BooWho

Things I want to keep in mind.

Month: September, 2015

Sometimes

Sometimes, you have to remind yourself that you are only human.

Sometimes, our babies cry most of the night. We nurse them, we rock them and walk them and, still, they cry. And then, finally, they sleep.

Sometimes, our partners are lazy and oblivious. They eat or drink too much. They don’t help take care of their own children, they don’t notice the dirty dishes in the sink or the piles of dirty laundry in the closet. And then, when we are in the parking lot with our keys locked in the car, they come.

Sometimes, our jobs are hard and thankless. We work long hours and pour our soul into our presentations, generate bucketloads of good product, provide services without complaint. We’re tired and disillusioned with all of these trappings. And then, someone notices our effort. A student, a customer, a colleague demonstrates gratitude or recognition.

Sometimes, our child’s teacher calls to tell us our child is disruptive in class or is too bossy or too quiet. We jump on the parent wheel and start spinning – what can we do differently? How can we motivate the child to do better? What if it is one of any number of learning disabilities? We immediately assume blame and feel shame over our parenting skills. And then, at teacher conferences, the teacher advises they have made changes in the classroom and praises the child for adjusting so well.

Sometimes, our teenagers are like the spawn of the devil. They yell, they pout, they are sullen. They hate you, they need you, they love you, you’re stupid, you’re dead to them. And then, they wake up one day and are parents too. They grow and understand and realize the lessons you tried to instill.

Sometimes, we age and we retire. We have time to think and see and do. The understanding pours over you like glaze on a donut, sweet and smooth but sticky. We wish we had all of this time and understanding back in the day, when we needed it most. We wish we could tell our friends, our children, our grandchildren all that we’ve learned – to save them from going through the same gamut of pain, shame, difficulty and frustration. And then, we see that the understanding is our own. It doesn’t have the same meaning to anyone else. It is the human experience and each of us lives it in our own time and place.

Treasure

“Any day with a grandchild in my arms, on my lap, in my home, or on my mind is a very good day” Author Unknown

My mother and father were very loving and caring Grandparents. They gave so much of their time and attention to my kids and I will forever be grateful. But if I am to be honest, I was always a little jealous of my own children for the love they received from both of them. I knew they were very lucky, because I never really knew my own grandparents. Maybe that’s why mom and dad worked so hard at spending the time and knowing their grandchildren.

My mom was much more fun as a grandmother. She laughed and shared so much more with them than she ever did with me. She baked, sang, took walks and drives, took them to movies, brought them home to her house each Wednesday after school just for fun. Dad took them sledding, for rides in the woods, to great-grandma’s to feed chickens and cows. They both attended every concert, recital, sports event and birthday party that they could. When the kids were little and spent the night, the girls slept with Grandma and the boys with grandpa. There are many wonderful memories of Grandpa and Grandpa.

Now that I have grandchildren, I understand. Your heart is free, your soul, open. You have the time to spend without the other “stuff” hanging over your head. No worries about what they will wear; if they are learning, growing, healthy, kind; how are they doing in school; do they have friends? Those are worries for the parents.

As grandparents, we get to wonder instead of worry. Are they having enough fun? Are they laughing enough? We watch as they learn to crawl, walk and talk – cherishing each and every new thing. When we take them on an outing, we aren’t thinking of the 100 other things that need to be done before the next day. We are thinking, “I hope mom doesn’t get mad that we gave them rocky road ice cream AND a large cherry coke!”

We want to spend every waking moment with them – playing, eating, talking, laughing. We remember how precious time is and how fast it slips by. Sometimes, it can seem physically painful not to be with them. Some grandparents move closer to their grandchildren just so they can have more time. I always questioned the logic in that – before I had grandchildren.

I spend a lot of time wishing that my grandchildren were closer. It wouldn’t have to be right next door but a couple of hours away would be lovely. I could hop in the car and drive over for the afternoon. Or leave early in the morning and be there as they woke up for the day. I love it when they have bed hair and sleepy eyes and they all love to cuddle in the morning. I dream of picking them up for a weekend at Gawee and Papa’s house. We’d have pancakes for breakfast, mac and cheese for lunch and hot dogs for dinner! We’d play pirate ships on the front porch and the field would be the ocean! We could take long walks and throw rocks in the ditch. We could put sleeping bags down on the floor and camp out in the family room. We’d go to sleep watching Beauty and the Beast or the Lion King. Then we’d get up in the morning and start all over again.

