I remember the day I came upon a quote that changed my life.
It was the most enlightening thing I had ever read. Yes, it’s a great quote, but why did it resonate so deeply?
Perhaps it was because my examples at home were more “cursing the darkness” than “lighting the candle.”
Or it could have been that I had never heard quotes and sayings used for inspiration.
But this! This quote was not only inspirational, but empowering!
Unhappy? Dissatisfied? And I could do something about it? This had never occurred to me. It was revolutionary.
It changed the way I lived my life.
I recognize that it is not always possible to change things that make you unhappy or dissatisfied (see Serenity Prayer), but I always feel better when I’ve tried.
Over the years, other quotes played inspirational roles in my life, too.
The quotes have been my advisers, motivators, cheerleaders and supporters.
Their wisdom seems new every time my eyes fall upon them, no matter how long they’ve sat dog-eared or yellowed on my desk or shelf.
But you know what I’m thinking? It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.
Bob likes to remind me of how cooperative I used to be when we first started dating. He claims it’s a mystery to all men why the sweet, agreeable woman they start out with changes over time to…well…someone less sweet and agreeable.
I don’t disagree I am less cooperative, but I disagree it is a mystery. I think all relationships evolve in stages and ours has been no different.
It wasn’t long before things went awry.
The truth is that Cooperative Girlfriend is doomed. She exists only in the beginning of a relationship because it is the only time there is no evidence to suggest Infallible Boyfriend could ever be wrong or limited in his ability to read her mind.
As time goes on, evidence builds. Infallible Boyfriend develops a track record of being Human.
Cooperative Girlfriend becomes Doubtful Girlfriend.
Soon, the evidence can no longer be ignored.
Doubtful Girlfriend becomes Skeptical Girlfriend. At this stage, she cannot tell the difference between Infallible Boyfriend and Human Boyfriend. Therefore, everything must be questioned.
With time and experience, Skeptical Girlfriend becomes Pragmatic Girlfriend and deals with reality. She accepts that her boyfriend is Human, can’t read her mind and doesn’t have perfect knowledge of all earthly matters. She adjusts her expectations and takes responsibility for her own happiness.
Everyone misses Cooperative Girlfriend, especially Bob.
I tell him he’ll be happier without her, that a more reality based relationship will be healthier for both of us.
It’s a hard sell, but in time, I hope he’ll forget all about her and go on to be very happy with Pragmatic Girlfriend.
Last November, my friends, Anita and Ken, and Bob and I started to plan a trip to New York to celebrate Anita’s birthday in late 2016.
She had become intrigued with reports about a new musical, Hamilton, that had just opened on Broadway and wanted to see it while we were there. It was about Founding Father, Alexander Hamilton, and incorporated rap style story telling as well as more traditional musical production numbers. We easily found tickets on Ticketmaster for August of 2016.
As the months passed, hype about Hamilton grew along with stories of skyrocketing ticket prices.
August arrived and Anita and Ken drove in from Wisconsin to stay with me the night before we left for New York. We discussed the Hamilton mania over dinner.
We agreed to see what riches our tickets would fetch on the resale market. The first thing I did when we returned home was call Bob. I knew he’d be on board.
Bob hung up to work his connections while I checked options on Ticketmaster and Stub Hub. Much to our surprise, resale tickets were readily available for less than $50 over what we paid for them. In fact, after the ticket broker’s fee we would have actually lost money on the sale.
Our hopes of windfall profits dashed, we headed to New York to keep our date with Hamilton.
Was Hamilton worth the wait and all the hype? Well, it may not have been “two inches of compacted limestone screenings” great, but it was very, very good.
And it was refreshing to see the young crowd that it attracted. It made for a different theater going experience.
We enjoyed discussing the play for the rest of the evening and were still talking about it the next morning. Anita and Ken were inspired to add a visit to Hamilton’s grave to their itinerary in lower Manhattan. While there, they observed a guide perpetuating the Hamilton Ticket Urban Myth to a group of unsuspecting tourists.
The first time you hold that tiny, helpless baby in your arms, you realize you are their entire world. They look to you for love, protection and nurturing. To them, you are their everything, an all knowing supreme being.
From this exalted position, there is only one way to go.
I was no different, of course, and by the time I was 21, I was desperate to escape my parents’ house and their “ignorance”. My mom was happy to see me go and even gave me a going away present when I got my first apartment.
As I adjusted to my new life as a young adult, I started to realize my mom might know some things I didn’t.
There was no internet back then and finding information took some work. Mom was always home and had instant answers, kind of like Google is today.
Although Mom’s rating was gradually rising, it got a big bump up when I became engaged. I had waited until June to go shopping for a dress for my early August wedding and found the selection at the mall picked over. I found an off white “maxi” dress that was too short, but since it was on sale for $19, I bought two, thinking I could lengthen one with material from the other.
It was a delusional fiasco.
After years of languishing at the bottom of the ratings, Mom was back in action. She was at the top of her game with authoritative answers, plausible solutions and decisive plans of action.
I stopped pretending that I didn’t need her.
In those early years of starting my own family I turned to her constantly. As the years passed, I grew confident in my own knowledge and no longer needed her for domestic consultations.
Before I knew it, our roles had reversed.
I still thought of Mom as the matriarch of the family. I looked to her for knowledge, though now it was about family history and what I needed to know before she and the memories and stories in her head were gone forever.
I liked knowing there was someone, generationally, “above me”. Maybe you never quit seeing your mom as that All Knowing Supreme Being who is more interested in you than anyone else on earth.
It can be a hard thing to let go.
Mom died surrounded by her three daughters on March 31, 2009. I held her hand until she was gone. It wasn’t until I was trying to discuss arrangements with Dad that the loss hit me.
I still miss Mom, but have embraced being the “above me” person to my own children. They’re smarter that I ever was and have the internet, so my role is mostly ceremonial.
One day, I climbed into my daughter’s couch pit with my grandson under my arm. In that moment, I was struck by where I was in the generational cycle and blurted out my thoughts.
I regretted bringing it up. She doesn’t need to think about it now and I’m hoping to keep the torch lit and waiting for a long time.
Hope you all have warm memories of your moms today. Happy Mother’s Day!
On a recent winter day with warmer temps thawing the ice and snow, I took my grandson out to play. As we passed through a puddle on the sidewalk, I pretended that I was stuck and needed his help to pull me out.
As I rummaged in the grass for a larger stick, a childhood memory from long ago came flooding back.
From there, full blown panic and hysteria set in. Our worst childhood fear had been triggered: QUICKSAND!
TV Westerns were extremely popular in the 1950s, much like legal, hospital and police dramas are today. At their peak in 1959, 26 Westerns were airing during prime time on only 3 networks. There was at least one playing every night and usually more.
Quicksand was a central theme in many Westerns, along with gun shootouts, Indian scalpings (this was before cultural sensitivity was appreciated) and rattlesnakes. Quicksand was the perfect suspense building plot device and always played out in the same way.
Denita and I didn’t view 6 shooters, Indians or rattlesnakes as imminent threats, but believed quicksand could appear anywhere, including the ditch in front of our house.
Over 50 years later, Denita and I still remember how terrified we were the day I got “stuck” in the ditch.
I had other childhood fears besides quicksand.
What do children worry about today? I hope my grandson doesn’t blow as much of his childhood on baseless fears as I did.