04Oct

My Mother’s Burden

Grampa Becky Gramma 1979 Grampa Me Boys 1979From my Dad’s Mom to my MomGramma and Grampa 1979 Gramma2:

Dear Pat,

We want to apologize for not showing up at Shannon’s.  Without parking places, John felt like giving it up, so that’s that.

I am very appreciative of the one evening, we were to see almost all the young ones.  I was also grateful to everyone being so kind and loving to me.

Hearing the young ones saying, I love you sounds so sweet and open, like an ordinary, glad to see you.

I guess I could have learned from them.  If I had practiced saying instead of that noble old saying “to love is to serve.  It might have helped a wee bit.

Then again, the older generation didn’t blurt out “I love you.”  It just seems like we were too shy and backwards.  This is all bologna.  I do feel a bit dumb.  They are all lovely and I wish we had seen more of them. 

Every good thing should come to you.

Love to every one

Ma

My mother, always in the midst of an emotional tornado.

From Me to My Mom

To ease her pain because I was 3000 miles away:

Tears for you because you will always fight too and because you must watch us – stumble through journeys you have already made and you know you cannot help us and yet you are bound by some invisible magic and mystery that once made you our lifelines.

 

14Sep

Why Do We Blame Our Mothers for Everything?

I didn’t realize this myself until I was around 19 years old in one of those personal growth trainings where you discuss your true feelings for your parents.  I was angry with my mother and I couldn’t fathom why.  My father was this lazy genius who just would not get a paying job.  My mother worked two jobs constantly.  My parents had seven children and they needed every dime possible.  It was my dad’s lack of valuable employment that kept us poor.  If you have ever been poor in America, you know that it can be brutal, and it was.  People / Americans treat humans who are poor differently than the middle class or the wealthy.

I’ve noticed this with everybody and everything; we love our mothers, but our mothers are at fault for everything that is wrong with us.  I see people saying this and I know why.  We spend the majority of our young lives in our mother’s company.  When we run afoul because our personality is not quite right, it is our mother’s fault.  She is the one who teaches us about everything so of course, our lacks are due to our mother’s inadequacy.

I saw my father as somewhat fun, sometimes not.  But I never saw him as responsible, because he was irresponsible, he wasn’t to be held accountable.  While this makes sense to my childish brain, it doesn’t make sense in the adult world.  Those irresponsible like him, should be held accountable for the suffering he put his children through. 

When you compare the two people, the dynamic energetic woman who was my mother and the lounging and laid-back beer drinking man who was my father, you could see that you wouldn’t get any results with my father, so why try?  It was my mother who had to run things, she had to manage it all.  She took care of 7 children, went to work, came home and fixed food.  On her day off, we cleaned the entire house.

The part of this equation that is really frustrating is that we are so used to blaming our mothers, that even adults will blame their moms.  Popular society devalues the mother’s job and yet, as a country, we need mothers more than ever.  It is precisely because we have devalued this role for so long in this country that we are currently facing a dearth of human values. 

Mothers (and fathers) fall helplessly in love with their offspring, they will sacrifice and give away anything for the benefit of their children.  They spend hours teaching and talking to their child.  Over a lifetime it costs as much as half a million dollars to raise one child.  It is a total life investment, one that is incomparable to any other life project.

Our culture should be celebrating this kind of love, commitment and self sacrifice.  It is the derision of these values that has us disintegrating as a society.  Any society that worships selfishness and promulgates wealth for the few at the cost of the many is a society that will soon break.

So why do we blame our mothers for everything?  It’s not just my unusual parenting mix, it’s an entire society.  As far back as the sixties, a diagnosis of schizophrenia was thought to be caused by a certain type of mother who behaved in a certain type of way.

I think there are two causes: the win/lose belief system of our culture and our white male patriarchy.  The white male patriarchy simply wants supremacy and using the win/lose model, matriarchy must lose.  This singular way of thinking has gotten us into every war that humankind has suffered through.  This belief structure insidiously infiltrates everything we do in America.  Female professions are undervalued and underpaid.  Childcare is a ten dollar an hour job. It is no wonder we are at the point that we are in America.

What do we do?  We have all of the answers and we need to apply them.  We need an inclusive culture that values the matriarchy as well as the patriarchy.  We need a culture that reflects the value that we benefit our next generation.  We need a culture that will not sacrifice the many for the one, even if that one is Jeff Bezos.

Saying Goodbye

Saying Goodbye

31Mar

When You Are In It

From the outside our behavior can be identified according to the perception of the person who is observing.  When we are clear headed, we will use social cues to modify and adjust our behavior to keep our behavior acceptable.  We do this the most in public places.  At home, we are less likely to make these adjustments.  Additionally, when we are in power, we are less likely to make these adjustments.

