Pride

I left the theatre last Sunday with a strange feeling. I walked to my car, loaded with costumes and flowers and other “backstage” stuff that I had accumulated over two weeks of being ultra focused on a play I was doing. Once I settled into my car, I took a deep breathe and relaxed for a few minutes before ever putting the key in the ignition. I just sat there.

Feeling.

I felt happy, for sure.

The play had gone well. The audience had really responded. I felt connected to my character, to the other characters.

I had given an authentic performance. My castmates had done beautiful work.

We put on a really good play.

I was proud of myself.

And I knew in that moment that I had never felt what I was feeling before.

I was proud of myself.

I am 44 years old and I have never sat back and just felt proud of myself.

How is that possible?

That’s kinda sad.

Why? Have I never done anything to be proud of before?

And driving along I searched back through my life’s accomplishments, projects I had managed, other plays I have been in, events I was in charge of. Yes, I have done good work before. Definitely.

But at the end of the project I simply moved on.

I may have thought about what I could have done better or what I would change if I did a similar project in the future.

If someone said, great work, I might have smiled and said thank you but internally I would have quickly discounted the compliment.

I think I may have breathed a sigh of relief and thought to myself, “well that didn’t suck, thank GOD.”

But I do not believe that I have ever spent even one minute in my 44 years simply patting myself on the back.

It boggles my mind how very true that statement is.

It makes me wonder if it’s a me thing, this inability to reward myself for a job well done, or a societal thing, or a female thing, or simply an insecurity thing?

Is there anything wrong with feeling proud of yourself?

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Pride is bad.

Humility is good.

I think it’s a deep rooted belief. Pride is one of the seven deadly sins.

We are taught not to be prideful. We are taught that pride separates us from God, from love.

But what does pride actually mean?

“a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements”

That doesn’t seem like a bad thing.

Allowing yourself to feel pleasure at the end of a job well done shouldn’t be a bad thing.

And it isn’t.

It wasn’t.

As I drove home, I allowed myself to feel proud, to feel pleasure at having dreamed of a project, of going out and making it come true, and then having it be something beautiful and good.

Together with the other people on the team, we did a beautiful and good piece of theatre. I am proud of us.

It’s unbelievable that I have never allowed myself to feel a little pride before.

And I did it. All the way home. That 20 minutes, I danced, cried a little, giggled a little, marveled a little that we did it, I DID IT.

Then I got home and walked in the house.

Into three barking dogs, three needing kids, a sink full of dishes, seven loads of laundry and a lot of other “real life” crap.

Nope, nothing bad happened when I let myself feel proud. Life went on.

The Dog I Killed

I was driving my kids to a weekend at the beach, my car was filled with four boys. It was pretty late on a Friday night and we were almost there. That last stretch of road is pretty dark, a two lane Texas highway without a lot of activity except the occasional condo or beach house and a lot of travelers all headed to the same place. The kids were quiet (finally) and music was playing and I was feeling good…relieved to have almost made it to my destination after a long workday, hours spent packing and a nearly three hour drive.

And there it was.

Tan.

The color of my favorite dog. My Evaleen.

I saw it maybe 1 second before the impact. But it hit, hard. And then it was gone.

My entire body reacted to it. I drove about 5 more seconds before I really understood what had happened and then I pulled over, got out of the car, looked under the car. Did I actually think it was still under the car somehow? What was I looking for?

I started to shake and cry a little. The kids pounded me with questions.

“What happened?”

“Are you ok?”

“What’s wrong?”

“Did we hit something?”

I responded, “yes, I think we hit a dog” and I really started to cry now. I got back in the car and drove back.

Is that what you do? Do you drive back and search? We hit that dog, or whatever it was (because by now my brain was talking me into believing it hadn’t been a dog, I didn’t want it to be a dog, I wanted it to be something else, something less loved and cherished, something wild or rabid) we hit that dog hard. It couldn’t have survived.

