The world won’t ever leave us alone…there’s always something. However, we do have a choice about how to handle many situations in our lives—both big & small. I recently had a conversation about the differences of REACTING or RESPONDING. Those words stayed with me, so I dug a little bit deeper.
REACT—intransitive verb; to exert a reciprocal or counteracting force or influence
RESPOND—intransitive verb; to say something in return, make an answer
After I read the definitions, saying those two words felt different to me.
Repond is gentler, a little more refined, with slightly more breathing room.
Say it aloud with a sigh…respond.
Perhaps that little sigh could slow a moment down a little bit. I know that sometimes, for me, that could make all the difference…especially in this emotionally loaded season of college applications/essays with my twin daughters.
BROKEN ARROW is the code word used for an unexpected event involving nuclear weapons in the accidental launching, firing, detonating, theft or loss of weapon. When I heard this term on the radio yesterday, I linked BROKEN ARROW to the accidental emotional launches that happen in my nuclear family life.
As a 51-year-old woman, married since I was 25, and raising twin 17-year-old girls, a BROKEN ARROW can easily be disarming—hopefully not devastating.
There have been thirty-two BROKEN ARROW incidents since 1950. I’ve had many more. However, maybe with more awareness I can launch less frequently. I’m quite certain my nuclear family would appreciate the diplomacy.
Sometimes I’m unable to sleep because I’m so jazzed about something I’m working on that sleep seems like a waste of time. However, this time it’s something else. I’m pretty sure it has to do with closing in on fifty-one, hormones, grief, puzzling rage, extraordinary joy, occasional alien identity theft and letting go.
Sometimes it all actually feels this alien to me and I barely recognize myself. I know that non middle-aged women tend to believe (at least from my experience) that menopause is an excuse to explain away shitty behavior, lack of energy or out of the blue tears. It’s really not an excuse and it’s often as confusing to me as it is to my poor family.
A generation ago, it was less frequent that Moms would be going through menopause with teenagers still in the house. Not that it didn’t happen, but it was less common. I feel sort of sorry for my twin daughters right now. My relationship was different with their brother. He was not twins. He was never a 17-year-old girl. He’s not living at home right now. He was not a mirror to me the way my girls are.
My girls are living with the Many Faces of Mom during their stressful last year of high school. Sometimes I freak out thinking that I haven’t taught them what they need to know before they head off to college in a year. I have to trust that I have and allow them to learn the rest on their own. It’s time to let go a little bit more.
However, I feel like after going through pregnancies, nursing and giving up my sense of self to care for these little monsters (that I heart breakingly love) that I’m due a little break now. Is that so wrong? Isn’t that what menopause is? Transition from one stage to another.
Nothing in my life has been as dramatic of a shift as becoming a Mom…and now in some weird way, when my girls are a year away from leaving home, my body is making me feel like I’m in the first trimester of my pregnancy.
Fatigue. Uncertainty. Cravings. More fatigue. Headaches and more even uncertainty.
Nature’s cruel joke or a reminder of how tied to them I am on a cellular level?
Last week I was in South Dakota for a funeral and a wedding. In between those emotional events I found some time to drive back roads with my husband, see the stunning late August countryside and find some much needed quiet. I’m always reminded of how much the prairie landscape resides in my cells, bones and heart.
This landscape gives me clarity, helps me understand my choices and guides me back to my personal True North when I get off course a bit.
South Dakota is my interior geography, no matter where I am in the world.
Recently, I had to draw a compass at Courage Camp in Bristol, Rhode Island. I laughed at myself because the way I still figure out directions is to imagine I’m standing on the front porch of my childhood home. It’s there that I’m most confident in knowing my directions. (photo below)
Standing on the porch I know which direction the sun sets and how to get to Nebraska. With that knowledge, I can find my way most places.
I often think of my intrepid ancestral homesteaders who ventured West, uncertain of what they would find in the Dakota Territories. However, and more importantly, perhaps they knew they could handle whatever the prairie offered them.
I understand that now, at the tender age of 50, in a way I didn’t when I was younger. I don’t know what’s next, but I know I can count on my interior geography to help guide my way.
listening to my AUTHENTIC SELF even when my SOCIAL SELF is screaming at me to act in accordance with societal expectations and not listen to my inner voice.
AUTHENTIC SELF: who I am at my core, the true substance of what makes me uniquely me, how I desire to live in my heart and soul, who I am when no one is watching
SOCIAL SELF: who I am in relation to others, more protected and very concerned about how others see me, often scanning for what’s appropriate in any given situation, ego
When my authentic self and social self are out of whack, things get pretty weird and I can feel like a fraud. I don’t want to feel like a fraud.
However, now that I’ve identified what courage is for me, I’m noticing which voice I’m listening to much more quickly. I think simply noticing is a great first step.