Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Dogged Town...the Hump Day Hmm "Things We Carry With Us."

In the car on the way home, I told Patience her friend Meghan had called with some Exciting! News!

"When we get home," I told her, "You'll have to call, see what it is."

"What is it, Mom?" she asked, impatient to know right now.

"I'm not sure, it's only a voice mail. You'll have to call and ask."

"Maybe it's a birthday party and she found out we are both invited!" Patience said.

It seemed improbable to me that we'd learn of a party this way but I couldn't say so. Instead, I told her, "Remember we do not know, so don't get attached to any theories. It could be anything, a birthday party like you think, or a fun play event, or some happy news of her own like she's learned to whistle too," I mentioned Patience's latest accomplishment, of which she is very, very proud. I immediately sensed my mistake. Patience is a hyper competitive perfectionist who can't stand that anyone else have anything good, too.

"That would not be good news to me, Mom," she said very huffily. "She might whistle better than me and that would be very bad news!"

I felt very, very tired all of the sudden. Patience is a very draining child. She is lovely, bright and deep, but draining. I felt inside me the unbearable weight of the life ahead of her if she remained this way, where she pushed people away, begrudging them their happiness, competitive to the end, overly sensitive to slights against her, unaware of the way she injures those around her.

"It's possible," I reminded her of a lesson I learned through my own trials, "To be happy for others while a little sad for yourself."

She was affronted, "But if she can whistle better than me what else matters!"

A million things, I thought, feeling even more tired. Your friendship, your caring for your friend, setting yourself aside now again for love and friendship's sake. I worry she is constitutionally or genetically incapable of this. There is precedent. Sad, tragic precedent.

It is hard for me to separate the present from this history sometimes. It runs behind me like a trail of tears. The people lost on the trail hover about my mind like ghosts, haunting me almost daily.

I thought of the family, so many who don't speak over ridiculous slights and grudges, and I said to Patience, "What else matters is that she is your friend and you care about her. When she is happy, try to be happy for her too. Tell her it's wonderful. Then, if you need, come home and tell me how you feel for yourself."

I don't care if anyone thinks this is a bad message. It is one I believe. Sometimes, something other than our own feelings matters more in a particular moment.

It's the theory I applied effusively each time a friend became pregnant when year after year passed with no happy news for us. It's the same theory I applied when I was stinging from my doctor's news the other week that my body has decided to grow old and quit before its time---before my expected time. I felt unbearably old that day when my sister-in-law announced her happy pregnancy news. I effused. And then I worried when she said they were waiting for the news about whether the baby had cystic fibrosis. I wasn't ready to admit to my own physical vulnerability and to hear that a new life faced potential crisis married the frailty of all life in my mind.

I carry too much worry with me. Each person I care about I keep with me always, each care and concern of theirs I shoulder too. I began life as the eldest child and remain overly responsible to this day. I have a hard time not being bossy, not taking things on, realizing where I begin and others end. My husband---a "water off a duck's back" middle child sort---does not understand. To him, controlling life and the universe is not a concern. That's for someone else to shoulder.

Someone like me.

My mind and heart are sponges, soaking up people and sayings like water. Often the messages and people are contradictory and battle it out inside my head like two debaters. I spend too much time thinking it through and arrive at an answer too late, or not often enough.

At any given moment you can find me pondering someone I once knew, what they added and subtracted from my life, and what I learned from it all. Or, less comprehensively, I can recall little bits and pieces, moments in time, out of context.

For example, I can be staring into the mirror applying face lotion and recall Terri in eighth grade saying, "You know, if you stare at you long enough you see that your features are kind of pretty, just maybe not so much all together. But your mouth has a very pretty shape."

Or I can be driving down the street and suddenly hear my sister giggling while saying, "Twat? I cunt hear you!" a favorite joke she had in mid-high school. I'll smile despite myself, just like I did back then.

But I am most likely to lie awake replaying over and over certain encounters, breaking down and analyzing the language, words, body language, action, what I said, what I liked and what I regretted. I can build myself to anxiety if I let too loose of the reins.

My emotional baggage and memories of things big and small are stuffed and too full, would require an extra handling fee if they were things I could check in at an airport for a flight. And sometimes, I wish I could...put them on a plane, send them off. Then I feel a slight panic at the thought; without my memories, who and what am I?

