My husband cracked me up with a meme the other day that essentially said (paraphrased):
Having kids makes you realize how stupid your lies sounded to your parents….
I haven’t physically given birth children, but I certainly “have” kids in my life. Even today, I love observing how they attempt sneakiness but TOTALLY miss the mark.
I still remember years ago (when I was first entering adulthood), I would see children trying to be underhanded, and I would giggle and think to myself, “When I was young, I was so much better when it came to being devious. They are just so obvious!”
Ha! What a laugh. Because then I quickly remembered how my Mom or Dad ALWAYS found me out. So my belief in my covert capabilities quickly died a needed death. I was like most every other kid. There was nothing sneaky about me at all. Like them, I only thought I was.
Why am I even writing about this?
First, I found it comical. Second, I’ve realized how easily (at any age) we can think we possess certain qualities, and then we learn we absolutely don’t. It’s a little bit discouraging because I like to think I know myself: that the reflection in my mirror holds no surprises.
BUT! (There’s almost always a “but”) I now stay more open to the idea that how I perceive myself and how other people actually see me might not match up. Which is a good and humbling reality check for all of us, at any age.
Many people dream, I know this. But let me ask you, does the dream version of yourself typically accept the strange situations in dreams and never question? For example, I’ll dream about my Mom. She won’t look like my Mom, she won’t act like my Mom. But dream Gina never stops and questions. She just accepts: “That’s my Mom.” Even though the red flags are everywhere.
I discussed this whole concept with a good friend. She too, admitted that there are incredibly bizarre occurrences in her dreams, and her dream self just goes with the flow.
So, it was a HUGE victory the other night when I was dreaming, and I actually took control of my dream. I was in a haunted house (I had seen a creepy TV show that day), and I was panicking because my phone wasn’t working. I vividly remember trying to push the buttons on the screen, and they didn’t respond. It was a classic nightmare situation.
But then, an incredible thing happened. I told myself, “This must be a dream, I just need to wake up.”
And I woke up!
To my relief, I was suddenly in my bed, wrapped like a burrito in my favorite blanket. Victory! I was so excited that I did a mini happy dance and told a friend. (Later that day, of course.)
Can I just say it took 39 years for this to happen? And will it ever happen again? Has dream Gina finally gotten the spunk and the knowledge to say, “Wait a minute, this is not reality. I can escape?” Maybe. Maybe not.
The whole point of this little story: we celebrate minor victories as we grow up. It might be a lost tooth or even something like learning how to braid. (I learned on My Little Pony’s long white tail.) My point is, I think we should not stop. We should continue to intentionally celebrate the smaller events as they happen in our lives. Whether we are 9, or in my case, 39.
Here’s to those little triumphs that keep happening and will keep happening! No matter how unusual, and no matter how old we are. Cheers!
I love that adulting is often about exposing ourselves to new viewpoints, which can in turn bring healing.
When I was a little girl, I remember one afternoon my great aunt was crying her heart out. My grandma went into the bedroom, shut the door, and was so gentle and comforting to her. But it was a such a worrying situation for me. Why was my aunt so sad? I can still remember her howls echoing through the hall.
Being older now, I can see another perspective that I didn’t have as that little one on the other side of the closed door. More mature me can see the situation for what it was: a typical spat in a marriage. I eventually found out that my uncle had frustrated my aunt to the point of tears. He had not murdered anyone, nor had he abused her. While he might have still been at fault, my auntie chose to express herself loudly (as some people do). But they made up later, and life continued.
And even if back then someone had sat me down and laid the situation out before me, I’m not sure I would have understood. I had yet to comprehend marriage relationships. But I sure understood crying.
Yes, life can get scarier as we get older. All we need to do is read the news, and we can learn about terrible things that we hoped weren’t happening but are. There are many, many reasons to weep.
