Elizabeth (Mirth & Motivation) was one of the first bloggers I followed when I began blogging in early 2011. Even before I’d gotten the hang of reading blogs, I was readily absorbed into her entries for a few minutes at a time. Her life has been so full and varied, I frequently still read her posts and think, “What hasn’t she done, or experienced?!”
A year after first finding her, her aptly titled blog remains my go-to when I find myself in need of inspiration. It’s thus with great gratitude that I share her words here today.
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Gratitude For Small Things
When I received Deborah’s first email about participating in this wonderful exercise – writing an FTIAT entry – on one thing we are grateful for, quite a number of possible topics with positive outcomes crossed my mind. Should I write about my life altering moments? How about the travails and triumphs of an immigrant woman? Or maybe Deb’s readers would love to hear about the challenges of raising multiples? Perhaps I should focus on my complicated childhood? You see, all of those events had elements that led me to a place of gratitude but none seemed quite right for the task. As 1001 ideas flashed through my mind, a little voice, still and quiet, kept prodding me to step back from the broad brush strokes I wanted to paint, to step back from the big picture, and focus on the gratitude that comes from small things; help from unexpected sources, parking spots that materialize last minute, missing items that resurface on a prayer and the seemingly simple act of taking a breath.
To appreciate the grace in small details, I’ll share a story from one of those life altering events. In my mid 30s, I had open heart surgery to correct a congenital defect. The surgery was successful but the road to that event was complex. I had no idea that the condition existed. As an active, fit person, my heart had never given me problems. But one day, I started feeling tired, dizzy and short of breath. It took multiple tests, several medical opinions and inconclusive results before my cardiologist sent me to a pediatric heart specialist. Yes, it took a simple test and the keen eyes of a children’s doctor to detect the small defect… The doctor assured me that even though my condition could have killed me by age 13, over the years, I had been guided to take small steps, make small lifestyle shifts, perform simple tasks that helped extend my life. Breathwork, jogging, low impact exercise, dance, yoga and meditation, a vegetarian diet, regular checkup and treatments for ordinary colds all contributed something to help my heart hold on. I also believe that the simple act of prayer and a positive spirit had an impact too.
“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” Robert Brault
From as early as I can remember, I’ve always loved prayer; both loud invocations and quiet contemplative prayers. As a little girl, I found that saying a prayer had a calming effect and gave me the clarity I needed to tackle all sorts of situations; often with startling results. In my adult
life, I still turn to the calming power of a simple prayer again and again. For instance, recently I was getting ready to take one of my kids back to college and, as we gathered up bags and headed for the car, I realized I didn’t have my glasses. I wear them to drive and needed to find them right away. In a hurry, I looked in all the usual places but they were not there. I searched the living, dining, and kitchen areas and came up empty. The clock ticked away and frustration was starting to set in. Then I stopped. I stood in front of the dining table, held my hands up in prayer and said quietly: Dear God, please help me find my glasses. As I uttered the last word, my gaze shifted, and I caught a glimpse of a gold, metal piece. I stepped towards it to retrieve it, and sure enough, it was my glasses. They had fallen behind a cushion on the sofa and even though I had looked there earlier in my search and didn’t see anything, there they were and my gratitude for such a small thing was … huge. I am grateful for the gratitude that comes from small things.
Elizabeth Obih-Frank believes in positive kismet/fate and writes two blogs; Mirth and Motivation and Positive Kismet where she shares motivational, goodwill pieces and more. She is a mom to twins, a master trainer/educator, writer, healer, and social media fan. She loves people, a good laugh, good food and an occasional jaunt around the world.
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Kathy (reinventing the event horizon) drew me to her blog with her clear, evocative descriptions of life with mental illness. A few of the very first entries I read were difficult for me to finish, but the illumination provided by her words made continuing onward so much more than worthwhile.
I’m constantly amazed by the richness of Kathy’s life. Through her descriptions of her beginnings as part of an organized crime family, her knack for creating beauty from bric-a-brac, and her descriptions of traveling for humanitarian efforts, she paints a picture of a life both well and adventurously lived.
Her painting isn’t only metaphorical. About her art she writes that it “is mixed media and reflective of my creative efforts to transform potential trash into art–how I’ve long felt about my past–that my life trashed by mental illness could, indeed, be recreated into something lovely and meaningful.”
Indeed. Reading Kathy’s blog, it’s easy to believe that anything and everything is possible with arms opened wide to embrace possibility.
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The Far Side of Sanity and Back Again: An Evolution in Thank You
Sometimes gratitude takes time to develop. Sometimes it’s a process.
For me, being thankful is something I’ve matured into. In me, the feeling has aged, like cheese, fine wine, a decent sourdough—pungent, rich and layered with flavor.
In fact, I fought mental illness for years before I felt anything remotely resembling gratitude—for either the illness itself or my eventual recovery. Mostly I hated it.
Actually, I lost my mind gradually, but by my late twenties, I was caught up completely in the throes of it—hospitalized twice in as many months. And as my 28th birthday approached, I gave up all pretense of sanity and simply let go. I’d white-knuckled reality for a number of months if not years, until finally my fingers slipped, and I was lost to free fall.
At first I merely brought dead branches into my apartment and decorated the walls with them—not only loving their sculptural quality but also believing I was receiving special messages from them. Twigs wreathed the room in forest, a sacramental fact, reality stripped of ordinary distraction.
However, in addition to this, I felt compelled to tear up the carpet in my rental apartment’s living room, to strip the floor clean and access the concrete beneath—a more solid surface on which to stand.
So in March of 1990, I stayed up one Wednesday night, utility-knifed my carpet into carry-able strips, stood a ladder beside the dumpster in my parking lot, climbed rung upon rung, and deposited my former floor within.
A rug literally ripped out from under me, I was hospitalized the next day at a state psychiatric facility, where I walked the halls and fingered the walls for weeks, as all around me sentences bloomed into branches, a dazzling display of crazy.
Antipsychotic medication made me restless, so during that admission and the many more that followed, I paced almost incessantly. I walked hospital halls endlessly, feeling the walls with my palms, an effort to comfort myself, to calm the cacophony that worsened every evening.
One nurse was kind and would sometimes walk with me, attempting to reassure me and lessen the aloneness, as I tried to quiet the chatter in my head, the echo of children’s voices, reciting senseless, sing-song rhymes.
