Thursday, July 16, 2015

No One Else But You

Last Friday, some friends and I teamed up to surprise our friend Heather for her birthday.  We successfully convinced her that she had “guessed” that the surprise activity before dinner in Bellingham was a pole dancing class.  Can you even imagine?  We are all moms.  We can’t drink heavily enough to do that.  Instead, we did something a bit scarier, a bit more serious: we climbed the highest climbing wall in Washington State.

And by “we” I mean Heather.  The rest of us attempted to climb the highest climbing wall in Washington State, but did not make it very far. 

We all summited (does that word work for climbing walls as well as mountains?) the weenie wall and then gave Heather the first spot on the gigantic wall. 

Me at the top of the weenie wall, which my son summited FOUR(!) times at camp the next week

She just kept going, making it look easy.  Since there were four-year-olds scaling the humungous wall at the same time (though none of them made it to the top), we all thought it was easy.  Turns out: no.


Super hard, in fact.  Two days later, when soreness in my muscles generally sets in, my fingers and forearms HURT.  Think about that: my fingers were sore from gripping the wall. 

photo 4 (43)
This is as high as I got 

Man, we were so proud of her!  She looked so awesome up there, so strong and powerful and in control.  It was breathtaking.

 photo 3 (92)So fucking high.

Once we were all back safely on the ground, alcoholic beverages in front of us at a bar down the street, , we toasted Heather and her climbing feat.

“Heather, that was SO AWESOME!”  (Like most women, we are good at high-pitched hyperbole.)

“Well, but did you see me?  I wanted to give up.  I tried to give up but no one heard me.”

“Ha!  No, we totally didn’t – you were too far away!”

“Still, that was amazing!  I can’t believe you made it to the top!  It was so hard!”

“Yes, but… I couldn’t do it.  I wanted to give up.”

“But you DID do it.”

“Yes, but…”

Heather, my dear, strong friend who is a great mom, was having trouble owning it.  And here’s the thing: I totally understand.

I have trouble owning it, too.  I have trouble owning my achievements in life, partly because they don’t seem like achievements and partly because of that American/Protestant/humble legacy I have. 

I have accomplished many things in my life, but they don’t feel like accomplishments.  I graduated high school and college and grad school at the top of my classes; I have a successful, stable, happy marriage; I have three beautiful children; I run a profitable business that supports seven families; I give back to the community… all of these things are my ongoing lifestyle, however.  I certainly didn’t begin work in my business thinking that it would fail.  I began work in my business with the intent to build it into a strong company that could support many employees for years to come.  We have so much growing left to do.  I haven’t safely ushered my children to adulthood yet.  I don’t really know if my marriage is a success because I’m not dead yet.  I don’t really know if my life is a success yet.  How can I brag about my accomplishments?  How can I NOT point out the gaps in any compliment of me and my life?  “Yes, but…”

So I don’t often brag, but when I do, I feel terrible about it.  Case in point: I ran a 5k a few weeks ago and crossed the finish line in 23:45, including a wrong turn and while running in 90-degree heat.  I received hearty congratulations from everyone I told, but I began to feel worse and worse about telling them.  I kept trying to find a way to minimize the brag after it had escaped my mouth – “I ran an amazing race!  But really it wasn’t amazing because, um…”  Nope, it was amazing.  And I was proud of myself because, you know what?  I had a baby a year ago and even before then, I’d never run anywhere close to a sub-eight-minute-mile in a race or in practice.  My legs were on fire!  But pride is a deadly sin, after all, and no one wants to be the boastful girl who won’t shut up about her fantastic race.  So I did, I shut up.  I didn’t post it to FaceBook, I’m only mentioning it now after three weeks to illustrate a point, and I mentally slap myself every time I reference it in conversation.

I’m a good mom, but I screw up sometimes (a lot).

I’m pretty fit, but I still need to lose fifteen pounds.

I have nice clothes, but I didn’t pay very much for them (does anyone really care where I shop?  Why, when I get a compliment on a dress or shirt, do I immediately say something like, “Thanks!  I got it at Goodwill!”?  Isn’t this a form of pride, perhaps worse than just internalizing the compliment?).

My children are well-behaved in public and at school, but can be little monsters at home.

I cook well, but I have to because we don’t have time/money/patience to eat out all the time with three wee monsters in tow.

What’s wrong with me?  What’s wrong with us?  I hear women, moms especially, self-deprecating all the time.  No one else but me ran that race at such a fast pace.  I walked a little bit, I sort of felt like throwing up at one point, I DEFINITELY felt like passing out from the heat, but I pushed myself and I did it.  I did it.  I will always have that, even if, three weeks, three birthday celebrations complete with loads of cake, and a terrible chest cold later I couldn’t run a nine-minute-mile to save my life.

And Heather, even though she wanted to quit, even though she doubted herself, rang the bell at the top of the highest climbing wall in Washington State on her birthday, having never, ever climbed anything ever before.  Ever.  She did it.  With her doubts and her fears.  No one else but her. 

I tell my children to take pride in their work, to set goals and feel good about meeting those goals, to enjoy the hard work it takes to accomplish something of note.  Time to model that behavior, I think.

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