Life. Life is the great obstacle for grandparents. People have to work to support their families. They have to live where they work. We have to accept it even when we don’t like it. So we take our moments as they come. My grandchildren are young and we have many adventures ahead. One day, they may live closer but, for now, I will make every effort to know them and let them know me.

Jack, Charlie and Ollie (and future grandchildren to be): I promise to always be ready for a walk, a book, a story, a good laugh and lots of make-believe. Always know that YOU are my most cherished treasure.

Roommates

In my memory, it is a fall day. My sister’s and I have been assigned cleaning chores and my mother is in the kitchen, slamming cupboard doors in a show of obvious frustration. We are walking on eggshells. I’m not sure if one of us asked her what was wrong or if she finally just burst, but she was furious because my dad and brother were out hunting “having fun” and we were stuck at home cleaning, as usual. I felt sorry for her and for us.

I have learned a lot about her in the last year. Mostly, from cleaning out her house and reading some of her journals. She was a very frustrated woman – a lot of her ideas and feelings were in line with the women’s movement. I believe she felt very strongly about the inequalities in her relationship with my dad but she didn’t know how to express her feelings or desires. She would shutdown and ignore him – try to force him to read her mind and guess what was wrong. He, in turn, ignored her. Oftentimes, he would play the victim not knowing what he had done wrong and feeling abused by her constant anger. It was a recipe for disaster and their relationship was very fractured – never quite achieving a common thread. When all of their kids were grown and out of the house, they were living separate lives more like roommates than a married couple. The empty nest was very difficult for both of them – their focus had always been their kids. So, they went their separate ways – focusing on their grandchildren and their own pursuits.

To be honest, I am grateful to her. Not that she ever really told me how she felt, but I observed her depression and frustration and tried to figure out how to fix it, all of my life. I knew by her example, I never wanted to be that unhappy. In my first marriage, that one thought was the impetus for me knowing I couldn’t stay in my marriage. I had tried to mold myself into something that I wasn’t and I didn’t want to live my life that way.

In my second marriage, I was constantly reminded of her frustration at those times when I felt the very same discontent. I read books, I went to a counsellor, and I learned that I COULD say what I needed. I COULD say what was driving me to distraction. I COULD tell my husband and he wouldn’t leave or stop loving me. We COULD come to a resolution. Most times, he had NO CLUE (which only added to my frustration) and I realized – over and over – that he was horrible at reading my mind.

I would like to say that I am a wonderful communicator, that our relationship is perfect, that I have achieved that shining golden peace and strength that we all believe we deserve. But that would be a gross exaggeration. I still get frustrated, I still find myself thinking that he should KNOW what I am feeling (especially after 29 years!). I still get frustrated at the inequalities of the male vs female gender (don’t we all?). I can say that we have come a long way in our relationship – we do communicate well. We still like each other. We aren’t just roommates. That has to count for something.

Doctor, doctor

Today was my annual exam. My doctor is a woman and she is about 5 years older than I am. She is kind, congenial, not overly enthusiastic but I’m accustomed to her demeanor and because I haven’t had anything very serious over the years – I don’t need a specialist. She knows my history, she laughs at my jokes and she tells me I’m not crazy. (I do appreciate that.)

Do you remember the first time you went to a doctor for a vaginal exam? (I’m asking the women this now…) I was in college. I had some kind of vaginal infection – never had one before and had no idea what to do. It wasn’t something that I could talk to my mother about. So, a good friend made arrangements for me to go to her doctor, in her home town. Off we go, I’m horrified. A strange man, looking at my hoohoo – telling me I had god knows what. Lord, it was an event. He was old as the hills and very gruff. His bedside manner was very direct, no messing around and no molly-coddling.

I thought about that appointment today as I was undressing for my exam. A lot of years and exams have gone by since then. I find it amusing that at the ripe old age of 57, I still rush to get undressed so that the doctor doesn’t walk in on me in the middle of disrobing. (Isn’t she going to be examining what is under the gown and drape anyway?) Also, I hide my bra and underwear under my clothes. (As if her seeing them would be mortifying. What is this, 6th grade?) Ridiculous.

I’m grateful that my doctor is older and very mellow. It is hard enough to talk about bodily functions with a woman who knows what I mean by virtue of her gender, I don’t need some doogie howser who still has acne sitting across from me while I try to explain about vaginal dryness or lack of sleep! I do realize that doctors are getting younger as I get older – it’s inevitable. I’m just not thrilled about it.

