Mother and Me, Age 48 — October Memoir Challenge
For this week’s October Memoir and Backstory Challenge theme of Relationships, I’m comparing my life with my mother’s life at the same ages. I’ve visited two ages so far:
Today, I’m looking at age 48.
When my mother turned 48, she took classes at Eden Seminary. Lots of people take classes there without going on to become pastors, but my mother’s secret dream was to be in a pulpit. The logistics for doing that appeared insurmountable. Her husband, my dad, had a good job in a small town. Although Mother worked most of her life, they were always part-time jobs at near-volunteer wages. She didn’t have the sort of savings that would allow her to live independently. She questioned her marriage, her calling, how she had lived her life up to that point, and what, if anything, she was capable of changing in her future.
When I first read the little green notebook where Mother took notes of experiences during her Spirituality Class, it made me angry at the instructor, at my mother’s church, and at everyone who pushes a “Be still, and know that I am God” form of spirituality. I’m feeling a bit more forgiving as I read it today, especially since I’ve now read some of her later journaling work. The meditative prayer discipline that she practiced, from an outsider’s perspective, was clearly a mismatch for her. In the long run, I suspect she would say that she got something from the experience. It’s just painful to read how much she blamed herself instead of questioning whether the practice was right for her.
All of that came to an abrupt end when I was diagnosed with cancer at age 23 near the end of the semester. She had been flailing around wishing for a purpose in life and, for a few months, she had one — taking care of me.
By the latter half of my forties, I was dealing with some of the same issues my mother had — lack of purpose, obesity, busy days that didn’t seem to produce results and I wasn’t even sure what results I wanted. By my 48th birthday, though, I was several months into a successful weight loss journey. I had a number of advantages over my mother. I learned from her experience (as she encouraged me to do) and benefited from a changed world for women.
- I question authority.
- I value experimentation in my life, seeking solution instead of placing blame (even on myself).
- I never stopped exercising (thank you, Title IX).
- I rely on the latest research about overeating, its causes, and its treatment to guide my efforts.
- My secret dream doesn’t require anything that is logistically incompatible with my marriage.
- I have the confidence that comes from having earned a salary that I could live on if I had to, even though I’m not doing that at the moment.
My mother hoped that a focus on spirituality would be a back door toward purpose and weight loss. It looks like, for me, the weight loss is going to be the gateway to everything else. I find I’m a little embarrassed to write that — and that’s my mother in me. She says: “A focus on weight loss is self-centered and earth-bound. God is all; spirituality must come first.” But, if God is all, then it doesn’t really matter where I start, does it?
Do your parents remain role models in mid-life and beyond?
This is such a compelling theme. Thanks for sharing
This is deeply moving and an intimate mother-daughter connection. I can see your mother, in a time not like our’s, sitting at a desk, pen in hand, etching out hopes that may never be realized in her lifetime. She would be very proud of you and the energy of the pen in your hands. You have breathed life and possibility into those long ago hopes and dreams. You have also reminded us all that mid-life is not mid-done.
I will be 50 next May and yes, my parents loom large in my life. Long gone, I was 4 when my mother passed and 35 when my father passed. I wonder what they would think of the gifts they have given me?
Keep sharing, your memoir is beautiful.
This sentence, “It’s just painful to read how much she blamed herself instead of questioning whether the practice was right for her.” That’s a powerful observation. I don’t think I’ve ever had the presence of mind to actually acknowledge that something isn’t working because it’s simply not a good fit for me. Thank you. Truly. I think you just freed me from some unnecessary guilt.
So many of the things I have and the way I live are a result of my parents’ influence. I’m so grateful for the lessons they taught me and for what I learned from them…and am still learning. Great post!
I finally had a chance to go through your posts this morning. Thanks for sharing, as always! I especially like the pics of you and Dale as youngsters. (I hope he hasn’t given you any flak for those, haha!) The information about a kind of lack of a birthday cake tradition in your family kind of surprised me, but made me realize again that everybody grows up with different traditions. I might well have traded my birthday cake for a Cards game from about the age of 10, lol.
Pingback: Environmental Portraits Photography Workshop | Joy's Book Blog
Great post. I really enjoyed this series. It made me think of my mother. She was a quiet but very independent thinker, who never subscribed to the role restrictions for women, and led a fulfilled life. I therefore, never had to overcome them, unlike so many of my friends.
Congrats on your weight loss. You look great! I am currently struggling, with only minor success, to lose weight which I put on after a series of surgeries that changed my metabolism even beyond the changes on middle age. Sigh.
Also, I have always interpreted “Be still and know that I am God” NOT as “Do nothing, accept your place, submit to the role same male-oriented society gave you” but as “Be still, let go of your fears and anxieties and worries about the future, and trust in me. Everything will be all right.” And usually, when I just relax and do what needs to be done, everything turns out okay. Sounds to me like some chauvinist male preacher misinterpreted that passage for your mother to keep her in her place.(maybe with the good intention of making your mother less dissatisfied when he should have been encouraging her to make healthy changes.)
I like the comparison of your lives side by side like this. I find myself wondering what you think might have happened if you mom had made the choice to fulfill her dream. Your question about whether or not I consider my parents role models at this age caught me sideways. “Did I ever think of them as role models?” I wondered for a moment, then think back that there have been periods of time when I did, but most of my role models were outside my family. That’s not to say my parents haven’t had significant and positive impact in my life. Just…I don’t think of them as role models.
Pingback: Sunday Salon & Dewey’s Read-a-Thon Wrap-Up | Joy's Book Blog
What a delightful and thought provoking series of posts. It’s interesting on many levels to reflect and compare our lives today with those of our mothers.
I really liked what you said about making sure the practice works for us — as women, we tend to blame ourselves. We need to turn that around. It can be threatening to blame others, but asking “is this the best choice for me?” is a great, non-confrontational way to take control.
Pingback: Dewey’s Read-a-Thon Introduction Post | Joy's Book Blog
Pingback: Sunday Salon — October 20 | Joy's Book Blog