Mother May I

I’m quick to say that my mom and I have little in common, but I ASK for her opinion about almost everything. Today is her birthday. Today, like most days, I am thankful for her. Off the top of my head, in seconds, I can think of 14 girlfriends who would give EVERYTHING they have to have another day, or week, or year, let alone years, with their moms. I do not take it for granted that I have my mother still, to talk to, or text about wordle every day, or to vent to, or to give me an “atta girl” when I do something fabulous and feel like I want a verbal pat on the back. She has never NOT been there for me when I needed her. That counts for a whole lot in my list of what matters.

My mom and I are sometimes like oil and water, meaning not easily combined, but for the most part we have enough of the same likes, dislikes, and qualities, opinions about things that matter, that we have a pretty good relationship. You know how a good vinaigrette or salad dressing is good because it takes flavors that you might not think go together and it mixes them so that they are delicious and become a brilliant combination?? Well, in many ways that is how I think of me and my mom.

My mom and my sister have so much more in common, but we have enough similarities that we are mostly okay, most of the time. Sure we have had ups and downs, of course every mother/daughter duo does, but now that I am older and she is getting old we really are able to talk about most things. We do not talk about that which divides us, so no politics and no public policy and often no current events…we have learned how much we can tolerate about each other and we work pretty hard to find our common ground…we both love our yards, flowers, a clean house, everything in its place, we both hate unmade beds, dishes left in sinks, or clutter. We are alike in enough ways that we genuinely like each other.

I used to say, when I was younger, that the only thing we had in common was that we loved the same group of people, but that has changed, a lot, over a lot of years, and we do find many things, most days, on which we are in agreement. We do deeply disagree on some HUGE things, but we have enough agreement on enough little things that we are pretty great together, like a unique vinaigrette. If you seek out things to argue about, as a mother/daughter dynamic, you will find things to argue about…if you try to find what you have in common whenever you are together or speaking, well you will find peace in your relationship. It’s too easy to focus on what annoys you or what makes you baffled, so do the hard work of finding the things that bring you closer. Moms are not around forever so you might as well make your relationship the best that you can…this is what my mom and I have done over the years, we have tried to make our relationship the good kind. You know how you might think Myer lemons won’t go with mustard, or sriacha won’t go with lime zest, or soy sauce with raspberry puree, but then when it’s all whisked wildly together it’s fantastic?? That is, at the end of the day, how I think of me and my mom, like the most unlikely salad dressing that shocks you with how delicious it is with all the components mixed together. Mother may I wish you a happy year ahead?? Mother may I tell you that I am grateful for you??

The Weight of Waiting

Failure to thrive is a diagnosis that refers to slow growth or insufficient growth in babies, but it could be tomatoes in your garden, it could be saplings on your Christmas Tree farm, it could be your marriage. Failure to thrive is not your “fault” but needs to be addressed if it’s happening on your watch. You don’t blame a baby for NOT growing at the rate that is healthy for it’s birth weight, and you don’t wait around and do nothing for its weight to improve, or your stunted tomato plants for that matter, you don’t kick at the soil, you don’t crush the sprouts with your boots, you try to identify what is going wrong, what is missing, what kind of nourishment is lacking, what can be improved upon…you don’t just watch and wait for the growth to be sparked by magic, you DO something. It is an active experience, the problem solving, you don’t just wait for something to happen, you make something happen.

I have made countless mistakes and missteps in my adult life, many more than some, fewer indeed than others, and one of them was waiting too long hoping something I wanted to happen might happen…the weight of waiting, for me, has proven to be too problematic, too many times. I am aware that I must have realistic expectations but I am often now a somewhat impatient person. I want results quicker than time and life allows…When a relationship is suffering; be it a marriage, a friendship, the neighbors with whom you are not at all neighborly…you don’t just wait it out, hoping for things to get better do you?? should you?? The weight of that kind of waiting is often unbearable. To me it would be sort of like watching a baby, or a tomato plant, shrivel up and wilt while you sit and wonder what maybe you could be doing differently, or if you ought to be doing anything at all. You could ponder the problems all you want but if you don’t take action, or make an actual effort, I am pretty sure that the results are not going to be what you had hoped or anticipated. Whether it’s your boss, a friend, a neighbor, a romance, an obnoxious teen, your tomatoes…ANY of those relationships can be improved upon if you ACT upon them, and it’s rather likely that none of them will simply get better if you simply wait for them to do so…waiting it out has it’s limits…it’s too heavy…

