DISCLAIMER: This is a very, very, very, very long blog. I was going to cut it again, but it’s better if I just put it all out in one post. So read at your leisure. Grab a drink, a snack and get comfy if you plan to read this in all one go. *lol* You’ve been warned!
I feel like I’ve told this story before, so if you’ve heard it, sorry for the repetition.
In first grade, I attended a Catholic school in which nuns accounted for a percentage of the teachers. My first grade teacher was a nun and for the most part, fairly nice. One day after lunch, as we all were coming back into the classroom, our teacher told us to keep our lunch boxes at our desks. Normally, we’d put them back near our coats and backpacks at the back of the room.
As we all got seated, she asked us to open our boxes and she was going to come around and see if we had eaten our lunches. Now, I was trying to remember if this had ever been done before and I can’t remember for sure. But as far as I know, this was a new thing. In fact, after this day, I don’t remember her ever asking us to do this again. But as I said, this was a very long time ago, so maybe this did continue.
As she approached me, I was terrified. I hadn’t eaten my lunch at all that day. Why? I don’t know what triggered it, but I can remember feeling very uneasy at lunch and being very anxious to eat around others. As I think back, this may have been the first week of school. Based on my current life, it would make sense that eating around new people would have triggered this anxiety, rather than having these feelings around, say, the middle of the year.
When my teacher got to me, she asked me why I didn’t eat my lunch. I was so embarrassed. I lied, “I’m allergic to bologna. My mom made me a bologna sandwich.”
She gave a quizzical look and said, “Well, you need to eat something, okay? Let’s go down to the office.” My classmates started to laugh as she walked me out of the classroom. She quieted them down and told them to take out something to work on…I can’t remember. All I know was that I was beyond mortified. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me. I had never been in trouble in school.
When we got to the office, my teacher asked the secretary if our (mean old) principal, Sister Albina, was in her office. I sat down, staring at the floor, wishing it would swallow me up at that moment. No such luck. Sister Albina, who was seriously the epitome of mean, came out and spoke with my teacher. I looked up and she was staring at me, piercing my soul with her eagle-like eyes. I wanted to disappear so badly. Sister Albina asked me again why I didn’t eat and after I told her, tears forming in my eyes, she said she didn’t believe me. “I think you just don’t want to eat. Well, let’s have you sit in the music room and you can finish your lunch.”
At this point, you’ve got to be thinking, why were they so intent on making me eat my lunch? Why would they also “force” a kid, who said they were allergic to something, to EAT what they’re allergic to!? (I know I lied about that part and they saw through it, but STILL.) I don’t have answers to any of those questions, but trust me when I say I couldn’t believe any of it either.
I sat in the music room, while Brother Tom, our music teacher, prepared for the next class (MY class) to come in. He was very nice and he saw I was upset. He tried to comfort me and told me to take my time. But soon, my class showed up and my classmates saw me and some started laughing and making fun of me. [*smh* Man, let me tell you. As a kid, I HATED kids! “Hate” is a strong word. I STRONGLY DISLIKED kids when I was a kid. Not joking. But I digress.] Again, I just wanted to disappear. My teacher came to me again, to see my progress. I was trying to eat, but now, I was just too overwhelmed by my nerves and was fully in tears.
I don’t remember what my teacher was saying to me, all I know is that I got sick all over the floor from the anxiety/nervousness. The laughs from my classmates turned into gasps and shrieks. It was awful. My teacher took me down to the bathroom, while Brother Tom ran to get cleaning supplies to clean the floor.
Can we say, worst day ever?
I don’t know how the day ended. I probably blacked it all out from my memory. Unfortunately, I didn’t black out the most embarrassing part from it, hence the reason for many more stories of anxiety that have probably stemmed from that day. I continued to have a “reaction” like that for MANY, MANY years…into my 20s. Thankfully, I never got sick, but I’ve been on the verge too many times to count. It has been easier to manage as an adult and for the most part, I don’t have that reaction any longer. But if for some reason I get anxious enough, it can pop up. I don’t know where the connection to anxiety and eating came from. Perhaps, it’s really the idea of being around new people. I’ve never thought about it before, but we do tend to meet new people usually at an event with food (i.e. birthday celebrations, dinner parties, sports events, etc). So it’s not really about the food, but about the new people? The food is just… a trigger? I don’t know. Will have to discuss this in therapy.
In therapy, we talked a lot about the Mind-Reading Thought (see last post here) and surprisingly (or not), I seemed to bring up my mom a lot.
So, we all want to please our parents, right? Well, most of us do and I’m one of those people. Since I’ve been unemployed, you can imagine how I’ve felt like I’ve let my parents down. I’m the only one in my immediate family that went to college (and beyond). Only my first cousin on my dad’s side has outdone me in this sense (she has like 4 degrees!).
My mom…*sigh*…man… where do I even start? First, my mom is amazing and I love her to death. Over the years, we’ve gotten closer and we’re almost like friends. I love and cherish that very much. I can tell her almost anything (within reason). I was raised with a healthy fear of my parents, so even though we’re close, she’s my mom and I’m her child. I will always have that “she brought me into this world, she can take me out!” mentality. *LOL* You get the picture. Seriously, she and I are cool and have a great relationship.
My mom, although very awesome, is not perfect. No one is, of course. One of her flaws is getting very involved in the business of her children. Now, I think this is just a mom thing, but perhaps it’s a “my mom” thing? *lol* I think most moms want to see their kids go out into the world and succeed. And if that means reminding them occasionally to not rest on their laurels, then so be it. Well, my mom…she’s ALL about making sure you do not rest on your laurels. And she will remind you every. single. day. of. your. life!