In relationships that we need, we will not only adjust our behavior, but we may even adjust beliefs to accommodate the power of the other and the power of the relationship.

This can be beneficial, therapeutic, indeed, growing the relationship; or disastrous, making the relationship a doomed relationship.

When we are in the relationship, we can only perceive from that personal level.  This is why, we say, that it is difficult to be objective.  It is difficult to be objective, but I would say that it is difficult to be objective because of our beliefs inside of the relationship.  Look at how parents cling to beliefs that their children are nothing but good and pure?  They will not see the lying and stealing of their own drug addicted child until they can let go of their own perception of the loving seven year old who brought love notes homes from school, or their own idea of what a good parent they are.

Our discomfort about our disbelief about our new reality is what causes us pain.  Those that can accept the new reality have a better chance of making a plan and applying it to the new reality and thus creating hope.

There is another component to being “In It” that makes us perceive our relationships in different ways than others do and that is that we may be aware of information that others are not.  This information can make others think differently (perhaps be less judgmental), but we cannot share this information at all and so we must suffer another’s condemnation of our actions even though there are undeserved.

Is it any wonder that honesty is the best way to keep relationships positive?  An honest exchange and discourse, with allowances for others beliefs, can go a long way to understanding.  And truly, when we are in it, we may not see what others see, but aren’t others judgment also clouded by their own belief system?

To say the least, it is complicated, which is why communication is the key to making relationships successful.

24Feb

Don’t Give In, Don’t Give Up

There is a substantial difference between the life you live when you give up and the life you live when you do not give up.  I’m not speaking here about stubbornness or a blinders-on determination to get your way.  No, I am speaking of this idea of continuing to work on your goal until it can be resolved.  Notice the use of the word ‘resolve’, sometimes, we make goals that simply don’t work for us and we will have to walk away from them.

Sometimes I will be trying hard to talk with a “customer service” representative to resolve an issue, request a credit or ask for a reduction in my bills.  Each and every time that I have this goal, I am put on hold for interminable amounts of time, the call gets accidentally disconnected and I have to start over, sometimes a half dozen times.  I am greatly tempted to just give up.  I am greatly tempted to get very angry and just live with the cost of the mistakes of others.  This is not a good life strategy.  

Several years ago, I lost a job and had to take work that was an hours drive away and paid substantially less.  I worked very hard at improving myself.  I dedicated myself to learning this job.  In the mean time, I worked very hard at finding a new job.  I was on Linked-In, I had a great resume’, I applied for jobs every week.  I went to several interviews and was turned down.  One morning in July, on my drive in to work, my resolve broke and I cried and cried.  I was endlessly tired from the long days.  I didn’t fit into my work world and I was deeply unhappy at work.  It didn’t help that every penny of what I made was just getting the bills paid.

Suddenly a song came on the radio: ‘Hold Onto Your Dreams’.  That song, at that moment, was all I needed.  I held on and soon I was transferred close to home with an incredible raise.  That struggle didn’t end there, it took me three more years to land where I needed to be, but every time I got discouraged I remembered that moment in the car and that song.

I think that my life would be incredibly different if I couldn’t hang on and keep trying even when things seem very bad.  That extra effort is what brings me to the win almost every time. 

The second benefit is that it really helps to keep me from faulty thinking.  Or, at least it helps to keep my faulty thinking from controlling my decisions.

I was single for a very long time.  There were times when I thought that I must be flawed and that’s why I could not find an enduring relationship.  In this area of my life I knew that I couldn’t give up.  I did everything that I could to understand myself so that I could be a good partner.  Eventually it worked.  Eventually I found my life partner and it only happened because I was willing to keep on taking chances and to keep on trying.

Imagine me getting discouraged and giving up, single, broke and downhearted.  It doesn’t seem possible now.

Mother's Day Johanna Sr & Jaxsun 2010

Mother’s Day Johanna Sr & Jaxsun 2010

Cadence Birthday - 2010

Cadence Birthday – 2010

Rhea & Jax June 28 2010

David & Jaxsun

David & Jaxsun

Amazing StuffOur First Kiss as Husband and WifeAs We Begin the Ceremony

20Feb

He Doesn’t Like Her

He doesn’t like her.  He doesn’t want to make waves because she is a r.e.l.a.t.i.v.e.

