No Worries, Finally

My mother taught me a lot of things–how to cook, clean, and sew as well as how to be a decent person in this world. Being the only girl, I always knew I had a place in the family. Being the oldest, I always knew I had to be the responsible one. So, I was. Confident and responsible.

My mother also taught me a few things that I had to unlearn. Like how to get my ego needs met by taking care of other people. This became a destructive tendency for me, but I was lucky enough to get it under control in my late 20’s. My mother never learned how to stop being the compulsive care-giver. It was as if she thought that was how she could get into heaven. She opened her home to anyone in the family who needed it. She cared for her friends at church and in her divorce care group. She would always listen to other people’s problems, and she always had some advice, appreciated or not. She knew that she knew how to help and could not help herself when someone else needed help. As I said earlier, she lost herself in all that caring.

Another lesson to be unlearned, still in progress–living in the past and the future. She had the twin curses of guilt and worry in abundance. I now know that guilt is about the past and worry is about the future. What about now? This is something I work on constantly, but a little progress makes a big difference in how you live your life. I refuse to ruminate on the past. I try to learn my lessons and move on. Concern for the future is my unwelcome inheritance from her. I don’t worry so much now but I do plan and dream, and I like to know what’s coming. But that’s me…I’m still here, and I still have an opportunity to grow and learn.

My mother seemed to have an actual “worry gene,” which she inherited from her mother and grandmother, and who knows how many others before her. As far back as I can remember, fear dominated my mother’s life. She could not turn it off. She worried about everything, even when she learned the Serenity Prayer, she never figured out that “wisdom to know the difference” part.

One of the first things we did when she was no longer aware was to disarm the alarm to the front door. She would have had a moat around the house, complete with crocodiles and a draw bridge if that sort of thing was possible. Instead she got an alarm system which we all understood but still complained about. She had barricaded herself inside her cluttered home with tv’s blaring in every room, computer always on, Facebook always notifying her that someone had posted yet another doom and gloom scenario. She could have used some therapy, but the opportunity never presented itself gracefully. So she suffered.

Wait. Where are we going?

I’ve taken a side road from attachment to this topic because I think it is related in a convoluted way. Fear is an attachment to safety and security. It is an assumption that things are predictable, that nothing changes unless you want it to. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Change is inevitable. Everything, every person, changes. It’s the nature of…nature. Without change we would shrivel up and die. The only thing constant is change. I think she might have told me that when I was young. All those alarms, all that clutter, all the noise from the television, that was there to keep her safe, free from danger, free from change. It didn’t work. Her resistance to change created profound suffering, for her and for us.

A couple days after she passed, my daughter and I went to the beach and made an “altar” for her. “No Worries,” was written in the sand, surrounded by seaweed and shells, and was eventually washed away. I hope she saw it and understood.

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