I’ve been gradually trying to return to health, both physical and mental. I’ve set a goal for myself to read 25 books this year, and I’m currently working to finish the first in preparation for book club this evening.
It’s Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, a very timely pick. I just came across this passage:
“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” (Emphasis mine.)
Oh, how I strive to live by these words. It was a frequent topic of discussion with my mother as I labored to get her to change her attitude during her illness: to focus on health and positivity and thriving, when she mainly just wanted to be pain-free.
And now, of course, I get to choose how I react to losing her. Of course, I’m realistic. Grief is not something that is completely under my control. But I try my best to accept the waves of sadness when they come, and to remember the happiness and the joy and the good fortune derived from nearly 36 years with my mother.
I laugh at her madness too. Among many of her personality traits (some more desirable than others), she was the queen of quirks, mostly to do with food. One of the years she visited Dallas, J and I decided to keep a running list of all of her food rules. It’s still in my journal, and we took a look at it the other night:
“I don’t eat banana in things.” (rejection of our banana pancakes)
“I am not a soup person.” (rejection of our lentil soup)
“I don’t eat mixed vegetables; I don’t like my vegetables to touch.” (rejection of run-of-the-mill mixed veggies, obvi)
She always drank her diet coke on ice (never from the can) and she and J once had a yelling match over the proper amount of milk to use when making buttered parmesan cheese noodles. It was years ago, and they made nice right away, but from then on each time she spoke of J complimentarily, she’d preface it, “Now J and I, we’ve had our issues…” It was just the one issue. THE NOODLES.
It’s startling to me some of our differences, which I now reflect on continuously. This blog is a representation of my personality: self-improvement, always. I’m always striving to learn more, eat well, exercise often, stop aging, be a better parent, raise nice people, see the world, step out of my comfort zone, save the environment, and make a mark.
It occurs to me that my mother – during most phases of her life – sought to enjoy living. She didn’t appreciate stepping out of her comfort zone; she preferred to visit the same places, eat at the same restaurants, and be with the same people: her family and friends. I don’t think she could grasp my desire to live in other cities, or travel to distant countries, and it certainly was one of the major points of contention in our relationship.
And sadly, since I can no longer say it to her, I am learning to appreciate her way. She was happy in her corner of the world, and she made a huge impact there. She packed a lot of life into 60 years. And for that I am comforted and proud.