When people victimize themselves, it really bothers me. Like, really, really bothers me. I want to bang my head on the wall when people say things like they are the way they are because such and such happened to them 30 years ago. I am a big believer in making choices. We can choose to be stuck in past events and allow them to make us miserable in the present or we can let go of crappy things that happen and treat them as gifts to make our present that much better. So when someone blames an external factor for their inability to make friends, or be in a relationship, or in general be happy, it really bothers me. (Did I mention that?)
So, that’s why I had to squash my own pity party last week. Yup, guilty as charged.
Ever since my mom died, I have had this inner dialogue about how unlucky my children are to have missed out on her because she really and truly would have been the Best. Grandma. Ever (as my oldest daughter would say). For 5 years now, I have allowed myself to fan the flames of a rage inside me that, at the best of times, made me sad to see a grandmother pick up her grandchild at school…and at the worst of times, made me spew angry thoughts at the people I wish would step up and do ‘the job’ I think they should do.
On Friday May 16, 2014, it got a little out of hand. The days leading up to what would have been my mom’s 61st birthday, I felt the familiar sadness settle over my shoulders. And by Thursday night I was a mess – crying in child’s pose on the rug in my studio, blowing snot and wiping tears with the tissues I swiped from the box beside me. Anger. Pain. Pounding through my body. My poor kids. They don’t know. She would have loved them with food and time and concern and after-school pickups and blah blah blah, into the night I carried on. Climbing into bed that night, I was spent. But apparently, I wasn’t done because the next morning the pity party was in full swing. I even invited my grandma to join me in my misery. Yup, not a proud moment as I admit this: I made my grandma cry. But misery loves company, right? We exchanged memories and would-haves, could-haves like a couple of drunks pounding back the tequila. Ok, that might be being a little dramatic.
Anyway, after I made my grandma cry (it doesn’t sound any better the second time I say it), an unsuspecting friend texted “Hello, how’s your day?” Well, I told her ALL about my day, and my night. Within half an hour, she was at my doorstep. Lucky for me, she had a day off and she spent a chunk of it listening to my woes of being a motherless mother with three kids who would never have a connection to their grandparents’ generation. Oh, it was ugly. But she just listened. And by the time she left, I felt lighter.
And then it hit me.
Oh. My. God. I sounded like the ‘victims’ that drive me crazy. I sank into a chair. No! How could this happen? I’m so big on choices and here I was, feeling helpless and cheated by Fate. How many times a week do I ask of my children, “How are you going to fix this problem?” I needed to ask this of myself. Big time.
The question itself offers some freedom. It implies that I actually can fix the problem. I could finally see the choice before me: Continue to feel sorry for my kids (who by the way, don’t actually need to be pitied for lack of love!) and whine about them missing out on a ‘village’, OR roll up my sleeves and build a darn village.
Over the next couple of hours, this idea marinated and I actually began to feel excitement at the prospect of a new project. Right on cue, my mom’s eldest sister called to check in on me. A couple of hours later, my mom’s other sister called for the same reason. By the end of the night, I was feeling confident that building a village for my littles was going to be easier than I thought. In fact, I wouldn’t be building from scratch. The foundation was already there; it was simply a matter of a little more effort on my part.
So, if you find yourself throwing a pity party and it’s working for you, then by all means, party on. But when you are tired of listening to yourself go on about how sucky something is, when you know it doesn’t actually have to be, then ask yourself, “How can I fix this problem?” Because you can.