How does one measure the year past, and assess the new? Do you judge by how much weight you lost, or gained? Or accomplishments, like a job, or career change, a raise or advancement? Or other successes, such as new home, better or bigger apartment, new car, or any other material gain?
What if I measure my success not on my weight, an ongoing issue, but by how I treated this body, this self? If I handled adversity, of which this year was full of, with grace, acceptance and a strength of character that now only is there, but was also called upon to strengthen even more, and had to be pumped up like a body builder.
My worth is not tied up in how much money I have, or how light or heavy I am, but in my ability to live with the person I am, the choices I make, and align those choices appropriately–not always reaching those sometimes lofty goals, but doing my best to do so.
If I look at my successes in terms of how I worked to achieve my goals, not at the actuality of achieving them, I succeeded. I feel blessed. And whole. And at peace. I learned it is not what others do that upset me, but my reactions. I can feel how I want to be and more often during the interaction, not after. But if I figure it out after, that is OK too. I am not a spinning top, nor do I have to react to other spinning tops.
I have blessedly learned, albeit the hard way, that my daughter-in-law’s are not the enemy. I can forgive the things said thoughtlessly that once devastated me. And I can forgive immediately, a thought process in my head, “Yes, that was thoughtless, insensitive, etc…But that’s OK. They are young as I once was, and I don’t have to hold that remark or be hurt by it.”
The same can be said of any similar remark by my son. Forgive. Move on. It’s not like they don’t have to tolerate my own foibles. This is a huge shift for me, an ability others have discovered at a much younger age. My own skin, being burnt as it was, could not endure further hurts, even slight hurts, without having the air punched out of me, and the pain to feel intolerable.
It happens much less now, though can still happen, like a secretary on the phone who lacks the professionalism to apologize for her mistakes and instead attacks. I am arguing and reacting to a person I have never met. I feel reduced to a bad seed when her attacks make me question my own worth, when it is her who owes an apology, but none ever comes.
So I have a bad sleep night, move on, and forgive, but do not forget. Because I have to deal her again, and her modus operandi is attack, not apologize. Those people are dangerous to me and the ‘shit shield’ needs to be raised when dealing with them.
And that’s OK. A shield, or boundaries, are what children naturally learn. I learned the opposite. That I wasn’t worthy of any. That is was OK to take anything and everything, and I didn’t matter. Violate me? No big deal. It’s not like it happened to a real person or a person that even really exists.
So raising a ‘shit shield’ when around those that who tread heavily upon others to protect themselves so they come out smelling sweet, even when they are in the wrong, is not only OK and necessary for survival, but a long time coming. It still does not come naturally or easily. My work comes in being gentle with the damage done and showing myself kindness, not give the usual instinctive kick to myself.
Boundaries. Stand up for me. Get what I need and want despite others who lack the character and professionalism to apologize when they are wrong. Forgive myself when I get caught up in their stuff and get pulled in, just as they plan to have happen; hook you so they don’t have to say, “I was wrong.” My body was shaking with her stuff. I can forgive me for being hooked.
I have managed to come to this stage of my life, where the jobs are over, the home is purchased, the children are raised, and I feel at peace. It is not that this past year wasn’t fraught with challenges, most of them about my health, but how I worked through them.
I often wonder how it has occurred that the home was indeed purchased and paid off years ago. Well, that occurred because we never bought anything via a loan except a car and a home. We bought everything else when we could pay for it outright, full cash. And in the waiting came delight, not instant gratification along with exorbitant credit card bills with inflated interest. We were probably the last people on earth to even possess a credit card.
I fretted over every penny spent, hung cloth diapers on racks by the kitchen wood stove, and washed out plastic bags for re-use. (I still wash out plastic bags) The boys were taught since toddler-hood to save their pennies, and how to earn more money than their allowance by doing extra chores or other things.
I taught them early on how the world works, and that they have to work in order to have what they want and need. I did this on instinct. I knew if I were on my own without Samuel, I would not survive financially. My sons must learn to do what I could not. I could not easily go out into the world to earn a living, it threatened my very existence. It sill does. Symptoms of PTSD have not abated over the years.
We can retire early and pay the incredible health insurance bill each month without scrimping or excess worry. The boys, now men, are fully capable of running their lives emotionally, financially, socially, spiritually, in all ways, and far better than how I was able to.
Samuel and I enter this stage of our lives fully knowing time is limited, not knowing how long we have, or how long we have each other. We relish our relationship in ways we didn’t when the busyness of daily life, paying bills and raising children, made peace and calm an impossibility…especially for me. Because during all those years I contended with challenges I still don’t know how I faced or overcame.
This is how I measure my worth. Are you trying to be a ‘good person?’ Are you rising above your own needs to look at others and include their needs? Are you remembering to look at your own goodness and not focus on every mistake or imagined mistake? Because when I succeed at the later I am much more successful at the former.
And the work goes on…I know I’ve done my best. That is my measuring stick of success…
2016 photo of Molly courtesy of my photographer son, Cory