed.  Really?  I’m in good shape.  Why doesn’t anything look right?  Internal sigh, groan, eye roll.  Clearly swimsuit designers don’t understand women’s bodies.  Or maybe bathing suits don’t understand women’s bodies.

In any case, my empty shopping cart and I headed back toward the front of the store, when out of nowhere, a tiny girl appeared, sitting in her Mommy’s shopping cart.  She pointed right at me and said, “Look, she’s so pretty, Mommy!”  I gazed over my shoulder to see if there was someone behind me – perhaps even a Barbie doll or something, but no.  It was just me.  And she looked right at me.

My heart skipped a beat and I managed to say, “Thank you, you are so sweet.  You just made my day.”  She smiled and then her mom quietly praised her for saying something so very nice.  That one small kindness from a little stranger completely changed my thinking and jolted me out of my swimsuit funk.

It doesn’t matter.  None of it.  Not how I think I look or actually look in a swimsuit or any other article of clothing.  The truth is that we all see beauty in each other, even when we don’t see it in ourselves.  So for that moment, I tried to see myself through the eyes of a stranger, to throw out my own self-effacing, overly critical thoughts, and just love myself as I am.

I do, and I promise, I will.  Not just for me, but for that little girl, and all the little girls in my life who look to me and to other women as examples on how they should be, and how they should see themselves.  Be proud of yourself.  You are more than enough.  If we believe it, they’ll believe it and there will be plenty of beauty to be shared in this world – inside and out.

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Failing with Grace

Do you ever feel like you’re failing at this thing called Life?  Like somehow you’re just doing it all wrong?  This past year has been pretty humbling for me with regard to my personal endeavors.  When I look back on the past 6 months, I see myself making a lot of effort that failed.  I don’t want you to think that I’m a “glass is half-empty” person, and I’m actually quite happy and content with my little life and family, but I think anytime you’re in a losing streak in an attempt to reach personal goals, it’s hard to not internalize the little failures by saying, “I’m a loser.”

So, my failures…what were they?

Failure #1:  I coached a 2nd season of volleyball for my 9 year old daughter.  The first season, our team was in 5th place (of 6 teams), and the 2nd season, we were in 6th place (of 6 teams.)  We were the worst team hands down.  While some of this was out of my control, it’s hard not to think, wow, I’m just a terrible coach.

Failure #2:  My hobby is painting.  I decided to enter a Plein Air Painting competition in my local town.  I didn’t win.  I didn’t even come close.  I put a lot of time and money and emotional investment into it.  And really, I just wanted to win.  I wanted that validation that says, “hey you’re an awesome painter, keep doing it!”

Failure #3:  I’m a bit of a fitness fanatic.  You’ll find me at the gym 5 days a week for an hour at least.  My gym had this thing called a 60 day challenge and I entered hoping not even to win the whole thing, but at least to lose a few pounds and see some changes in my body.  Well, I lost 2 pounds.  And I don’t look different.  I didn’t change my diet enough, so in my book, my lack of effort on that end is the real failure.

Failure #4:  I applied for a job a week ago.  It’s yet to be seen if I will get the job, but I didn’t get a call or email or anything, so it’s weighing on my mind.  And because I’m in a losing streak it seems, I keep telling myself, “you’re not going to get that job.”

Am I just not good enough to “win”?  Do I not try hard enough?  What am I doing wrong?  This is the battle that is waged in my mind time and again over big things, little things, everything.  And I’m not naturally optimistic, so sometimes I have to stop myself, redirect, and consciously figure out how to see the silver lining in a negative situation.  So, I say to myself, “Ex Malo Bonum,” or Out of Bad Comes Good.  How do I turn these perceived failures into successes?  What am I doing RIGHT?  One major thing I am doing is raising three pretty awesome little girls and keeping the house running and my husband happy.  So, let’s change the perspective.  Yes.  Here we go:

Success #1 – Volleyball.  Okay, so we lost a lot of games.  A lot.  The “win” in the losing season is that my daughter still wants to play another season, she had fun, she made friends, and she did improve.   I saw all the other players improve too.  And, I had fun doing something with my daughter that is good exercise for both of us.  We just didn’t win much.  Still, my daughter begged me to coach again and maybe, just maybe we’ll actually win next season.

