Anxiety. What is it Good For?

Bonnie & AdelaWhen I was a little girl, I never felt anxious.  Sometimes I got excited.  Sometimes I got sad.  Lots of times I got angry.  Sometimes I even got scared.   My feeling came and went like the wind blowing the lace curtains in the living room.  I was never anxious.

I never got anxious about new things coming:  The first day of school, substitute teacher, or the last day of school.  I never worried about getting lost or getting home.  Every new thing was an adventure.  Even when I did get lost, like when everyone left me to wander in the Museum of Science and Industry, or when I got on the wrong bus, and went over a big girl’s house who I knew from church and said she knew my mom and where I lived and would get me home.  I never even worried about getting lost at the beach and putting my head underwater and hearing kids splashing and laughing like they were far away, when I knew all the while that they were right there above me.  Substitute teachers were a gas; sometimes they knew stuff and sometimes they needed some teaching.  Sometimes they got grouchy or stern.  That’s when Dad’s trick of giving a big grin and saying “Good Morning how are you,” worked like a charm.

I never got anxious about sad things like people or pets dying, or car accidents, or people moving far away where I’d never see them again.  Those things came out of the blue without any warning.  Sad surprises made me cry.   I was a pretty good problem solver, even when I was a little girl; that’s why Dad and Mom put me in charge so much.  But even I knew some things have no solution.  There was nothing I could do about those things, except be sad.  The saddest was when Cleta’s big sister Betty-Jo died because somebody fell asleep while driving and hit her head-on.  Old people dying, like Mom and Dad’s truck driver friend who was 45 and had a heart attack, was less sad.  They were old and had a good life, and were probably ready to go to heaven and stop working all the live-long day. Sometimes people moved away, but mostly I got to see them again some time when I least expected it.  Powie, that was like saving up box tops for a free prize and then forgetting I ordered it.  Abracadabra, it arrived like a present I forgot to think about.

I never got scared until Grandpa told me about the tornado that hit Flint.  He said first everything got still as death, then the sky turned green and the wind sounded like a train coming.  After that, the window fan on a hot summer night woke me up, making me think about a tornado coming.  I was sorta mad at Grandpa for painting a picture, clear as a bell, with his words, along with his eyes looking far off in the distance, like he could see his memory coming to life.  Lots of times people thought I should be scared when I never even thought about it.  Maybe other kids got scared about getting their tonsils out.  I never had Mom sit with me for hours at a time, only me, no other kids.  Plus other moms and doctors said nice stuff to me like, “oh, you’re so brave,” or “you poor thing, getting your tonsils out on your birthday.”  That was the berries.  I did get sorta mad about the promise of all the ice cream I could eat, ‘cuz after my tonsils came out, my throat was too sore for anything.

These days I wonder  about anxiety.  So many people suffer from anxiety:  my daughter does, my sons do, my daughter-in-law does, my husband does, some of my grandchildren do.  I never do.  Sure I get worried, but anxiety is different.  Anxiety freezes people I love; it makes their heart race and their hands shake.  It makes them unsure of what action to take next.  Anxiety sounds awful. Oh, for sure my mind races like a jack-rabbit DSC03608sometimes, imagining all sorts of horrible outcome to situations.  Sometimes, my imagination races to dreadful scenarios.  Like the time I was reading while commuting and everyone got off the “el” train because it reached the end of the line.  All the lights went out, and the train groaned and the wheels squealed against the tracks as it lumbered past abandoned cars.  My mind raced to rats and broken glass, and how would I get home, and where would we stop, and would there be dangers I didn’t even know to think about.  I said to myself, “What’s the worst that can happen?  Pay attention, watch where the train is going, compared to where you should be.  When it stops, pry the door open, get out and make your way back.  I saw more wild critters in the fields where you grew up than could be in this trainyard.”  I took a deep breath.  I prepared for the worst.  While I did all my problem solving, the train lumbered in a big circle.  The doors opened and people got on, right at the stop where I wanted to get off.  I was exactly where I needed to be.

 

 

Quiet Veterans

Memorial Day Commemoration 2008

Memorial Day Commemoration 2008 (Photo credit: davidyuweb)

I suppose my uncles never needed an excuse to get together.  Every summer, we had picnics galore.  Starting out with Memorial Day.  That day was like the kick-off of summertime.  I never thought about Memorial Day as a day to honor veterans.  That’s because all the veterans I knew kept pretty mum about war memories.