A new romantic relationship is not much different than a new baby or seedlings…it comes into your life and is all shiny and fresh to you and you have to figure out how you ARE TOGETHER. To GET each other. It does not matter if it’s the 9 pound one ounce perfect pink bundle I brought home from the hospital on a bitter cold January morning in the 80’s, or if it is the tan drummer with the perfect straight smile I met on a hot summer July night nearly a decade ago…there is action that is needed, there are things to be done, to get to know each other, to make a new relationship grow and thrive. I like to think of it this way; that I am an active participant in my life, I am an active participant in my future, my past actions are my history, HERstory, and my past actions are where I learned because I made many mistakes, and later understood where I could have done better…with my baby, with my boyfriend, and actually also with my tomato plants…To live and learn is no joke.

When things have gone wrong in my life I don’t get mad at myself right away, or beat myself up for screwing up, I first identify the problem…projectile vomiting infant in the summer of 1986, angry and sad drummer boyfriend in the summer of 2021, worm infested and wilting tomatoes in just about every summer in between…things have gone VERY wrong in my life VERY many times. I have learned something about my baby, my boyfriend, my tomatoes, at every turn. The weight of waiting, each and every time, was too much for me…I am not so privileged to expect immediate gratification, immediate results, immediate change, and I am not so naive to think that things will improve with no effort on my part. I have had to DO things to MAKE things happen…it is the only way. It is the only way that I myself can thrive.

A number of times in my past I waited too long to do what I knew I needed to do, in my gut I knew that I had to act, and I didn’t. I have learned that being a passive observer of my life does not work for me. Many times I was hopeful that some sort of magic was going to happen, and when changes did not materialize, when there was a failure to thrive, I learned from those less than magical experiences. The weight of the waiting is too heavy for me now, this I have learned as I myself have grown. Maybe you are stronger than I, maybe you have a tougher will than I do, but I can only know myself and my herstory, and, as always, I feel grateful when I think I learned from all of it. When I feel I must act, now that I am past middle age and there is less time to wait, I act.

If you are suffering or struggling right now, know you are not alone, you are never alone…WE ALL have suffered or struggled in some way, at some time, and we all have experienced a failure to thrive scenario at one time or another…anybody who purports that no, no they get it right every time, well, they are full of themselves and self aggrandizing, and probably are not worth your time because they are likely lying to you and nobody needs a liar. If you are feeling the heaviness of wanting something to change, know that many of us get it, we know, we have felt that same way…the urgency, the rush, the knowing that something needs to be done…so like the commercial used to say, just do it. What you feel in your gut should be done, is probably the exact right thing. Action words, verbs, doing…this is the answer. The weight of waiting is too much for most of us, and those of us who have contentment now, because we suffered in the past, AND LEARNED THOSE LESSONS, know this better than anyone…actions are what got us to where we are…we finally understood that we didn’t have time to wait…

Space Invaders

At one of my yoga classes last week, the instructor asked us to think of ten things/people that we loved and hold space for them while we practiced…and it wasn’t until the end of class that I realized, with a jolt, that I had not included myself in the list of ten things I loved. Other people and other things invade my space every day and I suspect yours as well, we, women especially, or so I like to think, put our families and our jobs and our homes and our obligations in front of ourselves countless times a day, so that over the length of a year we have moved our own needs to the bottom of the To-Do lists time and time again. It’s not a bad thing at all to feel profoundly blessed or grateful to have your loved ones but it is a bad thing to consistently put their needs ahead of your own. WE ALL KNOW THIS MUCH IS TRUE, yet, we do it, year after year.

