A Perfect 10

All the girls had to wear it, and if it was too many inches above the knee, you were called into Sister Mary’s office to give a reason for dress code violation, or get ready to be sent home.  What the dress code did reveal was who had “It”, and who didn’t.  The “It” was perfect beauty: “Brick House” bust and figure, warm-tone skin color, flowing hair, flawless make-up. And, who didn’t want “It”?  Sure, the uniform skirt had to be no more than 4 inches above the knee; the white shirt had to be completely buttoned, only the approved, loosely fitting blue sweater worn, and the proper class-color tie snug around the neck.  But the “It” factor couldn’t be concealed under some school dress code.

Maddy was the prettiest at my all-girls high school.  She had perfect skin, silky hair, shapely legs and beauty to die for.  She was a perfect 10.  Everyone wanted to look like Maddy, and so other girls made counterfeit attempts.  But, Maddy was the real deal.  I knew I couldn’t compete with Maddy’s looks.  Going to an all-girls high school was quite challenging when it came to self-image mainly for this one reason: boys!  After being with girls all day, the sweet attention of boys was all that one desired.  Every day, there was the anticipated after school experience.  The ritual went this way:   

  • Boys arrived just before school bell rang
  • Boys parked their momma’s cars along the front entrance
  • Boys got out and coolly leaned against the cars
  • Boys waited

They waited to see all the pretty girls file out of the school in hopes of making an impressive move and go home with at least one girl’s phone number.

I never got the impressive moves worked on me.  Always one of the tallest in the group, skinny, shapeless legs, hair that required a lot of attention to manage, dark skin, and an immature bust line, I wasn’t one of the girls these guys were after.  By the end of my sophomore year, I stopped going home through the front entrance and started escaping through the back.

Deep into adulthood, I measured my physical appearance against the memory of my high school classmates.  No matter what, I never measured up.  Images on television reaffirmed my self-image: “You just don’t measure up.”  I couldn’t quite look as lovely as the mothers on television.  When I did laundry, I didn’t dress like a sex kitten.  My hair was never neatly in place during dinner preparations.  When I was a stay-at-home mom, smelling fresh and pure was a luxury I could rarely afford.

The standard by which I measured myself was, inadvertently, the standard by which I measured my children.  Three of them are girls which meant that I had a lot of daily work to do to make them look perfect.  Fixing hair, softening their skin with creams and lotions, finding the cutest clothes, hiding any imperfection I thought they had.  I wanted them to look just as good as or even better than their peers.  One day, one of my daughters spent an unusual amount of time getting dressed.  We were on our way to a special event and I needed her to hurry up.  Once she was fully dressed with her hair combed, she came to find me.  Giving me that characteristic look of, “Do you like what I’m wearing, Mommy?”, she twirled in front of me.  Without thinking I said, “You don’t look so good in that.  Take it off and try something better.  And what’s up with your hair?” Humiliated and heartbroken, she ran back upstairs and changed. Did I think I was a 10? No, not by a long shot.  Did I think my girls were a 10? Not yet, but with my fixin’ they would be. What was the message I was sending my daughters?  “You‘re not pretty enough.  You aren’t a perfect 10.”  

My self-image, like most moms, was signed, sealed, and delivered in my early teens.  That image remained with me well into motherhood. And you know what? That’s just ridiculous. That’s too long!  I got tired of feeling torn up inside every time I thought of myself not measuring up; every time I saw someone else who looked more perfect than me; every time the television or magazine pictures would remind me that without “this” kind of beauty, I am invisible.  Even more, I was ashamed at imposing my perception of beauty on my girls.  Likely, they would impose the same on their girls one day.  I had to fix this sick perception I had about beauty, and I had to fix it fast.

I decided to search for a new, more realistic, more attainable standard of beauty and I found it.  I found it within.  Once I did find it, I boldly rejected the images of perfect beauty I had grown up with, that appeared in my world, and that I allowed to define my self-image and that of my children.

A Perfect 10 is a mother who reverences the God within her.  A Perfect 10 is a mother who partners with her God in her physical, spiritual and emotional renewal. A Perfect 10 is a mother who speaks words of life to and about those around her.  A Perfect 10 is a mother who receives God’s unlimited forgiveness through her daily forgiveness of others.  A Perfect 10 is a mother who, when her lipstick needs to be refreshed, or her hair needs a trim, or her clothes need a splash of color, or her waist, hips and thighs need a little tightening, she takes care of these things without losing focus of what true beauty is.  A Perfect 10 is a mother who is perfectly imperfect.