All my uncles were veterans.  Dad and Uncle Ellis and Uncle Merle were in the Army.  Uncle Frank was in the Air Force.  Uncle Glenn was in the Marines.  All those brothers fought The Big War, The War to End all Wars.  That’s when Dad got his appendix out, on account of Continue reading

Mothers are Forever Friends

img244When I was a little girl, I never thought of Mom as a person.  I mean, yes, she was a person, but not a person who was once a little girl, or who had fears or hopes or things she liked to do other than be a mom.  She was just there to know, love and serve me.  Sure I had to share her with my brothers and sisters, but she was there for me, not the other way around.  She did know me; better than I knew myself sometimes.  She did love me; more than I loved her.  She did serve me; but she insisted I pull my own weight, too.

Once I asked Mom how she knew I liked science.  I always got science books for Christmas. She told me it was obvious.  She took me seriously; not like Dad who told me a rock I found was a petrified potato.  I went to school and told Teacher, “Look what I found: a petrified potato.”  Teacher never even told me the truth.  Mom would have.  That’s for darned sure.  She had a streak of no-nonsense in her.  Even if she did like to laugh at a lot of stuff, she never laughed at me, except when she thought I was clever, even if sometimes my cleverness was on accident.  Like the time I said, “It’s a bug, step on it.”  When we played count-the-cars on our way Up North and I spotted a VW beetle.

Mom suggested I pursue a career in science, when I wanted to be a kindergarten teacher.  Mom thought about moving the family to Chicago, so I could go to better schools.

As much as Mom knew me, she did not know me from the inside out.  That’s why she got me lipstick and nylon stockings for my twelfth birthday instead of a microscope.  Oh, for Pete’s sake.  That was the worst birthday present ever.  I never wanted to be bothered with girly-girl stuff.  Never in my life.  I wanted to spend time learning stuff and thinking stuff up, and writing stuff down,  and building forts up in the hayloft.  I was never going to wear lipstick, and especially not nylon stockings.  It was bad enough she made me wear a bra.

I’m pretty sure there was a bunch of stuff about me that she shook her head about and asked Dad what he thought.  Like the time I took a bite out of her rubber spatula just because it looked like it might taste good, or when I said I wanted to try answering the phone with a tuning fork like the murderer did on the Outer Limits.  To tell the truth, I probably could have thought those things through a little more.

When I got older, in my teens and my twenties and even into my thirties, Mom hurt my feelings a lot.  She just never seemed to understand me.  She said and did queer things:  she prayed to the patron saint of lost causes for me; she told me Dad got drunk the day I was born because he thought he had a son; she wondered out-loud what would have become of me if I never met Loved-One; she said she was tired of walking on egg shells around me because my feeling got hurt so easy.

The older I get, the more I appreciate my Mom.  Sure, I saw her through a whole different light when I had kids of my own.  I saw how she understood me in ways I did not understand myself.  I saw how sometimes the best of intentions back-fired.  I understood that Mom was human, just like me.  Yesterday, I began to understand how we got to be such good friends.   My son revealed it to me.

I know a lot about my son because I paid attention while he grew.  I know things that interest him and a little about how he learns; I know what he likes and dislikes.  I know he’s clever and has an eye for detail.  I know he loves order and predictability.  I know he’s strong and athletic.  I know he seeks peace in his life.  That said, I do not know him from the inside out.  My 40+ son told me that he has nightmares about high school.  He dreams he forgot an important assignment, or he dreams he did the assignment and left it at home. I never knew he carried school-anxiety around inside him.

Learning this new thing about my son, made me realize something.  Mom’s secret to success is three-fold:

  • You never know your child from the inside out;
  • You never stop learning things about your child;
  • The end of childhood is the beginning of friendship.

There’s probably a lot more.  I’m still learning.  I invite you to share what you learn from your mother and what you learn from your children.

 

 

 

 

I Remember You Mama

oncealittlegirl:

A grown-up Little Girl’s tribute to her mother. (Kimberly is my still Best Girldfriend Blogger.)

Originally posted on Journey Towards Epiphany:


You were a gypsy queen
who sat cross legged on golden oak floors
guitar on lap, singing about being His “Flower Child”.