“NO REST FOR THE WEARY” is probably my mom’s inner mantra. I’m not even joking. Oh, and emphasis on the “no rest” part! Like, my mom doesn’t even nap. And IF she says she’s going to nap, which is seriously the most shocking thing to hear her say, it will literally be for 10 minutes. Not joking. *lol* *smh*
Because she doesn’t rest, you know that means NO ONE in my family is allowed to rest! She ran a tight ship. When she wants something done, you do it immediately! I got to the point as a teenager, that I would just stop what I was doing (usually on the phone *lol*) if she came to tell me to do something. But just to give you an idea of what I grew up with…
- At age 4 (or 5), my mom taught me how to make my bed. And I had to make it every day. I also began cleaning my room at this age. No toys could be out of place, on the floor, etc. They definitely could not be out in the living room, etc. If so, I needed to put them back in my room as soon as I was done playing.
- By age 8 (or 9), she taught me how to wash and iron clothes. And my chore was to help her iron her work clothes. (I hated this chore and to THIS DAY, I do not iron clothes unless absolutely necessary!)
- By the time I got to jr. high (before I could drive), I was doing all the cleaning in the house each weekend. I was THE housekeeper in the house, if you will.
- Once I could drive, omg, it was ON! I added “errand girl” to my list of chores.
- On top of doing things INSIDE the house, my dad made me help with stuff he did outside. Mowing the grass, washing the cars, taking out garbage, fixing things around the house, taking care of the car maintenance, etc.
- By 13-14 years old, I made my own appointments for anything, doctor, hair, etc.
By high school, she didn’t do anything for me except cook. That’s the ONE thing I didn’t do, although I definitely helped her make meals.
(OH, and where were my siblings? Gone. They’re much, much older than me. So they were out of the house. It was just little ol’ me!)
So… my mom sounds a bit…strict? Ha! I’m sure she sounds super strict compared to the moms of generations after her. She definitely put me to work very early on. But that was my mom’s goal for all of us, to ensure we could be independent because obviously, we’d be on our own one day.
Writing all of this is interesting because I sorta forgot how young I started doing things and how much she made me do. Because of my mom, I have a very strong work ethic. When I worked, I was/am a diligent worker and I work very well independently. I’m by no means a slacker and I actually abhor having any job where I sit and do nothing. I know people that have jobs where they literally are just there, doing nothing. That can’t be me. I know, you get paid blah blah blah. Nahhh, son! I can’t. I will not. I MUST be actively working, preferably for the entire 8 hours I’m present at the job. It’s who I am and I feel like my mom’s teachings played a role in that.
My mom just turned 74, so she comes from a different generation (clearly). She came from a strict background herself. Her father was apparently very strict and my sisters and brothers have told me many stories. He passed before I was born, so I never got the pleasure of meeting my grandfather. But from the stories? He sounds terrifying. Not gonna lie. And from what my siblings say, my mom is not as strict, but she’s close. And that’s all well and good because again, I learned a lot from her and I feel like I carry myself well because of her.
What about my dad? Well, if you think, “Man, Tray is so cool, calm and collected”, well, you can thank my dad for that. 🙂 My dad and mom are polar opposites. He is introverted, chill and cool. My mom is super extroverted, always on the go and is never chill *LOL* But as my mom has gotten older, she’s much more chill. She still likes to keep busy, busy, busy. And yes, she still likes it when everyone around her is busy, but she has learned that not everyone is like her.
Somewhere in all of the above, do you see how I can feel like I let my mom down? I feel I let my dad down too, but it’s different with him. My dad is just very cool about my situation. He and my mom worked for 30+ years in the auto industry. My dad is more like, you’ve got plenty of time to work. Don’t sweat it. (This made me think about how people always say, “life is short”, but that doesn’t mean we have to believe it, right? I choose to believe life is long and I have time!)
I began realizing that my mom is the one person that I constantly try to predict what she will think about me. What she thinks matters to me a lot. She was always so proud of me and now I don’t feel like she is, which makes me really, really sad. Like, beyond sad. I’m getting teary just writing this because I feel awful about my situation in life.
After discussing all of the above with my therapist, she said I have to make a choice:
live my life for my MOM OR live for ME
That’s deep, right!? Well, it was deep to me because I hadn’t realized how much I was suffering trying to live for my mom. I was trying to do what she wanted me to do for YEARS and was MISERABLE because I didn’t want to do it. I wanted to do what I wanted to do. I got stuck. In the deepest rut ever.
All of those times when I said, “I’m going to do __(fill in the blank with any number of ideas I have had in the last 5 years)___”. I stopped doing every single thing because I felt she didn’t approve. And she never said, “don’t write a book” or “don’t pursue web design”. No, she never said that, BUT, she let me know that I needed to get a job WHILE I did those things. I was constantly torn between pouring my energy into a new endeavor or pursuing some wack job I didn’t want in the first place. This back and forth in my mind AND with in our conversations, has been the source of much stress and anxiety for the past two years (and longer, really).
My greatest desire in life was to become an author with several books. Now? I think of that and it makes me sad. I’m sad because over the years, I’ve been thinking if I pursue my dreams, it won’t please my mom. Anything I think I would love to do, I immediately squash it because it won’t please my mom.
I’ve been sitting on that sentiment for years now. Stagnant.
*whew* Aren’t you all glad I’m in therapy?! 🙂
I’m going to end this right here. I didn’t get around to the homework! Later this week, I’ll do a quick post. Much shorter!
If you’ve made it this far, you’re a G!