Success #2 – Painting.  It was only my first try!  Goodness, I was competing against some full time professional painters and this wasn’t their first rodeo.  Just because I didn’t win doesn’t mean I am not a good painter, it just means that on that day, someone else did it better.  To boot, I have had paying customers over the past year, commissioning me to do portraits and landscapes – something I didn’t know was possible a year ago.  So, keep calm and paint on.

Success #3 – Fitness.  I didn’t win the 60 day challenge.  But I don’t have much weight to lose anyway.  And I’m amazing.  I’m stronger than ever and I feel great.  I can do jumping jacks for days.  I can lift 2 of my kids onto each hip and carry them up and down stairs.  I can bike, swim, jump, and bench press.  I have made fitness part of my lifestyle, which is half the battle.  Tackling my diet will take time and more commitment, but I’m going to be realistic about it.  What’s life without chocolate?!

Success #4 – New Job.  I don’t really need a job right now.  That makes me very fortunate and I appreciate that every day.  This was going to be a fun job that I thought I could do well, even though it would be a stretch for me to do it while still taking care of my kids full time.  Maybe they haven’t reviewed all the applicants yet.  Maybe they have and they only needed 2 people and I just didn’t make the cut.  In any case, I’m proud of myself for trying, putting myself out there, and still pursuing new ideas and dreams.

As I look at the above list of my perceived failures, I know that my husband and my kids have seen my disappointment each time.  They have seen me get my hopes up and then watch the dreams disappear.  But, what I’m hoping that my kids have also seen is that I haven’t let the failures crush me.  I haven’t let them knock me down or make me want to quit trying.  I think, and I hope that I have failed gracefully.  Turning these little failures into successes is what helps to keep me going, to keep me always reaching for…More.

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A Portrait of my Father

My Dad is not a smiler.  He will tell you so himself.  He will say that people who go around smiling all the time obviously don’t understand the gravity of the situation. He will also say that “smiler” is not a word.  And from this brief description, you may think he’s not a very friendly guy, but it’s not true.  In fact, his dry, quick wit can make you smile even when you don’t mean to do it.  So the non-smiler is skilled at making others smile.  Huh.

When I think about my father, I feel overwhelmed by how impressive he is as a person, without seeming so.  He is a modest man; yet his obvious intelligence makes him a natural leader (even if he doesn’t like to lead).

It’s harder for me to write about my dad because my love for him is more complex than the warm hugs and softness of my mother’s love that I recall as a child growing up.  It’s a love that has really grown by understanding who he is, appreciating the parts of him that are also in me, and enjoying the parts that are quite different.  It’s a love that has come from his loyalty and devotion to us, and feeling his pride in us.  It’s a love that is spelled, RESPECT.  The greatest blessing for me is that I know my dad.  So many kids never really get to know their parents, but I do.  And lucky for me, I like him too.

Some quick facts that he may appreciate me remembering (because he loves history himself and is a great storyteller himself):

My dad read the encyclopedia as a kid…for fun.

He never learned to swim and nearly drowned as a teenager while vacationing in the Adirondacks.  His father actually rescued him, wading out in the water, a pipe still clenched between his teeth.

He was a catcher on his Little League baseball team.  His younger brother also played and his Dad was a coach.  They were a baseball family.

As a child he also was featured on TV as a ventriloquist.  No, I’m not making this up.

He got a scholarship to college at Johns Hopkins University where I believe he learned to play backgammon with his fraternity brothers, and didn’t attend too many classes but still passed the exams.

At the age of 18, he traveled to Europe for a few months, got a broken heart tattoo in Copenhagen for an engagement that didn’t work out, took many amazing photos, but his camera was stolen so much of the film was lost.

Shortly after his trip, he came back, got a case of mononucleosis and decided to use his down time to create a large 4 x 4 foot mosaic depicting a scene from Tangiers, Morocco (from his Europe trip.)  Again, I’m not making this up.  He later gave me the mosaic when I noticed it stowed in a dusty corner of the basement.  It now hangs proudly in my master bedroom.

Sometime after college, he worked as a repo man for GMC, repossessing cars in sketchy neighborhoods but somehow living to tell the stories.