Last year, right as I was retiring, our insurance provider had a new program where you could talk to a doctor via something like “skype”, face to face on the computer. Not sure I’m ready for that. I’m not agile enough to get my hoohoo up to the camera…

Lies

In my memory, I don’t recall the exact words. My father started by saying, “Mom went to your teacher conference today.” I was petrified! The tone of his voice was so serious! I was only in first grade – what could be so horrible that my dad needed to talk to me about it? Was I failing first grade already? He then proceeded to say that the teacher had asked mom if we celebrate all of the presidents’ birthdays, with a party and everything. “Did you tell your teacher that?” My face still goes hot at the memory. Of course, I did and, of course, we didn’t. I don’t remember exactly what he said after that but it was my lesson about lying and I’ll never forget it.

Truth is important. Honesty is paramount. Sometimes, I am honest to a fault. Recently, I was cleaning out my mom’s house. I found a dollar in one of her coat pockets. I have the dollar on my desk, I intend to give it to my sister who is in charge of my mom’s finances so that she can deposit it into my mom’s account. It isn’t my dollar – it’s my mom’s. And if I make it out of the grocery store and find that the clerk missed something in my cart, I will go back and make sure that I pay for it. If ever I accidently break something in a store, I come clean immediately seeking out a clerk and offering to pay for the damaged goods. Oh, and if I decide I don’t want something in a store? I take it back to where it belongs, I don’t just leave on any old shelf along the way! I guess that has nothing to do with honesty, I just feel like it isn’t right to just leave it for someone else to put away!

Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t that I never lie. Sometimes, you lie to protect someone’s feelings. Most times, you lie to protect your own image. The trouble with lying is that a small lie usually grows with time. And if you lie once, you have to remember that lie – in case it comes up again. If you are discovered in a lie, it becomes a matter of trust. The truth will always come into question from that moment forward.

We all know people who lie. Some people have a hard time telling the truth – lying is such a large part of their existence.

Truth is, we all lie. Maybe we are asked to attend something but we really don’t want to – we make up an excuse, say we’re busy doing something else on that particular date. Maybe we ignore a phone call because we don’t want to talk to someone, we pretend we’re not available. We may just avoid someone altogether so that we don’t have to lie. Maybe we call in sick to work, play hooky from school, when we really aren’t sick but just want a day off. Maybe we lie on our taxes. And most people “embellish”, add little details for effect, to inflate a story and make it seem colossal. (As a story teller, I know that exaggeration is a great tool to make a story much more amusing to the listener.)

As a mom, I tried to teach my kids to be honest. There were many lessons along the way. Some caught and some didn’t, but for the most part I think all of my children are honest. From what I’ve seen of their life interactions, they are good communicators, straight-forward and kind. Sometimes, they are too kind and will put their partners/friends/family first and sacrifice their own feelings and desires. Is it a lie to withhold the truth by not expressing your own desire?

We can say there are different levels of lying. A white lie is a small lie, barely significant, that you might tell to shield someone from hurt. A big lie may involve stealing or deliberately setting out to hurt someone. Honesty requires knowing the truth. The telling is in the hands of the beholder.

Floodgates

As I awoke in the early morning hours this morning, my mind spun to life and I began writing inside my head. I haven’t written much recently, I’ve been busy with grandchildren but I’ve also had a little difficulty with the flow of my writing and a little bit of impediment. This morning, I realized why.

I’ve been monitoring my floodgate too closely. (Floodgate: a gate for shutting out, admitting, or releasing a body of water). This happens to me periodically. I begin thinking of my “readers” instead of just letting things transpire in my head. I begin closing the gate, restricting the flow – out of concern for how a reader may judge my feelings as they spew out onto the page. Then, as is usual, I begin to judge my writing as harshly as I assume the reader will judge and the gate closes completely, holding back all of the water.

And so, gentle reader, I will give you this precursor: I just write. Sometimes, most times, it is all about my own feelings, or my own observations. I write for the joy of writing and sometimes for therapy. I like to think that I am like my dad – a story teller. Most of my stories do have a moral. I can’t help it – it’s in my genes. I never intend offense – but I may offend. I never intend arrogance – but I may convey arrogance, at times. I don’t know everything, but I do have wisdom.

It will take time and effort for me to write freely, regularly. Sometimes, the floodgates open and, sometimes, they get pinched off. There are triggers of shame/fear that I am learning to recognize but by the time I recognize them, it is too late – the creativity is a trickle with no power behind it.

