On sisters and tough love

I just hung up the phone, and here are some of my unedited thoughts: “I can’t believe her!… Like I needed that… She knows what I have on my plate… I mean, I love my sister, but seriously, sometimes… I, I, I… UGH!.. No, I love my sister, but… No, I love my sister…. I do. I do. I do.”

Ya, I really do love my sister. She’s 7 years older than me and is the source of some of my favorite childhood memories. (Except maybe the one where she made me touch a cow’s tongue in the haunted house she set up in her bedroom when I was 8 or 9.) Though we weren’t close growing up, over the last 4 years she has become one of my closest confidants. She hears it all–the good, the bad, the ugly–and still, she calls. She lives 1200 miles away, and we talk daily. Often, multiple times a day. But that’s not why I love her. I love her because, in true best friend fashion, she doesn’t let me get away with any cr_p. You know the kind–the friend that stays to clean after everyone else has left–the one that doesn’t just answer the phone when you call crying in the middle of the night, she turns on the lights and gets out of bed–the kind that calls you on the lies you’ve told yourself, but doesn’t judge — that hears the pain in your voice regardless of the smile on your face–that celebrates your victories and cries with you in defeat until the giggles break through–the kind the loves you through it all–the kind I hope I am.

It was that kind of “friend call” we had this morning. After mutual niceties, we got down to the daily nitty-gritty of our simultaneous rides on the “Tilt-a-whirl”. Though different, we’re both facing big challenges right now.  And, as is often the case with close relationships, we act as a mirror for the other; what she doesn’t see in herself, I see, and vice-versa, making it hard to ignore our own “stuff.”  This morning, it was her turn to play “bad cop” and I gotta say, she’s good.

I’ll admit, I may have been feeling a bit sorry for myself; “I have no time for myself…Everyone wants something…blah, blah, blah.”  I overextend and overextend, squeezing even the smallest slivers of “me time” off the books. Just as I start to slip under the water, I don’t gasp for help or lighten my load; I lament about my “to-do” list. Before you judge, consider the mirror I may offer. I know far too many women/mom’s that share my company. We lose site of our priorities and heap extra servings of this volunteer shift, that friend’s kids, and those extra “Mommy taxi” rides on our plates without recognizing (or owning) the consequences. We cry “Foul!” when that last straw lands on our ever-accommodating backs. And, I don’t know about you, but when I pull up a chair at the pity party table, I don’t look for a mirror–I decide who did me wrong with that last straw. (Have I mentioned my deep Irish roots?)

Truthfully though, and as was very lovingly pointed out by my sister this morning, I have no one else to blame but myself. Time and time again, I land at the extreme ends of life’s pendulum. No one’s twisted my arm–I do it all by myself. I swing to the over-scheduled end and begin sinking under the pressure of excess, and often unnecessary, commitments before I swing to the other end and clear the decks with a vengeance. Somewhere in the middle comes balance; that place where, in the midst of managing a family, a business, homeschooling, and volunteer efforts, I take a bit of time to just be with myself, away from everyone and everything else. It’s also the first cut when the schedule fills up.

That’s when my friends step in–the really honest friends that don’t let me get away with the lies I sometimes tell myself. (The little ones that sound something like, “Oh, I don’t mind,” or “No, that’s perfectly fine,” when it’s nowhere near the truth.) Today, my sister busted me as I was talking venting about this blog, transitioning, and the “non stop” busy-ness of life with the girls, etc. Point blank, she asked “How much do you really want to be quiet (with your own thoughts)?” (To which this little sister thought, “Shut up! You’re not boss of me!” I know, mature.)

She was right, though. I’ve avoided my own thoughts. It’s a little intimidating having so many choices before me from all the changes going on and the many soon to come. Another friend recently reminded this “Transitioning Mom” of the difference between life lived “head down” (task oriented) versus “head up” (direction oriented.) I’m usually a “head up”-forge-the-path kind of gal, but I don’t know which path I want to head down–yet. As the girls become more independent, more of my slate is wiped clean, just waiting for me to begin writing my next chapter. Instead, I’ve kept my eyes on the “transitions” of my husband (his job) and my girls (as they move toward adulthood.)  I’m not a martyr; I just haven’t been still long enough to pick my head up. Being still takes practice and courage. It also takes making a choice. And, if not now, when?

I’m really lucky to count my sister among my closest friends–the ones that don’t charge for the hours of therapy, that are happy willing to give me a swift kick in the bum and help me stay balanced. The ones that know and love me best. Clearly, my sister loves me if she is willing to wade into my waters. And, clearly, I love her back… because she still lives. 🙂

(In the interest of full disclosure, the call related in this post actually occurred earlier this week…and kinda last week…and at least twice the week before that. Send me the bill, Sis, just send me the bill. ♥ And, given the systemic nature of my problem, the subject of over-scheduling/neglected “me time” may appear in this blog again.)

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