If you have young children or elderly parents, or a money pit of a house, or a tirelessly bossy boss, then you know that in the 16 or so hours of your awake time in a day those things take up most of your thoughts…add sickness, financial instability, or worry of any other sort into the mix it’s quite likely that you don’t think about yourself, or your needs, AT ALL in the day, but maybe at bed time when you realize that you’ve brushed your teeth but forgotten to take off your mascara, and “oh shit! I forgot to put that load of wash into the dryer!” The space you have made for yourself in the 24 hours of that day turned out to be as thin as a knife’s edge and it’s possible that tomorrow will be exactly the same…

I have made many changes over the last months, and putting myself (my needs, my peace, my happiness, my health) at the top of the To-Do list as often as I can has been the change I most consistently work on. I started making space for someone else when I was only 18 years old and became a mother…the self indulgence of youth and the freedom of being in college and starting “real life” was lost to me on a bitter January morning only months after I became an “adult” so I missed out on ALL of that ME ME ME time, which is not to say that I have never be selfish, but seldom did I ever get the chance…but now, well, things were different then, all is different now…

The grandchildren I helped to raise are 16 & 14 now, and they need me mostly for rides, and on-line ordering, and sometimes Venmo, meaning they don’t need me much at all anymore, and while that leaves a bit of an “emptiness” in my heart, that feeling of being somewhat irrelevant now to them, what is left is space…space I can fill in a way that I choose.

I realized that morning at yoga, before the start of my work day, that for more than 36 years my space has been filled with my daughter, and then her daughters, and boyfriends mixed into my time over the years, and small family or friend kerfuffles, and that MY TIME TO MAKE SPACE FOR ME IS NOW. There is not any starting line, no wait to prep or begin, I won’t get $200 for passing GO, it’s just here now, me time, making space for that which matters to me, more than anything or anybody else. I started painting my house last April and still have two walls and the shed in the back yard to do, THAT matters to me, making the time to finish painting my house matters to me. I started drinking MUCH less over the last year and eating MUCH better these last few months, and making time to improve my health matters to me. I started writing every day again, my attention had waned over these last few years, and making time to feel creative, that matters to me. Getting onto my yoga mat consistently, at least five times a week, matters to me…ME ME ME.

I guess my thought of this morning is, if other things that have seemed very important have invaded your space, please consider making some room for yourself, your needs, your wishes, your dreams…if you have been thinking that maybe you could make some changes for the better, it’s probably true. The people who need us and the people who love us will get used to having us less available, more often, over time. It used to be that we did not know who needed to talk to us during the day until we got home from work and pressed play on our answering machines…now we get phone calls or text messages all day long and feel like we need to attend to them immediately. We don’t.

I can worry about my adult daughter and the changes she is experiencing in her life right now, and I can worry about her teenagers, and I can worry about my aging parents, and my boyfriend, and my friends…I can be concerned for all of these people and still focus on myself…I am learning to compartmentalize my life…there is a bin for everything, a file for everyone, there is a way to organize my thoughts that I can turn off ALL CONCERNS FOR EVERYBODY but me for 9 hours a week of yoga, or for the hours of a week with my playlists loud while at work, there is a way to keep myself at the top of the To-Do list without neglecting my obligations and the way is to recognize that it is NECESSARY. Take some time today my friends to do something just for you…I don’t care if it is for ten minutes or an hour or a day…the space invaders are not going anywhere, take all the time your need…

Time, the body snatcher…

I recently read the interview with Linda Evangelista, about the pain and trauma she is experiencing after a body sculpt procedure, that has been wildly successful for millions of customers, but was not at all successful for her. The story has left me feeling heavy-hearted for a person I don’t even know. She was without a doubt one of my favorites from that era of super models with big hair and long legs, before the rise of what I think they called “heroin chic” which to my eye was never attractive, for the models or the clothes, and certainly did not seem “chic.” I loved that era of the late 80’s and early 90’s and while yes, it was impossible for any average female to identify with, it was beautiful to the eye, and to think that a woman so stupendously successful for being pretty, has chosen to hide away for years after a bad cosmetic procedure has made me so sad. I beat myself up with negative self talk too often; I used to have a flawless forehead with not even a tiny wrinkle and used to have a flat hard belly too, neither of which is the truth now, and the person I see in the mirror has not looked like what I “see” in my mind for decades. At yoga the other day, one of the ladies said, “we all just have to find a way to like what we are now” and I know she is right, but time is a body snatcher and for some, like this former super model, maybe it’s harder to accept than for us regular people. For her, the results of the negative self talk now has her full of pain and regret.

