Gratitude For ME
How is your journaling going? If you joined me this week in my gratitude challenge, investing your time in creating more gratitude, I hope you will share your insights so far, and invite others along for this challenge.
I have noticed a consistent voice popping through my sub-conscious each time I take pen in hand to write out 3 things about myself that I am thankful for each day. This voice sounds an awful lot like my mum’s. Through my youth, she never wanted me to think bigger or better of myself than what would conservatively fit into her traditional upbringing. She would correct me quickly for anything that sounded like bragging, or drawing too much attention to myself. She served me a disapproving glance if I talked about any of my talents in a proud manner. Not surprisingly, it was seldom I heard a compliment from her. I am guessing that goes along with not wanting to encourage what she perceived as my young, ballooning ego.
Sometimes, I would mischievously prey on this tendency of hers, and intentionally brag about a topic that would certainly get her quick admonition, then give her a big grin as her reaction came rolling out. Sometimes, I would get upset, defend my choice of words or actions, possibly with steam coming out of my ears, and walk away in a huff, no smirk on my face at that time. Sometimes, I would get quiet, feel shame, burn with embarrassment, and harbor resentment toward this lady who seemed to not approve of me.
This is a different side of mum that I have not written about in this format. I have journaled about it in those many notebooks I pictured at the beginning of the week, and included it in my other writing projects. She was not perfect. Since her early death did not allow time for a natural resolution of some of these hurts, I have preferred to present her best characteristics, imparting positive anecdotes that are helpful to living. Although, it is hard to ignore any unexplained, unsettled, fixed points of reality, that exist when you do not get time to know anything different about a person.
These feelings of having unresolved hurts with mum are simply that. Feelings.
Thanks, Marilyn. 🙂
If I really want to get to what is true, I think I need a different lens. One that looks for moments where she defended my spirit, encouraged my ability, unequivocally and unconditionally knew my shortcomings AND loved me anyway. For most of my life, she did not use words for this, it was not her way. But she changed when facing her mortality….regrets, wishes, dreams, blessings….all came pouring out in a last ditch effort to be voiced and realized.
When she finally resigned herself to accept my creative pursuits, she was still not happy about it. Glad, yes, that I was going to College, but whistfully hoping it might still turn into a Nursing career and not a Theatre Arts diploma. I was finishing my first year of a two year program when news of mum’s cancer came. It was not a nervous breakdown, as I originally diagnosed….her stressful, busy life finally catching up to her….but rather a different kind of show stopper, a final curtain unexpectedly interrupting Act II of her life, just as it was beginning.
My parents were seldom in the audience at my sporting competitions or events where I was performing. Sometimes Dad was on stage with me, singing and modeling his entertaining skills, or I was driven to said venue, dropped for an allotted time, and picked up again when shopping or errands were complete. Maybe if she actually saw what I could do, heard me amongst other singers, witnessed my progress in the art I was lapping up with every ounce of energy, she would become an endorser.
It took cancer to do that.
After the doctors tried to remove her brain tumor, and regaining enough strength to walk failed, she was confined to a wheelchair. Dad pushed her to my last performance of the year, where they seated her on the actual stage floor, there being no wheelchair location in the small theatre seating plan.
It was an interactive musical, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, where characters roam through an intimate audience setting, and engage them in period style banter. I played the formidable and bawdy character of Princess Puffer, an opium parlor Madame, who delivers a vengeful lament song, about a girl spiraling to ruin, after a man has heartlessly abandoned her. Very good drama, indeed.
Getting padded up for my ‘Princess’ costume, 1991
During the performance, Mum….who thought she was whispering….would lean over to Dad and glow about my performance, praising my skill and proudly exclaiming for the whole theatre to hear, who her daughter was….me. This happened everytime I went on stage. My fellow performers, who knew she was ill, helped me chuckle through this potential embarrassment and we carried on as though it was not disruptive to our performance.
At one point, her wig got too itchy, so she whipped it off to give her head a solid going over with her fingernails, all the while providing ample commentary about how gooooood it felt. When she placed her wig back on, it was slightly off kilter, looking like she should be in a Saturday Night Live skit. I watched this comedy scene unfold from backstage, folding over in silent laughter, careful not to be heard by the close audience. I wiped away ridiculous tears while trying not to smudge my stage makeup….which for my character would have been on point….and collected myself each time I had to walk back on stage and act.
This was her final assessment of ME.
Great. Talented. Worthy. Enough.
So why do these voices confuse and continue to frustrate me as I focus on myself?
If I cannot give more weight to her final affirmations, than to her initial inability to voice positive feedback toward me, I do not think I will be able to believe my own voice. When I get quiet and still about things I should be thankful for about me, I need to believe it, or it means nothing. It will just be an exercise of discipline and creativity…..something that will sound good, will convince a reader, appease my sense of accomplishment, without really doing any work….it will be an easy button.
But you all know, Finding 52 has not been wiggling around hard stuff, looking for an easy way out. No, I am firmly planted in discomfort, testing all my resolve to change, turning corner after corner of old thinking, old believing, all in an effort to arrive somewhere….anywhere but where nothing ever changes.
When I was thinking of the things I am thankful for about ME, especially in regard to appearance and attributes, I cannot help but think of mum. She is in my mirror. I can hear her when I laugh. Her voice whispers along walls of my inner hallways, prompting my thoughts, challenging my direction, accusing my actions, accepting my weakness, and believing in my strengths.
But a shift started to occur while I was writing ME gratitude’s this week. I started off flatly listing 3 details in a boring, plain manner….maybe hoping to not stir up that sketchy, negative voice of my mum’s. Then, I started to add adjectives….describing how I felt about certain attributes. As I did this, a voice inside got stronger, sweeter, more gentle, more accepting.
This lead me to consider….
….what voice do I allow to win? One that hurts, or one that helps? One that lays rotting in my stagnant past, or one that does not care if a wig gets whipped off in public, but is simply grateful to be around for the experience?
Those who know and love me best, cannot always give me this helpful voice. They, like Mum, are not saints. So where will this voice come from?
I decide what voice will lead.
My biggest gratitude this week is not on my ‘3 a day’ list, but doing this challenge, helped me to find it. I am most grateful to have discerning ears, that filter voices through my heart, and eventually lead me to see myself, like Mum did, as the incredibly diverse, dynamic, frantic and fanciful creature I am. That is a very freeing voice to hear….very helpful to ME.
If anyone is struggling with a ‘voice’ that tells them they are not enough, I encourage you with this: If they really love you, their tune would change; looking into your eyes for the last time, they would tell you….you are great, talented, worthy, enough.
I am just sure of it.