Perhaps a mind exercise: picture the flood gate. Picture the wheel used to open it, slowly begin turning. Feel the pressure as you turn the spiral, hear the creak of the metal as it protests against movement. The water flows with a spray of pressure at first but then develops a steady stream. The water follows the path of least resistance and pools in the hollows along the way. Stay with the flow and leave the control valve behind.

Hail

Have you ever been out walking and gotten caught in a hailstorm? You saw the storm coming but you thought you had time to make it back home. It usually starts out slow and then there is a full onslaught of little white ice balls. You have to find shelter but where? You begin to run for the nearest tree which is always a great distance away. Just as you reach the tree and shake off the water, the hail stops. It hails just long enough to sting your skin, leaving little red welts, and soak your clothes.

It’s the same with shame/sadness though you don’t always see it coming.

I started school on my 6th birthday. It was 1965 and there was no kindergarten at our school and certainly no preschool. I was a very immature 6 year old and very frightened about having to be away from my mother for the whole day. I have very few memories about first grade – I do remember when my mom dropped me off at school. My cousins were told they should not call me by my nickname at school, they should call me by my real name. This was something we would all have to get used to – since I didn’t think of myself by that name and neither did they. I remember thinking that everyone else was so much smarter than I was; I had never colored inside the lines before; I had never written this new name before; I had never read books before. I was small, sickly and weak. Or at least that is what I believed.

Because I believed I wasn’t as smart as most of my classmates, I gave up easily. If I didn’t understand something – I just stopped working on it. I faded into the background. I was not stupid and could hold my own just by doing the bare minimum, I was an average student. I had no idea that if I TRIED to understand, if I TRIED to LEARN, I could. I didn’t really comprehend that until I was about 25 years old. By then, I had already withdrawn from 2 1/2 years of college, entered into a doomed marriage and had a child with another on the way.

I view that period of my life as the beginning. I started to believe in myself, I started to make decisions and do the things that I knew were right for me. It was a difficult time but a very audacious time too. I remember that period of my life with joy.

Since then, of course, I’ve had my moments of doubt. Sometimes, they were more than moments. Recently, I had about a week of fear over signing up for that silly little writing class. I immediately fell into the role of that little 6 year old who had no idea she was supposed to color INSIDE the lines! Or the 15 year old who had no idea how to find the value of X in algebra class! Or the 19 year old who just wanted to find a man to marry, so that she wouldn’t have to figure all of this stuff out. (Can you imagine???) My shame: I was afraid if I signed up for the class, I would not be able to finish. My mind would go blank, I would have a dry spell in writing and I would have spent all that money on nothing. I would have wasted our hard earned money on something so frivolous and then to have failed on top of that.

RUN! Find cover! You are totally exposed to the hail storm! And that is the core of the fear. Being totally exposed with no cover.

Isn’t it a shame?

Often, our need to judge others is deeply motivated by our need to evaluate our own abilities, beliefs and values. According to research conducted by Sidney Shrauger and Marion Peterson, judging others allows us to appraise and compare our abilities, beliefs and values against the abilities, beliefs and values of others. This explains why we most often judge others around the issues that are important in our lives.” I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t) Brene Brown

According to the Shame book, the two areas in which women feel the most judged are appearance and motherhood. Those are also the areas we judge the most out of our own fear or shame.

Think of how many times a day – when you are out in the world – you are looking at others and judging (comparing). It is an all day, every day occurrence for me. I am appalled at how I sit in judgment as I am watching my fellow females.

It is an old habit developed years ago as a young teenager. At the time, I was rather gangly, very insecure, and very worried that I would never be pretty. I would never be able to find someone to love me since, in my mind, beauty was the only thing that could get you a decent man. I began this constant judging/comparing. (Am I as thin as her? Do I look that old? Wish I had her hair, but look at her crooked teeth – at least my teeth are straight. I would never wear that shirt if I was that heavy. Her teeth are SO white! Wish mine were that white. Look how pert she is! Oh Lord, too MUCH cleavage!) It is a constant monologue inside my head. Sometimes I feel better afterwards and sometimes I feel worse. The premise in the “Shame book” is that when you sit in judgment – you close yourself to giving and receiving empathy. You also close yourself in with your shame.

My goal for the week is to pay attention to that little Judge Judy in my head. To pause. It isn’t something that will cease just because I’m aware of it, it will take time and reflection. I am only beginning to develop my “shame resilience”. Like many things we deal with in our complicated psyche, it is something I’ll deal with forever and always.

