Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sticks and Stone May Break Our Bones...

When I was a little girl, my older brothers figured I was game for just about anything. And they were right. Most of the time this amounted to daring me to eat a worm, or a watch a really scary movie without having a nightmare, or some physically dangerous stunt. As the only girl, if I wanted to feel a part of their group, I had to constantly prove I was able to keep up with them. So explains my sometimes tougher than necessary veneer. These daily dares were just a part of my growing up and for the most part, or as far as my lately gone foggy menopausal memory serves me, they never really got into much trouble for getting me to jump when they yelled, JUMP! But one time, one sweet time, they were given a dose of karma that still makes me smile. It involved them teaching me to hold my middle finger in a certain way and then toddle over to my father, who was water the ever thirsty yucca plant, and share with him my newly found digit flexibility. I can still see them hiding behind the juniper bush, snickering away while I innocently walked over to my dad.

"Yes, honey?"

I pulled my hand out from behind my back and very proudly put my hand, with my middle finger sticking straight up, high into the air. 

"Where did you learn that!," knowing full well that his four year old daughter didn't have access to that kind of information. "Ricky and Mark!" 

The snickering stopped. They tried to make a fast escape, but my father, even at only 5'7", towered over them. He let them know, in no uncertain terms, that if they ever did anything like that again, there would be hell to pay and he made them pay it. 

Fast forward to me at almost 16 years old. I had been invited to go to hear Diana Ross at the Los Angeles Forum, but I'd stayed out too late the night before with my boyfriend and had since been informed by my mother, that the concert was out. With tears streaming down my face, I stood on the lower stair case landing and screamed at her, "YOU ARE SUCH A BITCH!" I ran out of the house and peddled away on my ten-speed, determined never to come home again. I think I made it to my friend's house, where I called my father and informed him that if SHE didn't let me go to the concert, I was never coming home again. I didn't go to the concert and I did come home. I apologized to my mom and got and earful from our housekeeper who had known me since I was a little girl and who let me know that she was really disappointed in me. 

Fast even further forward to yesterday. I was getting ready to take the girls out for a bike ride. One of them was brushing her hair in the hallway and we were laughing about something silly. Still in the throes of laughter, and because even if I do close a door, they usually just come in anyway, I pulled off my pajama top to put on my jog bra and shirt. She looked up at me and got a look that I will not soon forget on her face and then proceeded to say something disparaging about my appearance. I won't go into the exact words, but it was harsh enough, and surprising enough, to make me gasp. I told her to go to her room and informed her sisters that our bike ride would be a little delayed. 

I closed my bedroom door and sat on my bed. My heart was beating fast and tears were forming. And then I had a flashback to my standing on the lower landing and screaming those words at my mother and the look of sadness and anger that came across her face. I wiped my tears and went into my daughter's room. I asked her how she thought her words made me feel. "Mad." I told her, no, just really, really sad. She apologized and then I brought her back into my room and read her the following quote from Pema Chodron ("No Right, No Wrong"), which had been shared widely on Facebook that day: 

"People need to see that if you hurt another person, you hurt yourself, and if you hurt yourself, you're hurting another person. And then to begin to see that we are not in this alone. We are in this together. For me, that's where the true morality comes from."

I told her I accepted her apology and asked her to remember kindness as the center of our family. I'm sure I'll get much more practice in this as we enter into adolescence, much more. But for yesterday, and today, I'm grateful this piece of wisdom arrived at just the right time.