He drove a cab in Baltimore for a time.

He got married, had a beautiful daughter but the marriage didn’t work out and they parted ways.  I can’t and I can imagine how that felt.

He drove his beat-up yellow Volkwagen across the country to stay with his brother and sister-in-law after his first marriage ended.  His car broke down in the desert on the way to California.  Upon returning home, he found that his apartment had been robbed.  It was a bad year for him.  I think he was 28.

Shortly thereafter, he met my mother, got a new job selling tax-deferred annuities to school teachers, and somehow life just kept rolling.  They had me and my brother and we lived in a suburban neighborhood making memories.

We took vacations to the Adirondacks and all over the country with trips my dad earned in his business.
On one especially long drive home from the Adirondacks one summer, he taught my brother and me the following bizarre poem and told us that by the time we learned it, we would be home.  (he was right and now I can’t un-learn it.)

One hen, 2 ducks, 3 squawking geese, 4 limerick oysters, 5 corpulent porpoises, 6 pairs of Don Alvarzo’s tweezers, 7 thousand Macedonians in full battle array, 8 brass monkeys from the ancient sacred crypts of Egypt, 9 apathetic, sympathetic, diabetic old men on roller skates with a mark and propensity toward procrastination and sloth, 10 lyrical spherical diabolical denizens of the deep who hallstall around the corner of the quo of the quay of the quivey all at the same time.

Meanwhile, he ran a side business in art and antiques.  He would scour flea markets and estate sales for paintings, furniture, and pottery, and either keep or resell them.  Our house gradually became a museum of sorts.

He taught me how to paint when I showed interest in his art.   He told me that shadows in the snow aren’t gray – if you look closely, they’re blue.  He would tell me about each of his flea market finds and he would occasionally take me to flea markets so that I could become a collector myself.

He taught me the power of writing.  He once gave my brother and me copies of “Strunk & White,” grammar books as Christmas gifts.

My father was home a lot since he was in sales, so he made it to my softball games and school events and paid for my horseback riding lessons after he noticed how much I loved riding on vacation one summer.

He got promoted within his company and soon success was part of him and us.

He got into a car accident once and he decided to grow a beard and start smoking a pipe after that.  I think it was way more complex than he makes it out to be.  The pipe reminded him of his Dad.  His Dad was suffering from Alzheimer’s.  He wanted to be like his Dad before it was too late for him to be like the man he so admired.

We moved to a house that my father mostly designed, inspired by the work of Frank Lloyd Wright and the Arts & Crafts movement.  The house was breathtaking through and through – stained glass windows and oak trim, but to us, it was HOME.  He later wrote an article about the house that was featured in a magazine.

When I asked him to finish the basement of the house with a detailed, written argument chock full of logic, he couldn’t refuse.

Last I checked, there were 2 occasions when he said he wasn’t proud of me.  And I deserved it, but it stung the most knowing it.

He is my go-to person for advice on my own art.  As a painter, I trust no one’s eye more than my father’s and no one will be as honest with me as he will.

He was my first boss after college.  He interviewed me, grilled me, offered me a job, but I’m pretty sure he tried extra hard not to show favoritism even though inside I’m sure he was so proud he could barely stand it.

We traveled together when I was in my 20s for business trips with the company.  As management, he was always speaking at meetings.   He is a brilliant public speaker.  It was the first time I saw my dad as someone other than my father and it was amazing.  I tried hard not to show it but I was so proud of him I could barely stand it.

Although he is great at public speaking, a cocktail party is a nightmare for him and he can’t stand small talk or chit chat.  He’s just too darn smart.

He can answer approximately 95% of the questions on Jeopardy correctly.

He loves to travel and you’ll never see him look happier than when he’s wearing sunglasses on a boat – whether it be on a lake in the Adirondacks, or a cruise ship in the Mediterranean.  A man who can’t swim but he loves boats.

On occasion, he gets creative kicks.  He will paint or write short non-fiction stories about his own life that he calls “snip-its.”  The paintings and the stories are beautiful.  Absolutely beautiful.

He likes his Scotch on the rocks (a “scotch snowball”) and plays poker online.  He’s also competed in poker tournaments and won.

