Yesterday, I achieved the unimaginable.
I calmed my mother down.
Firstly, a quick update about my friend’s missing cat, Roux. He was found late yesterday afternoon underneath a neighbor’s deck, thanks to his doggo brother (good boy, Beau!). Roux had been hit by a car over 24 hours earlier. He has a broken jaw and various other injuries, and is receiving medical treatment. It’s too early to nag my friend for an update today but she and Roux are on my mind and in my heart. If anyone wants to send good strong healing vibes out to that sweet furbaby I’m sure it will be appreciated.
Update a few hours later: Roux is expected to make a full recovery. Yay!
Next… My mother.
Before Coronavirus, before I was laid off from my job, I made plans to fly back to Boston for a week in April to see my family and attend the Passover Seder. My flights are booked and they are paid for.
The dates of the trip were coordinated with my younger sister, who lives in Denver with her family and also travels to Boston for Passover every year.
Well, I say “every” year, but it’s actually been a couple of years since we were both there. It’s hard for her to justify pulling her kiddo out of school for a trip right before or after spring vacation, and I was in France last year. But we had both been looking forward to going this year.
She and her husband both have employment situations that don’t allow them to work from home. If they get sick, or put under quarantine, they will suffer significantly in terms of lost wages. It took a long time for them to make up their minds, but ultimately they decided it wouldn’t be wise for them to fly to see family right now.
This decision was made moderately easier by the fact that they hadn’t booked their flights yet. I, on the other hand, have not been feeling like I need to make a decision with any urgency. The flights are already paid for. Either I will go on them or I will not. In all likelihood, the airline will allow me to reschedule. But I do not feel I need to handle this issue right now, four weeks in advance of when I actually go.
In fact, I have so many things on my mind causing me anxiety right now that whether I will get on a plane in four weeks is rather far down on my list. Of greater concern to me in the moment, related to Coronavirus, is whether I should go to Walgreen’s today and if I should bail on plans with friends this weekend.
My mother, of course, does not know this. Hence, she sent an email yesterday asking if I had made any decisions yet about whether I’m coming?
This struck me as weird on many levels, not the least of this being that we had spoken about it just last week and I had told her exactly what I just wrote above. It’s not something I feel I need to decide right at this moment, nor at any point before I’m actually supposed to leave for the airport. Since there isn’t any planning around my visit that she needs to do, the pressure for me to make a decision right now seemed misplaced.
I admit, I became a little aggravated. In my mind, she was asking me to help her emotionally self-regulate. She likes to know what to expect and is anxious about unknown variables. I get it; we’re all that way, to some extent. In the moment, though, I didn’t have the mental or emotional energy to spare to take care of her needs. I felt put upon.
My achievement yesterday was being able to put my own feelings aside and manage the situation in a way that did not make me feel worn down.
I looked outside and saw the sun was out and, even though it was past my usual dinnertime, still high in the sky. Why not take advantage of this lovely scenario? I grabbed my phone and my earbuds and walked out the door… And called my mother.
We talked for half an hour and during that time I walked around the neighborhood a little.
I learned that her desire to know whether I was coming wasn’t a question so much as it was a conversation opener. It wasn’t that she wanted to know what my decision was. In reality, she wanted to ask me not to come. Which was fine, and probably what I would have ultimately decided to do anyway.
Then we started talking about my unemployment and I vented a bit about how stressful and frustrating the job application process is.
Example: in yesterday’s post I mentioned a listing that looked appealing, that I had killed myself writing the perfect cover letter for. Overall it took 10+ hours to write and I was so proud of it when I was done. However, when I went to apply for the job I had to fill out a very long, very poorly organized online form. And on that form, the fields where one inputs the years they attended college were required.
That’s right. I was unable to apply for this job unless I either let them know that I attended college in the late ’90s, thereby telling them that I’m over 40 years old and opening myself up to age discrimination, or I lied. It put such a sour taste in my mouth that I haven’t yet completed the application.
My mother’s reaction to my emotions was the same, I assume, as most mothers. She wants to be able to fix it, to be able to do something to make everything all better. It’s something I’ve struggled with in conversations with her many times in the past. What I need is empathy, not to have to soothe her and let her know she’s okay.
Somehow, yesterday, I managed to do both. First, I told her that she’s already done everything she possibly can do because she parented me well. Because of her, I am able to manage this process well. I have the tools I need to do so. What I need from her isn’t solutions, but just to know that she loves me.
And then I thought of something she actually can do for me, an assignment, if you will. Mom is great at putting together care packages. She finds the cutest little things to include and when she does it, which is rare, it always makes me feel loved.
I asked her to send me a care package. She was so excited to have an action item given to her, something concrete she can do that will help me feel better.
And I’ll genuinely appreciate receiving it.
Thus, my achievement for yesterday was something I never thought possible. Yesterday, while in the midst of feeling horrible, I managed my mother!