Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Birthday Shout OUT

Today's my mom's birthday.

3.7 decades ago she was a newly-wed waiting for me to arrive.
She had a whole life before then, but let's focus on the part that includes me, shall we?

My mom worked hard to protect me from danger and to shield me from her fears...
She made sure I learned how to swim so that I could enjoy the ocean without anxiety...
Also, i didn't learn that she is terrified of heights until years after she accompanied us on that crazy pirate-ship amusement ride that we wanted to go on.

My mom worked hard to develop my self esteem and teach me about my worth.
Even though there were times in my life when her hopes and dreams for me felt like heavy "expectations", I never felt like I wasn't enough. Even though my childhood didn't really prepare me for the day I might realize I was gay, I never had a moment of doubt that I deserved every bit of the torrential amount of love that poured down on me.

My mom worked hard to better herself for the financial and emotional stability of our family. She attended night classes for years and never settled for a "B" if an "A" was within her reach.

She (and my dad) taught me that there will always be someone better than me;
and better off than me.
And there will always be someone worse than me;
and worse off than me.
There will always be people smarter than me;
and always be people not as smart as me...
... Insert: Rich, kind, lucky, wise, talented, musical, successful, etc
For me, that was a really helpful way to understand the world.
A slightly different take on the golden rule.

My mom is an overprotective worrier by nature. But she is KICK-Ass in an emergency or if there is a problem to be solved. When I worked in the ICU, she always told me, "I could never do what you do." But I'm not sure why she didn't realize it: That I learned the level-headedness required in that role from watching her: pull together Hopi Indian dioramas the night before they were due, create last minute costumes for a cast of 50, organize impromptu meals on wheels rotations for friends with chronic illnesses, drives to the hospital with grandparents in the middle of the night... When you think about it, applying pressure to a geysering femoral artery, throwing a hemodynamically unstable patient into a trendelenburg position, starting ACLS logarithms while simultaneously getting family members to step outside their loved one's room- these are the ICU nurse version of the same "mom" techniques - it is all about keeping internal panic and external chaos at bay and taking it one step at a time.

I don't know if maybe all moms are good at this,
but my mom is GOOD at this!

When my mom taught me about life I think she tried to be as honest as she had the words to be.
It's not always fair.
It's not always as bad as it seems.
Most things are more complicated than the people on either side of a debate would have you believe. Related to sex and puberty, there were specifics (with accompanying drawings) and conversations that were more esoteric and vague. I don't remember what was said, but I know I was taught to expect passion and desire that no one could rightly describe, for my experience would be unique. I know I was taught that intimacy shouldn't be left only to those new feelings and passions, that you should PLAN to give your brain a say too. It was conveyed to me that sex was better labeled as "un-erasable" than as "good" or "bad": a decision or event that cannot be taken back or un-done. These frank conversations helped guide me into strong, healthy relationships; and to a place of knowing that my mind, heart, and body each had a role in determining my destiny related to loving other people.

The first time I remember being truly heartbroken Mom told me: It will never be the way it was before, but it will turn out better than you can imagine right now. In all of my heartbreaks, she has found a way to tell me or show me a similar message. Without coming off like a know-it-all, she offers a quiet wisdom that is respectful of the pain of the moment while affirming the general value of difficult circumstances, and the benefits offered by the passage of time.

She has watched me grieve - standing close by, resisting the urge "try to make it better".
She has witnessed me wounded- biting her own lip in pain.
She's spent time waiting for me to come out of my various funks.
She has lived in confusion when she didn't know what was going on with me or how to relate to me.
She's has shared her friends with me, and taught me how to cook for and entertain crowds of people.
She's taught me how to worry, AND how to push anxiety back down for utility's sake.

She has always welcomed anyone I brought into her home, often feeding and mending the parts of my friends and companions that were hungry or scared. She has encouraged me to mend rifts and not let pride or selfishness get in the way of relationships.

Because of her, I trust God.
Because of her, I believe in love.
Because of her, I am not afraid to ask for help.
Because of her, I know I am not perfect, but I know I can do better.
Because of her, (let's face it) I enjoy food a little too much;
and always feel a little guilty going to bed early.

I have always had a good deal of gratitude and admiration for my mom, but when I had kids of my own, something shifted. As a Nana, my mom cares for these little ones physically and globally. And she supports their parents with gentle humility. One day a short while ago, she took care of 4 babies on a snow day, made us all dinner, and then still had the energy/patience to call me later that night (I had been complaining a little about a frustrating phase JB was going through) to tell me, "These times are hard, hang in there."

I guess I just never expected to still continue to feel this much love and nurturing beyond the womb.

i love you, mom.
Happy Birthday!

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