Dancing outside my comfort zone

Posts tagged ‘Birthday’

Blame it on the Moon: Reflections on Mom’s Birthday

Remembering More as the Years Pass and the Clouds Clear

This morning as I realized it would have been Mom’s 82nd birthday today that, aside from the extensive writing I’ve done about her in my yet-to-be-published memoir (or yet-to-be-finished to be more accurate), I’ve written little about my feelings about her or her death.

Today, as I typed my typical “today would have been” post on Facebook, something changed. I first noticed it by the words I chose to use in my post. Then I turned on my Rascal Flatts station on Pandora instead of one I typically listen to. 3 tracks in, “What Hurts the Most” played and I felt tears coming to my eyes. That’s when I knew I needed to write this post.

Full Moons Are a Time to Reflect

Now, maybe it’s the impending full moon which always makes me more emotional anyway, or maybe it’s the chapters I’ve started adding to my memoir lately, but I received one of those infamous Universal head slaps this morning.

It made me realize just how far I’ve come in resolving my hopelessly twisted feelings towards my mother. The short version is I’ve come to realize she was exactly what she needed to be both for herself and to help me become the woman I am today. But as with all things, I’m never happy with the short version. So buckle up for some intensely personal revelations, if you dare.

Finding Appreciation: Too Little, Too Late?

I’ll be the first to admit I never appreciated mom’s many qualities. I was so busy being at odds with her that we pushed each other away when I was quite young. Nurturing my baby sister was far easier for her to cope with than a headstrong 2-year-old. I don’t think I ever quite got over that feeling of abandonment.

It’s not that she turned her back on me, per se. She simply found more joy in doing things with and for my sister as we got older and the paths of our interests took different routes. My sister’s musical prowess and outright tenacity far exceeded my own. Mom could point at her playing first chair clarinet or performing with the prestigious Royal Cavaliers and feel proud of the daughter she’d raised and shlepped to endless music lessons.

Was She Aware of My Love of Writing?

I was a disappointment across the board. I preferred to pursue my passion behind the scenes. Whether it was building a set for the latest drama production, running the light board or applying makeup, I was never front and center to stoke her motherly pride. As for the stories and poems I wrote, regardless of their quality or, in most cases, lack thereof, I can honestly say she never read a word. Of course, I never showed them to her either, so how could she know or even have the opportunity to refuse, or worse, offer a patronizing word of false encouragement?

The real truth is, by the time I was doing any writing to speak of, I’d long since ceased valuing her opinion about anything important. Maybe that’s part of the reason I have trouble accepting my daughter’s encouraging comments about one of the novels she’s reading. I learned not to show anything to my family for fear of the requisite “that’s good, dear” which might or might not have been delivered. I do my daughter a disservice by not valuing her opinion. After all, she’s been reading voraciously most of her life. She knows what she likes to read and what she thinks sucks.

Lessons Offered, Lessons Learned

Again, I digress. Because I started tuning Mom out from an early age; a trait I’m pretty sure I learned from my dad, I missed out on the many things she had to offer. She kept a beautiful house, entertained magnificently, and taught herself to be a gourmet cook. I am decent, but I’ll never have her skill, much less her patience in making every detail perfect. Thankfully, though those skills were lost on me, my daughter inherited them with a vengeance.

I’m reminded of the chicken and egg scenario. Did Mom stop encouraging me in the things which made me shine because I pushed her away; shut her out even? Or did I shut her out because she turned all of her attention to my sister’s pursuits, relegating mine to just sweet little hobbies?

Family Dynamics Are a Balancing Act

I’ll never know the answer, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t changed. I realize now it doesn’t really matter which came first. What matters is that despite the gigantic chasm which existed between us, she gave me so many invaluable gifts. She helped me learn to stand strong and fight my own battles. But she also tempered the gifts I got from my Dad.

Where he was stoic, she was sensitive. Though it might have seemed like she was too sensitive at the time, her sensitivity wove itself into my persona despite my best efforts to be as unlike her as I could be. So well in fact that Dad’s stoicism became my protective shell until I learned when and where to let my sensitivity show.

