Letting Go and Hanging On

Did I tell you my back quit hurting?  (Not to make it all about me.  ; )

I talked about chronic back pain on the other blog, where I also wrote about listening to the body when it screams at us (pain!) in an effort to get our attention.

I distinctly remember when the pain started – three months into the last relationship.  (Hello, RED flag!)  The pain ebbed/flowed/annoyed me through that relationship, the breakup, living at mom’s (sorry, mom, but you know what I mean), and through starting a new job at an office that was not a good fit.

I knew the back pain was about stress.  I thought I could push through with yoga, valerian root, whiskey and walking.  Sometimes those things helped, but the pain was still there, waiting to get my attention when I refused to see the stress for what it was.

I started at a new office the beginning of December.  Two weeks ago, I noticed my back had quit hurting.  I didn’t say anything to the kids because I didn’t want to jinx it.  I kept doing the yoga.  The holidays gave me an excuse to drink whiskey.  (In case you’re wondering, I have never combined whiskey and valerian root, though I’ve been tempted.)

Recently, I lifted a heavy object, as a test.  I anticipated a stab.  I thought for sure my back would scream at me.  And, nothing.  No spasm.  No twinge.  Nothing.  I was able to put away the artificial tree without so much as a wince, except I did feel a little guilty about putting Christmas away so early.

I figured I was safe in telling the kids that my back pain was gone.  I did, and didn’t jinx anything.

 

All of this makes me think about resolutions and, conveniently, it’s the time of year when we might take stock in where we are and if we are happy – or at least not miserable – with where we are.

In 55 years, my success rate is abysmal when it comes to resolutions, partly because I rarely make any.

I’m not perfect.  I haven’t got it all figured out.  But I do a fine job of making myself feel bad without adding failed New Years’ resolutions to the mix.

I prefer to look back over the year and decide which things I will let go of and which things I will hang on to.

 

I will hang on to noticing when something does not feel right.  Whether it’s a conditioner or a brand of coffee, a book that seems too violent in the first 40 pages, an acquaintance that drains more than enriches, or a crappy pair of jeans that I never feel good wearing – I will let go of what isn’t good.

It’s in the noticing that something doesn’t feel right, that I learn to let go.

I will hang on to paying attention to my intuition, and let go of the stuff that does not feel good.

 

For Will:  I plan on letting go of worrying.  The worrying feels bad.  I’m tired of communicating those worries to the Universe, and to Will.  I know he is tired of hearing about it, too. (This one will be difficult, and all you seasoned parents are laughing at me because you’ve told me that, as parents, we are never done worrying.)  But, I will stop voicing my worries to him, and I will hang on to letting him know how much I care.

 

For Jen:  I will most definitely hang on to this connection we have, but I will let go when she strives for more independence.  Is that even possible?  I guess we’ll find out.

 

For me:  I will hang on to trusting myself.  I will trust myself to say, “No, thank you,” when something doesn’t feel right.  I will trust myself to let go of those things that do not make me wholeheartedly say, “YES!”

Oh, and I will let go of guilt (stop laughing!) and hang on to letting it be about me, once in awhile.

 

It’s going to be a good year!

 

Happy New Year!

 

 

The Problem With My Teenage Son

He texts at 8:30 p.m. asking if it’s okay to stay the night at his friend’s house.  (I’m irritated that he didn’t text earlier in the evening, but remind myself that he doesn’t need to ask permission.  After all, he’s 19 now, and he’s asking permission to spend the night with a friend whose parents are home.)  I text back and ask if it’s okay with the friend’s parents.  He texts and says, “We already asked.  It’s okay.”

Then he texts, “Love you.”

 

I ask him to chop some wood and get us stocked up on kindling.  He does so without grumbling.  (I’m irritated that he doesn’t notice that we are out of kindling and that I have to ask, but remind myself that he was quick to get the job done.)

 

I ask him how classes are going.  We sip coffee as he discusses his frustrations with this new semester.  He mentions that his grades are good.  (I’m relieved and somewhat surprised that he checks his grades, and then wonder why I am surprised.)

 

I grumble at him for always being on his phone.  “You seem so disconnected from us,” I say.  “It feels like you don’t want to be here.”  He says, “I do want to be here,” as he goes off to his room to get ready for school.  (I wonder if I would want to be here if someone was always bitching at me about chopping wood and being on my phone.)

 

The day the bank statement arrives, we heatedly discuss his finances and whether there will be enough left in his account to pay for the next semester.  “I see how often you stop at Taco Bell.  Why?  Is that what all your friends do?”  He says, “I’m a homeschool kid, mom.  It’s good I have friends to hang out with.  We’re not buying beer and cigarettes.”

