I know Mother’s Day was over 2 weeks ago, so I guess you could say I am a bit late with a Mother’s Day post. It is funny, when I was pregnant with Nico during Mother’s Day 2015 people sent me notes to say Happy Mother’s Day. It felt a bit odd to me, as we had not yet met this little baby boy. This year also felt a bit strange — as he is still so young.
My mom passed away when I was 16, and even then she was not really present in my life going back to the age of 12. Those four years in between were filled with doctors appointments, hospitals, nurses, at-home health equipment, food stamps, depression, and so much more. I do not remember much about middle school and the beginning of high school, but I remember the bed pans, the pain, the fear of not being there for her. What kid should go through that? I also do not remember much about how we spent our Mother’s Day each year.
So why do I sound like the scrooge of Mother’s Day? I strongly believe that we do not need these hallmark holidays. Those that know Chris and I will know that my response to someone who says, “Chris, pamper Tami on Mother’s Day.” I would say to that, “pamper me everyday.” Why not, right? We should love, cherish, and take care of each other each and every day. Why find one day out of the year to share appreciation? Why not do it every day? I feel the same way about Valentine’s Day and a plethora of other hallmark holidays.
So since I have spent more Mother’s Day without my mom than I spent with her it maybe takes a bit of the pizazz out of the day for me. Since Nico is so small, why celebrate? When he is old enough to care I would rather he decide how he would like to approach the day. Some kids get really into it. At the end of the day, though, I would rather teach and model to him that we cherish each other every day. Why not, right? Life is short.
I have had those times in my life where I knew I was doing too much, and yet I did not know how to step off the fast-moving train. It often runs through my mind that sometimes being on a fast-moving train means that it is easier (or there is no time) to focus on the pain that we might be holding in life. The thought often crosses my mind — do I stay focused in order to ignore what is painful?
In the book, Rising Strong, Brene Brown discusses what we do to numb the pain in our life.
“We do that by numbing the pain with whatever provides the quickest relief. We can take the edge off emotional pain with a whole bunch of stuff, including alcohol, drugs, food, sex, relationships, money, work, caretaking, gambling, affairs, religion, chaos, shopping, planning, perfectionism, constant change, and the Internet.
And just so we don’t miss it in this long list of all the ways we can numb ourselves, there’s always staying busy: living so hard and fast that the truths of our lives can’t catch up with us. We fill every ounce of white space with something so there’s no room or time for emotion to make itself known.” Page 63
This does not mean the pain has to be gut wrenching. It might just be a dull ache, but we all have a past and often we believe we were left short-changed. Even those that might have had the dream family, childhood, and everything they ever wanted had pain in their life.
The idea comes and goes in my life — am I living so hard and fast, that my past cannot catch up to me? I have been an orphan for 15 years, and there are days when I forget what it is like to have parents. What would it be like to have my mom experience me throughout my pregnancy? What would it be like if she could share what I was like in the womb? Did I kick a lot? How big of a baby was I? What was I like when I was born? That is my reality, but there are times when I would rather get on the fast-moving train, stay busy, and not think about the hard stuff.
There are times when we all get frustrated and act out, not always exhibiting our best selves to the world. Maybe we are having a rough day, are cranky, tired, and in my case potentially hungry. Chris has a joke for when I am cranky and he knows I am probably hungry. He says: “Do you need a Snickers bar?” It is his nicer way of telling me that maybe my grumpy mood is connected to my hunger. Often we also have too high expectations (I know I do) and those lead to disappointment.