But mostly I walked alone, alternately fighting and forgetting, as psychosis whiplashed me between extremes of nothingness and nowhere.
This whiplashing made me acutely aware of my own nothingness, the fact that at the center of me, a huge hole swallowed and indeed devoured all I thought I knew about myself and the world around me.
I saw myself stripped of all substance, of all that seemed solid and predictable in the face of free-fall. I was naked and drowning—bare to the glare of what others called crazy.
If I was indeed out of touch with reality, as the doctors told me, what did that mean? And if I couldn’t trust my own mind, what could I trust?
Inevitably, this possibility that I couldn’t or shouldn’t trust myself terrified me. And I displaced this terror in all directions, becoming terrified of everything and at the same time terrified of nothing. I couldn’t articulate exactly what I feared. I was only and always overcome with dread. I knew something was terribly wrong.
So in the end, it was terror that made me walk those hospital halls alone–alone in the most existential sense–exiled not only from the rest of the world by mental illness, but exiled by mental illness from myself.
This is the terror of mental illness—a terror I fought for more than 10 years and 25 psychiatric hospitalizations.
Indeed, I was ill for a very long time, and recovery was slow.
Just like it took time to lose my mind, it took time to find it again, as well. I emerged gradually from the ruin of my psyche. Having forgotten what sanity looked like, I barely recognized its image in the mirror. Backward and upside down at first, it slowly righted itself, turning me around to face the world again.
And it took longer still for gratitude to develop. Who in their right mind would be thankful for an ugly, painful past—and how could I trust the seeming insanity of that—thankful for both the process of unbecoming and the evolution that remade me in the end. How was I to straddle that divide?
Indeed, I am now grateful, not only for the recovery I still struggle to maintain, but for the illness, as well—grateful mostly for the empathy I learned. I finally appreciate the pain I endured, knowing that suffering has taught me sensitivity toward others, a caring I might not have developed otherwise.
So my message then is this.
Gratitude, like mental illness, isn’t easy. It doesn’t happen all at once, at least not for most of us. Gratitude is gradual. It emerges over the course of months and years—and sometimes even lifetimes.
Sure, it’s easy to be thankful for the seeming good that happens—but thankful for the bad is another animal altogether. So be patient. Pace yourself.
And during the month of May, Mental Health Awareness Month, please remember the struggles faced by folks with mental illness. Please, donate to NAMI, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill. Share stories like mine with those you love, and encourage others to talk, write, and blog about their battles. Let those who live with mental illness (and their families) know they’re not alone.
The world is still a staggeringly beautiful place, and those of us who struggle with psychiatric illness make it a richer place to live and love. We hope big hopes. We dream ever more enduring dreams.
Recovery is possible. And for that, I am exceedingly thankful.
Kathy McCullough is a writer and artist who has lived in places as far away as Vietnam and unlikely as post-earthquake Haiti. Her partner Sara is an international aid worker. Kathy is currently writing a memoir about growing up in an organized crime family. She blogs at www.reinventingtheeventhorizon.wordpress.com.
Peg (Ramblings) was one of the first bloggers I stumbled upon in my efforts to expand my blogging horizons. Her tongue-in-cheek approach to most topics has had me giggling at things—such as the cost of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act freeway signs—that in less deft hands might be as hard to wade through as this sentence. But, oh! Her hands are deft, whether she’s using them to write compelling posts or to modify images in equally compelling, usually hilarious ways.
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I have… my children…my husband and my friends…enough to eat…a home…my health, and the health of my family…an agile brain and the education to feed it… a loving, supportive family that nurtures me…been born to a country where freedom is a right.
When I consider how much I have, the concept of gratitude is overwhelming. My mind shies away from it. I have done nothing to earn these things. There cannot be enough gratitude in the world for this embarrassment of riches.
I am reminded of Saint Therese of Lisieux, a French nun who lived in the 19th century and died at the tender age of 24. She knew she would probably never do big, great things with her life. She decided to praise God and help others by concentrating on the small things; how she handled chores, annoyances and the myriad triumphs and tragedies of daily living. She called this the Little Way.
“The only way I can prove my love is by… the doing of the least actions for love.”
I don’t mention Saint Therese as a prelude to comparing myself to her in any way, although her example encourages me anew to do better. No, I thought about the Little Way because it has something to do with how I have approached the blessings in my life.
My gratitude for all the big things is bedrock supporting an intention to try to truly appreciate the small, as well. I have unconsciously adopted a habit I will call the Little Gratitude.
In my life, there have been moments out of time that strike me almost a physical blow with their sweetness. Here are a few remembered:
- Running down the stairs in my parents’ home, my home, and being stopped, just for a moment, by the particularly luminous quality of autumn sun. It is pouring like golden, melted butter through the small, high windows of our front door, setting the dust motes to dancing before it falls onto the carpet of the front hall. Wanting to curl up like a contented cat in that spot of sun, secure in the knowledge of being a child well cared for, and well loved.
- Driving, every day, over the bridge that leads to my home, oblivious to my surroundings. Then a gleam on the water catches the corner of my eye. The setting sun, peeking from under low, purple clouds turns the water in the river to molten as it dies back for another day. I am struck dumb by the gift of such beauty.
- Coming around the bend on a summer country road in the deepening time past twilight, and spying a field heavy with fireflies. I stop with my two, young children and whisper that it is the Fairies Ball, and they are dancing with their glowing partners. We sit, spellbound, marveling at their graceful gavotte in the hot, perfumed night air.
- Lying on my husband’s warm, firm shoulder, hair tickling my cheek, his steady breath raising and lowering my resting head, and the feeling of being safe and cherished and home.
- Walking down our rutted, dirt lane, the fall air so crisp each deep draught is almost a bite, the sky a shade of blue saved from impossible only by a scattering of high, cotton-candy clouds. My hand clutches the small, soft one of my daughter and my heart is full to bursting. I am almost weeping, trying to memorize the sound of her high voice, the slight dampness of her hand, the wood smoke whiff of a distant fire and the crunch of leaves under our feet. I am thanking God for this here and now, and praying I will be able to bring it back to mind in the many, many years that may come.
These small times of blessing have usually taken me unawares, and left me trying to catch my breath in joy and thanksgiving.
For these and countless other bright, shining little moments in my life, I am deeply grateful.
