In honor of Maya Angelou, I wanted to share one of my favorite quotes of hers. While there are many of her quotes that I find inspiring, this one speaks to me personally. I’m grateful for her wisdom and her work.
My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there!
Did you know that Mother’s Day was founded in 1914 after Ann Jarvis, a peace activist who helped care for soldiers on both sides of the civil war? Her daughter, Anna Jarvis, campaigned for a day in memory of her mother and her work because she said a mother is the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world. It’s such a simple statement. True in that a mother brings you into the world. But after childbirth, it’s a commitment to being a mother that makes the difference. And like anything with great dividends, it’s not an easy task. It’s also not something everyone can do. I was talking to a student the other day about Mother’s Day plans and she confided in me that her relationship with her mom was a strained one. Apparently, when my student was a young teenager, her mother decided she was tired of the role and walked away from her family. And while she had come to terms with it, the change in her mother was a difficult one for my student to understand. But she said that her dad remarried a woman who happily took on the role and she was thankful to have her as a stepmother.
It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the notion. However, I’ll admit to something. When I was young, having children was not a priority to me like it was to some of my sisters and friends. I wasn’t sure I really wanted to have kids. I was never that girl who loved to babysit and dreamed of getting married and having three kids and a dog and a house with a white picket fence. I always thought I’d start a career and travel and maybe have kids later in life. But life doesn’t work out as planned, and I fell in love and got married young and ended up pregnant just a few months after the wedding. And now I can’t imagine a life without my kids. Was is always easy? Oh, boy, no. Were there days I wanted a break? Many. In fact, I used to joke that Mother’s Day should really be a day without the kids. A nice, quiet day alone. That was when they were still crying a lot and constantly needing something. However, I like to think that motherhood becomes part of someone’s identity. I don’t know how I could now separate myself from it.
Being a mom is the sweetest and sometimes most painful gift I’ve ever been given. Sweet because the bond and love I have for my children is almost indescribable. Painful because there are moments as a mother where the individual you are has to take a back seat to the mother your kids need. It’s not always easy to be selfless, especially when your kids don’t recognize the sacrifice, as kids usually don’t. Painful also because there are a lot of moments of letting go that happen over the years, if you’re doing it right. Eventually kids don’t need their mom to be central in their lives, and that can feel a lot like being pushed away. But I always remind myself that it is an evolution and eventually (hopefully) my kids will see me as I see my own mom. A woman who did more for me than anyone in the world. Someone whose sacrifices I am eternally grateful for. Someone with whom I also have a wonderful friendship, for I can see her also a great person outside of her role as mother. I’m not only thankful today for my mom, I’m also thankful that I am a mom.
A friend’s daughter got married today. The ceremony was a small gathering at a beautiful church and the weather was perfect. The reception was a larger affair at a nice restaurant, with all the trappings of today’s weddings: open bar, sit down dinner, announcement of wedding party, toasts, video montage of the couple’s courtship, first dances, bouquet throwing… It was probably the wedding day most little girls dream of. It really was wonderful.
But out of everything, the thing that touched me was this. When the bridal party assembled in the church as the ceremony began, the groom walked to the front and from the first moment he reached the altar, he had tears in his eyes. And when he turned around to the audience, he very tenderly over at his mother before looking around at everyone else. It was lovely to see this young man so openly display his emotions without reservation. And when the bride reached the altar, she barely took her eyes off of him. I know a little of the couple’s history and their path to the altar wasn’t a swift, uneventful one. They had a few bumps along the way. But watching them today, it was obvious that their commitment to each other was a very real one. I’m thankful that I was there to witness it.
It’s been a really tough week. A week of endings. It’s hard to feel grateful when the heart aches. I find myself losing words. This is the time I usually turn to writing poetry because for some reason, it helps me focus my feelings. I am thankful I have that catharsis.
unapparent in words
so maybe wasn’t an option
sometimes love only goes one way
an ending too bright
too startling in its clarity
one infinite flash
fades to shadow
my masochist lingers there aching
best to untangle and float
now heart paste smeared
on paper for him to see
how thick my pain is
I have a cat. He’s a sixteen pound orange tabby whose name is Sousi. It’s a misspelling of the French word souci, which means a worry or concern. His first vet office spelled it with an “s” so we just went with it. I guess that’s what you get when you’re trying to be clever by choosing a word in a foreign language few Americans speak. Of course, most people hear Susie, figuring its a female cat or, like my mother, have trouble pronouncing it at all and call him Sushi. I usually call him SUESS! or Sousibous or schnooks. Or sometimes it’s damnit cat or stupid cat depending on how precariously I’m about to trip over him.