He will admit and joke about his OCD.  He likes things to be in their place.  To be symmetrical, to be perfect.

Did I mention that he loves my mother?  Oh man, does he love her.  He married her again in the Catholic Church years and years after their first wedding.  For her 50th birthday, he surprised her with a red Mazda Miata convertible.  They vacation in Europe together and just quietly enjoy life together.  In recent years, her health has been tough on both of them, and he has stepped up to take care of her and the house when she can’t.  There is nothing more amazing a man can do than to love your mother.

He is deeply attached to and loyal to his family.  I think he would do anything for us.

A life-long foodie, he has finally taken to cooking.  And he’s good at it.  As a kid, the only thing I remember him cooking was bacon, eggs, blueberry (Smurfberry) pancakes, fried oysters, and grilling burgers.  Oh, and picking Maryland blue crabs, but his love of seafood and pepper probably trumps all other food so it really deserves a separate paragraph.

When my first daughter was born, she christened my father, “Dee-da,” in trying to say his chosen name, “Granddad.”  Too bad, Dad, you’re “Dee-da” forever now!

The point is, that goodness, I know my dad and I cherish every little story I have heard or shared with him.  He’s my storyteller, history-keeper, artistic, intelligent, most interesting man I have ever known and I’m so lucky to have him as mine.  Happy Father’s Day.  – Boo

 

 

 

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A Portrait of my Mother

Even as an adult, I still think of my mother as, “Mom.”  Yes, I have come to know her more as a person and a friend in my adulthood, but the fact is – she is still the selfless, loving, advice-giving, always-on-my-side person from my childhood.

Before I was born, she worked as a microbiologist at a hospital, looking into a microscope and diagnosing everything from the simplest strep throat to the more terrifying meningitis.  I often think of her at that time in her life, with awe and wonder.  This woman is the portrait of a caregiver – a friendly beautiful face who can get along with anyone and is always willing to comfort someone else when they need it most. And there she was, working in a lab, closed off from the very people she was helping.  The need to help for her, didn’t and doesn’t require any recognition in return.  It was the ultimate selfless career for the ultimate selfless person.  Later, as we were growing up, she was a stay-at-home mom, and then for a time, a teacher.  Could she have done anything more giving than those professions?  It was a natural fit for a kind and beautiful person.

I am in awe of her because she gave and gave and gave some more to my brother and to me, and to my father, and her parents with so much grace and not the least bit resentment.  I wonder if in her heart she was annoyed by the amount of work that went into building up, supporting, and raising other people.   Now, as a mother myself, I often feel like a child – resentful that I can’t always do what I want to do, struggling to find some ounce of freedom from my responsibilities to others.  How did she do it?

In recent years, she has battled health issues that have made it nearly impossible for her to be the “giver” she has always been.  But it has also taken away her hobbies and time with friends.  It has been a major shift in her focus – probably something that needed to happen.  After all her years giving to others, finally, she is forced to give and take care of only herself.

It is a cruel reward, of sorts.  This amazingly selfless woman said to me at Easter this year, “Oh, how I wish I could be helping you with the kids.”  Really?  Even now?  If it were me, I would say, “Oh how I wish I could be travelling, or golfing, or going out to lunches with friends,” but no.  I know that she wants to do those things too, but what she focused on for me was how she wants to help.

If I could tell her one thing for Mother’s Day, it is this:  You help me every day.  You are a helper.  I will never put you on a metaphorical shelf.  I need you.  Our whole family will always need you.  You help me when we chat for 10 minutes on the phone.  You help me and have helped to shape me, to make me better.  You make me strive to be the mother you were to me.  Your patience, your kindness, your love are an example that will last me an entire lifetime.

But for now, my beautiful giver, my Mom, let me try in any way I can to help you – to return your countless favors.  Please call me to vent to me, to ask me for advice, to cry on my shoulder.  Please share your frustrations, your fears, your anger, and your worries.  Share your joys, and your excitements, and your accomplishments, no matter how small they may seem.  This sharing, this ability to talk to someone and know that they are listening, that they care and never judge – this is the ultimate gift you have given me.  If I can give it back to you, I will be a happy daughter, mother, friend, and woman.  Happy Mother’s Day to my one and only, “Mom,” my confidante, my friend.

 

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