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Archive for the category “Suffocating Cultural Norms”

Daily Ground- – -January 23

If I tell you, “You are beautiful,” does that make you feel good? If I tell you, “I hate your shirt,” does that make you feel sad?  Although it is difficult, I’ve learned that if I become attached to the world’s compliments and successes, I will become attached to the world’s insults and failures. Both are sure to come. If I am grounded in myself – who I am in this moment, then what the world thinks of me can’t make me feel better or worse in this moment.

When people compliment or insult me – it has much more to do with them, than it does with me! It is something in them that causes them to give an insult or compliment. In reality I have no business caring about it one way or the other.

Sounds good but it takes practice, practice, practice.

Peace.

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News Flash: Woman held captive by feeling!

Feelings – we all have them. Feelings are not facts; they rarely make sense.  Why then do they so often hold me hostage? I can be at peace – driving – relaxing – working – eating, and suddenly my world is shaken – heck sometimes even my faith is shaken.  Why?  I didn’t get news of death or getting fired, or divorced, or anything.  It was just a feeling.  A feeling of. . .un-named fear, anxiety, a wave of intense sadness, and then I am trapped.  I can’t escape the feeling, and I begin to ruminate and obsess.

The other day a friend gave me a typical example of this: she bought her first new/used car in about 20 years.  She is intelligent and savvy. She knew the brand she wanted, she knew approximately how much mileage she wanted, she knew what she could afford, and she bought the car.  On her drive home she heard a strange noise.  She called the dealership, and scheduled to bring the car back for service.  While she was driving back to the dealership, a feeling took her captive. If feelings have voices, hers sounded something like this, “You made a big mistake. This car is bad; it may be a lemon. What are you going to do? You don’t have time to deal with this.  This was a huge waste of money. How could you be so stupid? You are so stupid; what a mistake you’ve made!”  All the while her gut is wrenching, her throat is tightening, and she feels as though she must cry or scream or spit. She’d been captured, and couldn’t escape!

I picked my friend up while the car was getting repaired and we spent some quality time together.  We talked about feelings, and we laughed about them too.  We shook our heads thinking how strong feelings are, and how even after much practice, we still can’t completely elude them. They still capture us.

It’s summer. My schedule gets less rigid during the summer.  This flexibility must alert my feelings, because they really come rushing in with swords and ropes to immobilize me. I awake to no alarm and the voice begins: “Wow it is 8:30 – you are so lazy to have slept this late.” Or: “Wow it is 6:00, what is your problem? Why can’t you relax and sleep in?”

Often I awake with sadness or anxiety.  My new practice is to get up anyway. I don’t try to figure it out. I don’t give in to the thoughts and feelings, I just try to move ahead.  Sometimes it stays with me all day; sometimes only for a few minutes. This isn’t to say I simply ignore them – although I guess sometimes I do.  I notice the feeling. I greet it. I sometimes learn something from it. I pray. I meditate, but I don’t delve into trying to figure it out completely. . .anymore. . . I’ve realized that often feelings just don’t make sense.

A friend of mine asked me to run with her the other day.  First the thought comes -“I can’t run with you – you are faster, stronger, better.”  Then right on cue, the feeling comes to bind me. My stomach begins to rumble, my breathe quickens, and I feel shaky.  Then I think – maybe I’m sick – I shouldn’t run. It’s hot – I can’t handle this heat. Usually, I put my running clothes on and get out the door.

One thing that always helps free me from captivity is my voice.  Although often my mouth feels bound shut, and my throat feels it is closing, and I have to force with all of my might to speak.  When I do, when I tell someone what I’m feeling (okay – not just anyone – woah – I’ve learned from my mistakes here). When I tell someone I trust – what I am feeling, I can then think it through. I can process these feelings for what they are – just feelings.  Nothing to be afraid of – nothing that makes sense. It usually ends in laughter and peace.  I’ll take these feelings any day. . . although I know these won’t last either.  None do; they come, they rise, and then they leave.

Peace.

Mother’s Day

Simply reading the title of this blog may elicit a plethora of emotions and expectations. Reading it knowing that this will be the first Mother’s Day I celebrate without my mom, may make some cringe and think, “Oh boy, another post about death and darkness.”  I’m not feeling one way or the other about Mother’s Day this year, and maybe it’s because I’ve never been one to fully engage in what I once heard described as “Hallmark Holidays.”