Where Dad was stubborn and dogmatic, Mom was more malleable, often to her own detriment. Again, I used the stubbornness to counteract my tendency to be easily manipulated. All too often, both tendencies have blown up in my face, forcing me to learn to find the balance.

An Introvert in Extrovert’s Clothing. Who Am I Really Fooling?

I think the most valuable lesson she gave me was negotiating an extroverted world while keeping my soft, mushy, introverted self safe and hidden. Yes, I took it to extremes, but so did she. She smiled and entertained and got involved in charitable causes. She even tried her hand at a career in sales. I know now from my own experience that these are all ways introverts learn to cope with the outside world when they’d often rather just hide away with a book and their pets. The difference between us is she needed validation from others to replace the love she didn’t feel from her family. I learned to be loud and entertaining (though some would probably call it obnoxious). I had a wall around my heart acres deep. Very few have ever gotten close enough to be able to hurt me. I can’t say the same for Mom.

In hindsight, I think Mom hurt every day of her life until the day she decided to end it. She suffered emotional rejection from just about everyone in her life, and certainly her entire family. Sorry folks who might be reading this and are part of that group, but I see no exceptions to this observation. Not one of us took the time to try to see behind her extensive collection of masks.

When Someone No Longer Feels They Have Value

Which brings me to my final point. Collectively, we helped mom feel that she wasn’t needed; was not important to anyone. I have to believe that was the final contributing factor. It was what made her decide suicide was her only viable option. I cannot even imagine reaching the point where you believe with all your heart that nobody will miss you when you’re gone, but I think that’s where Mom was when she carefully followed the instructions in the book she’d bought. When she closed the guest room door where her granddaughters slept when they visited, lay down on the bed she’d shared with my dad for 40 years and took the last, fateful step.

As I type this, my eyes are filling with tears, and my faithful cat, Dylan is on the desk giving me head bumps. Mom died on December 27, 1993…and it hurts more now than it did when she died. In the ensuing years, I’ve put aside the relief, the guilt, the blame, and the anger. I’ve replaced them with forgiveness, compassion, and understanding. And finally, the tears of grief and sadness for the daughter I couldn’t be for her are flowing, cleansing my heart and her memory.

I love you and miss you, Mom. Know you were important even if we didn’t show it. Know your granddaughters remember you with fondness and show that love in all the things you taught them to love and do well. Rest well until we meet again. I hope I’ll be kinder next time.

In Loving Gratitude

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for the lessons my mom so patiently taught me, whether or not I was listening.
  2. I am grateful for having finally learned some of those lessons, albeit decades after her death.
  3. I am grateful for the living embodiment of love for my mom in my daughters.
  4. I am grateful for the ability to allow my emotions to flow all the way to the surface instead of keeping them bottled up like I’ve done for so long.
  5. I am grateful for abundance: love, lessons, compassion, understanding, epiphanies, gratitude, releases, friends, peace, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Blessed Be

I invite you to visit my Facebook pages, Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author and HLWT Accounting. Please also drop by my website, www.shericonaway.com and check out my Hire Me Page. I’ve created these pages as a means of positive affirmation and would be very grateful if you’d “like” them or leave a comment! Thank you!

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August 10, 2015 On Gratitude

How Can a Heart Help but Overflow with Blessings?

My daughter and son-in-law are sound asleep after a long day for me and a longer one for them. He left the house at 2:30 AM to go to his job as a Culinary Specialist with the Navy. She was up not many hours later completing the tasks which precede a few days away from home. Until a few moments ago, the only sounds were the fan in the bathroom, the humming of my laptop and of course, my fingernails tapping away at the keys. But since we’re within shouting distance of Disneyland’s main gate, the silence was broken by the explosions which accompany the nightly fireworks display. Something tells me the kids will wait until the end of the fireworks before trying to go to sleep for the remainder of our stay.

