Thursday, December 20, 2007

Gratitude Thursday

I hadn't designated Thursday to be a regular themed post day on RMB, but I'm inspired to see if a day of gratitude works out here.

Yesterday, as I was going through my Technorati favorites, I was surprised by the number of posts about depression. I started with Sweetney's post Waving and Drowning , then to Suburban Oblivion's Crashing, and finally Dooce's Because I couldn't say it on the Phone. Three of my favorite moms feeling more than just a mild case of the holiday blues was one thing, but 1125 comments on Heather's post at Dooce by moms feeling the same thing was even more striking. I'm so impressed by these strong women who have the courage to face their demons and talk about it so that they can help others.

I'm so blessed, and aware of it, by good mental health. My partner says I am the most emotionally stable person on the planet, and this from someone who lives with me. But several people close to me are getting by only with the help of anti-depressants, so I'm fortunate enough to know how absolutely lucky I am. To be able to depend on my mind and spirit to react in a way I can predict or have some measure of control over is a rock to anchor to when circumstances get crazy.

For this, I have to thank Mama. Whether by genes or nature, her unflappable positivity sustained me all my life until I developed my own positive outlook. Hardships in her life would have broken a lesser woman. Widowed by her fourth husband, my father, she survived the death of her first child while an infant, being forced to give up her son in a custody dispute, and marriages to men who included a wife beater (as it was called in those days), a compulsive gambler, and an alcoholic. She divorced when it just wasn't done, she worked and supported herself despite never having a high school diploma, she bought her own house and raised her two daughters.

When my father died unexpectedly, without life insurance, without savings, when I was 15, I saw her sadness, I watched her grieve, but I never saw her give in to fear. She insisted that we would be fine, and we were.

When my cousin Joyce had a terrible car accident and broke her neck, we went to the hospital to see her on the first day, while she was in one of those big traction wheels that they used to use for spinal injury patients. Mama told me that we were going there to cheer her up and to talk about happy things, to not be afraid because she was going to be well again soon. We walked in, and she was face down on the wheel. Mama told me to lie down on the floor so I could look up at her and to smile while we were there. Joyce says that we were the only people she saw smile at her during those days in the hospital.

I cannot remember a time in my entire life, until Mama passed away when I was 34, that she indicated any overwhelming worry, any sense that the undertow would carry her away, any idea that she feared something that would overcome her. Even when health problems started to ebb the life from her, she never talked of being afraid of dying.

Now that I'm a mom, I'm acutely aware of the importance of instilling this gift in my children. Especially as I'm an adoptive mom and can't count on genetics, I want to be conscious of helping them to look for the silver linings, to be confident in their own abilities to perservere, to know triumph over adversity. I want to be their rock, their stable foundation, their springboard. And if they need more help than I can give, I want to encourage them to find the help they need to live mentally healthy lives.

Today, I am so grateful for the opportunity of being their mom and all of the wonders and challenges that come with it.

I'm grateful that we are all healthy.

I'm grateful that we have enough food to eat.

I'm grateful for the surf and the sand.

I'm grateful for the way S. laughs, hearty, from head to toe.

I'm grateful for the way M. dances, always, everywhere.

I love you both so much.

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