Yet, as a small reprieve we also learn that some of the scary isn’t as scary as we thought. In my case, my crying auntie was going to be just fine. Because while crying can be incredibly sad, crying can be therapeutic. Crying can bring relief. And crying be healing.
I know I’m not the only one who gets frustrated by rude behavior* that can confront us on a daily basis: getting cut off by another driver, watching a customer disrespect a cashier, or hearing someone’s very loud conversation on their cell phone (next to a sign that says “Please, No Cell Phones.”)
I don’t know why, but I feel it’s my place to put on a cape and bring some type of small justice to what I see as an unfair situation. When really, for the sake of my own health (and sanity), I need to fold my cape back up and stow it away.
Do you know what I’m talking about? Do you ever feel as I do when you witness rude behavior? Despite these feelings, often the smartest and best move is to keep our mouths shut and not get involved. But what about that rush of anger and irritation? That desire for justice? The anxiety that we can’t “right” something we see as “wrong”?
I’ve found that a beautiful perk of adulting is that I see more and more that there is always another side of the story. Oftentimes, situations are not black and white no matter how much they seem to be. Over the years, I’ve learned to be less judgmental of other people, less angry, and instead, let compassion overwhelm me. I want to hold hands with compassion and take it everywhere I go. Because I like myself more when I have compassion for others.
So, I now intentionally use these three reminders to keep me more compassionate:
1. While any behavior may appear strange, disrespectful, or incredibly unacceptable, I remind myself there is always more to the situation than just what I’m seeing.
When I find myself annoyed with an impolite stranger, the best thing for me is to try to think about a reason they might be acting rude. The person might be in physical pain, have just lost a loved one, or be in the middle of a divorce. The list of reasons as to why people do what they do is endless. I still laugh when think of a bumper sticker I once saw that said, “I’m speeding because I have to poop.” But hey, it could be true. We’ve all been there!
Does a “good” excuse justify speeding or any form of aggressive behavior? Mostly likely not. But all this helps me to remember that while the other person might not be right, I can’t control their behavior and maybe, just maybe, they need my compassion more than my condemnation. (And most importantly, even if they aren’t controlling their behavior, I have the power to control mine!)
2. I remind myself that I’m doing my own health a favor when I keep anger and judgement at arm’s length.
Even just getting upset for another person is a type of involvement, and I believe it can be unhealthy for me or really anyone. Because what ultimately happens is a change in mindset and attitude. My mood moves into something more morose, more anxious and I start validating these feelings with thoughts like, “Here’s yet another reason the world is such a dreadful place…” Experiencing anger does nothing but hurt my mental health and that’s just not worth it. We can’t help the sudden thoughts and emotions that might come to us, but we can choose to let them linger. That’s where we have some authority, and we can turn our thoughts to something not as emotionally draining, but still true.
3. I remind myself of this truth: I don’t really know what is best for others.
As much as I like to think I know how to right a wrong that I observe, I am just not that knowledgeable. The world we live in is so complex. People are made up of layers upon layers of life experiences and behaviors that mingle with one another and influence each other in ways I will never see and know.
Bottom line: When a person seems rude without reason? Or plain mean? Unfair? Having these three reminders keep me calm and less negative. Without pulling out a cape of justice, I think we can still have a victory when we have less anger and negativity. Plus, when we exercise control over our minds, it’s incredibly empowering. It’s self-control at its finest. It embraces compassion, leads to intentional living, and ultimately, more healthy, peaceful living. And I don’t know about you, but I can certainly use more of that.
*Clearly I’m not talking about behavior that needs police/authorities called into action.
I was the youngest in my family. On top of that, I didn’t grow up around many young children. I didn’t baby-sit much, and if I did, the kids were older. Unfortunately, as a naïve, very young adult, I was pretty critical toward other people and their kids. Why did they let them continually scream and cry in the grocery store? Why did they let them out of the house with weird or grossly mismatched clothing? These were just a couple questions that would fly through my mind. (I love that I thought I knew what was acceptable/expected, even though I’d never had children….)
