When my sister and I were kids my mom spent a lot of time studying for her masters and then her doctorate in History. I remember wishing she would play with us more, but I don’t remember resenting her time in her office.
Now, as I work on my master’s, I follow her footsteps into my office many nights, reading until late in the evening after my lessons are planned for the next day at school. Thing2 is pretty busy forging his identity these days, so I don’t feel as much guilt about time in the office or studio as I probably should.
As I work, I know that, even though she’s been retired from teaching for over a decade now, on any given night, she’s probably in her office reading and writing articles or preparing for a guest lecture. So tonight, as I organize the evening’s notes into my binder and nitpick over reference lists, it will feel like we are actually spending some quality time together.
I don’t tend to be a mourner. I shed a few tears, maybe a sob here and there, and then the person I love lives on in my memories and, if I’m lucky, in the lessons I’ve absorbed from them.
I’m blessed to have been born with a small army of Great Aunts. I don’t mean that they were a generation removed from mine. I mean that they were and truly are great – awesome. They adventure. They dive into learning. They are helpers and nurturers. They have always been what I want to be when I (eventually) grow up. Kind. Brave. Extraordinary.
One of my League of Extraordinary Women passed away on Sunday night. She was a prominent fixture in our lives when Thing1 was born, helping us navigate the German healthcare system (where he was born). A counselor and mother, she helped me learn to trust myself and my love of Thing1 when I was getting my parenting sea legs.
I am thinking of her even more intensely this evening as I take a break from writing IEPs to absorb Thing1’s news from his latest visit to Dartmouth Hitchcock where he spent a good part of his senior year and what should have been his freshman year of college. We are learning, yet again, that having a chronic illness means that he has, what his doctor once warned was, a permanent diagnosis, inspite of having had a colectomy. Now, instead of thinking about summer jobs, he is faced with another, riskier surgery or the very real possibility of cancer by the time he’s in his thirties.
He always seems to take the news in stride, but I know he’s frustrated and a little frightened. Hidden in my office where he can’t see me, I give into a few sobs before acting on the lessons my very awesome aunt taught me everyday.
I know if she were here, she would offer a hug and tell me to trust my love for Thing1 as we help him over this next hurdle. She would remind us that we have the strength to get through this together and that it’s okay to cry. And, as she showed us everyday of her life, even when her own child faced a debilitating illness, she would remind us to care for others around us. She would show us how not let fear steal the happiness we do have with each other.
I will sob for a few more minutes before I get back to writing IEPs, and then I’m going to remember her by living her lessons.
It was when I was standing in the toothpaste and tampon aisle that I realized that the powers that be will try to sell us on anything.
Why else would the feminine hygiene market be trying to market us on a mini pads for a thong? I don’t know about the rest of my gender, the last thing I’m thinking of during that time of the month, is how I can find a way to wear the most uncomfortable undergarment possible.
I looked down at my own body and admitted there were a lot of days during the month I wouldn’t even consider wearing a thong, and most of those all of those days end with a ‘Y’. And as I snorted in disgust, I almost whispered those dirty words that everyone has uttered at some point in his or her adult life. “I hate my body.”
But I didn’t. I stopped myself. And, as I retreated to the safety of the toothpaste side of that aisle, I knew what they really trying to sell me.
I haven’t said those words more than once in the last six months. I haven’t abandoned them because I’ve lost so much weight that I love the way my body looks. The reality is, that even when I get to my goal weight, I’ll have so much loose skin from childbearing, breast-feeding, and carrying too much weight for too many years that wearing a thong even in private might give my husband reasonable grounds for divorce if his eyes weren’t so bad .
I eschewed the phrase during my first 7 mile run. For some people 7 miles isn’t very far, but for me it was a milestone. I was huffing and puffing the whole way, and when I realized the last part of my race would be uphill, I felt the words rising. I hate my body.
My feet became dead weights, and I slowed. It was as if my were body rebelling against the arrows I had just slung.
“What have I done?” It was asking me. “What have I done except carry you the last 40-odd years while giving you two healthy children – all without complaint? You have neglected me. You have gorged and let me grow weak, and I have served you anyway”
I came to a complete stop and looked down. It was right. If my body doesn’t perform to my expectations it’s because I haven’t treated it with respect.
That’s been changing over the last few months with better nutrition and exercise. But the change is not only physical. When I selected goal weight, it was not based on a jean size, it was based on a healthy BMI for my age. And I’ve come to realize that if I don’t love my body – at every size – how can I expect it to love me enough to carry me into old age and do the things that a body is supposed to do?
So maybe if they make a thong that’s comfortable for me and my body, I’d go for it. But what was for sale on that shelf in the toothpaste and tampon aisle, I’m no longer willing to buy.
I’ve helping a friend teach a class on the Art of the Blog for the last few weeks and another 2 weeks to go, and it’s kind of exciting for a number of reasons. One is, even though I do tech support on a daily basis, it’s kind of fun to come up with tech tips for something new and for an appreciative audience rather than a frazzled customer. The other exciting and slightly scary element was the fact that, aside from helping two kids navigate the rigors of potty training, I’ve never taught anybody anything.
I felt like I discovered myself as a writer when I attended my first serious workshop, and, even though I knew we were all different, a part of me always worried that everyone else would be a better writer. Ultimately they were better – better at writing authentically for them. The great thing about workshop last year and the blog class and Open Groups is they’re just like being in a 5K. Unless you’re in the running for the big cash prize at the end of the route, you won the moment you started the race. It’s not about the prize – it’s about going the distance. The only person you’re competing with is yourself, and encouraging the woman next to you doesn’t just help her, it helps you.