This is my alternative standard and I like it better than what the world offers.  Now, to be honest, there are days when I feel completely unlovely and unloveable, and not feelin’ this Perfect 10 stuff.  Those are the times when I run to a sacred place where I find comfort and reassurance that I am a beautiful woman and mother.  That sacred place is nestled in the melodic words of Song of Solomon:

“Come with me from Lebanon, my bride.

Leave Lebanon behind, and come.

Abandon your wilderness seclusion,

Where you keep company with lions

And panthers guard your safety.

You’ve captured my heart, dear friend.

You looked at me, and I fell in love.

One look my way and I was hopelessly in love!

How beautiful your love, dear, dear friend-

Far more pleasing than a fine, rare wine,

Your fragrance more exotic than selected spices.

The kisses of your lips are honey, my love,

Every syllable you speak a delicacy to savor.

Your clothes smell like the wild outdoors,

The ozone scent of high mountains.

Dear lover and friend, you’re a secret garden,

A private and pure fountain.

Body and soul, you are paradise,

A whole orchard of succulent fruits-

Ripe apricots and peaches,

Oranges and pears;

Nut trees and cinnamon,

And all scented woods;

Mint and lavender,

And all herbs aromatic;

A garden fountain, sparkling and splashing,

Fed by spring waters from the Lebanon Mountains.”

 

Oh, yeah! I got it goin’ on.  If that is not the description of a Perfect 10, then I don’t know what is.

You, Beautiful Mother, are a Perfect 10. If that is hard for you to accept or believe, why not meditate daily on this passage from Song of Solomon?  Allow it to set a different standard of what a Perfect 10 is for you.  When you start believing and behaving like the Perfect 10 that you are, the rivers of life that flow from your heart will be sweeter, and your children and others will flourish as they take a drink.

Until next time, let your beauty “rain”.

Pam

Fearless Forgiveness

Tall, dark and handsome, he was the apple of my eye.  I loved and adored that man.  I can recall times sitting on his lap and rubbing my soft cheek against his rough, prickly beard.  It didn’t matter that my cheeks got a little scratched.  The sheer pleasure of being so close to my daddy made every scratch worthwhile.

In my early years, daddy was a very present figure.  I remember vacations across the country in the car together with daddy, mommy, my sister and my brother.  Daddy would talk to me about the historical sites, about God, and about being special because I was the youngest.  At about four years of age I got to fly to Dallas, Texas with daddy to visit his mother.  It was a last-minute decision so mommy didn’t have time to comb my hair before she left for work. Daddy had to do it – and for the first time!  When grandmother met us at the airport, she was horrified at my messed up hairdo!  Using her fingers as the comb and her hands as the brush, she quickly fixed my hair.  But it didn’t matter.  It was just daddy and me traveling together.  How special he made me feel!

During the early years of the Jackson Five era, every parent looked to find talent in his own child.  Was it possible that daddy’s children might be the next Jackson 3 (“ABC, easy as 123, or simple as Do re mi…)? After quickly discovering that I had some musical and acting ability, he signed me up with an advertising agency in Los Angeles.  I earned a little money as a model for magazines.  But that wasn’t the exciting part. In fact, it was a bit boring standing around waiting, and then more standing around just posing, then just standing around waiting more.  What was exciting was being called over the school intercom to be dismissed from class because daddy was waiting in the principal’s office to take me to my next modeling session.  I tried to control my excitement as I gathered my books and waved, “Good-bye”, to my classmates.  I wasn’t as excited about another modeling session as I was about spending time alone, again, with daddy. How special he made me feel!

The day daddy became my hero is the day I will never forget.  Mommy and daddy took my sister, brother and me fishing off a pier in Los Angeles.  Fascinated by the fish below, I reached into the ocean to touch one.  As I bent down, I tumbled right into the water – head first.  I started sinking.  I looked up and could see my sister perched on the edge of the pier reaching out her hand to grab me.  I couldn’t reach her. I just couldn’t reach her.  I was sinking faster and faster it seemed.  Suddenly, as quickly as I fell in, I was pulled up and out of the water and back onto the pier.  My sister saved me!  Mommy quickly dried me off, packed our bags, and put us in the car. During the ride home, I thanked my sister over and over and over again for saving my life.  Daddy and mommy were very quiet during the drive home, troubled by the close call of losing their youngest child. When we got home, I wanted to reward my sister, so I gave her all of the money in my piggy bank.  She took the money, started walking out of the room, and then slowly turned to confess:

“Pam… I…I didn’t pull you out of the ocean.  Daddy did.” 