John (The Adventures of Daddy Runs A Lot) had me at “I like Buffy.” Okay, I confess it’s unlikely he said those exact words, but it was somehow established we had a mutual affection for Buffy the Vampire Slayer. As you probably know by now, 99% of the people who like this TV show are 10th-dan black belts in the martial art of “awesome.”
Much like our mutually beloved Buffy, John’s blog is a mix of humor and earnest contemplation. Each of these things is precious of its own right, but it’s the mixing of the two that leads to the truest reflection of life well lived.
Whether through the words “I like Buffy” or otherwise, I simply count myself grateful our blog paths did cross.
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Where I embrace my inner geek
I’m not sure how I came to follow the lovely Deborah here . . . maybe I was blog-hopping and she wrote a comment on someone’s blog that caught my eye. Maybe I was looking for topless photos of Jennifer Garner and somehow came upon her notes from being an extra on Alias. Maybe she stumbled upon my blog and I followed the link back to her place. All I know is that, once I figured out what “this,” was, I knew I was at home.
She was the mother of a little child. She loved to read. She enjoyed going to a comic-convention or two and has done what I hope to do, someday: complete a novel. She’s run marathons and can write something to make you sore from laughing one day and bring you to the brink of tears the next. ”Self, you’ve found your home,” I said to myself when I clicked on the subscribe button – and since then, it’s become just a wave of awesomesauce.
So, when the call for guest writers came out – well, I didn’t have much of a choice. I mean, I’ve already made myself at home, writing a few words seems to be the least I could do. And, somehow, writing about my inner-geek seems just about perfect here.
Why did I come to this conclusion? Because I delayed writing this because I had the Lord of the Rings on in the background, and I had to take a break for the Cave-Troll battle.
I’m fairly certain that I’ve had full conversations in nothing but movie quotes. Or Harry Potter quotes. I lament the fact that second breakfast and elevensies are not part of our culture. I know there is no greater way acknowledge an order than the words “as you wish.” When someone has unnaturally blue eyes, I wonder if they’re part-Fremen. I’ll argue, loudly, that we need to eat Irish babies in order to cure poverty in the world. I’m fluent in the rules of zombies, and I constantly question why there isn’t a single standard for vampires. I’m openly distrustful of six-fingered men. I associate the term “sex and violence” with the Muppets, and I firmly believe that the absolute apex of celebrity is to be on Sesame Street. The best way for the subject of a prophecy to not learn about said prophecy is to keep that subject from learning to read. The Seminal Fluids is a great name for a rock band. My favorite politician of all time is Clinton “Skink” Tyree. ”I know” may be the single most romantic line ever uttered on film, and Han shot first. If I could have but one item to hang on my walls, it would be the greatsword Ice. I’d fear a confessor more than I’d fear the electric chair, but not nearly as much as I’d fear thread. I truly freak out whenever I have an earache, as I’m convinced that the mind-control is near complete. Sometimes, the shadow of the great story is a better way to tell it, especially if the shadow is that of Bean. My Room 101 would have Fear Demons that grew well-past their actual size.
There was a long time of my life that I based what I liked on what I perceived others would think about it. Now, I gladly don’t care . . . and what I love about being around here is that it feels like there’s always a couch available for me.
Thanks, Deborah, for the opportunity.
Ilana (SlightlyIgnorant) comments with empathy and humor, but that’s not all there is to her. She touches on difficult topics so matter of factly in her blog’s autobio you feel confident that you could talk to her about anything. And, indeed, when you start exchanging comments and emails, you find you very much want to!
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“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.” – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J. K. Rowling
A few days ago, Deb asked to write a guest post for this, her awesome blog. I was incredibly flattered and excited and began to think of different topics I could write about. The guidelines I had received were loose enough to allow me lots of freedom: pick one thing I’m grateful for, and write about it. Simple enough, right?
Once I started thinking about it, I found that there were just too many things in my life that I was, am, and will continue to be grateful for. My parents raised me lovingly and treated me as an individual worthy of respect even when I was very small. My brother was a fun companion when we were kids – we wrestled and tustled all the time but we both enjoyed it – and has become a friend. My aunts have always been an inspiration to me and I’m proud to be able to call them family.
Then I thought of my friends: my oldest girlfriend from nursery-school who I’ve known for eighteen of my twenty-one years, the girl I met in third grade and spent most of my afternoons with for years, the shy and quiet teenager I met in high school who became an integral part of my life… and the list goes on.
The truth is, there are so many people whose presence in my life I’m grateful for that I can’t choose between them. It feels ungrateful, somehow, to pick just one.
Instead, I decided to pick something that may seem simple, banal, even silly – but it changed my life and is part of the reason I’m even here, writing a guest post for Deb.
I am grateful for Harry Potter and J. K. Rowling.
Are you laughing? Are you rolling your eyes? Are you sympathetically nodding and thinking Well, she must not have much going for her, I’d better humor her and read through her insane ramblings? If you stick with me, I’ll explain why I chose the boy-wizard and his famous, fabulous, fantastic creator.
My parents raised me bi-lingual; my dad spoke to me in Hebrew while my mom and I only conversed in English. When I was three, though, my family moved from sunny Los Angeles to the sunnier and sadly humid Isreal. Previously, I’d always spoken to my father in English, refusing, for reasons that are mysterious to me, to answer him in Hebrew. After the move, though, the primary language I heard spoken around me changed from English to Hebrew. I was forced to begin using the harsh, deep-throated raysh and chet, letters that Anglos find difficult to pronounce correctly. But I learned; or maybe I already knew how, and just hadn’t liked doing it.
Because of our move, instead of learning my ABCs at school, I learned how to read and write in Hebrew. First grade was agony, as I found the whole process of associating sounds and words with weird squiggles on paper to be tiring and difficult. What was worse, though, was that my lessons didn’t end when I finished my homework for school. Even after filling a workbook page or two with my wobbly, too-large, six-year old’s handwriting, I had to spend part of each afternoon with my mother, learning how to read in English.
It was horrible. I didn’t get it. I couldn’t get it. I learned to recognize the symbols that read “THE END” that appeared on the final page of each of the little books that my mom was using to teach me how to read, and I spoke those two little words with huge satisfaction whenever one of our torturous sessions was over.
