looking forward: cautiously but with a smile

i was chatting with my mom tonight after work and as we were getting off the phone, she says, “oh i wanted to mention, kimmy wants to spend christmas eve with me.  i hope that’s ok.”  kim is her oldest friend, they’ve known each other since they were 4.  she and her kids came to our thanksgiving last week.  they have never been holiday friends, but it looks like we’ve got a new tradition.

i think i’m ok with this.  mom continued on, “kim is my sister now.  i’ve gotta have someone around who’s level headed, and you don’t always wanna listen to my bullshit.”  true.  and i liked kim and her family at thanksgiving.  surprisingly funny!

i talked about thanksgiving a lot in grief counseling this morning.  this was my second session with the new girl, my initial counselor from Barb’s hospice went on a leave of absense just before grama died.  i think it’s a good switch.  when i first met her i was a bit overwhelmed by the youth and the blond hair and the skinnyness and the fashionable clothes and the st thomas school affiliation.  but this weekend we connected a bit more.  i let my guard down and she offered some insight that i respected.  tit for tat.

in talking through thanksgiving and my caretaking of barb and grama, i realized that there’s a part of me that i don’t want to be anymore.  as barb was dying, there were a lot of family jokes about this control-freak, perfectionist, micro-managing streak that runs through our family.  i loathed my mom for it growing up, but taking care of barb opened my eyes to my mom not being an anomaly.  and they must have learned it from somewhere.  enter grama.  but the way i reacted to that strong personality was to learn to predict needs and excel, be a good girl and do everything right.  my grief counselor asked if i could see that as kind of a gift, that it made me into a good caretaker.

i explained that yes i can see that caretaking is a gift that i can give to others.  but it’s also a way for people to love me for what i do rather than who i am.  for instance, barb often told me i was her favorite caretaker of all in the end of her illness.  which feels good to an extent.  but it also felt shitty – you love me because i do what you say.  and over the course of my life, many have admired my obedience – quiet little good girl, so sweet, always doing such a good job.  but i secretly hate people who love me for that, people who are so focused on how good i make them feel that they’ve forgotten to discover ME.  but i loop around and blame myself for it.  if i had just been myself rather than wanting to please others, people would like me for me in the first place. 

my biggest complaint in this grieving process had been that i haven’t gotten the support i wanted from certain people who i thought should be looking out for me.  i’m glad to be talking about that in counseling, too, because it helps me see the selfishness in it, and the way i need to continue to work on asking for what i want.  today i realized that this is an example of me exhibiting my own control issues.  i retreated emotionally from the controlling women in my family, withdrawing to the safety of my solitude.  i connect, i have good friends, but at the end of the day i stay safe and alone so i can have life my way.  as mortality slammed into my life this year, i laid out my silent guidelines for how people should properly support me.  and when they don’t measure up i just as silently retreat back into myself, cursing names.

but when i take a step back, releasing control and practicing patience and acceptance of other people’s ways and time, i’m getting some lovely support and freshness.  that’s what thanksgiving showed me this year.  i went in thinking how inappropriate it was for my mom to invite all these new people, replacements.  but it was actually really fun!  and today my biggest fear around that issue was stated blatantly:  “kim is my sister now.”  my mom is definitely doing some replacing.  but is that such a bad thing?

maybe the question is not, can empty spaces be filled?  maybe it’s shouldn’t they?  perspective, man.

in the week after barb died, i got so totally broken down, broken open.  i felt a gratitude for divine timing.  there’s some spiritual books that talk about agreements made as spirits in heaven before they decend to earth to inhabit bodies.  partnerships, cooperation.  i don’t know whether i believe in that, but the sentiment is lovely.  the idea that there was an agreement on timing where barb had to die at the exact time i had to be broken open.  i almost forgot about that with the lowness i’ve felt over this past few weeks.

will there be other auntie figures in my life who will touch me as deeply as barb?  will i be allowed another grandmotherly figure to cherish and adore?  i don’t know.  but i know that i don’t want my silent rules of control, crossed with this militant loyalty, to block future opportunities.  can i let the obedient, caretaking, perfect daughter/neice/granddaughter go so that i can step further into authenticity?  simply live, connect, give AND receive, without expectation?

goodnight, good girl.

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