I received nine phone calls from her today, a low for our average day spent answering questions and sharing memories. Three years ago, I was told she would only live six months to a year. She’s a stubborn depression-era survivor and a retired registered nurse who has outlived two husbands.
These past three years have felt like someone has rung me like a wet wash cloth and left me out in the cold to dry. I am a survivor of losing my father at the ripe “I-know-everything-before-I’m-ready” young age of 19. I didn’t get, until very recently, that I suffered from PTSD for several years after that heart-crushing, life-changing event–and I probably had it all the way until my son was born some 15 years later.
There’s something about unconditional love of a beautiful child to replenish the soul.
Truth be told my dear dreamers, I’ve been pretty angry that I have to go through this again … like any of us really have a choice when it’s time to say goodbye to those we love?
I started 8 Women Dream because I wanted to find an answer to why I stopped pursuing my artistic dreams back when my father died, and pursued instead, a life of promising career choices and work that rarely, if ever, fed my soul during those PTSD years. Searching for secure employment made me feel like a starving child at a banquet still looking for just the right rib-filling meal to end the hunger inside of me–then I’d be safe and warm.
But every career move tasted flat and left me feeling more empty.
Some years ago, I took a big risk to see if I could break out of the business of banking and move into the publishing field. And what do you know? I’ve done it! Yet, I still feel like I haven’t accomplished my dream. How is that for redhead crazy?
Is it that I am using the situation I currently find myself in as an excuse not to stretch to my full potential? Or does PTSD come back in milder forms when you are forced to re-live the past?
Her latest phone call interrupts my writing this and I answer it, as I always do, feeling a tinge that this could be “THE call”. She informs me that we need to go underwear shopping because she doesn’t like her current underwear. I say, “OK” and shift the subject to her grandson, his college plans and the humidity in the air.
Weather is her favorite subject.
But instead of turning to weather, she asks, “What does Brian want to do with his life?” … as if he really knows. He’s like any other 20-year-old kid. “At the moment he wants to be a professional rugby or football player and live life abroad…” I answer off the top of my head.
“Oh I hope so,” she laughs, “I’d love to go to all of his games! Can we go to all of his games?”
Does she know that I am writing this? How do mothers do that?
Her response to Brian’s dream is a much different type of response from the woman who once told me to take business, law or science classes and “get a real job” over my frivolous job being a wedding consultant. “You will never get rich doing that!” she would say with her hands placed firmly on her hips. After my father died, I went from being someone who loved school to the angry girl hating college, which made me the perfect type of person to deal with brides-to-be.
She couldn’t wait for me to move on from it… unless I was getting married myself. To her, it was a go-nowhere proposition–a frivolous career.
During those agonizing college years I loved to sleep any time I could find a warm spot to stretch out my legs. It was my second career choice. I especially enjoyed coming home, crawling across my bed and curing up in a small ball in the top corner to stare at the beige wall and create objects with my mind pieced together from the gagged lines in the plaster. I’d do this until I’d drift off to glorious sleep. Sleep felt like it was the answer to everything.
Could I make a living sleeping?
Obviously during this time, I was in no shape to think about my future–but I was forced to face it. It was the reality of the situation and my mother expected it of me. “Your dad is gone. I can’t support you…” she’d say when I’d complain about the college classes I loathed. I’d roll my eyes and head for the bedroom.
I ultimately acquiesced to her inclinations about my career life and studied business and real estate.
Over the past three years, we’ve spent a great deal of time on the phone every single day and even more time in-person–more time than I ever remember spending with her growing up. There are times that we will sit down next to each other with our glasses of wine and discuss the period of time when her husband (my father) was diagnosed with cancer and then move on to his death. We talk about what we each did wrong and what she wants at the end of her life. Some of this talk feels liberating, but a lot of it is painful. During these little talks, I could choose to be one of those kids who sits there placing blame for my life at her feet and bemoan her excitement over my son’s dreams–when she leaves me wondering who she is–because my mom never would have encouraged her kids to play rugby or football…
Who are you and what have you done with my mom?
But blaming her would be me making someone else responsible for my dreams and someone looking for excuses–it’s no way to launch a dream life. Besides, she deserves better.
My son has been naturally moving in the direction of his dreams for years now. He’s always known what he’s wanted to do–through all manner of setback from injuries to mentally ill coaches. It took him 5 years to completely reshape his body. He’s rebounded from loss, from rejection and being ignored as a player. He’s chosen to shrug-off anyone who tried to tell him “he wasn’t…” and pushed through to where he stands today–a determined athlete through and through.
You never hear blaming or excuses coming out of his mouth.
Maybe that is the truth of my dream story.
My son lives his dream — every single day. He gets up and does at least one thing everyday that takes him closer to his dream–in spite of the criticisms, injuries, losses, and those who would try and stand in his way. He just shrugs his shoulders and carries on.
Every. Single. Day.
Can I honestly say that I am doing the same? Was I even doing the same when I was his age? Maybe my father’s death has nothing to do with it, just like my mother’s situation shouldn’t now. How’s that for realizing your dream situation?
At some point, you have to walk around your excuses wall and take a hard look at what you are doing with this one life you’ve been given. Tragedy happens. It will find its way to your doorstep while you are living your dream.
Dreaming won’t protect you from life.
Life is messy and complicated; you may find yourself in your 50s watching your mother take her grand exit tour at age of 87. You can decide to quit because of your heartache or you can decide to pursue your dreams in spite of it all and be grateful for the life you have been given–as an ode to her legacy.
This week, I’ll be helping someone I love buy underwear and I promise you that I won’t question how it has anything to do with my dreams or regret any moment spent there. I’ll choose to be grateful for the opportunity to serve someone I love and be of service in this world.
And then I’ll sit down, shut-up, show-up and actually write.
Because this is what my dream is … and it’s right here writing for you.
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