I drove back and looked. But I didn’t get out of the car. It was very late. On a very dark stretch of highway, with cars coming along fast. I looked. I saw nothing.

So I turned around again and continued on my journey.

But the heavy feeling, the “I killed a dog” feeling didn’t leave me.

I carried it along, to the condo, as we unpacked the car, as we waited for the other car to arrive and got all nine kids settled.

Yes, I take 9 kids to the beach alone. I am crazy like that. 5 of them are practically grown ups. Anyway.

So, alone…I sat on a bench outside the condo drinking my wine and thinking about that dog.

But as I sat there I realized it wasn’t just that dog I was thinking about, I was also thinking about another dog I had hit, years and years earlier. In 1988. Another Spring Break. My senior year in high school. We had travelled to Arkansas to go camping. The trip had been somewhat of a disaster. Seven teenagers camping without an adult to remind them to pack things like enough food or proper equipment. But we had a ridiculously good time. As only teens can do. We danced in the rain, we fought, we laughed, we got drunk and slept outside under the moon. We were all filthy when we hit the road that night, covered in mud and bug bites and stinking of campfire. My car was filled with four boys.

Notice the similarity here? Spring Break? Four Boys?

Weird.

That dog was black. And I was the only one awake. Again, I was the only one who saw what happened. I turned around that time too. Again, I saw nothing. I never found the dog.

As I sat there thinking about that dog, in the year 2015, I was steeped in memories of the other dog and of that trip and of that time in my life and I was back into my 17 year old body and I was feeling things and thinking about things I hadn’t thought of in years and years. I was overwhelmed with memory and thought and emotion. I was feeling the pain and the pleasure of a time in my life that had been gone for almost thirty years.

And it occurred to me, and here is the point of this blog…

Circumstances can trigger an association with something completely unrelated that bring you right back to another time, to another experience that is related but yet not related. Sometimes we realize it and sometimes we don’t.

And it occurred to be me how much conflict is caused by these associations.

Your partner says or does something that triggers something that happened previously and you react with that previous experience in mind. You respond to an innocent set of words or actions with a body of memory that have nothing to do with what’s happening in the moment.

Something completely unrelated. You respond to your partner or friend or boss or a complete stranger through the filter of another association, you punish them for something they were never a part of.

God, we do that lot.

We humans.

It makes complete sense. But I think we have to stop doing it.

I think it gets in the way of love.

I suspect that a big part of our journey in life is to stop doing that. To become aware of the present moment so clearly that old associations aren’t allowed to cloud it.

I am suddenly hyper aware of these associations since that night. I am aware of how much they infect today with yesterday.

I recognize the danger in them.

How they steal our joy.

I want every tiny bit of joy I can get.

I don’t want to give any of it away to the past anymore.

On being a mom

I tell each of my kids that they are my favorite.

They know it. It’s something we laugh about. They enjoy it. And they know I say it to the other two.

Each one of them is my favorite.

My little one is my favorite to cuddle with, to chat with, to just hang out and play legos or Rat-a-tat-cat with.

My oldest, my girl, is my favorite to go shopping with, to watch movies with, to get our nails done and to have long conversations about life and relationship dynamics and friendship and surviving high school.

And my middle child, my mirror, my intense one…who was intense to be pregnant with, was an intense little baby, an incredibly willful toddler and now is a teenager…two years ago I might have secretly admitted that he actually was my favorite. I get him, in a way I don’t get the other two. We speak the same unspoken language. Or we did. Or maybe we still do, but I don’t want to speak the language he is speaking now.

The language of truth.

The language of hate.

My mirror hates me.

He has been angry since the divorce.

As he gets bigger, so does his anger.

As he gets smarter, so does his ability to verbalize the complexity of his anger.

He doesn’t want to come to my house.

He doesn’t want to live in two houses.

He wants to stay at Dad’s.

He hates my house.

And he makes everyone else miserable when he is here. Increasingly so.

Oh the things he says to me. It’s horrifying.

Unbelievable.

