Dec 27, 2014
We called her The Napkin Lady. She’d come into the restaurant during off hours like after lunch. She’s order something small from the swing shift waitress. And then, when she was in the empty-ish dining room, she’d grab all the napkins from the settings of the neighboring tables and head for the bathroom. The toilets in the lady’s room would always be stopped up after her visits.
I’d like to tell you that we all felt sorry for her. We kinda did but that toilet situation made it difficult for those of us who had to clean up the overflow. And eventually she was given a warning. I don’t know if she was banned. But I do know that she was also a “cat collector” and lived right down the street so that I would walk by her house occasionally. She was weird but sweet. And no one wanted her shame to rub off on them.
We distance ourselves from people who seem needy or less fortunate. As if shame and misfortune and self-loathing may be contagious. Who wants to serve the homeless food at the holidays when it reminds people of where they never want to be? Let’s go the mall instead where everything is OK, shiny, and perfect. Why bring the holiday mood down by taking a hard look at where we could go but for the grace of God.
Sure I find myself frustrated when I am confronted with homeless men at every stop light in downtown Baltimore holding cardboard signs claiming their shameful plight. I don’t ever remember there being this many of them. And I am very tempted to take the beltway round next time. Because I don’t want that poverty and need in my face. Somehow it reflects badly of society or the city and of me.
But what if we didn’t cause it and we came from a place of compassion for the people who are whacked and downtrodden. What if we disengaged from all the judgements and defenses and panic and just sat with the idea that world cooks up lots and lots of recipes for people and not all of them are good. But there they are and deserve to be seen but not necessarily fixed by you or me. If we didn’t make it about us then maybe we sometimes could make it about them. And show our humanity every once in a while.
Jul 16, 2014
If you listen to your internal voice, sometimes you may hear yourself use the ” ould” words, should and could. When these words star in my mental dialogue, it’s a sign I’m feeling conflicted whether I am supposed to do something or not. Ould words foreshadow wiggly thoughts.
So I’m sorting out my yard sale stuff in the attic and it occurs to me, any time I say “could”, that is a project of indeterminate limits. As in, I could use this item at a possible future date which is unsure and might happen. And that was a red flag for me to throw it out. Because if it was worth doing, it would already have gotten done.
As for the appearance of the “should“, I was talking with a fellow baby mama about how to dodge the baby blues. And I realized that we’re all trying to do the best by our babies, not always for ourselves, but we’re not letting go of the rest. So when that should pops into our brains, it’s a warning sign of overachieving. I am so tired but I should have all that laundry done before the school bus comes so that I can make dinner for the family to eat well and save money from going out. Shoulda, coulda, woulda.
Yes it would be ideal to be able to clean the house, breast feed to whatever point you believe is socially acceptable to stop, make money with an online shop, or even allow the crazy relatives to hold the baby. But in reality, there’s reality. Sometimes we have to let go of our expectations of ourselves as super achieving, earning powered, proprietary, and fortune-telling adults. Or not. If it doesn’t cause a load of stress for you, keep doing what you’re doing.
We do have choices. Funny how we absolutely believe we don’t. If you don’t think you do, you do a disservice to the women who starved themselves a hundred years ago to earn women the right to vote in The United Stated of America. The suffragettes didn’t stage their peaceful and painful protests to have you now think that you don’t have the power to choose or unchoose your current obligations/situation/choices.
I am all for delegating. Even though we haven’t two dimes to make a campfire with, I hired someone to weed my garden as I sat under the baby watching the weeds grow. And I used my yard sale money to pay to have the house cleaned. I can sit here and write because my bathrooms and floors are clean. My priorities are as they are but my methods were modified.
If you think that Martha Stewart made all her millions by cleaning her floors the right way herself, you’re deluded. She writes the how-to’s all up and hires others to do all her multitudes of tasks at her multiple manses because she can’t do it all. And apparently, you can make even more money when you get others to do it all for you while your selling the lies that claim you do it all. You need money to make money but you need to let go of control too.
Should you let go of unrealistic expectations of your time and mental energy? Yes. Should you say yes to freeing your muddled mind from the little mundane stuff to see a bigger picture where your back doesn’t hurt all the time? Yes. Should you expect yourself to be Super-Mom/Wife/Friend/Co-worker to gain the world’s approval and recognition that your existence is meaningful? That’s up to you. I say, choose something else, even if it’s wrong, and give that way a try. You may find that allowing for help or less achievement in one area (cleaning) may lead to another boost in esteem in another area (writing).
Feel free to tell me any and every thought you have on your shoulds and coulds. And there between us, we may learn something together.
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Jun 2, 2014
I’ve noticed the theme of proactive versus reactive popping up in my life regularly. I mentioned it a couple posts back in passing. And since I keep noticing it, it’s time to take a harder look at what this means.
Every action that’s taken is proactive or reactive. Let me show you what reactive looks like. In finances, you can just pay the minimum balances, wait until you’re threatened with legal action, and checks are bouncing before you take care of your financial obligations. This causes a lot of stress and I’ve been there. It’s no fun crying in the bank. Reactive financial management isn’t a good thing and tends to make one feel bad.
You can wait until your family looks at you with hungry eyes to start thinking about dinner. Or until you are wearing your last pair of clean underwear before you do the laundry. Or wait for the call from the neighborhood association to ask you to move your dead bus from the place it has sat in front of your house festering in the sun for over 10 years.