My ability to recall and retain certain things---mostly people and situations, rarely if ever important historical dates or fabulous quotes by stunning writers, and sadly, never, ever birthdays or special occasions---is prodigious, an enormous blessing and curse as are all talents. My sister remembers little to nothing and jokes I got the memory and she got the sense of style. She's right; that's true.

In the car, Patience was silent while I reflected. Finally, she said, "I don't know if I can do that, Mom." I blessed her honesty while my heart sank further. Little girl of mine who carries it all with her, so strongly and urgently inside. You will repeat your mother's mistakes and end up with baggage as impressive as my own. You'll carry it all with you.

She will, I imagine, be rich of thought and emotion in her own right, as I am in my own at times. She will hopefully develop humor, as I did, and be able to both laugh and cry as she reviews, mentally, her scrapbook of life.

Heaven is so far of the Mind

by Emily Dickinson

Heaven is so far of the Mind
That were the Mind dissolved—
The Site—of it—by Architect
Could not again be proved—

'Tis vast—as our Capacity—
As fair—as our idea—
To Him of adequate desire
No further 'tis, than Here—

P.S. Lest this seem too dreary, Catherine's post prompted me to write, "...people have also said version of 'it must be so exhausting to be you' to me. Yes, sometimes, other times yes exhilarating...the rush of an idea taking shape or multiple ideas coagulating together into a new and lovely shape. Like you, I carry a literal bulging bag of anything and everything as well as a metaphorical one. I'm sometimes burdened by the weight but almost always glad to have what I need with me."

What do others carry with them?

Catherine wrote Traveling Heavy...but in a good way

Chani wrote Carry On Baggage

Kaliroz wrote What I carry with me.

Snoskred wrote The Spider Intuition - what I carry with me.

Emily wrote Plexiglass and HMOs

Andrea wrote What I Carry With Me

LawyerMama wrote What We Carry With Us

Sephy wrote My Baggage


Thanks for being patient as I got this up late, and as I am even later getting round to reading your entries.

Please please email or comment if I left you off. Big apologies for's inadvertent and due to being sixes and sevens.

Please also let me know if you are a late submission.



"How we let it go."

Do you ever have something build up inside you like an volcano ready to burst? Did you carry something you were ready to let go of? Have you watched a process in our culture that involves letting go?

However this speaks to you, whatever it means to you, write it up for next week's Hump Day Hmm and let us know how you (general you or specific you) let it go.

Email a link to your post to me at jpippert at gmail dot com and title it Hump Day Hmm July 18.

Please let me know, also, if you have any topic suggestions. This week's was great! Thanks to Snoskred for the idea and to all of you for the great participation!

copyright 2007 Julie Pippert


thailandchani said...

I feel badly for Patience. She'll probably grow out of it eventually ~ once she understands that empathy doesn't mean only feeling other people's sorrow.. but feeling their joy, too.

She's probably a little young for empathy. I wish her the best though.

Ohhhh, that joke was around when you were a kid, too? I figured that left with my generation. "Pardon me? Twat? I c**t hear you! I have an ear inf**ktion!" LOL Geeeez! :)

Seriously though, as far as memory, mine is horrid and always has been. I don't remember significant dates of any kind because the date is usually a mystery, day to day.

I wonder though.. here's something... do you consider that to be a characteristic or baggage? (The memory...)



Snoskred said...

Wow. You need to read The Gift Of Fear more than anyone else I've ever known! I'm serious when I say that. It's more to do with the worry part than the other parts of your post. Here's a bit of what Gavin De Becker said about worry - "Worry is the fear we manufacture. It is not authentic. If you choose to worry about something, have at it, but do so knowing it's a choice." There's a few pages on it, so I can't type them all out.

So now, from time to time, when I find myself worrying about something before going to sleep (that is always when it hits me) I find that if I write it down on the notepaper beside my bed, I'm able to let go of it for the time being. I am supposed to pick that paper up in the morning and read it, but somehow I never do.

As far as Patience is concerned.. if she is destined to repeat your mistakes, it can't be too bad a thing, I think. :) It's not like you're setting her up for a life of crime or shoplifting or something.

Great post.. ;) Looking forward to next week already..

Mary-LUE said...

Well, I dropped the baton and didn't get a post written for today. I'm realizing that summer vacation and meaningful blogging aren't mixing very well for me. Too much sharing of the computer and too many interruptions. I do think I might be able to tie what I was thinking of writing for this one with next week's topic. Mine was going to kind of go there anyway.

