Monday, March 25, 2013

Two Years Later: My Mother

Tomorrow is the 2 year anniversary of my mother's death. I went back and forth on whether or not I had the energy to blog about it but since I have an hour commute, by the time I got home after a very long day, I had thought out what I would say if I could muster up the energy to do it.

Anniversaries like these tend to creep up slowly. I, and maybe you, tend to start exhibiting symptoms of grief long before you, or I, recognize what they are. Crying for no reason, increased irritability and anxiety are just some of the things I've noticed I experience when the increasing "anniversaries" I've encountered in my life come to fruition.

You'd think these would be "old hat" for me by now. I know...we've all lost people. I just happened to have amassed a list of critical figures since childhood who have left this earth much earlier than either they or I were prepared for. And it sucks. And it's hard. And it really doesn't seem to get any easier the older I get. I've always been in awe of people who can funnel grief in a socially appropriate manner and then I secretly (or not so secretly) decide that these people are really just numbing out the real pain, or compartmentalizing it. I've never been good at either of these things in any part of my life, so....oh well.

So, tonight, while driving home, I spent most of the time thinking about the process of losing my mother and what that really meant to me. And I don't have any brilliant answers. Yes, it's the way it's supposed to be; I'd much rather be me losing my mother than my mother in the position she was in losing a son.

But about 40 minutes into the drive, I made the turn on 926 down by the Brandywine, over the bridge and crossed over the railroad tracks at Pocopson Road. And I turned my head left, which is the way I would have turned my car if I wanted to travel 5 more minutes to my mother's house. And I thought, without thinking, "I really should call my mom." And then I realized that wasn't even an option. And then I thought, "How could you even think that when you just spent 40 minutes debating writing a blog about your mother's death?" Crazy, huh?

And I think I have a couple of different answers to that question, and I'm guessing they are all right. First, it takes a long time to let go. It just does. I had a friend who recently lost her father say to me in an incredulous moment of grief, "Isn't it crazy how you lose them in pieces?" And it's true. You say goodbye in phases and those phases are dictated by your ability to face those dark places in yourself. You are always someone's child, no matter what your age. And that doesn't change when your parents die. It just transforms.

Second, I have found that part of me keeps my mother (and brother) alive by keeping them, always, somewhere close to the surface of my consciousness. My mother loved books; not the classics and not trashy romance novels. She loved historical fiction and psychological thrillers. But she loved them most when they were hardback. Paperback books didn't really cut it for her. She'd caress those things like they were the most beautiful things in the world. And anytime I pick up an overpriced hardback book, I have a piece of my mother. I can feel her in the room. It's true. And it's the same thing for me with my brother when I listen to 102.9. Yes...102.9. Not because he listened to that station but the classic rock (and for some reason, specifically Foreigner) is like sitting next to my brother. And that keeps him here.

And I think the other reason I so seamlessly thought to call my mother today is because, on some level, she is still here. In me. In Max. In my brother and my sisters and their kids. And even in our friends. That was the one thing that I thought about at length today on my ride home. My mother's funeral was full, not of people in their 70's like she was, but "kids" ranging in age from 40 to 55. Yes, a few were there simply to support us, never having met my mother, but so many of the "kids" in the room had connected with my mother (aka Mrs. Ciliberti, Mrs. C or Momma Joan) across the course of their lives. She had laughed with them, cried with them, told them to get out of her house, given them "the look" and even smacked a few across the head. And they loved her anyway. Just like the "kids" she had actually birthed. And that is a testament to life well lived.

Any mother who can mother those who have mothers without stepping on toes is by definition a mother. My mother was, and is, a true mother. And we were all very lucky to have her mother us. Even if we didn't know it at the time.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Owning Your Shit

I am a firm believer in owning your shit. By shit, I mean all those less than stellar qualities about yourself that maybe you should change but inherently make you who you are. I'll be honest...I've grown into this philosophy of life quite rapidly over the past few years and while, it may not make me the most likable person on the planet, it's freeing and liberating and I wouldn't have it any other way.

I think it's hard to own your shit. Who really wants to stand there and say, "I can be a real asshole when I think it's called for." But I can say that about myself because I also firmly know that I can be compassionate, empathetic, fun and thoughtful too.

I think owning your shit is really about embracing the dichotomy in yourself. And I think that's a process. I believe you've got to come to terms with some really uncomfortable realities about yourself. You've got to be able to look at every experience, even those terribly cringeworthy ones with no regrets. You've got to believe you are doing the best with what you have at the time. Because, quite honestly, I think there are times when being an asshole is called for. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of times when its wrong and unacceptable but gotta do whatcha gotta do.

I can say with great confidence that I see the dichotomy in myself very clearly, live in it fully and own every moment of it. I think owning it is being real. It's actually living. It's a way of saying, "You know what? This sucks and I'm not going to pretend it doesn't to make you feel better. Because if I want to be real and true and authentic, I'm going to live in my truth and you are probably going to hear about it." And I'll seldom say I'm sorry because I said it because I meant it.

I think we spend too much time worrying about what other people think. You could literally die tomorrow and have spent more time worried about how others perceive you than if you lived your live with integrity. Long story short...own your shit.

At this point, since I'm owning my shit (which is specifically that I can be a little too upfront at times, moody and have great difficulty hiding my complete disdain for lack of common sense or people's inability to own their shit), I'll also say some good things about myself (it is my blog you know...).

I am strong, smart, witty, thoughtful and empathetic. Now, those of you who have met the wrath of Carol maybe saying "Whaaa???" on some level. I can be intimidating. I know that. But I have incredible empathy for people....provided they are doing the best they can with what they have or know (see, another dichotomy).

But for every annoyed, in your face encounter with me, you are probably going to be able to remember a time I made you laugh, helped you talk it out, stood up for you when you couldn't do it yourself or actually cried when you didn't have it in you to cry for yourself (yes....I actually do that). My friends are my friends for life. I don't walk away from people or responsibility. But I can be a bitch too.

Honestly, I wish more people were like me. I wish I didn't feel like I was rocking the boat by being real. Because, no one is going to tell me that these social norms and rules out there are making people more psychologically healthy. If I'm afraid to tell you how I feel because it could potentially hurt your feelings, who is actually getting hurt? In my opinion, the answer is, both of us. Because we are just dancing around issues that we may both have feelings about all in the name of social etiquette. And who is going to suffer more from avoiding the issue? The answer, again, is both of us. Because we aren't really living. We are just going through the motions.

At this point, I'd like to say, this is a bit of a ramble that has played over and over in my mind multiple times over the past few years. I'm sure I've written about it in a variety of ways. But this time, I really just wanted to write a blog called "Own Your Shit." So I did. And I do.

The End.