Eventually, though, I could read and write in both Hebrew and English. I learned at the right age, and I suppose I didn’t have any more difficulty than any other average kid. But I still didn’t like reading. I loved being read to – one of my parents would read me a book or a chapter every night, as far as I can remember. If they’d hand me the book, though, with an inviting gesture and a smile, I would shrug my shoulders in that universal gesture that kids have for “Don’t wanna.”
I was, I confess, a TV child. At some point, my parents had to restrict my time in front of the television because if I’d had my way, I would sit in front of it all afternoon without indulging in any other activity.
When I was nine years old, in 1999, my brother turned thirteen and had his Bar Mitzvah. We visited family in California, like we did every summer, and my parents and grandparents threw a big party so he could celebrate this traditional coming of age with our American relatives. Great-Aunt Candy bought him what would become, although none of us knew it at the time, the vehicle of my salvation from Eternal-TV-Enslavement. She bought my brother, and me by extension, beautiful, hardcover copies of Harry Potter and the Sourceror’s Stone (remember, it was the American edition), Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and the just released and much anticipated Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
We flew back to Israel. We must have packed the books, although I have no particular memory of that. I don’t remember being excited or looking forward to reading them with my mother, although I do remember her saying something about how she’d heard good things about the books.
I also remember, vividly, her reading me the very first line, quoted above; I interrupted her and said, quite indignantly, “Dursley? But it’s called Harry Potter!” My mother smiled and said “Let’s wait and see.”
I waited, I saw, and I fell in love. One night, reading the sixth chapter, “The Journey from Platform Nine and Three Quarters,” my mom stopped after at this line: “The train began to move. Harry saw the boys’ mother waving and their sister, half laughing, half crying, running to keep up with the train until it gathered too much speed, then she fell back and waved.” I recall how I tried to wheedle her into continuing, and how she wouldn’t because it was late and time for me to go to sleep. With that in mind, I guess what came next shouldn’t be all that surprising.
Every Friday afternoon, my parents took a long nap. I believe that on the Friday in question, my mom read me the second half of chapter nine, “The Midnight Duel,” before she took her nap. Writing this now, at the same desk I had back then, I can visualize the book sitting perfectly squared with the corners of the table, just where my mom had left it. I can see the little girl that I was, a little pudgy and still quite blonde, listening carefully to my parents snores, making sure they were sound asleep. The girl picks up the book and lies down on her bed, the same bed that is to her left as she types away on her computer twelve years later. She opens the book to chapter ten, “Halloween,” and begins to read.
I read thirteen pages, the entire chapter, the most I’d ever read on my own not only willingly, but eagerly as well. And I had loved it.
The funny thing was that I thought, for some reason, that I’d done something wrong. Once I realized I’d read a whole chapter, I balked and, carefully putting the bookmark where it had been before my intrusion, arranged the book to look as if it hadn’t been touched. I kept my secret all day, aching to read more but not daring to. I thought that telling my mother that I wanted to read the book alone would hurt her terribly. That night, when she began to read me “Halloween,” I couldn’t take it, and I blurted out the truth: that I’d already read that entire chapter. I burst into a flurry of apologies. I needn’t have worried. She laughed, and I remember her face glowing (although that might be my own emotions coloring the picture) as she handed me the book, kissed my forehead, and told me I could and should keep reading it alone.
If I hadn’t discovered the incredible world that J. K. Rowling created, I never would have become the reader I am today. My mother isn’t convinced of this, claiming that I would have developed a love of reading anyway. In the family I grew up in, it was almost inevitable, since everyone else loved to read.
But I remember very well how much I loved watching television, and I’m absolutely positive that without the Boy Who Lived, I wouldn’t have developed the all-consuming passion that I now have for books. Books have been my greatest escape, my most caring comforters, my friends in need and out of it, my protectors in every storm and my loyal sidekicks and companions during the days of calm waters and happiness. When I talk about books, about reading, my heart expands within me, my breathing grows rapid, and I experience the heady rush of true love engulf me. I wouldn’t have discovered the pure joy, the terrible sadness, the incredible empathy and endless wisdom that can be found in words, stories and characters.
And if I hadn’t discovered Harry, if I hadn’t become a reader, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. Whether that’s good or bad, I don’t know, but ultimately it doesn’t matter.
When Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came out in the summer of 2007, I’d just turned seventeen, like Harry. I grew up with Harry, Ron, Hermione and the others. I spent long afternoons discussing the books, speculating on what the next installments would hold. I read and reread the books I had over and over and over again, literally dozens of times, while still continuing to read widely and enthusiastically outside of the series.
Going to the first midnight-release party in Isreal, my met-in-nursery-school friend and I were already mourning the end of it all. Looking back at it now, I’m shocked to realize it was four years ago. Because Harry Potter’s importance hasn’t died out yet. Nor will it ever, even if it, for some odd reason, doesn’t become the classic it is already turning into. It will continue to live on in me, and anyone else who discovered the power of stories as they fell in love with Harry Potter.
Julie (goguiltypleasures) embraces and shares her guilty pleasures with such wholehearted zest that scientific studies have shown readers feel eleventy billion times happier after reading her blog than they were beforehand.
I caution you to follow the “recommended post” link below only when you have plenty of time to peruse. Like most of life’s sweetest offerings, it’s impossible to have just one bite of goguiltypleasures!
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Ten years ago, I attended a local community college in New Jersey, my sights set on transferring to a liberal arts university in Manhattan to study writing. I had a great group of older, witty, musically gifted, insanely intelligent friends, and when I wasn’t working or diligently studying, I spent my time with them. At that point, I’d been through some emotional turmoil (bullying and panic attacks) and had been home-schooled for high school. By 19, I had finally started to shed some of my old baggage, but conversations with this older crowd often left me feeling inadequate. I was always struggling to keep up with their knowledge of music, books, film, politics, religion, and hardest of all, their experience.
I liked to listen to ‘NSync and only read the newspaper if it was a class assignment. Rollerblading, baking, drawing and filmmaking were some of my hobbies. I loved fashion, Harry Potter and seeing pop rock concerts in New York City. I couldn’t get enough of my favorite television shows or juicy celebrity gossip. I was forced to admit the horrible truth: I was mainstream. Ordinary. I was doing something wrong, I thought; I needed to read those books I was “supposed” to read (but made me want to bang my head against a concrete wall), watch those films my friends said were best (but made my eyes droop with boredom), and visit museums “just for fun.”
