The List-Maker & the Teacher

            Waking up to the warm Florida sun and refreshing ocean breezes is a spoiler.  The day after Mother’s Day —when being a mother is suddenly an honorable and recognized profession for a few fleeting hours— presented a “soft entry” morning for me.  I made my coffee, let the dogs out in the backyard, sat down in a beach cover-up with paper and pen at hand, settled into a cushioned lawn chair, and threw a toy out into the yard that one of the dogs brought me.  I was amused by their playfulness so early in the day, and heard myself laugh out loud.  I thought: Isn’t this the way we should all enter each new day, content with simple things and just to be alive?  

            Shortly, thereafter, I started looking around the yard, considering what needed to be done.  My mom’s “Texas sized bathtub”— the pool— needed to be skimmed.  Yard clippings from a recent mowing, small bugs who’d visited in the night, and now the elusive dog hair shed by two visiting “grand-dogs”,  stood out as the first thing to attend to this new day.  Already a list had started forming in my head, but at least  I wasn’t waking at 3 am with all my worries and cares overwhelming me, as they had in the place from which I’d come. This was progress, I thought.

            Soon I heard the screen door opening and saw my mom holding a small bundle on her shoulder approaching one of the empty pool-side chairs.  My new grandson, her new great grand-child, and a sleeping mother’s first child, nestled comfortably in his favorite spot.  She sat and we talked casually for a few minutes, laughing at the dogs chasing squirrels and considering the “bone yard” created by offerings of beef bones her “little boy” and two visiting “grand-pups” had been enjoying.  Then the list-making commenced.  It wasn’t meant to be a stressor, but I could feel the mood of the day shift from leisure to one of “time to make a plan and get things done around here”. So much for the “soft entry” start of a new week.

            My apologies ahead of time to those whose work or occupation depends on the successful making of lists, prioritizing tasks, and completion of goals.  Today I’m simply trying to understand and acknowledge a mechanism that’s made me “tick” for years, and put me in the “Type A” personality category—-often to the consternation of others who have another internal mode of achieving results bred into their genetic make-up.  Understand, I am not judging here, I’m only trying to understand myself and how family and interpersonal dynamics are effected by habits or tendencies we all carry in some fashion, from our arrival on earth into our adult lives. 


            With sticky note pads and pen in hand, I found myself making two separate lists: one for me and one for my mom.  One detailing a few things I could get done that she couldn’t, and one she wanted and needed to accomplish, somewhere between baby-care sessions.  I took a break to clean out the pool filter-basket, hook up the skimmer, and enter the undisturbed pool waters with a hand-skimmer, so  my mom could enjoy her “dip and stretch” routine as soon as the baby could be passed on to his mom.  When she started (with all good intentions) to instruct me on how to do what I’d done a few times before, I stopped her and said, “Mom, I got this.”  It was then I realized how many times before I’d let the spirit of the teacher encroach on adult relationships and rob others of what they could do without my input.  These habits of list-making and instruction-giving had been honestly acquired from many years living with a very attentive and well-meaning mother, who seemed to do everything out of a sacrificial spirit of love.  But now, honestly, it wasn’t creating a “fuzzy feeling”.

             It was a gentle reminder that sometimes love begins to take on the feel of control, if we’re not careful to allow others to grow.  No one likes discovering a previously assumed role is no longer essential to our success or someone else’s.  This is the hardest part of being a mother or someone who loves deeply.  We give of ourselves, we instruct from a very early age, we make lists to accomplish the many small tasks that require organization and discipline to complete, but then when we do the very things that made us a “success” before, we become something of a detriment to those we claim to love….and will always love.  Fear of losing a vital part of our identities when what we have to offer no longer seems needed or of value to the other, sucks joy out of us.  Even simple things that could be enjoyed are diminished by the pain of loss, until we let go and give the object of our past affections a chance to rise or fall on their own.  A hard lesson for anyone who loves someone or something with all their heart can give.

            So, today I have my short list, and mom has her long one….though I tried to get her to focus on the short one I’d made for her. It’s her choice to make.  I‘ll try to focus on mine.  I don’t want to take away anyone’s sense of worth, more than I may have already.  I know all too well how it feels, and I don’t want to control someone I claim to love.  The day will pass, and another come.  What matters from one day to the next is learning to be responsible for ourselves, and let others be and do what gives them a sense of value and worth.  It’s a life-long process, I expect never to perfect.

            The spirit of the list-maker and the teacher may remain, but at least I’m more aware of their heritage, and I hope to more effectively temper their influences in my life.   I don’t want to be guilty of trying to control anyone else’s destiny.  The truth is: I may not even be in control of my own.

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