To be honest, if I could afford to have a doctor shoot poison into my forehead to make it wrinkle free, I probably would, it is one of the main reasons I wear head wraps and hats so much, and here is another thing…I can’t afford to DO some of the things that rich people do when they feel Time the body snatcher getting too close! I have no problem at all with plastic surgery or cosmetic procedures, I mean, that lady who has made her face look like a cat is rather disturbing, and the doctor who agreed to her requests should probably not be allowed to practice plastic surgery any more, but I feel like if you have the funds to make things happen that you wish for, WELL GOOD ON YOU! because, most of us can’t afford to fix or change what we would like to fix or change!

Her face on so many of the magazine covers over so many years, and from the beginning of George Michael’s famous video for the song FREEDOM was to me, perfection…her perfect teeth, perfect brows, perfect cheek bones and that perfect forehead with just a wisp of that super funky hair…oh how I love and so miss weird and funky hair from that era! At the time, as a young single mother of a pre-schooler, her face and her body and the clothes it looked built for, well, it was everything I wished for but could not be or could not have. All these years later, while I definitely have more than an inch to pinch and nothing about my face or my body looks like I wish I could make it look, I am in general rather content in my life, extra jiggles and wiggles and wrinkles and all…I felt sad for all her sadness and I suppose it made me recognize that I am glad for my overall happiness. I don’t really like how I look, compared to my younger self, but I am not stuck hiding away or in agony…her story was sad.

I guess what made me the most sad for her is that somebody so spectacularly beautiful could not find peace with the regular pace of aging. It’s life, it’s living, it happens…All the money and all of the success can’t keep Time away…it is a body snatcher. It got me thinking about how much we women often equate our worth and wellness with what we see in the mirror. I do know several women who are in as good, or even better physical shape now, in their fifties and sixties as they were in their twenties, but I know far more women like myself, who have not seen in the mirror what we see in our mind’s eyes, for decades!!!

I suppose if I had spent my life as a super model, being paid for being pretty and being thin, and then found myself feeling both not pretty nor thin, it would be rather traumatizing to my psyche, certainly more than what I believe I “suffer,” which really is just feeling down about myself sometimes, and sometimes filled with mean-talk between my ears, despite all the amazing things my body does every day and how super capable and strong it is! I suppose her mean talk to herself forced her to try something new to “fix” what she thought was in need of fixing. This former super model, is in agony both physically and mentally, and suffering terribly at present, or so it seems from this article, from deep emotional trauma for having tried to get a cosmetic procedure that was supposed to improve that which Time the body snatcher had taken away, and it made me sad for one of the most beautiful people in the world. Body image, body distortion by your own mind, is not uncommon for women, be they “mad fit” or plump! AND here we have a woman our age who infamously would “not get out of bed for less than $10,000 a day” feeling as bad about herself as so many of us “regular” women do, or actually, by both the tone of the article in People magazine and her essay on Instagram, I suspect she feels infinitely worse about herself than I do, or any of us do really!

“All we have to do now, is take these lies and make them true somehow” is how the chorus of that song goes…We women notoriously tell ourselves lies all the time don’t we?? That if we don’t LOOK a certain way we can’t ACT a certain way, or WEAR special things, or don’t DESERVE TO HAVE CERTAIN THINGS or don’t deserve to be TREATED a certain way…Lies, Lies, Lies. Here I am pondering, contemplating, looks?? worth??? value???? the whole world around us is a mess and I can’t stop thinking about this former super-model, of my age, who went to get a cosmetic procedure that was “supposed” to give her the toning results she was looking for, as she aged, to feel better about herself, and sadly for her she is one of the very few for whom the procedure does not work, at all. It has me thinking about contentment and how if we let it, Time the body snatcher will snatch our positive thoughts as well as our youthful bodies…

How we LOOK is not WHO we are. We are WORTH whatever we think we DESERVE or WANT. Our VALUE as a person has nothing to do with what size jeans we wear…I for one have many things about my own body I would like to improve upon, and I will continue to try to keep Time the Body Snatcher from getting too close, but remember friends that we are not what we look like we are what we do, and Time the body snatcher can’t take our goodness away…Talk pretty to yourself today friends, and for today love the body you are in right now, just as you are. Like the tv commercials used to say, “love the skin you’re in” and more importantly, “You’re worth it!”