It wasn’t just my friends who made me feel this way. Growing up, I always wanted to be The Smart One. The thing is, in my family, the bar is set extraordinarily high – I have a genius brother and an Ivy Leaguer father. To make a long story short, while I almost always got A’s in school, I never skipped a grade and never got into Princeton. I was The Artist (my brother had the coveted Smarty-Pants title, of course, while my sister had the Social Butterfly one). Even though I liked being called creative, I still felt the need to prove myself intellectually.
It wasn’t until 21, when I started dating my now-husband, that I realized how much time I was wasting on trying. Trying to be someone I wasn’t, to impress people who probably weren’t fooled to begin with or didn’t care much either way. My husband, more than anyone else, taught me to take the light-hearted road, and there is nothing I’m more grateful for. He’s shown me there’s no shame in liking what I like; the silly, self-indulgent girl I was trying to tame didn’t need stifling. Just because Clueless is my favorite movie of all-time and I’d rather listen to Britney Spears than jazz, doesn’t mean I’m any less interesting than the cerebral college mates I desperately wanted to win over. Those film snob friends who could talk for 45 minutes about the symbolism of Citizen Kane would be embarrassed to hear my husband get the same point across in one hilarious sentence.
Now when I have occasional lapses, and worry people will read my guilty pleasure blog and think I’m a shallow, one-trick pony, I laugh and say to myself, Who cares? Betcha I’m having more fun! What they might not realize is how difficult it was for me to get to this point. Luckily, I know if I start to get caught up in self-doubt, my husband will take my obnoxious words and repeat them in a ridiculous voice. Usually with a heavy lisp. You like using words like plethora, huh? Oh, you studied Nietzsche in college? Get the hell out of here, his teasing reminds me, you’re taking yourself too seriously.
My husband shows me, day in and day out, by his unwavering example, that there’s nothing better than being genuine. For this I am more thankful than champagne words can express. Even though I sometimes still have to force myself to share the goofy things [always] on my mind, it gets easier every day. And that’s like, you know, as the incomparable Miley Cyrus would say, pretty cool y’all.
Tori (The Ramblings) snared me immediately with her simultaneously exuberant and deeply considered posts. This combination of traits, only seldom seen traveling as such constant companions in the wilds of blogland, is enthralling enough, but do you suppose the magic stops there?
Not a chance! The fact she’s having her blog readers help plan her wedding is sure to have you wanting to know more, and be a part of that joy.
Recommended post: R & R (And R)
Take a Sip
“For myself I am an optimist – it does not seem to be much use being anything else.” - Sir Winston Churchill
I stood at the mouth of the ocean. The salt brushed loose from the breeze. Sand wrapped my toes. A baby babbled in the background. Just hushing wave, a child’s laughter, hushing wave, whirling winds, a child’s brilliant happiness. This is the best kind of lullaby, I thought. I love everything here.
I eyed a man to my left. I decided to call him Burt as it sounded sufficiently grumpy, and Grumpy, you will learn, was the pouty sir’s middle name. He was one man, a fuming island one slip of a tight jaw away from spewing hatefulness into pristine waters. His flimsy, red knickers suggested a playful side. His furious brow did not. Some minutes passed- him shooting angst from his eyeballs, me holding a head cocked like a concerned poodle. I waited for Playful Burt to invite us all for a leisurely game of volleyball. This never happened. I wondered if a hug would fix him right. Maybe a note tucked into his fanny pack could lighten his load? It would read: Perk up, Buttercup. Your glass ain’t half empty at the edge of this here ocean. Take a sip, fool. Take it all in. Your cup done runneth over. He threatened to rip paper from the seam with each flip of his book’s pages. He scoffed a bit, bothered by the natural beauty of it all, I suppose. I knew in that moment that for Burt the sun was too sunny, the sand too sandy, the saltwater too damned salty, and the child’s giggles so infuriating and giggly he could spit. I was sad to watch this stranger take his glass-so blatantly ready to spill over lip- and toss it aside, most certain that it held nothing for him. I peeled my feet from their borough on the beach and vacationed on to celebrate this good life elsewhere.
A week later, I am stuck in the mouth of a yellow slide. My son, the ever-adventurous toddler, has stopped for a rest mid-swirl. A line of antsy children fuss to at the top. A crowd of peeved parents fuss at the bottom. And I laugh. Oh, I laugh! My son giggles in time to my guffaws. The yellow slide vibrates with hilarity, and for a moment it is just me and my boy, tinted in the slide’s sunny shades and laughing at the echos of our laughter. Once regurgitated from the plaything, he runs past the pissy crowds towards the next best thrill the playground has to offer. States away from that awe of ocean, we find enough good in a muddy puddle. The dirt brushes loose from the breeze. Sweet smells of grass wrap my nose. A baby splashes in the background. Whoosh goes the swing, a child’s laughter, whoosh goes the swing, sun filters through every bone, a child’s brilliant happiness. I love everything here.
I look back to spot one mama still scrutinizing from a distance. Our pleasure, it seems, brings her greatest displeasure. For whole minutes she scornfully glances at us. It seems our lack of proper slide etiquette is close to unforgivable. Her children, gloriously golden-haired and delighted to play in the dirt are told to hush, to move, to cut it out. She is a gorgeous thing, slim and tan and lovely save for that soured purse of her lips. As one child ventures too deep in the dirt, she swipes them up, yanking and pulling the surprised tots towards the parking lot. Her one woman Circus of Fluster flies homeward in a luxury SUV. Maybe a note tucked into her diaper bag could lighten her load? It would read: Perk up, Buttercup. Your glass ain’t half empty when you’re double-fisting those there sippy cups. Take a sip of the good juice, fool. Take it all in. Your sippy cup done runneth over.
I check my e-mail as The Slide Scaler sleeps. A message from a fellow blogger asks for what I am grateful. Naturally, I make a list of people, places, things and more things. Health, Motherhood, Sunshine, Diet Coke. I love everything.
Then my hand detaches from my brain and scribbles Burt and Angry Lexus onto the page. How can I be grateful to perfectly volatile strangers? Before I know it I have added Cysts, Scars, Abortion, and Poor to the list. Awful, awful things for which I am filled with thanks? I promptly ask myself to shut up, but then I look closer.
It took those angry faces to teach me how not to live.
It took meals of crackers and Coke to appreciate a meal cooked, a bill paid, a bank account cushioned.