“Daddy did?  But it was your hand I saw reaching out to me.  I grabbed your hand, not daddy’s.”  “No”, she corrected.  “Daddy jumped in the water and got you out.”

Slowly, reluctantly, she gave back my money. My DADDY saved my life.  MY daddy saved MY life.  Daddy risked his own life to save mine.  Yet, he said nothing about it.  The whole ride home as I lavished praise and thanks upon my sister, he was quiet.  He let me believe my sister saved my life.  Daddy was my beloved and I was his. His banner over me was love.  How special he made me feel!

Then…one day… it all began to change.  I remember exactly when it changed.  Around the age of ten, daddy wasn’t around as much.  We didn’t spend time together like before.  The modeling calls stopped. The trips to Texas to see his mother I took without him. 

“Hi, daddy.  Where you going today, daddy?  Can we – -?”

“I gotta go to work.” He’d interrupt.  “I’ll be back after ‘while.”

And out the door he would go, quickly, without looking at me.  One day…two days…sometimes three days would pass…then he’d come through the door early in the morning or late in the night.  I was so happy to see him.  It didn’t matter that he had been gone for days. He was home now.

“Hi daddy.  Where you going today?” 

But he’d be distant, so, not much he’d say.  He’d go to his room, close the door, get in bed and go to sleep.

On a good day, when he was around, he’d talk to me a little.  He had no idea how his presence and few words held great meaning for me.  The day it all began to change was the day I didn’t feel so special anymore; the day I learned a terrible truth. 

I found it unbelievable that daddy was living with and loving other women.  After all, he had my love and mommy’s love.  That was enough.  But it wasn’t.  I wasn’t good enough for his love.  I was not worthy of his time.  If my life had no meaning to daddy, it certainly had no meaning to me.  As the details of his affairs became clearer, one clear effect was lasting: the unforgiveness I held against daddy for years. 

Motherhood is dichotomy.  It can cripple us or make us stronger, depending on our perspective.  It challenges us to examine our heart’s secrets and longings to make us parent better, or shames us into doing nothing.  In the crucible of motherhood, I came to understand that in order to honor myself and my children, forgiveness was required.

 “The weak can never forgive.

 Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”

Mahatma Gandhi

What I find most compelling about forgiveness is its connection to spiritual and physical wellness (a component of happiness). Research finds that forgiveness does render a therapeutic effect that the mind and body experience.  Specifically, research finds that forgiveness can lead to:

  • Healthier relationships
  • Greater spiritual and psychological well-being
  • Less stress and hostility
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Fewer symptoms of depression, anxiety and chronic pain
  • Lower risk of alcohol and substance abuse

I went back in my mind to a long period of time when I was deeply unforgiving towards daddy. May I be extremely honest? Okay… I couldn’t stand him.  Not just because of his acts of infidelity, but for their assault to my self-worth; because I felt I was the blame; because I had to endure the agony of crawling up, then slipping back down, up again only to lose grip, until finally I got out of that emotional abyss.  During my years in this abyss, I experienced numerous health problems that one would think shouldn’t have been my problem.  As I forgave, many of my problems resolved.  An important correlation I couldn’t ignore.

“Fearless” forgiveness is most difficult because it requires releasing someone from the hurt without admission of any wrong-doing or neglect on their part. It also requires going back to the place of pain and naming it specifically so that healing can begin.

A generic statement like, “I forgive daddy for the hurt he caused me. The end.” was not freeing.   Instead, I admitted to myself that I was hurt and unforgiving.  I screamed, hollered, cried, pouted, and plotted revenge.  I allowed myself to feel the pain and disappointment.  Then, I made brutal truth statements and followed them with, “I forgive you”.  It went something like this:

“Daddy, for all of the pain you caused me by being unfaithful to mommy, leaving the family, and living selfishly…I forgive you.”

“Daddy, for making me feel unworthy, invisible, and vulnerable…I forgive you.”

The benefit to me was the compassion it taught me to have for daddy.  He is a good man who truly wanted to do the right thing and eventually, he did.  He too was the victim of someone hurting him and had to go through his personal journey to fearless forgiveness.  I set daddy free and in the process freed myself.

Whatever hurt, pain, disappointment either caused by you or done to you that keeps you, beautiful mother, from happiness and fulfillment, face it.  And, you can face it because you are valuable, powerful, and strong.

Until next time, be encouraged.