Covertly, he makes sure that she knows that she is not valued by him.  He does not look at her.  When he speaks to her it is insincere, delivered in a monotone.  When she speaks, he speaks over her.  He loves to be part of the delivery of “no” to her.  He waits for the chance to pounce on it.  He waits for a chance to show the world how wrong she is.  He justifies himself in any way possible.

Secretly, everyone agrees.  The behavior stands.  The behavior continues. Even she allows the behavior.  After all, he is a r.e.l.a.t.i.v.e.  But oddly, when she walks away from him, she feels diminished.

20Jan

Death unto Life

If you have experienced the death of a loved one, you know what dying means.  We instinctually know that death is the end.  Nothing goes past death.  We can remember, we can believe in heaven and the afterlife.  However, for us, the living, death is the end, life is over.  You get no comfort from your loved one. ever. again.  Your loved one will never touch you, talk to you, smile at you or laugh with you.  It is a daunting reality.  No wonder that we indulge ourselves in denial.  No wonder that we walk around referring to our loved one as if the one is still here and alive.  We cannot, do not accept the absence of the one we love.

As the days and the years run forward, reality rolls on and you experience more and more the absence of your beloved.  You cannot deny the absence as years go by.  You cannot deny the ending of what was once a beloved life.  You must surrender to the ending.  You must surrender to the absence of your loved one.

So many try to pull the life forward, as if pretending the loved one still exists on earth will keep the loved one alive.  I don’t believe that sentimentality helps.  I saved many, many of my mother’s things after my mother died, only to relinquish bit by bit, painfully spreading out the separation.  My grief kept me from living in the present.  I lost myself in the grief.  I just did not want to let go of her.  I mistakenly believed that her things would transmit a piece of her heart to me.  It took a long time to separate her things from her.  It took a long time to know that she really was gone.

I do not wish to have done anything differently, the death of a loved one is ‘life interrupted’.  There is nothing you can do to change the reality of your grief.  

I just know today, that nothing could be different.  Not any amount of bargaining, denying or trying, could make my mother’s death different, nor could it have made my grief different.  My resistance did not change anything.  Hanging onto my mother’s things did not sooth my loss.  My loss was my loss.

Today is the eleventh anniversary of my children’s father dying suddenly of his one and only heart attack.  I hope that my children are not bargaining, denying and resisting the truth of today.  I hope that they can embrace the grief of the day and then walk away from the day.

 

14Oct

It’s a Downer to Hear about the Failures of You

Silly Train, You are not a BoatI don’t want to hear about what you have done wrong.  I don’t want to hear about the mistakes you have made.  They are only ammunition to justify some behavior, somewhere.  Or, perhaps you use those “admissions of truth” to demonstrate that you are, indeed, a good person.  Whatever the reason that you unload your negative self statements on me, I don’t care, just stop it.  It’s a downer to hear how little patience you have with yourself.   It’s a downer to hear about your self loathing and your self doubt.

You are who you are and within a millisecond of meeting you, I know who you are.   So give me that in our conversation.  Give me who you really are.  I know you aren’t Mother Teresa; I know you aren’t Martha Stewart; I know you aren’t John Wayne or Clark Gable, and, guess what?  I still like you.

14May

On Missing My Mother

I remember the first Mother’s Day after my mom died, it was awful.  Going through the big retailers in the weeks leading up to Mother’s Day was very painful.  The balloons and flowers were reminders that I no longer had any reason to buy a Mother’s Day gift.  It seemed as if there was a huge absence within my essence.  It was an absence that would never get better.

Every time my friends talked about how challenging their own mother was, it sparked anger in me. I said “at least you have a mother”.  I was angry.  How could she leave us so soon and at such an important time?

Over the years (21) the struggle lessened.  I became less angry and my pain less acute.  There are some days, like today, when randomly the hurt becomes acute again.  I don’t know why or wherefore that the hurt just bubbles up within me.

I wish that there was a comforting thought or prayer to make it go away, but there is not.  It just is.

27Mar

So Now, He is Dead and Gone

They met in the mid 90s when it was still cool to be a hippy.  The classical bohemian vibe meant intelligence and caring.  They met at the midtown methadone clinic that she managed, crumbling and falling, you could hear the rats running through the eaves and the attic.

He was pushing 50 and she was barely 35, always married with kids.  He was in the association that helped addicts access treatment for heroin addiction.  His passion for his cause was palpable.  He wanted to open a clinic in Ft. Myers and carried around pictures of people suffering because of their addiction.  He talked her into going to meetings.  They met monthly somewhere in the state and helped to make clear decisions that were empathetic and caring.  He didn’t like the for-profit treatment centers (his organization was non-profit) because he thought that they “sucked” money from their patients only to give it to shareholders without concern for “real” treatment.