It took one miserable abortion, scars on skin and so deep down to bone to wipe me clean, to finally greet my son and tell him immediately and forever that this life, this life is so heartbreaking and good.
It took an e-mail from a blogger to make me realize that above all else I am grateful for my glass.
Some mysterious thing, some place or time, some experience or person thought in the darkest and lightest times to hand me a glass so dry and convince me that it would never, ever be empty. When, where and how this discovery smacked me I will never know, but I seem built to believe that it will never be empty. At the mouth of the ocean, in the throat of a snaking slide, I am simply thankful to be thankful.
Kasey (Single Working Mom) writes about life exactly as she lives it, addressing maddening, depressing and uplifting matters alike with candor and grace. What gets written on her blog is only half the magic of following her blog, though; the remainder falls into the equally candid email exchanges we would never have begun but for her blog! I am always delighted to read her words, no matter which forum they reach me through.
Recommended post: A Visit with Dad
All week long I was living in the town of Anxiety. Stressed to the gills about taking my daughter, Maycee, down to Grandma’s for the rest of the week, while she was sick, for a “vacation” we had planned long ago before summer began. She had a myriad of illnesses hit her at one time, two emergency room visits; I had already missed two days of work, preparing myself to miss more if her fever didn’t subside. After a follow-up visit with the pediatrician, ear infection was gone, her fever was denounced as not much to worry about, and the cold, well, it was just a cold. With the game plan in place to proceed with grandma’s visit if the doc said all systems go, we were in the car, bags packed with Blanky, Bluey, and Crystal Kitty, heading south to meet her dad for pickup and transport. Maycee was excited to be going, ready to have some change of scenery after four days couch-ridden at home, but within a short amount of minutes she was crashing out in the back seat, tired and plainly spent.
I am blessed. My daughter does not get sick often. Perhaps over seven and half years she has been really sick—REALLY SICK—about three other times. The last one was pneumonia/croup that took us to the emergency room when she was three years old. I was separated from her dad then, but still living within a close distance to him as well as other family. I worked mainly from home along with two other part-time day jobs that were not very restricting at all to parenting. I was able to be at home with her without much concern or fear, knowing all jobs could do without me just fine. It was a different time and a different place, a different life. It seems like another world away, really. She recovered from that scary illness in about a week. Not too long, and with marked progress. This time, at this age, the same end result was not occurring, and I now live two and half hours away from her father and my family, work a day job, 8 hours per day, 5 days per week, and manage all life’s complexities in isolation.
I had so many ideas for this guest post. In fact, I had settled on one FTIAT subject with emphatic decisiveness, mulling over what details I would include, how beautifully I could string the concepts together…hmmmmm…but that just wouldn’t be me. Not in the blogosphere. Not in my head. Because of this: when I grasp the hour or two I steel for myself to write I MUST simply write what is pressing on my heart at that very moment. I could be no truer to those reading if I did not write this way. And, the blogs I gravitate toward do the same. I will say this then, I’m fairly certain I will one day post my original FTIAT planned subject matter when it hits me…But today, for this guest entry it boils down to this: DRUMROLL PLEEEEEEEEAAAASSSSEEEEE…
I AM SO VERY THANKFUL FOR MY DAUGHTER, MAYCEE.
She made it through the week at Grandma’s with a lot of difficulty but some recovery. Then, it was off to her dad’s for the weekend. All totaled I was away from her for seven days. Seven days too many. As a single working mom I certainly cherish a few quiet moments “childless”. I scramble to get chores done or tackle a larger house project that I’ve had to put off. I sleep in (if I’m not under guilty duress) until 8AM and slowly drink a warm cup of coffee rather than quickly drink half of one, cold. But, if you put a hidden camera in my home during my first night of imposed “freedom” this is what you’d see (fictitiously narrated by any of your favorite announcers):
There she is, Kasey. She’s just standing there. In the middle of her living room. Looking around. What’s she looking at? Oh, there she goes, now she’s going to the kitchen. Wait, she’s back. She’s back in the middle of the living room. Staring. At the walls? It’s midnight. Why doesn’t she go to bed? What is she doing?
Because without my daughter there is too much space for me. Because without the hours filled to the brim of 9:00 at night with work, camp, childish whining, scolding, questions, giggles, and hugs I hardly know what to do with myself until a day or so has passed. This I’ve come to recognize with immense gratitude! I’m so very thankful that I do not live solely for my own self any more. That although this single mom-hood life isn’t what I’d wanted or planned for, I wouldn’t trade it for anything if it meant not having my little one. I wouldn’t want to go back to a life where the world revolved around memyselfandi. Other mommy-friends say, “Oh, I would love it if I could have a few days to myself. It’d be so nice.” Sure it would. Sure it is. I need re-charging; we all do. But more-so than the pleasure of solitary confinement, when I’m away from Maycee for days or a week at time it reinforces my sense of gratitude for this amazing gift I’ve been given. I’m a mom, I’m a mom, I’M A MOM! Rejoice and be glad in it! HALLELUJAH!
I picked Maycee up today at 4:10PM. The hours did not move quickly enough for me. I called her every day she was away; sometimes twice. I parented through Grandma and her dad by phone. I wanted to climb through the receiver to give her hugs, give her medicine, give her all of me, but I couldn’t, so I’d say, “Can you feel it? This is Mommy giving you a hug. MMMMMMMMMMHMMMMMMMMM!” She’d reply, “Ooooooh, that was a good one, Mommy! I could feel it!” I picked up Maycee today, and when I got into that McDonald’s parking lot she was holding her dad’s hand until she saw me. Then, the smile grew bigger and bigger, and she let go of Dad’s hand in anticipation. I quickly parked the car, jumped out, and grabbed my girl. Crying, I hugged her so tight, told her I loved her, how much I missed her. This time even more than the rest, if that is possible, because I had to trust her recovery within the village it takes to raise a child-not my own hands. She said to me, hugging me back, “I missed you, too.” And, I was so very, incredibly thankful she is mine, and I am hers: Maycee’s mommy. HER ONE AND ONLY MOMMY.
This drive home there was no Scooby Doo movie playing in the backseat, no DSi games going, barely any music. Just loads of relief and love you could feel through the seats and carpet and windows of the car. Talking, catching up, as if we didn’t talk fast enough we’d lose our breath. Mother and Daughter. Laughter that swelled with each mile until we reached the Yellow Submarine, and Maycee said, “I’m going to let you get out of the car and get to the door first so I can run right in [to our home, that is]!” And For This I Am Thankful.