Re: your post. I have really struggled with similar situations and how to deal with what seems to be a tragic flaw in one of my children's character. I want to teach, to motivate, to encourage a better way. However, I'm afraid that I will focus too much on the negative. It is quite a balancing act.

I do at least have a 15 year old in whom I can now see signs of empathy, compassion and tolerance AND the beginnings of an ability to process disappointment, delay gratification and submit to discomfort to achieve a goal.

It does give me cause for hope Wild Thing 2!!!

(And I did have reason to worry based on his elementary age behavior!) Lest anyone think I have a perfect teen, his teenage arrogance and attitude are still present, too!

Lawyer Mama said...

I love this line - "She is lovely, bright and deep, but draining." It makes me think of Robert Frost. "The woods are lovely, dark and deep."

I'm a first born too and already I see so many of these same characteristics in *my* first born. I understand your worry. I do think that telling Patience to act as if she's happy for others even when she's not is a good thing. With practice, it will become, if not second nature, much easier for her.

"Controlling life and the universe" is a big responsibility. But I have to admit that I do the same thing you do - replay scenes of my life in my head. I reargue hearings, rewrite briefs, replay conversations. It's not necessarily a bad thing as long as you don't let it get to the point of anxiety.

If you're anything like me, you feel most comfortable in familiar situations. I find that replaying certain things in my mind helps me process them. I'm a reflective person and I know you are too Julie. Some of us need to deconstruct little snippets of life to make sense of them or to reconcile them in our minds.

Now, I'm making a very large assumption into your personality, but I suspect that you are much like me. My apologies if I'm way off base!

Sephyroth said...

I've posted my entry for the week here


jen said...

teaching authenticity when we ourselves have not been taught it is a great burden and an exciting opportunity.

lovely post, dude.

Emily said...

I worry for my eldest. I see in him the fire in the head that I have, and I have always wished my fire was more in my heart. If I could ask the wizard for anything, it would be more empathy for me and my son. But, lacking that, I want to teach him to think happiness for others, even if he can't always feel it at difficult times.

Maybe our kids are meant to be friends!

Julie Pippert said...

Chani, she is young, and I also hope she'll grow out of it and develop the necessary degrees of understanding and empathy she needs. I try my best. It might be good enough but sometimes, it's hard to feel that it is when I see behavior from that isn't typical of the age, so that's not it, but is typical of a child who will struggle in this area.


Snos, my past mistakes are a little worse than shoplifting, I think, because sometimes they caused harm to others. I have forgiven, and learned, and it frissons fear when I see my daughter headed down the same path. It costs a lot, that. I hope I can share my own wisdom and guide her well. But I also recall that in my youth I could only learn from my own mistakes. She does not take instruction well.


M-L, no worries and your ongoing sharing and reassurance of having BTDT are more than equal to the cost of admission. ;) It is a balancing act...and yes, sometimes I worry about the negative as I try so hard to guide her, do I make her feel badly, hurt her self-esteem, even as I try not to? You know the drill.


LM, a Frost comparison. I am humbled! :) I've mostly honed that replay ability into a pro. I call myself a Stage 2 Recovering Worrier. I'm aware I do it, and am able to handle it positively, quickly. Sometimes I hit Stage 1, but recover, and happily now and again I hit Stage 3 where I Just Don't Cause Trouble with it at all. :) I do need to deconstruct to process; you have understood correctly.


Sephy, got it up, thanks!


Oh Jen, the way you said that, yes, very much so.


Emily, yes, at least to teach her to think it, and say it. Fire in the head...I may have to steal that; it's a perfect description. Our kids do seem similar from the sounds!

kim said...

I posted a very quick, humble, and late submission. Do not feel obligated to link. I'll be back later to read yours and the other entries.


slouching mom said...

Julie, I do not think that was a bad message to give Patience at all.

I think it was a perfect message. The right message.


bubandpie said...

It's an incredibly important and difficult lesson, how to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. And I know many adults who have never learned it. (Though they rely upon the fact that others have!)

And yet I also love that honesty of childhood, where it's perfectly okay to be pissed off at someone else's good fortune and you don't have to try to hide it.

flutter said...

Hey you, I wrote on it as well but I think I broke with button protocol..sorry!

kim said...

sometimes I swear you are in my head.