When I haven’t acknowledged my power in my life then I’ve spent a lot of time waiting for others to make decisions for me. And probably resenting them for it. Sometimes letting it happen to us is passive aggressive and sometimes it’s just the lack of true understanding that we have the power to choose.
I love to quote Rush, a band from the 90’s. “If you choose not to decide you still have made a choice”. We are never truly victims to the world when we have so many many choices and options at our disposal in our modern, and my North American, society. What works and feels better for me is to start being conscious of being proactive.
Proactive involves a little extra effort and always pays off with less stress, provided you want less stress. It feels like winning a scratch off lottery ticket to be happier, more productive, and a better mother. All good. Esteem boosting is just a to-do list and pro-action away.
I do understand that sometimes the way you always have done things is hard to change. Resistance comes from inside and outside. My low self-esteem had me a victim of a lot of people, places, and things people. When I recognized my ability to make a choice, I flipped a switch. And another. And another. And another.
Then, as I’m perusing my email this afternoon, I read this gem from a creative website I receive emails from and I immediately knew I needed to write something. ”Essentially, reading emails first thing in the morning triggers your reactive self. Instead, we need to get that proactive side of you turned on more often to see great things happen in your business.”
Before this year, I never wrote out life or career goals. Because I guess I always figured life was something that just happened to me. I do write budgets sometimes but since the baby’s arrival, I’ve had a harder time keeping up with bills and certainly not ahead of them. That’s about to change. Because every day is another chance to start over, that’s why.
Pro-activity starts with wanting something better. And I’m finally allowed to have that.
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Feb 21, 2014
This is not a new concept, the importance of knowing.
Except, it’s one of those I keep saying ‘aha’ to.
I really didn’t want that job at the television station even though
it was amazing I’d gotten it.
I really didn’t need to be married at the age of 23 even though
you couldn’t tell me not to be.
I’m good with knowing I don’t want to meet the end of my life wondering what may have happened
if I’d just tried…
to have another baby, to create a career that was fulfilling,
and to stop being afraid of my possibilities.
I want to thrive and show my children life is cram packed with fun possibilities.
I will raise them knowing life waits for us to squeeze and shake
every last lovely hurrah that we can out of it.
Try everything, edit later.
PS. It’s OK to not know what you’re doing too.
Feb 12, 2014
Around the world, many families are cared for by a stay at home caretaker or housewife or husband. I am one by both default and by choice. I was unwilling to work only to pay for childcare so I am focusing on my writing career and blog and am in charge of our children and all things domestic. I’m truly proud of how good I am at this, but I get the feeling others may not be proud of their role as caretaker. And I understand that too. I get overwhelmed and feel powerless to add money to the pot.
The flip side is that I may make it look too easy. Which results in me feeling a little overwhelmed and under staffed. Unlike me, my husband is no way compelled to rush to my aid me as I’m cooking, handling a screaming baby, and directing my son through his chores before the school bus arrives. I feel like there’s an outdated unspoken agreement between he and I, maybe not too dissimilar to the ones made by other parents through the centuries, which states this is your job and that is mine. You do X and I do Y. This arrangement doesn’t always work for me. Our age, lifestyles, and head count have changed and the time has come to rewrite the rules for the roles. And separate the truth from the untruth.
The primary fallacy: If my man is bringing home the peanut butter and jelly sandwich makings, my downtime relies on his availability first. In other words, I would get little time off from the baby if he’s got work related tasks to take care of. He’s a freelancer and all of that working adds up to new jobs.
But, if mama doesn’t get some time off to do things hands-free like vacuum, dye hair roots, or even, dare I say, do something leisurely like get a manicure, this Momma feels resentful. Bad mojo Mommy means everyone suffers. I found myself beseeching him and justifying my request for him to have a baby day and that doesn’t set right with me.
My biggest misstep was in creating a situation where I won’t let go of care-taking everyone. And the second is in not asking for my needs to be met. This combination makes me a martyr and I don’t like the sound of that in the least. I’ve been a doormat before and here I’m recreating it with people I love? The spoiled are made by a spoiler. And since hubby can’t read my mind, I’ve got to shut off the closed captioning. Out loud or nothing changes.
So I have begun to change stuff up. I asked what sorts of breakfasts the boys would be willing to make for themselves. And they’ve been doing it. Next step is scheduling these on the calendar so everyone, including me, knows when and what Mommy‘s not doing. Lesson number #153, what you do for them, they’ll expect.
I once considered saying I was going out for milk and then calling to say I stopped by for my long overdue pedicure. Then I managed to jam this task into a stroller nap. In the end, it’s still my choice to give it to me. I don’t have to steal what I’m entitled to.
I am thinking I just need to get a little more honest and a little less codependent. When I get mad at something, I’m usually madder at myself for a choice I’m making or not making. How about I say, “Mommy’s off at 7pm so get your needs met before that“. Or “Tonight’s a leftover night, I’ll be upstairs soaking in the tub“.
I finally started booking time with the husband on the calendar for his baby care time. It helps that he’s not terrified of her anymore. Only took 9 months. Sadly, just when I started to enjoy a weekly babysitter for 4 precious hours, she’s off to college. Sigh.
Here’s to commanding, borrowing, and scheduling all the Mommy free time you can get. I always tell women, “You know your driving, right?” I believe we really are the family decision makers in many ways. And taking care of ourselves ensures that our family is better taken care of as well. Model self-respect and your children will grow up to respect themselves. A happy Mommy means a happy family.