They had friends in the state legislature and were able to get things done.  In 1999, she moved away and that was that.

About a year later, she decided to return to the work of addiction medicine.  It was a hard decision, but she realized it was still her purpose, even though she had walked away once.  She applied and applied and applied for work.  One day over the intercom at her job, she was being paged to the phone.  She rushed to pick up the phone and there he was saying, “I have this job, right down the street from your new home.”  She could hardly believe it.

For a long time, they were able to get things done.  His power (brawn) and her brain, along with his trust in her, made their work unstoppable and progressively successful.  He loved systems engineering and so did she.  No task was too small to be acknowledged.

But, Later;

Him “You have to own that.”

Her  “No I don’t, you put me in an untenable situation with a personality disordered nursing supervisor.  No matter what super-human effort I made, it was going to fail under those circumstances.”

Later;

Him “I think I made the mistake of my life, I should have asked you to marry me.  Is it too late?”

Her  “Yes, you’re drunk again, goodbye.”

Later;

Him “You made the biggest mistake, you should have gone on that fishing trip with us.”

Her “Ugh.”

Later;

Him “Go see him, Marc needs you, let him know that you care.”

Her “Ok.”

Later;

Him “I’ll promote you later, when there has been more time.”

Her “Ugh.”

Later;

Him “I have to fire her, look what she did!”

Her “She did nothing wrong, but if you want to fire her, go ahead, you have the power, so use it, but I won’t agree with you, she did nothing wrong.”

Later;

Him “I wish I could talk with you before you leave.  I want to say good-by and let you know how much you have meant to me.”

Her “Ugh. Liar”

Still, she cries.

All through the “scared years” he was there.  Ugly and mean, but he was there.

21Jan

Our Brain Can Change the Reality of History… And What is the Point of Guilt?

My own mother evoked gratefulness and love.  I am not sure why I was particularly present with her, but I was.  I invited her to be with me as much as possible.  Before my mother passed away 21 years ago, we spent an entire day together, one on one and I enjoyed every minute.  She was the kind of woman you could feel comfortable with and it was easy to respect her.  When she died, I didn’t feel regretful because I told her over and over again “I love you, Mom.”  ”You are the greatest mom.”

For Ella Mae, my mother-in-law, it was quite a different matter.  When she passed in 2005, I had not prepared in the same way I did my mother.  I loved her and told her so, but she never knew how important she was to me and our family.  Because she was a formal woman, there just was not the casual love that was available in my family of origin.

I have valued Ella Mae more in retrospect, than I ever did while she was alive.  My own mother knew how much I valued her, I wrote cards and letters and expressed my joy and love in many different ways.  Ella Mae, not as much.  I am very grateful for her contribution to our family and for this reason, I have for the last 12 years been valuing her “things”.

I know better than most that guilt is no replacement for current action and present love, and yet, here I am indulging in guilt because I did not treat her the way that I would want to treat her today.  I find myself thinking “I must hang onto to Ella Mae’s china so that I can pass it on to my daughters.”  Why would I want to imbue value onto the china if I didn’t feel some measure of guilt?  I didn’t value Ella Mae enough while living and so now I must value her china to show the kids how important that she was.  It’s just not necessary with my mother’s things because her value was so well established while she lived.

In this case, I think the point of guilt is so that I can convince myself that I loved her enough and that she knew it.  If I didn’t love her enough while she lived, I am trying to make up for it.  This is a burden for all of us.  It is a burden that I do not wish to bear, nor do I believe that there is any way to make up for my behavior once someone has passed away, nor will I make promises about future behavior.  I simply must say that Ella Mae gave us much, she taught manners and in this way made us comfortable in any environment.  Ella Mae taught me that birthdays are important, my family never celebrated birthdays, it was Ella Mae who brought that tradition to us.  She loved step grandchildren and biological grandchildren and tried very hard to be fair.  She was not fair; the attempt was there.  For this I am grateful.

Ella Mae was a very gracious woman who welcomed everyone into her home.  She saw holidays as a means to give me a rest and she would never let me lift a finger or ‘bring’ something.  She cooked like a chef and hostessed like a queen, and it was those talents that she passed to me.  She had a beautiful silk hanging in the dining room.  For some reason both of my sons had to touch it every single time they passed by on the way to the kitchen.  She may have grimaced and she may have said something, but she never got mad.  Her graciousness extended to everyone.

Maybe now that I understand why I am hanging onto the china, I can actually put it down.  No one wants that stuff anymore.  I do hope that I can pass on graciousness, that’s a gift worth giving.