“There are too many people today who instead of feeling hurt are acting out their hurt; instead of acknowledging pain, they’re inflicting pain on others. Rather than risking feeling disappointed, they’re choosing to live disappointed. Emotional stoicism is not badassery. Blustery posturing is not badassery. Swagger is not badassery. Perfection is about the furthest thing in the world from badassery.” Page xxvii
So how do we go about focusing more on how we are “feeling” rather than transferring our pain and disappointment to others. First, you might read “Rising Strong.” Another simple way is to talk about it. Chris and I have been talking a lot recently about how we want to raise the son we will meet in just a few months. One of the things that comes to me so strongly is encouraging and creating an environment where he feels comfortable to share his words, emotions, and feelings. I did not grow up in such an environment, and Chris keeps a lot to himself. I want to make sure that we are not doing anything as parents that closes any doors for our son to freely be himself.
A more open and free person feels their hurt and disappointment and acts out less to others. Remember that when you watch someone live their pain, they might just need a bit of help to see what they are doing and how to change gears.
We all have fears. Some are ones we might never share with another individual. Others we have no issue with telling the world about because in some ways it bonds us with others. Somehow over time our list of fears seemingly add up, and for those few of you out there that are daredevils and are willing to do and try anything, I bet there is still something that you are afraid of.
What is your greatest fear? I cannot necessarily say that I have decided what my greatest fear is, but I can tell you that I am absolutely petrified of snakes. Whether I see a small garter snake in the grass, or I am watching a movie with a massive snake I quake just a bit in my skin (okay not a bit, a lot). It does not matter where I am, I do not want to ever interact with a snake. Which means that on a hike, or even out for a run I will literally freak out if I encounter a snake. Forget looking at them at the zoo behind the glass, they still give me the hibbie jibbies. Maybe my fear is because they are so unpredictable, or they have a way of being sly and then striking. I have always been scared of them.
Your fears might be of talking in front of others, or the dark, or traveling on a plane. Sometimes our fears are because of something that has happened in our life, or because of something that has happened to someone we know. Other times our fears are about anticipation. We dream up all these potential scenarios of what could happen, or what should happen, and in reality we make it all up in our head. I am not sure if I can ever get over my fear of snakes, but I do know I probably make a bunch of crap up that keeps me afraid (the self-fulfilling cycle of fear).
Michelle Poler decided to not let her amassing fears overtake her life. She decided to live for 100 Days Without Fear. Take a peek at her website, where she posts videos that show her doing what she is afraid of. It is inspiring, and well I am not doing so well because I had to quickly scan past the video of her holding a massive snake. She did look slightly in pain doing it! So, what are you afraid of that you could maybe overcome?
I just read a heartfelt article from Fast Company called: “Anderson Cooper: Why ‘No Plan B’ Is the Only Plan.” written by Anderson Cooper himself. I have had a news-crush on him for years. I think it first happened after reading his book: “Dispatches from the Edge” that is about his life growing up and his career in journalism. Maybe because his integrity seems to ooze out. Sure he comes from a rich family, he knows luxury. How could you not when your mom is Gloria Vanderbilt. Yet, he chose a different route.
He chose his passion. How many wealthy kids choose to go and be in the middle of a natural disaster, war, riots, poverty, just to tell the story? Not many that I can think of. He has an interesting life. If you read his article, you will learn a bit more about him — about the loss of his father at the age of ten, and the suicide of his brother when he was in college. I love this idea that he shares:
“I’m a big believer in creating your own opportunity if no one gives you one.”
What if we all did that in life? How many opportunities would we bring to ourselves and the world? When did we stop looking for them?
Maybe I relate to Cooper because I have lost a lot of my family. Losing my parents at such an early age made me in some ways grow a shell. It made me realize that I had to look out for myself, and that there wasn’t any “adult” that was looking out for me. Sometimes I think we have this built-in defense mechanism that says oh my parents will be there to pick up the pieces, even when we are 30 and 40 and so on. That never was a reality for me. The words he shares to explain how he felt after losing his father and brother are exactly how I too felt:
“I wanted to become autonomous, prepare myself for any eventuality, and protect myself from further pain.”
While my autonomy means I still have a Plan B, and C through to Z, my story is different. My fears are mine, how I react to them is my story. I hope Cooper’s story resonates with you. You might just find a new opportunity opens up because you are looking for it.