Pam

Bathroom Floor (Part 2)

I still get chills when I look back on this story.  Indeed, it was a very sad experience.  However, that was four years ago.  I have not been on the bathroom floor in a long time except, of course, to scrub it.  But, my bathroom floor experience was the place I had to go before I could realize the wisdom motherhood offered me – IF I was willing to listen: you are Valuable, Powerful and Strong.  Yes, even in a most vulnerable and humiliating state, my value, power, and strength were waiting to be revealed.  More about that later. 

The question in Part 1 was: “Can the woman inside the mother find happiness and fulfillment?”  My response is a booming, audacious, lively YES!  In fact, it is imperative.

Think for a moment about a mother that you know who is unhappy (miserable) and feeling very much unfulfilled (dissatisfied).  What is it like to be around her?  How does she behave? What kind of words does she use to describe her day, her activities, her plans, her feelings about herself?  How does she talk to you, if at all? How does she talk to her children?  Does she engage them in conversation where she is genuinely interested and listening?  Unless you REALLY know this mother, most likely you may not even notice how unhappy she is, or how life brings her nothing to dance about.  The time you come to know her hurt – because living an unhappy and unfulfilled life is painful – she is “caught” showing it.  “Caught” stories on the news are abundant: driving while intoxicated; abusing drugs; neglecting her kids; sneaking to a hotel with a lover who is not her husband; or, like me, sobbing uncontrollably on the floor of a locked bathroom.

Happiness and fulfillment are imperative.  By definition, happiness is a state of well-being and contentment. It is also a pleasurable or satisfying experience.

The part of the definition of happiness that suggests permanence is most compelling to me. That part is “a state of well-being and contentment“.  The other part of the definition, “a pleasurable or satisfying experience”, is  temporary.  A kid-free day at a spa where you can get a full-body massage, manicure, pedicure, and exfoliating facial scrub all for under $75 would be a pleasurable experience and make mom very, very happy. There is nothing wrong with this kind of happiness.  After a day or so (okay, maybe a week), that happiness wears off.  On the other hand, being in harmony with God’s divine direction, nurturing  your health, and loving the woman you are, just as you are, creates a long-term state of well-being and contentment. In other words, happiness is a state of spiritual, physical and emotional wellness.

Fulfilled is “a feeling of satisfaction at having achieved your desires.”  Here is the tricky part: the meaning of that word “desire”.  Hmmm…What do mothers desire?  To be good mothers, right? If you ask a mother what she desires, first or second on the list probably would be something related to her child(ren).  This order is normal and expected.  But, probe further and ask the woman inside the mother what SHE desires…FOR HERSELF.  If she is honest and reflective, her answer will reveal so much more about who she really is.  Motherhood is one aspect of desire.  It is not who we are in our totality.  When we align who we really are as women with what we do as mothers, new and wonderful desires to be achieved will begin to percolate! 

 I want to combine the compelling definition of HAPPINESS with the definition of FULFILLMENT and come up with my own neologism:  

Hap-Fillment.

Hap-Fillment is a state of well-being and contentment at having achieved your desires.

Hap-Fillment is personal and individual. What makes me happy and fulfilled may be very different from what makes my best friend happy and fulfilled. The mother decides and then pursues her unique hap-fillment.

The wisdom motherhood offered me that day on my bathroom floor was simple and universal: it is because we are mothers that Hap-Fillment is imperative.  Our children are watching and learning.  Their lives are affected for good or for bad. Their self-worth and self-efficacy are shaped in large part by their mother’s state of well-being and contentment at having achieved her desires.  This then, is what makes us Valuable, Powerful and Strong.

I hope today you pursue your Hap-Fillment.

Pam

Bathroom Floor (Part 1)

I couldn’t stop crying.  The more I told myself to stop crying, the harder I cried.  Downstairs in the basement of my home, my crying episode erupted unexpectedly, and in the worst of company.  Panicked, my 7 year old fetched the phone and called her father at work: “Mommy is crying and she won’t stop.”  My husband calmly instructed my 7 year old to call my friend who has four children herself.  She would know what to do until he got home, and home he would be shortly.

By the time my husband got home, I had gone upstairs, taken all of the bathroom door keys, and locked myself in the powder room.  On the small, cold linoleum floor I continued to sob.  My body heaved with each drop of tear. The children, by now, were out of their minds with confusion and despair.  They couldn’t understand in their innocence how their mother – the one always in control – was clearly out of control.

