Strength in Tears

I have spent most of my life ashamed of my propensity to cry.  I felt that it showed some weakness in me, some deficiency in my ability to be a strong, real person.  I’m not sure where this came from.  In looking over my life, I can remember trying hard not to cry in the face of conflict or challenge, but the more I tried not to, the more I cried.  In my poor sense of self it was just one more reason not to like me.

My sense of self is changing.  I am becoming more comfortable with things that used to upset me.  I am beginning to understand that things like my tears are not a shameful thing.  I am an emotional person who takes things to heart.  I care deeply and I feel deeply.  That is ok.  That is part of what makes me who I am, and part of what makes me so good at what I do.  My compassion and empathy make it possible for me to be able to make a difference in the lives of the older people I work with.  It makes me able to hear and understand my children and husband when they are struggling.  It makes me a better friend.

I read something the other day that kind of stuck with me, and I guess it is the impetus to this post.  I wish I could find it so I could reference it here.  Basically, it said that tears show strength and the ability to release tension and keep perspective in the face of troubles.  Someone who is able to cry is comfortable with their own feelings, comfortable being authentic and open, and able to express true emotion.  Crying cleanses the soul and allows a person to move forward free of strain.  It is a tool for those who are strong to stay strong.

I like this thought.  It is ok that I cry and it does not mean that I am weak or unable to cope.  I am me, and me is different maybe from you.  Me is strong and sensitive and empathetic and caring and able to navigate life in ways that are positive and effective in serving others.  It makes me a good mom, a good wife, a good sister and daughter, a good Gerontologist, a good Christian, and a good person.  My strengths are uniquely suited to my roles and my place in this world.

Even my propensity to cry!

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Registered for my Final Two Classes Today……

I remember sitting down at my computer blogging about my decision to go back to school.  I had been out of school for around 20 year., and a lot has happened in my life since I had last been a student.  In December 2015 I graduated summa cum laude with my B. S. in Psychology.  I began grad school right away, and I also blogged about my decision to pursue Gerontology.

Today I am sitting here blogging about registering for my final two graduate classes.  By December of this year, I will hold a master’s degree in Gerontological Services from Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.

This journey has taken me through five years, two moves, both of my children graduating high school, health concerns and surgeries, the death of a grandparent, and multiple other life changes.  It was very difficult at times, and I even spent some time in tears and ready to give up.  I kept going, though, and here I am!

I am working to find a job and begin to build upon my education and truly make a difference to the people who I work with.  I am looking at research ideas, and beginning the process of developing them.  I am still a wife and a mom, and these roles are the ones I still identify with most closely because these roles mean the world to me.  I am also someone who is passionate about my chosen field and the individuals that I work with.  In some ways. I am the same person I have always been.  In others, I have changed and grown.

My husband and my kids have given me their love and support, their proofreading skills and their shoulder, their understanding and their cheering section to get me through.  I could not have gotten here without them!

So here I am getting ready to tackle my final semester of school.  I am excited to see where I land as I apply for and interview for positions in my field.  I am excited to see what the next chapter of my life holds as I am stepping out as a confident, educated and capable woman.

Body Image

I am 43 years old and yesterday I wore a two-piece swimsuit for the first time since I was about 19 years old.  It wasn’t a two piece that looked like a one-piece, it was a bikini top and a skirted bottom.  My belly was uncovered for all to see! (Ok, so all was my hubby and kids and two very good friends.  But still…)

I have struggled with my weight and with my own self-image for my entire adult life.  Swimsuit season has always been hard for me, just as it is for women everywhere.  My body flaws were exaggerated and even new flaws imagined.  My usual swimwear choice always covered me and was much “older” than me in style and color because I wanted to hide.  The idea of a two-piece was ludicrous to me!  I had two larger babies, and my belly sports the stretch-marks to prove it!

I have spent the last 5 years of my life working to improve myself.  I have been working on degrees and educational pursuits that have allowed me to see myself as a smart, intelligent person who is able to succeed at the things that I set my mind to.  I have also faced some health issues that were serious and gave me an appreciation for where I am today.  I am at a relatively good place in my life.  I am starting to actually like me!

