Monday, June 29, 2015

Getting Real

I plan my Parent Nags. I practice them. In the shower. In the car. In my head. Even with my 4th kid just 2 years from flying the nest, I still hold on to the idea that Perfectly Practiced Parent Nag is my best weapon of choice.

Today’s message wasn’t practiced. It wasn’t even planned.

 As the Carmen part of the Frank-n-Carmen was on the floor beside me, sweatin’ it out in a torturous abs work out, the other part of that duo sat on the couch repeating, “I don’t want to run. I don’t want to run.”
Let me explain right now that I completely, totally, wholeheartedly understand that sentiment. In fact, I think people who want to run are a little weird. I took a poll once back when I first contemplated self-loathing through 5K training. I asked about a dozen runners what they liked most about running. Every single one of them said the same answer—stopping. So all of these folks were forcing themselves to take up a hobby that the most enjoyable part of occurred once they stopped doing it? What. The. Hell.

But my immediate response to my son was not that I understood his mantra. Instead I broke out the Emphatic Voice with a strong encouragement to get off his lazy ass and go run because his team was scrimmaging next week and even if he didn’t do it now, he would be sorry later if he didn’t so he should stop whining and just do it already. (Okay, so the kids are right, my Emphatic Voice sounded a lot like my Angry Voice. Also, my strong encouragement sounded a lot like a nagging nag.)
My oh-so-wise son shot back, “Geez mom, since you’ve been on this health kick, you’re really getting on to us about working out.”

Hmm…that was not my plan. That was not what I had practiced. It was time to improvise. It was time to get real.

I explained that my attitude really had nothing to do with a health kick. It had everything to do with how much 2015 has sucked. It started with the death of my beautiful friend in January, followed by the pointless still-born birth of a co-workers baby. Then my daughter’s future mother-in-law was found dead. A few weeks ago, another daughter attended the wedding of her dear friends, just to turn around and attend the funeral of the newlywed husband two weeks later. Last week, my third daughter’s classmate unexpectedly lost his dad to a brain aneurism.  Just this week I was informed of the suicide of one my students. It’s only June, folks. It’s only fucking JUNE!  
So I told him that if nothing else, 2015 has given me an intolerance for bullshit and excuses. If you want something, you’d better go get it now. Life is short. We don’t know if we’ll have a tomorrow. So what the hell are we waiting for?

He said, “Wow, Mom. That makes a lot of sense. That was probably the most motivational thing you’ve ever said to me.”

Wow is right! Maybe the Perfectly Practiced Parent Nag isn’t my best parenting option.  Maybe real life is enough all by itself. In this case anyway, I couldn’t have motivated more if I had planned it. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Play Angry is the New Play Nice

Last night a wise friend gave me some sound advice. The phone conversation went like this.

Friend: What are you doing?
Me: I'm trying to decide if I'm so upset I can't eat or if I'm so upset all I want to do is eat.
Friend: Of course you want to eat. Who doesn't want to eat?
Me: (trudging my pathetic corpse to the kitchen for ice cream) Okay, I'll eat. I'm just so mad!!
Friend: Good. Be mad and stay mad. You have a right to be mad.

I nearly cried for joy (until I remembered I was supposed to stay angry). And at some point during our conversation, I began to believe him. I traded the soggy, melted, soppy ice cream for crunching crackers, because--let's face it--ice cream is just not an angry food. A bottomless box of Cheez-its? Now that's angry food.

I've spent most of my adult life trying really hard not to be angry or ignoring my anger or apologizing for it. I never wanted my anger to make someone else feel emotionally uncomfortable. In fact, I got so good at disguising my anger that usually the people I'm angry with think I'm joking.

Just ask my kids. They laugh at me when I'm mad. Truly laugh at me. Which only makes me madder which makes them laugh harder.

A few years ago, my alma mater adopted the motto Play Angry!    
 I'm not sure what the Wichita State University Shockers were angry about, and I'm not sure it mattered--as long as they were angry and stayed that way and played that way.

Their Playing Angry has served them well. They played angry enough to get them to the NCAA Men's basketball final four. They played angry enough to complete an undefeated season. They played angry enough to earn the respect of many naysayers.

And that's the thing my nice little apologetic mad moments were lacking--respect.

One of my favorite movie scenes comes from Terminator 3 when John Conner is lamenting over the fact that he is chosen to lead the world against the rise of the machine. The movie came out like 10 years ago, but I've always remembered the message of this scene.

Anger is a more useful emotion than despair. God, it's so true isn't it? What does despair do for us but dive us into gallons of ice cream and ruin our mascara and make us proclaim pathetic, embarrassing, abusive self-talk? Anger IS so much more useful and powerful.

I've always told my children that they have a right to their emotions. The best way to handle emotions is name them, claim them, process them, and move on. Looking back, I wish I had followed my own advice. I was too busy justifying others' emotions and apologizing for my own. Come to think of it, that kind of makes me mad. And I should be mad! I have a right to be mad! Anger is a perfectly good emotion and I've been ignoring it, wasting it all this time!

Time to take my own advice. Time to take my friend's advice. If it's good enough for The Terminator and the Shockers, it should be good enough for me. Besides, you know what they say about nice guys? Playing nice gets you last place. Playing angry just might help you save mankind or get you a shot at the title or maybe some deserved respect.

Or in my least a good laugh.