I found him in an abandoned building on a piece of property I once owned. Actually, the night I spotted him, there were two kittens. My husband at the time said he had seen a cat prowling around, so we left the kittens assuming the momma cat would come back. And she did, but only for one. After a few days, I couldn’t stand it. I was too worried about him left alone in the winter, so I brought him home. (Hence his name.) He was barely bigger than my hand and I had to nurse him with a doll-sized bottle. He was the fluffiest, cutest little kitten. Then he grew. Imagine the most rambunctious two year old toddler you know and put him in cat form. That’s what he was like. He loved to hide in doorways or under footstools and jump out as we passed by, grabbing on to ankles and feet and scaring the crap out of us. He’d run through the house sounding like a little horse, climbing up whatever he could. Yet at night, he’d sneak into my bedroom with only the briefest of sounds and spring onto my bed like a ninja cat, usually directly on top of me. Then he’d chase my moving feet under the covers. It would surprise me every time.
These days, he’s become fat and much lazier. He’s close to 13 years old, so it’s no shock that he’d much rather cuddle than scare us with his antics. He loves to hug and if I put my finger in his paw, I swear he holds it, curling his little toes around as far as he can. I used to sing You are My Sunshine while dancing with him and when he’d gaze at me lovingly, I’d tell him that he was so handsome, if I were a cat, I’d marry him. It makes me laugh to even type that. Funny the things we say and do with our pets. Unfortunately, I’ve been guilty lately of complaining about how needy he is…he insists on being on me every chance he can. He’s not happy simply curled up near me, he wants to be as close to my face as possible. And some nights, I’m just too busy to be that attentive to him. But like most pets, he keeps coming back. Tonight when I got home, he was at the door waiting for me as usual. He followed me every where I went and sat in my lap as soon as I sat. Everyone should have someone or something in their lives that adores them that much. Today I’m thankful for my Sousi and his consistent reminder that I’m loved.
Usually I write these posts at the end of the day. It seems to make sense to me to wait until my day is over to realize what has really struck me. Sometimes I’m not even sure until I sit down at the computer. I just let the words come out honestly and take shape in front of me. Today I’m writing early because I’m headed out of town and I’m not sure what my internet connection status will be later. I figured, better safe than sorry. But I also know one thing I’m grateful for already today: taking chances.
It is so easy to play life safe. To sit on the sidelines and watch from the slight comfort of our fold up chair. How many parents do this with their children? Urge their kids to try out for sports or cheerleading or play the musical instrument they were too afraid to pick up when they were a kids themselves. Most of us–because it’s easier to live vicariously through someone else. I think that’s why Americans are obsessed with celebrities. They don’t seem to have the limits the rest of us do. With money and power and a staff of helpers, we would probably all become a bit more risk-takers. I imagine the fallout doesn’t seem as bad when you’re insulated. But how many things do we miss by not getting involved ourselves? Not getting into the nitty gritty dirty thing called life. Some of my friends have been surprised recently to learn about how much I’ve been doing on my own. Not just house stuff, but social things. If I don’t have a willing friend, I decided I’d just go out by myself. That’s what I’m doing today. Heading into Chicago for a concert.
I believe life isn’t about staying inside our own bubble wrap. It’s no fun in there. Sure, getting hurt sucks, physically and emotionally. And it’s usually the emotional hurts that scare us the most. Breaking bones can heal quicker than a broken heart or spirit. It takes immense trust and courage to hand over your heart to someone and ask them to take care of it. Especially when the last person stuck it in their pocket and forgot about it. Or shoved pins into it. Stepped on it. You get the idea. I’ve got quite a few bandages still wrapped around mine. But I’m willing to take a chance again because I personally think we are made for connections. Sometimes family is enough or a circle of friends is enough. Yet sometimes it isn’t and it’s time to cross our fingers and take off the insulation and jump into the messiness of life. Sure, it could end up badly. It could hurt again. But it also could turn out to be wonderful. After all, I’d rather take a risk and fall than spend my life standing on the edge, wondering what it feels like to fly.