The truth though, I was really looking forward to my 50th birthday.
For me it symbolized a new beginning, the fresh start to the next half of my life. A few months back I identified January 15th, as the day I would be waking up, free from the previous pains that were plaguing me. If you are a loyal follower, you may remember that back in August I had a relative call me and say some very mean and nasty things about a blog post I had written. I understood the core message she was trying to relay, but she laced her tirade with some hurtful threats and tried to twist and manipulate my love for my husband into her demands. Although on an intellectual level I recognized that her tactics were that of a bully, on a personal level I had trouble shaking it. Her words were haunting me like a low budget horror flick.
Then other things started happening. Phone calls, emails, and text messages until one day I just had enough. Something had to change. As a person trained in social work, I know there is really only one person you can change. Yourself. So I rolled up my sleeves and got to work. I talked to professionals, clergy, friends, other relatives, and of course my husband and kids where appropriate. I studied research journals, twelve step programs and self help manuals. I joined an online woman of faith support group and read the bible. I also read your blogs. Many of us as it turns out, have the same type of struggles.
What I discovered during this process, has been truly life enhancing. Over the years I have engaged in many different workshops and instruments that helped me identify what my personality and work types have been in the job environment, but never on a personal level. I'm not sure why I did not embark on this self discovery process years ago, but then again, I probably was not ready. I will say that it has been the most uplifting thing I have ever done for myself.
I am going to share some of what I have learned that might be helpful to others. If not today, then like me, one day in the future. I am going to start with a story that you may have read before. I have had it neatly tucked away for years and from time to time I would read it. As I began this journey there was a sentence near the end that became very important to me, almost like a mission statement.
So I now have it prominently displayed on the white board in my creative studio with one of my favorite photos of Sarah and me. It is one of my favorites because it was taken at a fashion show that my mother worked hard to organize. For many years she was on many different boards and committees in her home city that supported individuals with Down syndrome. Sarah's health did not often allow us participate in her activities, but this one May, we made it to the mother/daughter tea.
I have retyped it below so you can copy)
THE CHOSEN MOTHERS
by Erma Bombeck
Most women become a mother by accident, some by choice and a few by habit. Did you ever wonder how mothers of children with life threatening illnesses and disabilities are chosen? Somehow, I visualize God hovering over earth selecting His instruments for propagation with great care and deliberation. As he observes, He instructs His angels to make notes in a giant ledger..."Armstrong, Beth, son, patron Matthew." Forrest, Margorie, daughter, patron saint Cecilia." "Rutledge, Carrie, twins, patron saint Gerard."
Finally he passes a name to an angel and says, "Give her a child with Down syndrome." The angel is curious. "Why this one, God? She is so happy." "Exactly," smiles God. "Could I give a child with Down syndrome to a mother who does not know laughter? That would be cruel." "But does she have patience?" Asks the angel. "I don't want her to have too much patience or she will drown in a sea of self-pity and despair. Once the shock and resentment wears off, she will handle it. I watched her today." said God. " She has that feeling of self independence that is so rare and necessary in a mother. You see, the child I'm going to give her has it's own world. She has to make it live in her world and that is not going to be easy."
"But Lord, I don't think she believes in you." said the angel. "No matter, I can fix that. This one is perfect. She has just enough selfishness." The angel gasps, "Selfishness? Is that a virtue?"
God nods. "If she can't separate herself from the child occasionally, she'll never survive. Yes here is a woman I will bless with a child less than perfect. She doesn't realize it yet, but she is to be envied. She will never take anything her child does for granted. She will never consider a single step ordinary. I will permit her to see clearly the things I see...ignorance, cruelty, prejudice...and allow her to rise above them."
"And what about her patron saint?" asks the angel, his pen poised in mid-air. God smiles and says..."A mirror will suffice."
On this 50th birthday, I recognize once again that I have been given a gift so great in Sarah. I have seen the ignorance, the cruelty and the prejudice and I have been allowed another gift, the ability to rise above them. I am grateful.