This is translating into how I feel about my physical self.  Do I weigh what I want to?  No.  Do I still have health concerns?   Yes.  When I decided I needed a new suit, I decided to be open about what I would try on.  I decided that I didn’t need to make such a big deal of my “flaws” and I could decide what made me feel good and attractive and confident.  I tried on the suit I got and my husband and daughter both told me I look good.  I mentioned that you could see my stretch marks, though they are faded after so many years.  Hubby said, “So??”

So got the suit.  I took it with me yesterday as we went to our friends house to celebrate Independence Day and swim.  I had a moment when I put the suit on and went out in front of everybody.  It was hard at first because my insecurities tried to raise their ugly protests.  My friends both said they liked my suit and that I looked great when I joked about it in an effort to cover up my nerves.

We had a great time!  I felt comfortable and it was nice to be able to break through that barrier for myself and be comfortable in my own skin.  It’s been a long time!!

I think that women place too much pressure on ourselves to look skinny, young, fit, whatever.  I think that being a 43 year-old woman with a real body is the most common thing in the world, but many of us feel that we are somehow ugly and flawed because we are normal.  Is this due to our culture?  The media?  The pressure of our husbands or friends or others?  I don’t know why we feel somehow less when we are not some stereotypical image of the perfect woman.

I know I’m not the “perfect” woman….but that is ok.  For once, I feel good about my self.  That is everything!!

Dress for Success

I recently had the opportunity to meet a manager of a memory care unit in a nursing home facility.  I will not mention where or who this individual is, but I had to mention what my impressions of this individual were.  When I walked into our meeting, I was shocked to see how this individual was dressed.  She was wearing leather leggings, 5-inch heels and a crop top.  She looked like she was ready to go to a club or bar-hopping with her friends, not head up a professional meeting or be at a professional job.  It made it very difficult for me to give her the attention and professional courtesy that her position warranted.

This meeting caused me to spend some time thinking about the things that that we choose to wear.  I hear a lot of talk about people wearing what they want and dressing in ways that make them feel comfortable and express their individual identity.  I am all for that, to a point.  I don’t think people should have to wear business suits every day, for example, but by the same token, I do think that clothing and style choices should be appropriate to the situation.  This woman had the freedom to wear what she had on, and though I was an outfit that I never would have picked for myself, was fine for her if that is what she was comfortable wearing.  However, her position was a professional one that brought with it exposure to residents, families, medical professionals, administrators, and others who would all form their impression of this individual partly on what they saw.

Someone once told me to dress for the position I want.  Taking care to look professional for a professional role, I think, is important and says something about you.  It says that you have common sense, that you have respect for your position and for the expectations of others.  It portrays confidence and competence.  If you have a nice pair of slacks and a cute top on, versus tight leggings and a crop top, it affects how others see you and treat you.  It can even have an effect in your ability to do your job well.

This might be a “no duh” post to a degree, but I think that the fact that I met this professional very recently means that maybe it needs to be said out loud.  Just food for thought…

 

It’s Been A Bad Day but I am Good

Today has been one of those days.  You know the kind.  The I-never-should-have-climbed-out-of-bed and Can-this-day-just-end kind of days.  I’m not going to go into a lot of detail because, well, first of all you (my reader) really don’t want to hear this list and second of all, I just really don’t want to retell it because it is just depressing.

Everyone has days like this.  As I sit here thinking about mine, I realize that I have a choice about how I respond to this bad day.  I can cry and get all worked up and bitter and angry, which quite frankly would probably be understandable.  Or I can choose to look for the things I can be thankful for and concentrate on those.

Today I am thankful that I have a husband who was home today to help me face and address all of the stuff that just kept piling on.  I can be thankful for my best friend, who lets me text her as I go to distress, and who loves me anyway.  I am thankful for our friend from church who is helping us deal with one of our issues.  I am thankful for this beautiful day, and that I was able to get outside for a walk this afternoon.  I have things to be thankful for that I can concentrate on rather than those things that are frustrating and can drag a person down but that are a part of life sometimes.