My husband finally arrived home.  My 7 year old took him to where I was.  He knocked on the bathroom door and called out my name to open it.  I ignored him.  He knocked again.  I ignored again.  The more he knocked, the more I ignored.  Finally, he got the message and stopped knocking.  I didn’t want to talk to him and try to muster some sensible explanation for my behavior that he might find acceptable.  In my desperate state, he was the last person I believed could help me.  In my mind, he and the four little people standing outside the bathroom door were leeches waiting to suck the blood out of my body…again.  It was because of them, I thought, that I was in this wretched state.

Outside the bathroom door, voices fell quiet.  The next knock on the door was the soft voice of my friend.  Immediately understanding my predicament (because certainly she had been in a pickle like this before once or twice), she whispered:

“Pam, I love you.  It’s okay.  You can open the door”.

Without hesitation, I unlocked the door.  She entered quickly closing the door behind her, fell to the floor, and wrapped her arms around me.  She repeated over and over again:

“I love you, Pam.  Pam, I love you.”

She just rocked me and held me.  She asked no questions.  She gave no lecture.  She gave no, “She’s okay, folks!” reassurances to the anxious crowd waiting outside the bathroom door.

Somehow, she convinced me to peel myself off the bathroom floor and take a ride with her.  We left without a word to the rest.  Fortunately, my husband had appropriately distracted the children so that they didn’t even see me leave.  My friend and I drove around the city and she just talked and I just listened.  She reassured me that I was okay; that what I was feeling was normal; that she had been in the same place many times before.  We ended up at a diner, had coffee, and finally I began to talk.  I tried to explain how deep in despair I felt and quickly tried to come to some resolution, perhaps a quick fix.  But I couldn’t, and she didn’t expect that of me.  When I felt more in control, felt I had emptied my soul of the pain I was in, she drove me back home.

But the pain I was in was not acute, it was chronic. “Acute,” by definition, is pain that can be severe, but lasts a relatively short time.  Certainly, my pain lasted a few hours on that day, but it soon returned as it had in the past. “Chronic,” on the other hand, is pain that persists or progresses over a long period of time.  The emotional, physical and spiritual pain I felt had been escalating for years.  It would peak with some sort of fit on my part: like screaming in over-reaction at my kids for dumb stuff; screaming in over-reaction at my husband for dumber stuff.  Then, it would subside.  Never had it culminated in such uncontrollable crying while holding me hostage in a powder room.

On the floor in that powder room, the reality that I was not happy with my life in a way that I had expected was crippling my soul.  I was feeling trapped, undervalued and powerless. I did not have the guts to admit to family and friends how miserable I felt.  Who would believe that?  Who would sympathize? I am a mother. I am supposed to be superwoman. I am expected to have it all together.  So, I kept going, faking it the whole time.  This is what one does when one does not believe that what she wants to be happy and fulfilled really matters, and so, she gives up what she wants or just keeps quiet about it.  Sadly, relinquishing wants that lead to fulfillment is an act of emotional and spiritual suicide – an unhealthy state for my children, my husband and me. 

The most important relationship a mother can have – other than that with her God – is the relationship she has with herself.  From a relationship where she honors herself – her individuality, her values, her beauty, spirit and soul, her wants and needs – springs forth the basis for a loving relationship where others are honored. The more she is spiritually, physically and emotionally well, the healthier and more satisfying are her relationships with others. There is truth in the old saying: “Love others as you love yourself.”

Can the woman inside the mother be happy and fulfilled?

Happiness is a state of well-being and contentment. It is also a pleasurable or satisfying experience. Fulfilled is a feeling of satisfaction at having achieved your desires.  So, can the woman inside the mother be happy and fulfilled? I’ll answer this question at the next post.  Until then, what has been your experience?

Welcome to Mommy’s Turn

Ever wonder about how some moms seem to be happy and fulfilled?  Were they just born happy?  Is fulfillment their birthright and not yours?  For some, happiness and fulfillment just seem natural.  For others, it seems intangible.  For all the “others” out there, Mommy’s Turn is a blog to help you find a path out of the deficit of pain and into the wealth of your happiness and fulfillment.   The key is “your” happiness and fulfillment – a unique and personal experience, not something in a bottle for mass distribution. By sharing authentic stories of moms who found the courage to confront their unhappiness and intentionally fulfill their desires, you will find the inspiration you need.  These stories may be difficult to read at first, but the end of the story will encourage you. Spiritual answers wrapped in a pretty practical bow is my gift to you through these blogs. 

Welcome!

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