“I know I’m blowing through the money,” he says.  “I’ve picked up several job applications.  It’s all gonna work out.  You’ll see.”

He has said this before.

When I worried about whether it was a good idea to homeschool he said, “It will work out.”

 

The problem is that I worry.  I worry that I’ve not done my job.

Have I taught him financial responsibility?  Have I showed him what it is to be a good friend?  Have I taught him the importance of doing well in school?  Will he avoid the choices that get him in trouble?  Did I miss the window of opportunity to teach him the stuff he needs to know to be independent?

Did I do enough?

Is he prepared for the real world?

Shouldn’t he be here more so I can make sure we’ve covered absolutely everything?

Shouldn’t he be here …  more?

That’s the real problem, isn’t it?  The problem is that I’m not ready for him to leave.  It’s not about whether he’s ready or not.

I’m not ready.

 

The problem with my teenage son is me.

 

Yet Another Post About Self-care

As you stand at the kitchen counter eating toast and chugging coffee while paying the electric bill, the clock on the stove says you need to be in the car in 15 minutes if you are going to be at the office on time.  You still have to figure out what to take out of the freezer for dinner, run the curling iron through your hair, feed the cat, take out the garbage, finish the 15 year old’s school list and wake the 19 year old to remind him that he promised grandpa he’d mow the lawn today.

You’ve been up since 5:30 making lists, crossing things off lists, and doing the work you can from home.

What doesn’t get done this morning can be done on your lunch hour, unless you’re lucky enough to work far enough away from home that it isn’t practical to drive home for lunch.  In that case, I want to be you.

On your lunch hour you schedule appointments, return emails, check in with the kids to see how they are doing on their lists.  You make sure you have enough milk for tomorrow morning so that you don’t have to stop at the store on the way home.  Then you realize that you are out of spaghetti, and you’ve already taken the sauce out of the freezer.  Before jumping in the car to head back to the office, you rummage through the pantry and find some macaroni.  Spaghetti sauce and macaroni make goulash, for the win!  You still don’t have to stop at the store.

 

It’s the small victories that get you through the day.

 

After work there will be World History, polynomials, and helping with the sewing of the Halloween costume.  You will discuss what kind of tires his truck will need for winter and where to find the money for tires.  You’ve checked the forecast and know that snow is coming, so you’ll need to move firewood into the garage.  You’ll have to make a couple work calls that you were supposed to make earlier in the day.  Oh, and then there’s cooking dinner, too.

You stop for a second to check social media while the water comes to a boil for the macaroni.  You see a post about how important it is to take care of yourself – more on that tired old line about putting the oxygen mask on yourself first.  Your eye roll is audible.  You think to yourself, “Who has time for self-care?  If I take time to take care of myself, how will everything else get done?”  And then you realize that you take several minutes a few times a day to check in on Facebook, and kick yourself because those groupings of a few minutes here and there could easily turn into a solid half-hour of self-care.

As you pour the bag of macaroni into the boiling water, you picture yourself lounging somewhere for 30 whole minutes.  It feels icky.  It feels self-centered.  It feels like you don’t deserve it.

As you stir the macaroni and turn down the heat to keep the pot from boiling over, you picture your kids taking time out of their day for some self-care.  Maybe she sketches or plays with the cat.  Perhaps he grabs a pole and heads for a fishing hole or plays pool with his friends.  It occurs to you that you wouldn’t think they were being at all selfish.  You would be glad to see them making their mental health a priority.

As you take turns stirring the sauce in one pan and the macaroni in another, you realize that they won’t learn to make themselves a priority if you don’t show them.

For the Single Moms on Father’s Day

When society tried to make you feel guilty for leaving and raising your kids on your own, you persevered.  You knew that the damage would be greater if you’d made the choice to stay.

When you worried that you couldn’t do both jobs, you did your best.  When other kids went camping with both parents or rode bikes as a family, you created your own traditions.  And years later, when your oldest said, “Hey, remember when we used to play badminton in the street.  We did that a lot.  Let’s do that tonight,” you know you managed to create memories that will sustain your kids.

When you only had a blurred notion of what it is that a dad does, because your own dad was rarely around, you read the books on parenting and observed the good examples and tried to fill in, in the best ways you could.

When you couldn’t do it all, you sat your kids down and explained that you wished you could do more, but that you are one person doing both jobs, and while you are doing your best, you can’t do it all.  Through tears, you explained how much you love them, and that you understood that they were angry or hurt or sad.  When you were dog-tired from doing it all, you found enough to softly explain to them that they would be fine and you would always be there for them.