I have had a bad day today, but I am good.

 

 

 

Remember the Simple Things

This morning while I was driving to my internship I was listening to the radio.  The hosts were talking about a recent news report that stated that the people of Norway (I think it was Norway) are much simpler in their parenting and in what they do with their children, and as a result their children are happier.  They then shared their memories of their childhood and what stood out as the best things that they remember doing with their families.  All three hosts remembered very simple things like going for a ride or playing a game in the back yard.  I thought it was interesting that even though they had “bigger” memories, such as trips to Disney as a family, these trips were not the thing that stood out to them.  It was the simple things.

I couldn’t help but think about what I remember about my childhood.  I remember, and appreciate the trip to camp at the beach and going to Creation as a family, but I think the memories that mean the most to me are much simpler.  I remember going to yard sales with my mom and/or grandmother.  I remember going fishing with my dad, or groundhog hunting, or sledding.  I remember renting movies and watching them over a snack.  Even today grilling and having a picnic dinner or sitting around the fire pit is the kind of thing that my family loves to do together.

It really is the simple things.

My kids are growing up.  I wonder what they remember most?  Is it the big planned activities?  Or was it much simpler?  Did my husband and I do enough of the quieter, easy-going stuff?

I’ll have to ask them.

Keep it Smaller and Change the World

This weekend was a busy one for me.  On Saturday I attended an all-day women’s event at my church.  Then yesterday morning my husband and I attended services at church and then a class after church.  Last night we attended a home group meeting.  The amazing thing about all of these events was that each event discussed essentially the same topic, which was not something that was planned to be that way.  The women’s event was IF Gathering (IF Gathering website) and was pre-recorded at a recent, nationally-broadcast live event.  Our pastor preached on the next chapter of Acts in a series of sermons based on that book.  The class Sunday afternoon was an informational class about our church as we are fairly new and considering membership.  And our home group has been discussing the same book for months now….last night was just a continuation of that.  None of it was connected except for the fact that it was all centered around our church.  It all was connected because of the theme that just kept making itself known.

The great big word that sums up the theme is “Evangelism.”  It is a word that has come to mean such big things in our culture, and to those who are not believers it has come to mean scary, pushy things.  When one hears evangelist or evangelize, it is easy to conjure pictures of Jimmy Swaggert, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, and even more modern-day folks like Benny Hinn or even pastors like Joel Osteen.  I’m not trashing these people, so please bear with me here.  These people and their ministries are known for going really big…for having a lot of people and TV shows and a lot of opinions that they freely shared with the world.  I am not commenting on their righteousness or their correctness, I am commenting on their showy methods that attract followers.  So many of our local churches today put on a big show, try to do it up really big to attract people.  People feel like church should be entertaining…a show!  Again, I am not putting anyone down here.  I have been a member of or visited many churches who do it big who love the Lord a whole lot and who are trying to reach people for Jesus.

What I learned about this weekend is a version of evangelism that is quiet.  That is more personal.  That involves cookies and milk, coffee, time spent talking and being with someone.  Time building a relationship with someone, quietly, and sharing who you really are is more valuable than anything in making a difference in someone’s life.  When I think back over my life to the moments that have made a difference to me, the things that come to mind are moments with people, quietly loving on me and listening to me.  I can’t think of one big splashy moment that meant anything to me that didn’t involve the intimate interaction of another person.

I learned that my offering people a ride, or going to lunch, or inviting someone over to just hang with us and spending time being real is what I can do to change the world.  Showing love and consideration for others, sharing who I am, sharing my faith and what makes me who I am can help someone else to change.  It can influence someone else to love, to be authentic, and even to find faith.  I don’t have to wait until I can do something big to change the world.  I can care, and change the world that is right around me.  Like a pebble thrown into a pond, the ripples will grow and spread and make a huge wave of difference.

 

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