Monday, June 25, 2012

I Think I Can, I Think I Can!

Apparently, no one told the chipmunk that this was a "bird" feeder!  Apparently, it didn't understand that the feeder was meant to be out of reach!  All the chipmunk understood was that it was hungry and there was food, so it just went and got it!

Why aren't things in our lives that simple?  If I need something or want something, why don't I just go get it?  I think the reason is that along the way, I have had messages that played in my head saying "You can't, You can't, You can't"

"You can't" is often a message of kindness, unfortunately, designed to keep you from harm.  But "You can't" can also be an ugly chain link fence put up to keep you inside boundaries!  Through the links, you can see the world, you just can't quite get to it.

Over my lifetime, I have had my share of "You can't"'s surrounding me but my inner chipmunk said "Yes, but I'm hungry and I see that food right there so I think I can"!

My "I can" attitude pushed me through college, helped me get my first job, assisted me up the ladder at that job and kept me from succumbing to old specified gender roles.

Now, I have to admit that "I can" has sometimes left me stranded on the side of a mountain thinking "What was I thinking, I can't do this"?  But, even then...even then, after I collected my wits, I had to be proud of the fact that I had tried!  In fact, if I hadn't started saying "I can't", could I have gone further?

Over one's lifetime, there are different stages.  At the beginning of each new stage there are chain link fences. Again, these fences are often intended to be out of kindness, trying to protect us.    We try to protect little children  from obvious dangers as they navigate a new world.  We try to protect teenagers for the same reason.  But both of these age groups are like the chipmunk and defy imposed boundaries.  Chipmunks don't see fences.   "You can't" hasn't yet been engrained in their heads.  But then, as you get older, "You can't" is repeated over and over and becomes embedded in your brain and all of a sudden, fences appear.  You become afraid and hesitate to cross the imaginary boundary.  And the chain link fence is no longer about safety, it's about fear!

When you become comfortable again, the fences become invisible.  Then when you "get hungry" and push the boundaries...whoosh - the fence materializes!  Fear sets in.

It's here where you have had to channel your inner chipmunk!  
Now is when you have to say 
"I'm hungry.  I see the food right there."  
And "I CAN" reach it!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Follow the Chosen Path...Or Not!

I consider myself a rule follower, always the "good girl".  I obey traffic rules.  I didn't experiment with drugs during college.  I sit in my assigned seat at a ballgame!

And yet, when it came to assigned gender roles, there was always something in me that fought against the simple act of following.  Most times, the "path" was clear but almost always I said "Well what would happen if I went this way instead"?

When I was young, this very behavior was seen as being obstinate.  It caused a rift between my mother and myself that was never resolved.  But there I was, this timid, awkward creature, trusting my instincts and veering off the chosen path just to see what else might be out there.

In the beginning, each time I ventured out, I kept the chosen path in my line of vision at all times.  I will never forget how I used this strategy when I first entered the workforce after college.  My plan was to work as a teacher for three years to get my life time teaching license and then quit and be a full time stay at home mom.  My plan - veer off the chosen path then come back - did not work, though, because what I ultimately found on the other path was something that I liked just as much, if not even better. I also realized that the adventure and discovery that occurred when I took different paths was exhilarating!

I believe, now, that this is the reason I can embrace change with relative ease.  Over the past years, I have heard others complain about how difficult it is to deal with all the change that's occurring around them.  In fact, it seems to be causing them severe anxiety.  To me, change is just following a different path.  Change is also being willing to constantly evaluate your current path to determine if it's taking you where you want to go.

My life has been about trusting my instincts and following unexpected paths. To my daughters, I have said, "Life provides different doors for you.  You choose to go through a new door or not."  On the other side is...well you have to go through it, yourself,  to see!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Dreams Unwritten!

The typewriter that my mom used in her high school typing class...the shoes she wore as a child...I carry these mementos from place to place with me as a reminder.  Now, however, I wonder - what am I trying to remember?  What is it that I don't want to forget?

The answer has been crystalizing over the past months as I have embarked on a new life journey.  This mother of mine who described me as a fussy baby,  who taught me how to be afraid, why do I carry her around with me in the form of a typewriter and little girl's school shoes?

Well, my mother was a writer.  Oh, she didn't write for anyone but herself but she loved to write.  She loved this, along with many other things, but never had the opportunity to do.  The reason was not because of personal limitations or lack of motivation or desire.  The reason she never had the opportunity to live out her dreams was because of the expectations and demands of others...and maybe that ugly word, FEAR!  My mother was born in 1921.  Women had just been given the "right" to vote!  Still, women had roles that they were expected to carry out.  During my mother's lifetime, she described how she almost wasn't allowed to attend high school until a Catholic school opened up. College was out of the question.   All this education was unnecessary for a girl.  Her dad dictated who she could and could not date.  They, too, had to be Catholic.  The Catholic church dictated that there be no form of birth control used other than what they called the "rhythm method".  In the end, my mother had eleven pregnancies with six of us surviving.

By the time I came along, my mother was an angry woman.  She was tired of laboring on a farm and caring for children especially me.  Remember I was that fussy baby!  Her bedroom "office" was her sanctuary.  Any spare time she could find was spent banging away on this typewriter.  She wrote beautifully descriptive pieces about mornings on the farm, the sounds of the birds, the gentle breezes blowing.  She wrote about Christmas' and the excitement of children with their presents.  She wrote poems and snapped pictures of other people and their new acquisitions.  But she never wrote about her disappointments in life.  She never wrote about her anger; how she would grab whatever stick was handy and start hitting and hitting and of us!

If the written stories were all that was ever passed forward, one would believe that she had been a happy person with a gift of seeing the beauty in life.  She was anything but happy!   She instead lived a life dictated by others.  She wrote about moments that perhaps gave her momentary joy and took out her rage on those  of us who were handy.

Have you ever heard the saying "they broke the mold when they made you"!  Well, I think that fussy baby was born to break the mold!  I never could accept the idea that I had a dictated role to play.  I never thought it was fair that girls were supposed to have specific girl roles!  I broke the family cycle that said college was "unnecessary"!  I worked full time and raised children but I left the Catholic birth control method at the door of the church!  I did the best I could to raise my girls to believe in helping others but also to believe that their own personal dreams are possible as well.

I think now that I carry my mother's typewriter around with me to remember the heavy burden she endured.  It's symbolic of all her unwritten dreams.  She was a person who spent her life being told how to live, afraid to do what she really wanted to do. The typewriter holds the memories of all the anger and resentment that truly lived behind her beautifully typed descriptions of our life events.

Mom's typewriter is a symbol that says:  

  • Don't let others hold you back.  
  • Demand the freedom to pursue your dreams with conviction and determination.  
  • You control how your life is written!
Sometimes others try to dictate my path and sometimes fear tries to take over but, in the end, strength prevails!  I have more dreams yet unwritten!  

Fussy baby has more to add to her life story!