Tuesday, August 23, 2016

#500wordsaday: Maybe Next Time I'll Wear a Dress

1) A time you lied
2) A time you were hurt
3) The last time you were happy for a week straight
4) Family
5) How you wish you started your day (and then why you aren’t doing that already)
6) Your most authentic moment
7) When you really loved yourself
8) When you were scared
9) Why you long for love
10) Something about you that you’re hoping people don’t notice   / Something about you that you’re hoping people do notice

500 Words a Day: Family.

Oh boy.

It has taken me a long time to learn the lesson that genetics, does not mean family - that just because someone is related to you, does not make them family. And even more, that that's okay. I have only recently been able to accept that not everyone in my genetic family will always love or protect me, and that not everyone who loves and protects me, will be genetically related to me. 

And that's fine. 

I thought for a long time about how to approach this prompt - do I talk about who my family is, where we came from, what we've been through over the past 10 years? Do I vent about my frustrations or feelings of abandonment, or perhaps talk about who has become my family in the absence of my 'real' family? 

But, to what recourse? At what point does being upset by these things become useless. It won't change. My fate is sealed. I'm different; I stand up and speak out, and because of this, I "can't let things go." So why continue the uphill battle?

No. Instead I focus on what's great about my family; I focus on the moments that fill me with joy to be a Whitmore. I focus on the parts of me that are wholeheartedly Whitmore - the stubbornness, the passion, the dramatic emotion (both good and bad ), the deep-seeded feelings, and the ability to express them passionately. These are things that I possess, just like my grandma, just like my aunts and uncles, just like my cousins; these are things that we all possess that make us who we are, and that's fine. It's fine that we scream at the TV because our team is losing. It's fine that we laugh loudly and that we gesture expressively while telling a story.

It's all just fine (mostly). 

So instead of groaning at the family prompt, I am choosing to focus on a positive family moment. While they may not be as common as the negative ones anymore, they do still come around, and I do still have them. And I think they are often overshadowed by all of the negative. 

Last month, I took my grandma to mass at her church. 

I should preface this with, I hate going to church. I am not a Catholic, nor do I believe in most of what the Catholic church preaches. Going to mass makes me incredibly uncomfortable, and in my jeans and tee shirt I certainly stuck out like an awkward non-believing sore thumb in the middle of the building. For 2 hours I was fidgety in my seat, unsure of when to stand or sit or kneel or do cartwheels (those Catholics, man, they really keep up the cardio during all those prayers). 

Anyway, I wanted to spend some more quality time with my grandma, so I called her and told her I was coming to get her for mass. She was surprised, but pleasantly. I have made a commitment to spending more time with her, and I don't always want to just chill down in her apartment to do so - taking her to mass was a nice way to get her out of the house.

By the way...things no one told me before I picked her up, that would have been nice to know: Grandma is a greeter, so she gets to mass an hour early! 


So here I am, in jeans and flip flops, standing next to my grandma in the front door of a church, greeting every Catholic in Milwaukie as they come through the door. It was hilarious on every level, as she introduced me to everyone as "one of my many lovely granddaughters," as I awkwardly shifted in my sandals, saying hi and being introduced to all of them. 

The best part was, she was IN. HER. ELEMENT. I have never seen my grandma so in the zone, so happy, so excited, or smiling so big. I've never felt so loved or valued by her, as I did as she proudly exclaimed to all of her church ladies that I had called to tell her I wanted to go with her to mass. It has been many years since I've seen her thriving like she was that Sunday morning. 

Side note: The old, single men at St. Johns, are all about my grandma. She's their queen, and they adore her.

I tell you what, she was called beautiful by so many old men, I about died. All of them with their hugs and cheek smooches, and then the you're just as lovely as your grandmother hand shakes. My oh my, was she the prom queen of the 10am mass or what?! Every one of them asked about her son, who was dying of cancer, every one of them asked who my mom and dad were, every one of them offered her a hug, a kiss, a prayer, a million dollars. It was amazing. 

It is really easy with family - and especially with mine - to focus on the negative, to get caught up in fights and drama, to let the bad overshadow the good. But for me, the resolve is that my grandma will know, until the day she dies, that I love her, value her, and appreciate her. I have never claimed to be the perfect grandchild, but I have made a promise to myself that no matter anything else going on, I will spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with my grandma - wherever that may be - until she's no longer with us. In my family, that may require some uncomfortable conversations and some moments at a dinner table that feel similar to sitting in a Catholic Mass, but I don't care. None of that matters as much as having a positive and memorable relationship with my grandma. And I'm prepared to make any necessary amends in order to maintain that with her. 

Family isn't always easy; in fact more often than not, it's really challenging. It's a lot of people with like personalities, trying to coexist with all of their feelings; with my family, that means a lot of highly passionate people who all believe they're right all the time. That's hard. 

But for the grin on my grandma's face when I dropped her off after church and taught her how to take a selfie, it was (and continues to be) worth every challenging speed bump along the way.