Though my day started earlier than normal with an unplanned trip to the vet for my 18-year-old calico whose claws had curled around and embedded themselves into her paw, I can still claim at least an hour more of sleep than my daughter, so here I sit, typing away in the not so dead of the night. And I’m realizing once again just how fortunate I am.

Today is the third anniversary of the kids’ wedding, and in spite of a boatload of challenges, they are still very much in love and very committed to each other. I can’t even begin to express how grateful I am that my daughter found her best friend and had the good sense to marry him. She did not follow in my stumbling footsteps, but learned from her mistakes early on. To share in their celebration as well as enjoying a belated (or should I say, extended) celebration of my own 60th year makes me feel loved and cherished.

Funny, but as the fireworks continue to explode outside, a line from ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ popped into my head. “…and the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air…” I can only imagine what is going through my son-in-law’s head after being in the Persian Gulf for 6 months, and in Afghanistan a few years ago. I do know that the explosions woke him from a sound sleep and he’s now sitting up, waiting for the show to end before going back to sleep. I can’t even imagine the thoughts and visions it conjures for him, or for that matter, for any of our service men and women.

So again, I feel blessed and very grateful that he and others like him choose a path which may put them in the line of fire, but they do so because they love our country and want to keep it and their loved ones safe. It isn’t an easy path, either for those serving or for their families. The hours are long, they spend many months away from home and their lives can change without any say on their part. When the orders say ‘go here’ or ‘go there’, that is what they must do. There will be family crises they can’t be there to handle, so wives, husbands and children have to call on loved ones or friends to fill the gap. I know I wouldn’t want to be on a ship somewhere in the middle of the ocean knowing that my wife/husband/daughter/son was having emergency surgery and I couldn’t be there. It must be torture knowing they can’t be there to help.

Yet again, I’ve gone off on a tangent. My topic of choice tonight was ‘Gratitude’, and it seems to have turned into a gratitude-fest for the men and women who serve, not only in our armed forces, but wherever there is danger or the need to protect, be it firefighters, police, or anyone else who willingly steps out against things which might cause us harm. Though other humans might constitute the biggest threat, Mother Nature can be as volatile as a PMS’ing woman (and face it, most women have been there at )least once in their lives! If you ask my kids, though, they’d probably say it was menopause that sent them running for cover). Just look at the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, or the wildfire which engulfed a good part of San Diego not long ago. Not to mention tsunami’s, earthquakes, and volcanoes which, in their day, turned cities and towns into so much rubble.

We have a lot of people to thank because any one of these, as devastating as they were at the time, could have been so much worse were it not for the people who stepped in and slowed the destruction despite Mother Earth’s best efforts to rid herself of a few of those parasitic humans who are heedlessly poisoning her water, air and soil.

While I’m enjoying a lovely few days with my kids, eating too much, soaking up the sun along with the water of Splash Mountain and Grizzly River Run, watching parades and fireworks and riding as many rides as we can fit in, I will find time throughout the day, reminded by the sacrifices these kids are making, to send up a bunch of gratitude for those who make it possible to live a life like mine. Won’t you join me?

My gratitudes tonight are:’
1. I am grateful for the people of this country, and in fact, all over the world who are essentially good.
2. I am grateful that there are some bad eggs from whom, if we’re smart, we’ll learn so that we can make this world a better place for everyone.
3. I am grateful for the evil in this world without whom I’d have to struggle to find believable traits for my antagonists.
4. I am grateful for a few days with my kids when we can all behave like kids again ourselves. Being an adult can be so overrated!
5. I am grateful for abundance, childish joy, giving, caring people, love, kindness, compassion, dedication, devotion, happiness, silliness, health, harmony, peace, prosperity and philanthropy.

Blessed Be

I hope you’ll take a moment to visit my Facebook pages at https://www.facebook.com/SheriLevensteinConawayAuthor?ref=aymt_homepage_panel and https://www.facebook.com/HLWTAccounting . Please also drop by my website, http://www.shericonaway.com and check out my Hire Me Page. I’ve created these pages as a means of positive affirmation and would be very grateful if you’d “like” them or leave a comment! Thank you!