A few years ago, I read an excellent blog post by Anne Lamott about Mother’s Day (Salon, 2010) and I revisited it again yesterday on the advice of a friend.  Anne Lamott did not raise her son to celebrate Mother’s Day.  I wish I had that insight when my kids were young, but I was too hung up on cultural norms and guilt and control. I expected my husband to perform, when the kids were too small, and make sure the kids got me a present, blah, blah blah.

I am a mother of two incredible children, but what does that mean – being a mother? Does that mean I should never leave them alone with any one that isn’t related until they are old enough to tell me if anything bad happened? Does that mean I should sacrifice things I may enjoy to be a stay at home mom? Does it mean I should put all my needs on hold while parenting my children? Does it mean I should attend every game, recital, parent visiting day at school, etc.? Well yes and no.  It depends.

What if staying home with my kids makes me angry and resentful? What if finding a balance between work and home brings me peace? What if I find safe, nurturing people who enjoy being with kids 8 hours a day while I do things that make me feel confident and darn good about myself? Does this make me unworthy of Mother’s Day cards? Am I the reason the current generation is so self-centered and out of control? (As most generations feel about the younger one).  Or am I simply  a human being who doesn’t meet the expectations of those sickening verses on Mother’s Day cards?

My sister and I used to hate picking out Mother’s Day cards – okay maybe we didn’t hate it because we used our humor to help us through. We made fun of them and made up what a true verse would sound like coming from our family.  It was difficult to find a card that was true; our childhood was not rainbows and cupcakes, but we loved and admired our mom for many things.  However we didn’t love and admire her for any of the things that are written about in those verses.  I don’t remember my mom being around much when I was younger. My mom struggled with many issues – and I bet a big one was trying to live up to the societal norms of motherhood – and boy oh boy – I think that one can really mess with you.

My mom and I lived together as adults; she lived with me and my family.  Ninety percent of those 13 years were just fine.  The last few were very, very, very difficult.  I went to therapy during those years, and I remember one of my first sessions complaining about the stress in the home and saying, “I would never ask my mom to leave!” My therapist responded with something like, “That sounds like a really dangerous and unhealthy statement.”  I had this Mother’s Day verse mentality.  She did not tell me to kick my mom out, but she pointed out to me that in some homes, it just doesn’t work. If my mom got too sick or mentally ill, or if the tension just got to be too much, I would of course need to look at other options.  Once I created some space away from the Mother’s Day verse, I was able to exhale and see how difficult and tense this Mother/Daughter Dance had become.  I was then able to be kind (most of the time), lower my expectations, ask others for help, and most importantly: not feel guilty about it being so damn difficult sometimes.

It feels good to throw off the old ideas I carried for so long. Not just about Mother’s Day, but Valentine’s Day, our Wedding Anniversary, even big ones like Christmas or birthdays.  I am turning 50 in a few months, and I am throwing my own party!  It won’t make me feel any more or less loved or valued if you do it for me!  Just like tomorrow – Mother’s Day – doesn’t mean I need to sit in a chair with my feet up – that would just feel stupid to me.  Being a Mother means I birthed a child – if you didn’t – it shouldn’t make you any more or less valuable than me.  In fact – having a special day just comes with baggage about how I’m supposed to act, and it gets in the way of the true me, and for me, it gets in the way of true joy.

One disclaimer: if you are a mom and feel good about being with your kids 24/7 – that is awesome for you, but not for everyone.  Maybe this is just my issue, but I feel a lot of times we moms are posturing to be close to others that are just like us so that we can judge the ones that are different.  Not all families need the same things emotionally. Not all kids need to be parented the same way. Not all couples need the same things for their relationships to be successful.  It’s okay.  It’s okay. (I say this twice as a mantra for myself). There isn’t a template for human relationships – it always all depends.

One of the best things about being a mom – is finally letting my mom off the hook.  Finally realizing that those silly storybook or Hollywood or Leave It to Beaver moms where not REAL.  I am not a perfect mom – nor do I want my kids to see me as perfect for that may set up some sickness in them to go out and be perfect.  We are all raised by human beings and I have yet to meet one that is perfect. Real moms come with baggage . . . and personalty.  The  personality is what brings me joy.  I laughed so hard with my mom at times that I cried.  She was a goof, and I loved her. I can’t fit her into a verse on a Mother’s Day card.  I certainly will take some time tomorrow to remember her, and miss her, but guess what, I kind of do that everyday.

Peace.

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