Unless you are a parent, then you know. Cause this is the part of parenting you can’t comprehend until you live it. No one warns you about this part.

The way a child can break your heart, in a way no one else can. Your children are a piece of you, they live inside you. It just is that way. And when they push hard enough, they can destroy you from the inside out.

And it’s hard.

A few days ago, when I was, once again, having the “please don’t talk to me that way, it’s disrespectful and it’s not ok” conversation for the 300th time he responded with:

“I hate it here, I don’t want to be here.”

And I said, “where do you want to be?”

“At dad’s, I want to be at Dad’s.”

And for the first time in over 2 years, I said ok.

And I took him back to his dad’s.

Where he stayed. Where he is now. I guess where he’ll be. Hopefully not forever, but possibly.

The other two assure me they aren’t going anywhere. They are fractured without their brother. But they promise me they won’t follow him. I hope they won’t.

There is a line in the play August Osage County where Barbara says, “Thank God we can’t tell the future, we could never get out of bed.” I think it’s certainly true of parenting. If you knew, in advance, how deeply you would love your children and how dangerous that love can be when your children hurt you…often purposely, would you do it?

Would you be a mom?

As I write this, with a heavy heart, the answer is still yes.

Absolutely yes.

Without a doubt, yes.

And when my favorite child is ready to come back, I will be here with open arms. To continue loving him up close.

Right now, I have to love him from a distance. Because that’s what he wants from me. It’s what he needs. I know he loves me. So I will wait.

That’s what being a mom is.

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A hug from my boy.

It’s alright.

I have spent most of my life avoiding.

Conflict, reality, knowledge, pain.

I didn’t know I was doing that.

I know it now.

The past two years of my life have been one big lesson. A painful lesson.

It’s the most important lesson I have ever learned.

Now, don’t get me wrong. At 42 I am pretty convinced I know nothing, about anything.

That’s the cool part about aging…the acceptance of your complete stupidity.

I know nothing. I am ok with that.

But here is what my life has taught me lately.

There are things that will happen to you in life that are painful. They suck. Life’s circumstances often suck. It is what it is. You can certainly try to avoid suckiness but once it gets you…you just have to deal with it.

And here is where I run into trouble. Dealing with it.

I don’t wanna.

So I don’t.

I avoid dealing by drinking too much.

OR in some periods of life, by smoking pot.

I have struggled with depression and anxiety all my life.

Ping ponging between the two.

I started reading buddhist philosophy years ago as a means of learning to control my thoughts…my obsessive thinking.  I figured if I could just learn to control my thinking, I could be happier…more content. If I could control my thinking, I wouldn’t mull over the past…leading to depression. If I could control my thinking, I wouldn’t worry about the future so much, leading to anxiety.

It didn’t work. I did not learn to control my thinking.

I read some cool books. But my thinking remains a problem.

So recently, I decided to stop seeing it as a problem.

Similar to meditation, when your mind wonders and you simply say to yourself,

“wandering”.

I am giving myself permission to think about the things my mind wants to think about.

I am not obsessing over it…getting angry at my thoughts…frustrated…or trying to numb my thoughts with some substance.

Instead I am just accepting my need to think things through.

Last week, I had a few days of sadness. Normally, my desire to fight the feelings would have brought me into a full blown depression. Instead, I just let myself feel sad. I let myself think about the things that were making me sad.

I cried. Often. Soft cleansing tears.

I gave myself permission to feel it all.

I did respectfully say to myself, “that’s not really helpful…that’s not true.” Whenever I had particularly negative thoughts.

But mostly I just waded through the emotions. I told myself it was alright.

To feel.

And I feel better again now. It’s good.

I was thinking about this today. How I had been through a tough few days and avoided slipping down the “rabbit hole”…what I have always called my depression. How I had avoided the rabbit hole by doing exactly the opposite of what I normally would have done. I was feeling kind of content and peaceful and the perfect song came on the radio at that moment. I love it when that happens. Here’s the song: