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

16Aug

An Old Prayer for Our Kids

I want you to have love, success and happiness.

These things come from you, to you.  It assumes a grounding of stability.

Stability is created from Discipline. 

Discipline is a result of saying no to yourself when you look at consequences that will be negative.

Growth is a result of all of these things.

Please choose growth.

 

The Paradox of Parenting

It doesn’t matter how perfect you are as a parent – what your child takes from you is uniquely your child’s.  This does not mean to be lazy or sloppy as a parent — because what you do matters.  Yet, your children must travel their own unique journeys.

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.

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.

 

08Oct

Worrying Crowds my Brain and Pain makes Me Dumb

I have made a couple of poor decisions in the last couple of weeks, and, I cannot apologize.  Those decisions have come from a brain crippled with worry.  At my age, one gets very good at disciplining the emotive side of the brain.  My brain leans towards the analytical thinking side on most days anyway.  But, when I worry for my children, I turn into a full blown idiot.

There is something primal about love for children.  Specifically, it is a love that has no cause, it is simply consuming; part of the universal law of survival.  To concern ourselves with our offspring is to ensure that life goes on.  Perhaps this is why parental love is so enduring and encompassing.  It must be, or humans would perish from the earth.  (I digress.)

My daughter, my youngest, coincidentally, also the smallest.  She is the fiercest mother I know.  She has had to be, the challenges are astronomical.  I have heard that her situation is more and more common in today’s world.  My daughter is held hostage 800 miles from her home and family because of the fact that she had a child with a resident of a state that she visited.  This hostage situation has turned into the worst nightmare for her and (of course) by extension to her family.

The most common activities that I can take for granted with my other grandchildren are an impossibility.  My daughter has two sons, both handsome, smart and kind.  I cannot see them unless I buy a plane ticket and they are an impossible driving distance away.  (But enough about me.)

Imagine my daughter’s life, no familial support, an ugly and mean man as the father of one of her sons.  Every time she works she needs a paid babysitter, must do all of the driving, and all details of life sit squarely on her shoulders.  Getting the boys to school Monday morning can be a huge ordeal because her work schedule may keep her into the wee hours of the day.  Most difficult, most painful, is the fact that she is alone – and for the time being – nothing can change that.  So when a trauma occurs; can you imagine the length of the long distance calls?  When that trauma cannot be remedied; can you imagine the tears cried into a pillow, no strong shoulder to cry on here?  When the worry for her children cannot be abated, the suffering begins to show in her body, her eyes, her life.  Because this suffering has gone on so long, it becomes a pervasive part of this life.

I know for sure that this suffering will end.  It has been going for so long, I know that it must stop.  In the meantime what damage has been done?  What hurts have been internalized?

I also know for sure that the best path for me is not to be her mother and tell her what and how to do.  This fierce woman is in survival mode.  My best path is to be the quiet and kind friend.  Please, please God, deliver us from this evil and give me back my daughter and grandsons.

09Apr

Not the Best Grandmother

The one who was born on 10/07

The ones who were born on 10/07

I always give all of myself to whatever it is that I am doing.  It is who I am.  I make my choices very carefully, after all I cannot give myself wholly to what I do not care for?

There is this misunderstanding in my family, well actually, a couple of misunderstandings.  One is that my kids believe that my agenda for their kids should be the same as it was for themselves.  Not even close.  My agenda for my kids was an intense laser focus that is not duplicated with grandchildren.  With my grandchildren, I am completely in love and the best way to describe this love is relaxed.  Gone is the need to impose perfection.  Gone is the need to demand performance.  Gone is my own ego.  By this time in my life: I am not feeling responsible for anyone.  I realize that my child’s life is not my fault, therefore my need for the child to make me proud is gone.

My grandchildren are people who like to play (much more fun than their parents).  My grandchildren are beautiful to me.  I don’t care who agrees.

My definition of human success has changed dramatically.  I once thought that my kids all had to have formal education and high paying jobs, I no longer define success in that way.

Success:  the ability to form meaningful relationships, the ability to maintain those relationships without using money as a weapon of control.  A deep and abiding concern for another human being, the ability to be introspective, the ability to care, nurture and love one’s self; these are definitions of success.