May 28, 2015 Birthday Musings

Beginnings or Endings?

Several posts ago, I talked about the fact that the day we celebrate as our birthday is really the end of the year being celebrated rather than the beginning. On this eve of my 60th birthday as I prepare to celebrate the end of my first 60 years in this human form, I have been looking back over the last year, and more specifically, the last few months, with a little help from Elizabeth Peru’s Global Tip-off

Her discussions about planetary influences have been particularly helpful in the last couple of days, especially when I look at how the Pluto retrograde deals with peeling back the layers and releasing old hurts and issues. Elizabeth also mentions May 4th in relation to the Mercury retrograde as a date to look back upon for information about what we should be working on. In my case, I looked at the blog posts for May 3rd and 4th to find that I had been sitting outside watching the full moon, while asking for help in identifying and releasing those things which no longer serve my best interests.

But what does that have to do with birthdays, beginnings and endings? I’ve been having interesting dreams lately which bring up events from my past but with entirely different outcomes. Some of them are so ridiculous and unlikely that I wake up thinking Where in the heck did that come from? But that heightened awareness also allows me to see the situation in a much clearer light and to find and acknowledge the lesson which came out of the experience. Once I recognize the lesson, any lingering pain or emotional attachment to the event automatically releases and is no longer a part of my energy. And as my 60th year winds to a close, I am finally out from under the veil which I realize was merely a manifestation of my own imagination, but still, all too real to me. That self-imposed veil is the one which reminds me that my mother never completed her 60th year. And now, I have.

I know that I am my own woman but the specter of suicide tends to twist the thoughts into convoluted patterns and only the milestones which are largely imaginary can untwist those thoughts for good. This is one of those milestones, perhaps the last one I convinced myself I’d have to face before truly accepting that I am not my mother’s child in the ways which are most important to me now. My dreams are telling me that I am finally ready to release a whole slew of sadness, anger and angst which attached themselves to a single event by virtue of their proximity in time and space.

By reaching this milestone I feel I’m finally ready to let go of all of those poor choices I made during my mother’s last couple of years of life: choices which led to my divorce, to the men I dated in the years that followed, to the job hopping and the poor parenting. My reactions to other peoples’ actions. It’s all in there and now that I’ve somehow proven to myself that I am not inclined to make the same choices as my mother, I can forgive myself for those choices I made which didn’t turn out so well but were, in fact, lessons I needed to learn.

As I turn the page on the calendar, I also turn the page on the self-recriminations over the mistakes I’ve made because I can finally believe the words I’ve told myself over and over. What I thought were mistakes or poor choices were simply lessons the Universe sent me so I could learn the things I needed to know in order to become the woman I am now. I’m still a work in progress, but I no longer see that as a liability. I have value and I have purpose…and all is right with my world.

My gratitudes tonight are:
1. I am grateful to have reached the milestone ending my 60th year in this human form.
2. I am grateful to be spending this very special day with the most important person in my life: my daughter, Heather. It’s been an eventful couple of weeks, but we’re both still here, and ready to handle whatever life throws us. We’ve got this!
3. I am grateful for all of the lessons I’ve been given up to know, and look forward to the new ones I know will come my way as I master the ones I’ve had.
4. I am grateful for a body which, though a bit achy in places, carried me from hither to yon and over the dance floor tonight with amazing flexibility and fortitude.
5. I am grateful for abundance: lessons learned, challenges unfolding, epiphanies, friends, family, love, joy, purpose, intensity, health, harmony, peace, prosperity and philanthropy.

Blessed Be

And now for some shameless self-promotion:
I’d love it if you’d visit my Facebook pages at https://www.facebook.com/SheriLevensteinConawayAuthor?ref=aymt_homepage_panel and https://www.facebook.com/HLWTAccounting. If you get a minute, please also drop by my website, http://www.shericonaway.com and check out my Hire Me Page. I’ve created these pages as a means of positive affirmation and would be very grateful if you’d “like” them or leave a comment! Thank you!

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