Monday, June 3, 2013

Unlearning

@WomanDoItAll: The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to unlearn. -Gloria Steinem
Posted on Monday, June 3, 2013

Our first teachers were our parents. Out of the womb and into our parents' arms, our first lesson began. Some parents were phenomenal teachers who showed them the way to confidence, independence, and love. Through patient instruction and attention to their children's needs through each age, these patients raised children who believed in themselves - their abilities, their flaws, their strengths, their weaknesses. These children grew up knowing they were loved unconditionally, that mistakes happen so we can learn from them. That they don't have to be perfect to be loved. 

My parents were not of this ilk. Perhaps I understate that. Because they didn't teach me to love myself, I've spent the last decade in therapy trying to learn how (and consequently unlearn what I was taught.)

When my son was born over 11 years ago, I made him a promise that I would go with the flow with him. His milestones were his to make. I would support him, help him the best I could, but I wouldn't push him to be someone he wasn't or do things he wasn't comfortable doing. I treated him as the individual he is from the time I first knew I was pregnant. I talked him out of time outs when he thought he was bad. I counseled him through the early years of preschool and school about bullies and how they were the damaged ones. I hugged him as he cried out all his tears when he would be teased. I practiced deep breathing with him when below anxiety about presenting in front of his class paralyzed him. I walked him through tough assignments which he didn't think he could do. 

Today, my son was promoted to middle school - he starts 6th grade in September. In preparation, we made a mall run last night for a button down shirt and new sneakers (my son only has Syracuse University shirts - it's where he'd like to attend college.) We found a suitable shirt (button down but still casual) then we went off to the sneaker store. He scanned the shelves of all the brightly colored kicks. I pointed out some all black ones because since he's been able and interested in choosing, he has always gravitated to the nondescript, blend in all black shoes. 

So I was mildly surprised when he picked up a pair of orange and blue sneakers. "Of course," I thought, "SU's colors." Unfortunately, they were far beyond our price range. So he picked out a white and navy pair of higher tops. They felt great on, were in our price range, my son loved them.  SOLD! 

On our way home, he said, "I'm starting middle school; I think it's time I got into a new style. After all, I am awesome."

I smiled a huge grin and replied, "yep, you ARE awesome." As I drove us home, all those teaching moments I had with him flashed before my mind's eye and I knew in that instant I had done something right. 

I am so proud of my son. No matter what honors he earns (like today's Presential Award for Academic Excellence), I am most proud of the fact that he knows how awesome he is and he wants the world to know it too. And the best thing of all... I think my son knows my love for him is completely and utterly unconditional. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Opposing Vision of Champions

"@Fit_Motivator: The vision of a champion is bent over, drenched in sweat, at the point of exhaustion, when nobody else is looking. -Mia Hamm"

Posted on Twitter on Sunday, June 2, 2013. 

Once again, another tweet that is supposed to inspire the masses. Somehow that isn't the picture it draws for me. 

For me, this quote paints a story of a lonely person, afraid to trust that others might be able to help burden her load. Someone who suffers in silence while the world loads more expectations onto her shoulders - because she can handle it. She is strong. She shows no sign of the cracked fragility of her spirit, her soul which needs time and space and support to heal properly. 

I see myself. Always competent. Always able to add another task, another person, another concern onto the list. 

My cracked shell inside continues to split with each "yes" added to the millstone round my neck. My voice weak from underuse all these many decades. I bend to catch my breath; to wipe the sweat that mingles with tears from my face. Desperate to ask for help; frightened that no one will understand how this capable young woman, for all appearances say thus, may possibly need support. 

I am learning to speak. To say words that will be understood as I meant them. The process is long. The pain unseen. 

For me, the vision of a champion is one of a person, surrounded by her team of loved ones, professionals, friends who reach out a hand when she falls, who wipe the sweat from her head, who hold her in her weariness, who lay her down in her exhaustion to sleep.

No one is a champion alone.