I am also thankful for you, Readers. In this life, today, be happy, and as always, give a chuckle.
last : A Moment of Clarity | Take A Sip (11/18/11) : next
Byron MacLymont (The Byronic Man) has a gift for making people laugh. I base this not only on an official survey of millions–specifically, myself and my S.O., Ba.D.–but also other peoples’ comments on his blog.
As if inspiring laughter weren’t enough, Byron i’s also a brain surgeon, a former Olympic kick-boxer and bench-presser-of-adult-bulls. He modestly claims in his bio that he can bench-press only one, but I see right through this artifice, mostly because he bestowed upon his subscribers the gift of seeing through artifice.
Sadly, his other superpowers are non-transerable.
Byron’s greatest power of all is his ability to take time out from his busy schedule of crime-fighting and penning Cyrano de Bergerac to share beautiful, heartfelt truths in ways that fill a reader’s eyes with tears and heart with wonder. Like most awesome superpowers, this is one best used sparingly to emphasize just how powerful it is, and Byron uses it accordingly.
I am honored he has chosen, this time, to use it at TMiYC.
Recommended post: Life: The Yelp Reviews
A Moment of Clarity
Yesterday, October 27th, was my 10-year wedding anniversary. It’s a little difficult to even comprehend that that is true. In part because it doesn’t seem possible that it’s been 10 whole years, in part because it doesn’t seem possible that there was a time before her, and in part because nothing – I mean nothing – in my previous track record suggests that this would be a possibility.
The longest relationship I had before this one was six months. I had several that lasted six months, but they all ended at that point, like clockwork. I won’t go so far to say that I am totally responsible for the end of all of them, but I wouldn’t scoff or get immediately indignant at the suggestion, either. I didn’t know much, but I knew I liked being the white knight; being adored. I also, like many young men, loved the chase. I also think that I was so unsure of who I was that I kind of panicked when someone was getting to know the actual me, instead of the version of me I tried to put forward. The guy underneath the glistening armor, if you’ll pardon the hackneyed metaphor. Whatever the impetus, it involved either bad choices, or choices handled badly.
When I met her I was in a time of transition, so maybe I was open to different things, but the fact is that she was really unlike anyone I’d dated before. Unlike the people I’d pursued. Yet I was immediately and totally drawn to her, like a magnet. Something inside was ferociously saying HER. THIS ONE. I remember talking to my parents and saying that it seemed as if I was walking along and had come upon a large pile of gems and jewels, and I had to hurry and find a way to scoop them up, because surely someone was going to beat me to it.
I had always been very clear that I would never marry someone unless we’d dated for a year. That I’d be very rational about something like that. Within a week I knew this was it. Within 3 months we were engaged. Almost exactly a year after meeting we got married… so I guess, technically, we dated for a year before getting married. But I don’t kid myself that it was rational and stoically planned.
She continues to be unlike anyone I’ve known. She pushes me, challenges me, complements my weaknesses.
Marriage is everything they say it is, and nothing they say it is. Marriage is about hardships I couldn’t have imagined, couldn’t believe we’d have the strength to face. Sometimes I’ll joke with her about “the things they don’t tell you in the marital vows,” and you’ve sure never been mad until you’ve been mad at someone you love, but the fact remains that I am a more complete, stronger person than I ever was before I met her, or could have become without her. I’ve also had more fun since meeting her than I ever had before that. Gone on more adventures. Taken more risks.
It would be easy to say that I am thankful for her, and I am, but when Deborah asked me to write up a “for this I am thankful” what came to mind was whatever it was in the air, in my brain, whatever, that made me see she was the one to pursue. Nothing, and I mean nothing, in my history suggested that I would make a smart relationship choice when the time came, but somehow I did. I don’t know why, I don’t what in me clicked, but for that moment, that instant, I am thankful and mystified.
It would also be simple to say I’m thankful for that moment when we’re curled up watching a movie, or when she comes up with some impossible adventure to go on and makes it happen. Because it’s easy to be thankful during the good parts. But marriage isn’t just about the good parts – it’s about all of it. All of yourself, all of your partner.
And so while I am thankful during these easy times, I’m also thankful when she insists we do the grocery shopping even though I’m exhausted.
When I’ve just screwed something up, and she can’t wait even a couple hours to tell me what I could have done differently, I’m thankful then.
When I say I’m sorry and she replies, “No, you’re not. If you were sorry, you wouldn’t have done it in the first place,” somewhere deep down, I’m thankful.
When she looks at the back of my head and says, “Hey, your hair is thinning” for no other reason than because she knows it’ll make me crazy with paranoia, I’m still thankful.
When I’m mad and fed up and think, Oh, screw this, life was easier when I was on my own, I’m thankful.
When she insists that she needs, needs, another dog, or cat, or a pig, or God knows what else, I’m thankful.
When I just can’t believe how complicated everything has to be all the time, I’m thankful.
When I ask if she’s ready to go, and she says yes despite the fact that she is very definitely not ready, and I’m going to be late for work, again… I’m thankful.
I’m thankful when she wants to pester me and draw on my arms when I just really, really want to go to sleep.
I’m thankful, even now, knowing she’ll read this and use it as ammunition to pester me even when I’m telling her to knock it off.
When I’m so mad I can’t even speak, there is that part of me that is thankful.
Basic ideas of cause & effect suggest that that moment, that transformation, should not have happened. It was an anomaly, an unpredictable occurrence. Yet, it did happen. And 10 years later here we are, and we still love each other, still have fun together, still face challenges together. And for the spark that made me see in her what could be, and what I could be with her, I am truly, deeply, thankful.
last : What I Didn’t Realize | Seven Days (11/4/11) : next
Crystal (Can you hear me now?) and I first exchanged tweets about author Sonya Sones, who was then very new to me but had long been dear to her. Our Twitter conversations continue, but they’re supplemented by blog and email discussions as well. Through these I have been given glimpses into a mind whose great–and utilized–capacities are equalled by its bearer’s heart.
I long believed that wisdom could only come with age. Crystal is an excellent reminder that the truth might perhaps be better stated as, “Greater wisdom may come with greater age.”
Recommended post: STARBURST.
What I Didn’t Realize
I know that TMiYC has a lot of parent readers and bloggers, so I’ve decided to share my parents with you.