You wore bell bottomed corduroys
and wire rimmed John Denver glasses
making even Chicago a “country road” to home.

Your hair was straight
and long and brown, no curly grey
to interrupt its beauty. And you were just that…a beauty.

You made bean soup and corn bread
a special event, ironed cloth napkins
and all with a side of fried okra.

You were crazy in love with Daddy
treating him like the great man
that He was because of the great woman you are.

You hid behind trees, until certain
that I could walk to school
alone. We laughed about it even then.

You exude femininity and womanhood
because you make everything you touch more beautiful.
The world is a much better place for having had you.

You…

View original 194 more words

Mother’s Day Tribute

To all my Little Girls Then and When, and to anyone who can say they’ve been influenced by a mother.

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Happy Mother’s Day to everyone who is or has a mother.

DSC02766I was a little girl filled with confidence and pluck. I was the smartest little girl I knew, and everybody loved me. I had no problem at all walking right up to someone and shaking hands, followed by, “Shake, spear, kick in the rear.” Everybody thought that was hilarious. I was probably cute as the dickens, but back then, I never thought about how I looked. I was just me. From the inside out.

‘Course that all changed in seventh grade. That’s the year half the seventh grade class had to come to my grade-school, instead of going to the high school with the lucky seventh graders. That’s the year my best friend ever, Connie, went away to another school. That’s the year Mr. Maize taught history. That’s the year Carla asked me to sit with her at lunch. That’s the year I fell in love with Art. That’s the year I started looking at myself from the outside in.

Connie’s parents hated that my parents annexed our school to the big school in the town where Mom got groceries. Mom and Dad wanted more choices for classes than my little school had. “Only one chemistry class in four years?” Mom said. “That is unacceptable.” Connie and all her brothers and sisters got pulled out of our school and sent to another small school nearby. Same thing for Donnie’s family and a bunch of other kids, too. I only saw those kids in catechism and church on Sunday.

Carla came from the big school. Those kids were super-mad about coming over to my school and getting stuck with grade-schoolers. Carla was in the band like me and she had a horse like I did, too. She liked me after I told Mr. Maizie, “Yes, I wanted to see ‘ass’ in the dictionary.” Which made him madder than he always was. Mr. Maizie gave me the nervous-cries, ‘cuz he gave super-hard test that got me memorizing the whole textbook and still answering the questions wrong. He also made kids go through the spanking machine on their birthday. Anyways, Carla said, “Wanna have lunch with me?” and I said sure, even though I thought that was a strange question ‘cuz everybody had lunch together. Later on she told me not to bring Diann or Daylene, she just wanted me to sit with her and her friends. Carla asked me how I got my hair to puff up in my barrette and make it look so cool. “Just like that old-fashioned girl on Twilight Zone,” she said. “I love it.”

Deanna told me Carla was cool, and I was lucky she asked me to have lunch with her. “You better not blow it,” she said. Deanna knew about being cool. She was born cool. She gave me lots of good advice about being cool, like where a bra, and listen to CKLW, and never say peanuts in front of a boy or tell him you had a dream about him. I liked Diann and Daylene ever since kindergarten, so I kept having lunch with them. Carla and I could be friends outside of lunch.   That was okay with both of us.

Art was from the big school, too. Art was smart and tall and wore glasses. He sat in front of me in English class. Sometimes just thinking about Art made my heart flip over in my chest. Mrs. Bee made us memorize poetry every week. Art was awful at poetry. I kept my fingers crossed that he wouldn’t flub up, but usually he did. One week we got to choose between “The Chambered Nautilus” and “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.” He chose the first one and I chose the second one. Sure Paul Revere was way longer, but it was a story and it clipped along like a horse through the streets, so that poem was way easier to remember than the one about a giant sea snail. Art thought I was so brave and smart to memorize that whole thing. After that we were boyfriend and girlfriend.

“Julie was his girlfriend before,” Carla told me. “She won’t like it.”

I had nothing to say to that. Art like me and Julie was at the high school, anyways, cuz she was one of the lucky one. Sometimes I put my feet up on the front bar of my desk, and he put his feet on top of mine. My heart got all jumpy and my insides felt like they were melting when he did that. Mrs. Bee gave the whole class a talkin’ too about puppy love and how she and some boy used to touch arms like nobody knew they liked each other, but everybody knew. Old people were so goofy.

