Stress became the focus of a conversation I had with very good friend last week. Responsibilities at work are impacting her ability to sleep. She hadn’t slept much the night before. By the way, she lost her husband to cancer and has a five-year-old son. So, her job is important for many obvious reasons. She asked me what I do to manage my stress. Having never described to anyone else what I routinely do to manage my stress, I fumbled the answer a bit. But, eventually, I came up with the following list:
Pretty obvious suggestions, right? I completely agree. But I assure you, they work.
For the record, I am not always successful at managing my stress. A good glass of red wine is my back up plan, although this practice frowned upon by some. But it is my #8 on occasion.
He was in our bed last night…again. At four feet tall, 54 lbs. and five-and-a-half years old, he isn’t what you would call small. In fact, I have affectionately referred to him as my “Tonka Truck” since his birth. My OB said he would be 7.5 to 8 lbs – instead, he came out “naturally” at 9.5 lbs. Yup, that was a surprise. I said goodbye to every piece of clothing labeled “newborn” right there in the delivery room.
He doesn't come to our bed because he has nightmares. He comes to our bed because he wakes up randomly and he would rather take the middle space in Mommy and Daddy’s bed instead of staying in his own. Of course, there is a certain amount of grumbling, probably more from me than from my husband because he likes to share my pillows. But when I get too grumbly, I take a moment to realize how special it is that he wants to be with us. Soon enough, that will be over.
It also makes me think back to the last week I spent with my mother. She had this horrible cancer – myleodisplastic syndrome (MDS) – a precursor to leukemia. Diagnosed at 67, she wasn’t considered a good candidate for a bone marrow transplant. So, she pushed through the disease with medications and blood transfusions. The doctors gave her five years; she lived only 16 months.
At the end of July 2008, I got a call from my mom because she was having another bone marrow study. A strong woman from beginning to end, she never wanted to say she needed help, but I knew that was the reason for this call. I left work and did not leave her side for the next 48 hours. When I got her home, she crawled into bed and I crawled in next to her. We spoke about where she wanted to travel when she felt better. Ever the musician (she played the piano flawlessly) and the Catholic girl, Vienna and Rome topped the list. Sharing her pillow and talking about the future, I was again her youngest child taking up space in her bed. Two days later she went into the hospital, her MDS having converted to leukemia. She died within the week.
Memorable moments occur when you least expect them. While in bed with me the other morning, staring eye to eye, my son said, “Good morning, Mommy.” With three simple words, he washed away all the complaints poised on my lips. He may not remember this, but I will. And that is enough.
Being the youngest child, and somewhere between the ages of 10-12, I was often tasked with certain jobs my older siblings (appropriately) refused to do. On this one occasion, while driving through a residential area, my dad pulled the car over after passing an enormous lilac bush. He turned to me and said, ”Go pick some lilacs. Go! Go! Go!” As bidden, I jumped out of the car, ran over to the lilac bush and tried to break off a few branches. For those of you who have knowledge of lilacs, you will understand when I say that this was an impossible task. Larger lilac bushes have very strong branches. Gardening scissors are necessary when taking a cutting. Having no such tool, I failed at the task. After 10 minutes, I was directed back into the car sans flowers. I am sure our lack of permission to take those lilacs played into that directive.
In his youth, my dad worked for a florist. I was often amazed by his ability to flawlessly arrange flowers. Although I never asked him, I suspect his love of lilacs originated with that job. Vibrant purple, brilliant white or any of the subtle lavender shades and ever so fragrant, they are beautiful flowers. But, as with many spring flowers, their lifeline is short. Where I live, lilacs come to life in May. By June, the lilac bush is barely distinguishable from other hedge bushes.
For many years after this failed foraging event, my dad and I would chuckle if one or the other said “Go, go, go!” I can’t pass a lilac bush without this trio of words ringing in my head. He’s been gone for 6 years, which I still find incredible. He gave me so much – his love of science, pervasive curiosity, permission to engage in petit larceny – and he is the reason why I will always stop to smell (and then buy) the lilacs.
I have one child - a boy. At first blush, it might seem strange to some that I've started a website with the goal of providing inspiration, guidance and resources to women. But, as a mother, a wife, a former high school biology teacher and former NYC paramedic, and in my current role as a lawyer, I think the pressures placed upon women (particularly teens) is great. Because these pressures come from so many angles, I've written this open letter to all young women who are taking steps to establish their respective independence.
You are on the path to adulthood. It is a journey that is not alway smooth, but I assure you that the lessons you learn now will guide you in the future. Some of you are, or have moved away, from your parents, perhaps for a job or school, or another pursuit. Some of you are learning how to deal with life while at home, perhaps because of pressures from supposed "friends", social media, or family. Wherever you find yourself, there are a few things I'd like to share about life that might help guide you along the way:
You are beautiful, strong, resilient. Be brave and brilliant.