Karo syrup

My cousin introduced me to a saying – one that I fall back to when the need arises. There is a story behind the saying but it is her story to tell.

“You get to decide.”

Quite simply, it means exactly what it says. Too often we are faced with obligations, fears, complications and scads of “shoulds”. When we were younger, “shoulds” ruled the day but as we age and settle into the realization that we CAN decide and choose otherwise, we begin to do so. It isn’t easy. We still struggle with the inner voices. Should I or shouldn’t I? What will happen if I do? And what if I don’t? Will I be a failure? An outcast?

One of the biggest necessities of life is to feel as though we belong. Sometimes, we make our choices in order to stay inside the lines. Decisions should be made with all factors in mind, including your own true desires.

The key here is not that you are ABLE to decide but you GET to decide.

Recently, I fell into a vat of Karo syrup (light corn syrup for those of you unfamiliar with the brand name). The thick, sweet liquid made it difficult to “swim” and I was slowly sinking in the sticky fluid. I was ruminating over taking a writing class, something that would take me far beyond my comfort zone. It took me three days to finally take the plunge and sign up for the class. Three days of angst over having to put myself out there, letting someone else read my writings, taking the risk of someone rejecting my writing and in turn, rejecting me. Thereby banishing me to the writer’s detention camp for the rest of my life. The whole process threw me into a tailspin of shame and fear. I had an upset stomach; my hair looked like shit; according to the mirror, I gained 10 pounds of useless pudge around the midsection and I realized my nose was somehow getting bigger. Lots of self-loathing here… I’ve been here before so I started doing some reading, writing and brooding.

One morning, I woke up and the saying spilled out. You get to decide. Are you going to look forward to the opportunities this class will provide? Are you going to open the screen door for a full view, unencumbered by the little metal squares? In order to inhale, first you must exhale.

You know, if you let karo syrup sit long enough it will dry out and turn hard. Easy enough to just walk across the top.

Unfortunately, my hair still looks like shit. But that’s a story for another day.

Feel it yet?

Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging. Women often experience shame when they are entangled in a web of layered, conflicting and competing social-community expectations.  Shame creates feelings of fear, blame and disconnection.   I Thought It Was Just Me (But it isn’t) Making the Journey from “What will people think?” to “I am enough”  by Brene Brown

Do I need permission to feel good about the things I have accomplished, the strides I have made for a good life? Do I need permission to have a good life? Do I deserve it? Will I ever?

Sometimes (most times) we are much more empathetic to others than we are to ourselves. If we responded to our own needs in the same way we respond to others – wouldn’t we feel better?

If I were my own friend – and knew my story – I would say, “I’m so sorry that happened to you. I’ve had similar feelings myself. I wanted to go back in time, to be that child again and to get what I needed – to feel the connection that would have made all the difference.”

Remember moms and dads – children hear, feel and see everything. They observe – even when you aren’t aware of it. They are more than just little sponges – they are a tower of innocence. Your pain is their pain, your shame is their shame, your strength is their strength.

Look at their faces when you talk to them. Put down your phone.  Stop what you are doing and pay attention.  Hold their face in your hands, or just hold their hand. Let them feel the connection.

If you’re sad, tell them you are sad. If you’re mad, tell them you are mad. Make sure you end the statement with a “but”… “I am feeling sad but let’s take a walk and that will help me to feel better”, “I am mad but not at you, it is something that happened at work/church/school. I just need to relax for a minute and I will talk to them/him/her tomorrow”. You can’t expect your children to be your sounding board, but they need to know that they are not the cause of your feelings. Let them feel the connection and maybe learn to express their own feelings in the process.

I am sad and sorry for my mom – and for that little girl that was once me. There was always a barrier between us – I know now, as an adult, that it wasn’t really something that I did, it was something she just couldn’t understand or overcome.  Her response was to shutdown and shut everything out. But the inability to connect caused me to have feelings of unworthiness. A mother’s love is everything to a child. If your own mother can’t love you – you can’t be loved. Of course, this is a child’s way of thinking but the pattern is set.

That version of my mother is gone. I grieve the lost chance of making that attachment. If I were that friend, the empathetic one, I would say, “Remember that you are strong. There were things that she gave to you despite her own struggles. Maybe it is time to stop waiting and wishing and accept what was. Have the courage to move forward.”