When you raged at the Universe for putting you in this position, you woke again to be thankful for it all, even when it kicks your butt every single day.

When you think you can’t handle one more issue or fix one more problem or make one more dinner, you flop on the couch between your favorite people, turn on the TV and order a pizza.  You laugh hard in that moment and tell yourself that what doesn’t get done today will find you tomorrow.  As the three of you try to agree on a show, you sip some wine and remind yourself that it’s all about the journey and this journey is creating healthy, happy, independent, functioning people who know how to navigate storms.

When you have those days when you doubt that you made the right choice, you will step back and watch your kids thrive in this safe place you’ve created for them.  You will see them for who they are allowed to be.  Those moments prove that you made the right decision.  (p.s.  As the years go on, you will stop doubting your decision.  Trust me.)

Once in awhile, remember that your kids picked you to be their mom.  They have things to learn that they can only learn with you. (You have things to learn that you can only learn from, and with, your kids.)

You’re doing great.

This is how it’s supposed to be.

Happy Father’s Day.

 

The Girl in the Next Stall

She’s walking into the changing room with four items.  Three are from her usual color palette – shades of grey to black.  This time she found a pair of dusty pink capris in her size – 0.

 

She’s been talking of changing things up a bit.  She systematically cut all the long hair to shoulder length.  She didn’t cut it all at once, but over the course of a year, she had me cut two inches here, three inches there.  One afternoon, while listening to Pink Martini on Pandora, she had me cut six inches.  Between the two of us, Will and I always tell her she looks great, but I can see that she’s looking for other words.

She longs for words she’s heard before, only she wants them to come from someone who never says them.

 

Her style is all her own.  One day we were running errands and she mentioned Pastel Goth.  I had to ask her what that was.  She explained while we were stopped at a light.  I turned to her and said, “Is that what you are?”  She grinned and said, “Not really.  Well, maybe a little.”

She doesn’t dress like other girls her age.  That might have a lot to do with the fact that we homeschool.   Her style isn’t a copycat thing.

I’ve seen the girls at the skating rink staring at her.  As they pull their butterfly covered rolling backpacks over to the bench to put on their skates, I see them glance over at Jen.  I’d love to know what they are thinking.  “Her mom can’t afford butterflies and sequins.”  “Why doesn’t she wear pink or purple or teal?”  “How come her mom lets her wear black all the time?”

Jen told me of the time that a “Butterfly Skater” followed her into the locker room.  She stared at Jen the entire time Jen unlaced her skates.  The girl didn’t say a word.  Jen came out with a mixed expression – part fascination, part frustration.  “Mom, I think she was in there the whole time to make sure I wasn’t going to steal her stuff.”

Her choice in colors gets her looks.  She doesn’t always see the looks.  I always do.  I’m her mom.  I want to laugh at the other skaters’ moms.  They haven’t been the most welcoming group at the rink.  We don’t fit the type.  But when their daughters fall hard on the ice, mine is the first to ask if they are okay.

 

Which brings me to yesterday at the mall.  While Jen was in the changing room, I could hear that the girl in the next stall must have been on FaceTime as she changed clothes.  Weird, but whatever.

Times change.  Maybe this is the new selfie?

While I talk with my kids about absolutely everything, we all three respect privacy.  It’s been a lot of years since I was in the changing room with my daughter.  I browse the clothing racks as I wait, looking at business clothes I can’t afford.  I think of how many houses I’d have to sell before I’d ever even consider spending that kind of money on clothes for myself.  I see the clerk look at what I’m wearing, and realize I know exactly how Jen feels when the “Butterfly Skaters” are staring at her.

As Jen walks out, I try to read her expression.  “How’d it go?  Did you like any of it?”  She smiled her quiet smile, “Let’s go somewhere else.  The pants didn’t fit – too baggy in the thighs.  The shirt goes down too low in the front.  Sorry I’m so picky.”

“Don’t worry about it, honey.  We’ll find something.”

 

As we walk out of the mall I ask, “What was going on in the changing room?”

“A girl was trying on prom dresses in the stall next to me.  She was sending pictures to her mom and grandma and dad.”

“Too bad none of them could be there with her, but it is the time when most would be at work.”

Jen walked around to the passenger side of the car.  “She sent a picture to her dad and he said, ‘Oh, honey.  That’s so pretty.'”

I looked at her as I put the key in the ignition.  She looked at me and said, “Is that even real?”