Then I spent time with my sister’s family, including a precious niece and nephew. It didn’t take long for me to realize that sometimes just getting out of the house with a child FULLY dressed is a win. Seriously, who cares if the pants and shirt don’t match? And children misbehaving in the grocery store… Oh my. I realized quickly that parents and guardians probably wouldn’t get much done if they waited for their children to act perfectly before stepping out with them in public.
How judgmental could I be? Especially about something I knew so little about. Why in the world would I be like that?
I think it was easy for me because like all of us, I was learning and adulting and my pool of knowledge was expanding. I had within me the capacity to make sound judgments. But while I had learned so much, I had to also learn that I knew so little.
I definitely needed a slice of that humble pie. And I think, for the sake of all of us, we should keep that dessert close by. Because our knowledge will keep expanding. Daily. And it’s easy to be a little self-righteous and a tad judgmental: “Yeah, I know a thing or two. I’ve been around that metaphorical block.”
Instead, no matter our age and experience, we can take the healthier response and let more knowledge lead to more understanding. Gently reminding ourselves that there is typically so much more depth to what we see with our eyes and to any situation that we observe.
Learning MORE should be just a reminder that there is EVEN MORE to learn.
When I was little, my Mom told me that if anyone asked me to keep a secret, it never excluded my Mom. I could always tell her. It was our clandestine little pact. I could promise my friend not to “tell a soul”, and I could say it confidently, because my promise to my Mom far exceeded any other promise: a secret promise superior to all other secret promises (cue dramatic music).
I like to look back and acknowledge clever parenting techniques from my Mom and Dad. My Mom was able to have an eye on me and my friends’ dramas and give me advice to avoid trouble. Now, whether I took that advice was another story, but it was her way of keeping tabs on me and the happenings in my little world. And it worked. I confided a lot to my mother, and in turn, she was able to guide me.
If any of you know me at all, you’d know that I really wasn’t much of a troublemaker, so I didn’t give my Mom a ton of grief to begin with. But I have to ask myself, was it because I kept myself out of trouble, or was it the secret pact with my Mom that helped me to stay out of trouble? I like to think a little of both.
Thanks, Mom, for initiating that secret pact.
A lot of my friends are mothers, and I want to just encourage them that so many of their parenting techniques, no matter how amazing, just may not be appreciated by their chicklets. At least not yet. But I believe they will be.
Much love to my mama friends…
I really enjoy sending old-fashioned snail mail. I mean, let me be honest with you: I even just love the phrase “snail mail”.
Recently, a friend of mine discovered a box of letters that her grandmother, Mimi, (who has now passed) had sent to her throughout the years. She showed me a picture of the beautifully typed pages: it was line after line of carefully typed Hungarian, her native language. It went straight to my heart in an incredible way. (And not just because I’m smitten with old typewriters, and clearly, Mimi had used one.)
So yes, what an impact those letters made! I wasn’t even the recipient, and I felt a little misty-eyed. No doubt my friend was even more affected. More than just paper – those letters became memories, feelings, and love, carefully composed. I think each one was like a mental hug tucked into an envelope.
I want to be like my Mimi. No, I can’t speak Hungarian, but isn’t it neat how she created a piece of the future for her granddaughter? I wonder, did she realize she was initiating a wave of comfort for her granddaughter that would reach out far beyond her own life span? And it was at a time when my friend really needed it.
And it’s something all of us can do.
I want to keep alive Mimi’s same spirit. Little did she also know she would encourage me to continue to send postal mail and even give out handwritten notes, especially when expressing affection and encouragement to others. Because I believe those messages will then stand out among the various digital fonts and emojis that come streaming in at us throughout the day (and no doubt start to blur together.)
No, I’m not going on a digital strike or anything in that direction. The only “strike” I want to make is a difference in a typical day of someone I care about. Just as Mimi did. Will you consider joining me?
Creator of Love, Auntie.