So it is, that in this sense, I cannot be the grandmother that my kids want me to be.  I am however, the grandmother that I want to be.

 

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.

26Dec

Daughter Please Come Home

I have to admit that my ardent desire has come to naught.  I can hardly believe that I have to let this go.

As you know, my daughter moved to Norfolk in 2009 with her 3 month old son, my grandson.  It was supposed to be temporary.  It was not supposed to last.  It was not supposed to be permanent.

My family lives in Florida, and they always come back.  Even my brother, who lived away for over a decade, came back.  The issue is that his children were raised somewhere else and so they stayed there.  My brother came back, but his adult children stayed behind.

And that’s the point, people stay where they are raised.  It feels like home and for most people it is.

So I am angry with my daughter, who met another man and had another child.  That man is an angry unhappy man who believes (because his father told him) that women are bad.  My daughter is trapped by a court system that enjoys a good fight.  Norfolk is a Military town and unfortunately considers a man so much more than a woman, when circumstances are considered.  Circumstances are rarely considered.  My daughter is a single woman who has spent that last four years spending every spare dime on attorney’s fees and begging her case in a court room that is not interested in hearing her.  My daughter is trapped surely and resolutely, she has surrendered to this court system that does not consider her, nor her children’s needs.

I am so angry.  Why did she surrender?  I know she fights, but she also says that she will make her life in Norfolk.  No!  Why?  Are you kidding me?

I will be deprived of my grandsons, probably for my entire life.  She will be deprived of loving support throughout my grandsons young life.  How can this be an acceptable reality?  I don’t see it, and I can’t see it.

When my sons went into the service, I could bear being separated from them because of the promise of their return.  I knew they would be back and that made separation bearable.  But now, my daughter is alone, without support, and she has no hope of coming home.  She is not a rebel like her mother.  She does not see a way to get home.  I, of course, would run away.  My daughter was not born in the days of bra burning and open rebellion against “the man”.  She grew up in the 90s with young and compliant people starring in every TV show.  And so, the decision is made by her, to be compliant.

I live without my daughter, the person I have spent the last 34 years being concerned with and about.  I crazy love her, like a thousand boyfriends, I crazy love her.  I want her back.  I cannot bear the idea of living the next 15 years without her and without my grandsons.  It’s an awful thought and a hard way to live.  Every single day I hurt.  Every single day I need and I cannot have what I need.  My grandsons do not get to hear me or understand me; they will miss all of the easy good days of summer in Florida.

I want them all back.  I am angry with a court system that allows this untenable situation to go on for 4 years.  This is a court system that does not consider the family at all.  This has been a roller coaster ride from the beginning.  Why is it possible for this to happen in this America?  This is the court system?  This is what is legal?  My daughter and grandsons are kept in a place 800 miles away from her family because of a psychopathic liar who happens to be the father of her youngest child and have a wealthy father?  Ugh.

Daughter, please come home.

05Dec

Grandsons (contd.)

I want you to know that your current worry will go away.  All things can be evaluated this way: will this matter in two years?  Ninety nine percent of the time the answer is no, and once you know that, relieve yourself of your worry.

I know that many things will worry and concern you over the years and in some ways they should.  It can be a moral compass because it tells you where and how to focus on what is right.  Guilt will do the same thing for you.

Be careful of guilt because guilt is a one way pass to telling yourself that you are “good”.  A good son, a good brother, a good father, a good boyfriend: are all conversations that you have with yourself.  Make sure that you don’t use guilt to make you feel like a good person, and then forgo the actual action it takes to be a good person.  To be a good person, you must actually do something, not just think it.  Guilt will make you feel that you have suffered and therefore have paid the price to “be good”.

I want to add something really important here.  There are times in life (often) when persistence is important.  You may not think you are good enough or smart enough to have something, yet you want that something.  Your inner thoughts should not dictate how hard you try to get what you want.  Sometimes when I am ready to give up, I push a little bit harder and there is the goal right around the corner and it is good.  Keep looking, keep trying, keep working at it, you can attain it.  This is also where clarity will serve you well ~ know what you want and work towards it.  Persistence will get you there when nothing else is working.