My parents were of the “tiger mom” type. They immigrated here from Asia (I won’t say any more lest I get in trouble with my computer tech dad), so were brought up in very strict households. As such, they had many expectations of us. My brother and I were expected to become successful doctors, fluent in the three dialects of Chinese that our family knows, get our Grade 10 Piano certifications, be consistent honour students, get into university and maybe go for a second degree, learn the violin, become black belts in taekwondo, be good kids… just short of being child prodigies. On top of that, being the oldest meant that I was expected to be a role model for my little brother.
I resented all of that. It’s true that I am fluent in three dialects of Chinese. It is true that I am now attending the “Harvard of Canada.” It’s also true that I know how to play the piano, violin, and trumpet. I was a consistent A student in high school, and was at the top of my game when it came to interacting and networking with people, as I was the head of the debate club. I never got my black belt, but my physical skills were never that high a priority to me or my parents after a couple accidents over the years. I fell short of being a child prodigy because I never really excelled in anything, but in my head something told me that I should try to be one because it’s the right thing to do. Being good at everything wasn’t enough. I needed to be excellent, maybe even perfect. It’s the thing to do, if not to ensure my future success, then to make my parents proud of me. And I resented it. I resented learning Chinese when I didn’t want to learn it in school. I didn’t want to go to piano lessons, and I absolutely hated taekwondo, even if it was for the exercise. The only thing I truly enjoyed doing were the things I chose to do for myself, which were joining band class, debate club and learning the violin. Even when I was good, above average, they still pushed and pushed and pushed. They were strict. They were tough. They believed that it was the only way to make it easier for me in the future. My mom kept telling me and my brother that they were pushing us because it’s for our own good, and over the years I’ve come to accept it. I didn’t quite understand it, but I took it to heart every time I felt like crap when my dad told me my best wasn’t good enough.
(In some ways, the last paragraph isn’t the best representation of my parents. I remember the controversy that was Tiger Mom, and I would like to make it clear that my parents, and Tiger Mom herself, are not cold-hearted beings. In many ways it’s a cultural thing, but I won’t go into it here. I did have fun times growing up. My parents did let me play, but only after I was done homework and practice, which is what every teacher and educator have been telling us to do.)
Eventually it became clear that I wasn’t going to be valedictorian or debate champion. My parents became satisfied that I am trying my best, so my grades went from being “not good enough” to “just what I expect from you.” I was active and constantly talking about things (my dad and I would sit and watch PBS science programs or the news and talk about it), so it’s not because I wasn’t smart, I just didn’t show it in my grades. It was with that acceptance that I entered university. I was hoping that I would finally be able to shine and accomplish something, pave a road for myself. My parents had the same hopes and it was with those sentiments that they sent me across the country to university.
University was nothing like the place I imagined. I had questionable roommates, and even more questionable grades. But I took it all with a grin because, hey, it’s college. Crazy things happen freshman year, right? I’ll just try harder. And I did. I tried harder and harder and harder until I couldn’t take it anymore. I was getting sick with flu, from stress, humid weather, and too many people around me. I still pushed through, and managed not to completely drop out of school, though the dismal GPA was enough to make me consider it. First year flew by, and second year rolled along with even more trouble than the first. My would-be roommate ditched me, with no apartment, a week before school started. I was running around trying to find a place while school was piling on lecture after lecture, all the while commuting an three hours a day to get to and from school from my grandma’s house, with unaccommodating night labs to boot. I was sick again, this time with terrible colds that kept me from classes for a week. I became homesick. I felt lonely.
On a cold October night, I broke down and wondered why the world sucked so much with as much teenage vigour I could muster. When I finally let the dam break, I couldn’t stop. It was a rush defeat, shame and disappointment that came out, but just from me. From my parents came concern, worry, and unconditional love that I had never realized my stoic parents could show before that moment.
Not once did my parents push me. They would only sit quietly while I cried over Skype, tell me it will be alright soon, and that they are always there for me. My dad didn’t say that my best wasn’t good enough. My mom didn’t tell me that the whole shebang was all for my own good. They never once told me to be better because I have to be; instead they told me to be better because they know I can be. I just need to hold on.
In the 19 (at the time) years I’ve been alive, never once had I broken down in front my parents because I’ve always been afraid that they wouldn’t like it. Maybe I was afraid that it would show them that I’m not good enough, not smart enough, not talented enough, not gifted enough. It was only after that night that I realize that they never once believed that. My parents have always believed that we have the potential to be better than what we are now. My dad’s motto of “Each generation is better and stronger than the last” is really the fuel that spurs my parents to keep trying, keep pushing. Now that motto is helping me get through my hard times.
This guest blog is supposed to be about being thankful. I am thankful to my parents. Not just for raising me and taking care of me, but for pushing me when I was young, and believing that I am, can and will be better. I want to thank them for being naggy and annoying. I want to thank them for sending me an overnight care package of homemade curry and laksa, my favourite foods, for Thanksgiving, because I have midterms right after and can’t go visiting my extended over the long weekend. I want to thank them for always treating me like an adult-child, asking for my opinions in politics and household finances, while still worrying if I have enough money to spend, enough food to eat. I want to thank them for listening while I cried, and keeping the “I told you so” comments to a minimum. I want to thank them for being frugal, just so my brother and I can each have a Gameboy so we can play Pokémon to our hearts’ content. I want them to know just how important they are to me. This long read isn’t enough to justify how much I want to thank them and how much I truly love them.
Through this post, I wanted to share how I grew up, and help parents out there know that it’s okay to push their kids once in a while. They’ll eventually realize that it isn’t because you’re trying to be mean and old-fashioned, but because you truly believe that your kids are better people and you’re just trying to get them to see that. I’ve started to unknowingly push myself to be better, to set goals, and make myself fulfill them. I think we have to go through the terrible teens (which may be even worse than terrible twos) in order to see how important our parents are.
It may be twenty, thirty years before I have my own set of teenagers to argue with, but I will make sure they know that everything I do, from grounding them to making them practice piano, is for their own good. It may be traumatizing. It will be hard. There will probably be lasting aftereffects, but as parents and kids, the only thing we can do is try our best to accommodate and understand that at the end of the day, we all want the best.
It’s been two years since I’ve left high school, left home, left life as I knew it, and since then, I’ve come to realize just how important my parents are. It took me 20 years, but I don’t think it’s too late.