Saturday, May 23, 2009

Letting Go

The year that I graduated, we had two Mothers of the Year, as there were many admirable mothers in our class. My mother was chosen, along with the mother that lived at the other end of the district and had had an effect on an entirely different group of classmates. It was a great honor for these women, and an apt reward for the years of service to not only their own children, but to all of the others that passed within their circle of influence.

When my brother graduated, the Girl’s Club advisor was the school secretary, a young single woman who tried to be the students’ friend more than a teacher. Her intentions were good, but she was young and not quite ready to be an authority figure to teens. She sent out the ballots for Mother of the Year and instructed the Seniors to vote for the woman who had done the most for their class. Again, there were several women deserving, and it came to a tie. Rather than allow the tie to go forward, as my class had done, she asked for a re-vote. This time, instead of sending out a list of the Senior mother’s names, she just asked them to vote for the woman who had done the most for their class.

Somehow, the vote came back with her name as the top ballot winner. An older, more mature advisor would have stopped right there, thanked the students for their praise…but had them vote for specifically a Senior Mother. I can’t begin to explain why she allowed them to award it to her, but she did, and it caused quite a stir amongst the mothers in attendance.

Even if the mother did not believe herself to be the rightful winner, she knew another mother that she felt deserving of the prize. My mother was rightly disappointed, as she had felt that any number of women would have qualified, but that this woman had misused her position and taken the honor from others more deserving. It’s something that has been discussed and rehashed many times in our household, and it always ruffles Mom’s feathers.

I tell you this because I attended Tuxedo Boy’s Senior Mother’s Tea just last week. We had refreshments and tea games, and then the Seniors stood to say something to each of their mothers and present us with beautiful spring flowers. My son thanked me for putting up with his crabby moods, which was appropriate! Two of his friends thanked the group of four moms that had worked together many years ago in Scouts, and have remained dedicated to this group of boys. We cherish each one of them as our own, and have been pleased to see them grow up as friends. It was so sweet, and meant the world to me. (In Tuxedo Boy’s defense, he said that he was stressed and just forgot to thank the other mothers)

When we got home, we were talking about the Tea with my parents, and Mom asked who had received the Mother of the Year. This is a tradition that died years ago, to my knowledge, and could likely have died the year that my brother graduated, for all that I know, but was not awarded this year.

And then she said, “I was SOOOOOO mad the year that your brother graduated!”

I stopped her right there by laughing and reminding her that I’d heard the story some 10,000 times before, I agreed with her, but that it had happened TWENTY years ago and she needed to get over it.

I tell this story not to chastise my mom, who obviously had very hurt feelings over the whole thing, but to emphasize a concept that I struggle with: Letting go.

I have a tendency to hold grudges. My dad and I often joke that “we don’t get even, we keep score”. While this is pretty common in most folks, I have some things that I simply cannot let go of. They are tossed around in my head like clothes in a dryer, waiting to stick to something else that might be taken out and used. They show up at strange times and cause such a visceral reaction that it takes me off guard. Sometimes, I’m not even aware that I’ve remembered such a thing, only that I am angry about something that is happening now and I’m not sure why.

The first step to letting it go is to identify what it is in the first place. When I suddenly get angry and it has little to do with what is actually happening, I have to stop and ask myself what it reminds me of…how it makes me feel, and what else makes me feel that way. This is, incidentally, the most difficult part! We do a very good job of keeping these things from ourselves! It’s a coping mechanism, but not a solution mechanism.

I also believe that there must be some sort of resolution to things. In this illustration with the Mother’s Tea, there was no resolution. No one stepped down…not likely, anyway. No one apologized…and while you certainly wouldn’t expect the winner to apologize, I think that Mom would have liked for her son to apologize. (are you listening??!! Hee hee)

We all need to come to some sort of “end” in order to get over things, and I’m finding that most of the time, I have to find the end myself. It cannot be something that comes from others…because that usually doesn’t happen.

I’ve been working with a therapist to begin to think more effectively. I’ve had a lot of years of depressed thinking, and it’s hard to break that pattern. In this case, I have to decide what I can live with. I know that I cannot live with grudges, because they eat away at you, a little bit every day. You end up with an empty inside and it hurts no one but yourself.

I was recently feeling overwhelmed with sorrow about how people that I thought were my friends could treat me in the way that they had. My therapist pointed out that I may be misinterpreting what they had done. Maybe they stayed away from me because they didn’t know what to say…or they just got busy…or whatever reason that they had. I had to work at this way of thinking, because I know that if the roles were reversed, I would want to keep in touch with them.

And then she said something that put it all into perspective. She asked me if I still wanted to spend time with these people…did I want to be LIKE these people? The answer was clearly no, in my heart. Then, she asked, why does it matter if they still like you or not?

Good point.

My family loves me, and I still have friends … maybe not ones that I see every day, or even every week… maybe I don’t have someone calling me all of the time, but I have friends. Ones that really care, and when they do call or talk to me, they really want to know how I am. Ones that are good, truthful, with no ulterior motives. Ones that I want to be more like. I’ll surround myself with THESE people, and the people who don’t like me…well, that would be their baggage.

I’ve been blessed with a few friends who have been very caring and supportive during these times, you know who you are! Thank you…thank you. There are not words to express my appreciation for you. And for all of you who have been a good friend to anyone who is struggling. That is the measure of a true disciple of Christ, to help someone when there is no reward for doing so…except knowing that you have made a difference.

What are you holding on to that you might let go? What is really important, and what is not worth the energy that it takes to be offended? What can you decide that will help you to LET GO, and move on?

And Mom, you’ve always been Mother of the Year to me. Does that make it any better?

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