“Art likes Julie again,” Carla told me.

At first I didn’t believe it, but he stopped meeting me at my locker and he stopped putting his feet over mine, and pretty soon I just asked him.

“Yeah, I like Julie, again,” he said. “She’s cool.”

I was mad as all get out about that. I thought about it a lot when I was alone, like when I cleaned out gutters behind the cows’ stanchions. I thought about all the things I probably could do better than Julie, even though I never met her. Someday, Art would be sorry about that one.

The next year, we all went to high school. Julie played the flute just like I did. She and I battled for first chair.

I fell in love with someone else.   “The coolest boy in school likes you,” my friend Diann told me. “I told him we were friends. He’s in my English class. Let’s go.”

She took me right up to this guy with had a super-short haircut and a big nose.

“She likes you,” Diann said.

“No I don’t.” I ran away.

Wayne played football and rode his bike all the way over to my house, which was five miles, just to say hello. At first, I didn’t like him at all ‘cuz he was sorta not so good at school and, well, because of that butch haircut and big nose.

At my first dance ever, Wayne cut-in. Wayne’s mom made him take ballroom dance classes, so he knew how to really dance. Plus, he smelled like Yardley for Men and his breath heated up my neck. My heart did a flip-flop just the same way it did when I started liking Art.

“What do I need to do to make you like me?” Wayne asked me.

“Well, if you get on the honor roll three time and grow your hair longer and sI’ll like you.”

Wayne was cool. He almost get on the honor roll, so what could I do? Besides, it was too late, I already liked him.

Carla joined an all girls rock band and skipped out of senior year to go on tour. Later on I found out she became a public defender. Art started dating a girl named Sherry who had a bad kidney infection that she got before she knew Art. Her belly swelled up like Mom’s did when she was expecting. She went in the hospital for three days and came home cured. After that, Art stopped dating her. I lost touch with Art after high school.

I married Wayne a year after high school. The Ouija board told me not to; Aunt Annie did, too. I had to. He was cool, and he could dance. He told me I better stop telling people what I thought or we would never have any friends, and to stop reading interesting articles from the newspaper because I bored him. After a while his warm breath on my neck wasn’t enough to keep my heart flip-flopping around in love. Besides, he told me we there was no reason to dance, ‘cuz we were married.

Somewhere in that time, I lost the little girl who looked at herself from the inside out, and started thinking about how I appeared to other people. After a while, I stopped thinking about being cool, and let that little girl breathe again.  I spent time going to museums, theatre, and discussion groups.   I found Loved-One who loves me from the inside out. He and I love to watch ants, and documentaries, and read interesting articles to each other.  Besides, sometimes he sweeps me off my feet and dances with me, even when the only music playing is in our hearts.

DSCN2551

This is us in Costa Rica. That’s where we watched the leaf-cutter ants cross paths with the arm ants. Really interesting. Really.

 

More than Meets the Eye

I’m one of the lucky ones.  My mom never stressed physical beauty.  Once when I was a little girl, I asked Mom what she would do if one of her kids were really ugly.

Mom’s brown eyes looked straight into mine, then they jigged back and forth looking all over my face.  You know the way Ingrid Bergman looks at the handsome fellow she loves and she doesn’t know if he loves her back, and she’s searching all over his face to see if she can pick up any signs of love.

“Why I never thought about it,” Mom said.  “All of my children are so beautiful.”

I was a ginger-haired, freckly little girl, in hand-me-down clothes.  I never thought about how I looked once I did that first-over in the morning:  bed made, teeth brushed, face washed, and hair pulled back in a high ponytail.  There was more to me than the eye could see.

I thought about that this morning when Lady Romp posted this video of women’s responses to their photo-shopped selves.

Like I said, I’m one of the lucky ones.  I like my freckles.  I like my (faded) ginger hair.  I like that my eyes are neither brown, nor blue, nor green.  I especially like my smile.  Oh, and G-money calls me ‘darty-eyes’ when I give him that Ingrid Bergman look.

Photo on 2-7-14 at 7.56 AM #2

This is me, no re-touch. I’m sitting at my desk. Okay, yeah, I’m photo-bombed by the Eiffel Tower thanks to my “Photo-Booth” app.