Social Dilemma Strategy

Viktor Frankl

Most of us identify with one or more human rights issues. These troubling conditions and events exchange focus on social media with fair regularity: human trafficking, refugees, children in cages, poverty, prejudice. Some cause political attention momentarily, but progress remains unsatisfactory.

Increased social isolation in the last year has had mixed effects, raising awareness but also causing greater polarization and unrest. When we fight for social justice, ironically, effects entirely opposite of our intent are bound to occur. Education helps, yet our educational system is in a desperate state due to closed schools and imposed isolation. Distance education means for some a relegation to an ineffective personal learning method, and for others an inability to escape unhealthy or abusive home situations. I could go on and on about very depressing and upsetting issues. Will we ever achieve peace and equity?

I was raised in a post Viet Nam era in which we looked forward to a great future. We seemed smart enough to avoid wars, avoid unhealthy habits that we learned about in school, like smoking and drug use, and we were taught to treat each other as equals. Have we moved backwards?

I have touched on “the human condition,” and perhaps this is reality, that we will always have social battles to “fight” for. Unfortunately, actual fighting or violence may break out when human beings cannot reason and compromise.

Positive thoughts repeated and reinforced, as well as rumination of negative ones both give rise to actions. What we think about shapes our actions and our lives. A positive thought life could be likened to a healthy diet. “Healthy in, healthy out.” A poor diet will wreak havoc on the body and physical health. In a similar way, negative visual images and consistent influx of upsetting headlines, tragedies, and human injustices wreak havoc on the mind, intensifying or causing mental health issues. Perhaps our first social responsibility lies in our daily thought life.

Positive thinking is more than a “Polyanna” philosophy; trying to completely ignore the wrongs in the world would be irresponsible.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

Edmund Burke

We should not stop doing what is in our power, ability and circumstance to improve conditions, but we cannot do everything — nor can we address every issue. So why do we allow our minds to be exposed to an overload of them?

If the first responsibility we have is to our physical and mental health, and then that of our friends and family, what can we do to counteract the barrage of negativity? I touched on this in previous posts, how and why we need to stay positive. How we need to set personal limits on social media or on negative relationships. We become unhealthy and ineffective to the world around us if we remain depressed, hopeless, angry or hateful.

What have we learned from those of the past who persevered in incredibly difficult times? People like Abraham Lincoln, Milton Hershey, Viktor Frankel and George Washington Carver point toward a mindset of positivity, hope, and faith. These people had rich prayer lives.

Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.

Abraham Lincoln

I find it fascinating that science supports prayer. Research in quantum entanglement suggests strongly that effects of subatomic particles defy time and space. We are scratching the surface at what may indeed one day prove the power of prayer. Some of my friends like to say that they are “sending good vibes” or “positive energy.” Go for it.

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.

Viktor Frankl

Whatever issue you are most passionate about, how do you view others who are opposed or ignorant of your stance? I think this is a key question. We certainly saw the hateful mudslinging in this last American political election. If you feel hatred, if you have used a negative or ugly word about another, no matter how much you post on social media, no matter what you do, you will be ultimately ineffective. So why continue? Your own health suffers, your mental health suffers, your friends and family suffer whether you realize it or not.

Consider a diet of positivity.

Hope

“I hope he makes it there in time.”

“I hope I pass my final.”

“I hope the meeting goes well.”

Hope

The definition of it as a verb seems to have become more like “to wish for” these days, a statement of what I would like to come to pass, yet which is not really affected by my desire or words. It is a plea of “I hope so.”

I am not exactly sure how to translate this into a less-religious context. I do believe that human beings have power over their choices of how to think or respond to an event. Whatever our feelings are, we can train ourselves to respond differently, little by little over time. There is hope because the human mind and body have powerful, self-healing mechanisms. The power of positivity is real.

The definition of hope in the Judeo-Christian concept is more than a “wish” for something. Hope is actually more of a certainty or assuredness. One’s hope in God is a statement of faith that “God’s got this.” I still may have a preference for how something should work out, I still will pray for it because I want good in the world for all. My hope and belief is ultimately that overall good will transpire. It may not happen in the way that I want, but my heart need not be troubled, nor do I need to fear.

When Jesus was praying on the last night of his life he sweat blood with the intensity of his prayer. Perhaps he battled fear. He knew what was to come to pass, a brutal torture and crucifixion. He asked God to take it away, but immediately prayed “…Yet thy will be done.”

This morning something came to pass that I did not want. I prayed that it would not. It is the type of event that has in the past “derailed me.” But it is in God’s hands now. His will be done. His timing, His order, in His wisdom. Believing this, despite my disappointment I will fight against the usual fear — with His strength. I will persevere in prayer.

My hope is in Him.

My peace is through Him. And I do feel peace, even though it defies reason.

Time for Change

We frequently hear promises of change during elections. We hope that whomever we vote for or support will align with what we would like to see happen. We count on it. And then promises are not all fulfilled. We become disappointed, some become depressed or despondent. Perhaps the person we wanted in the office didn’t get elected. Avoiding partisanship is easy for someone who is a peacemaker at heart. Whomever is in office will be bound to do some good things and some bad things. Tragically, some will suffer. The suffering is not to be dismissed and one should not turn a blind eye to it. I’ve written about my worldview on this and how to cope and try to make a difference.

When disappointed with aspects of the world and our culture think what can I do to protect myself and my family, how to educate them and help them to be resilient? What can I do to try to improve my community and the planet? Regarding the latter, there was news that some of our recycling may not end up where it is supposed to, instead, dumped in a landfill. It could be true. Though my attempts might be meager compared to those of others, I will still try to recycle what I can, and investigate the veracity of the claim.

Regarding community, the other day we passed a bedraggled man begging on the side of the road at an intersection. His sign announced that he was 65 years old and homeless. I only had a 5 dollar bill but pulled over. There was no traffic. I asked the man his name. He looked surprised as he revealed a huge, sad smile, “Rodney, Ma’am. Thank you so much!” As we pulled away I called out, “Bye, Rodney, we’ll keep you in our prayers!” Later the same morning, as we headed back to the highway we saw him again and waved out through the window, “Bye, Rodney!” In my rearview mirror he enthusiastically waved back until we were out of sight.

I am not telling this story to toot my own horn; honestly, I could have been totally taken. One might say that was an act of stupidity and gullibility. Could he use it on a cheap bottle of alcohol? Could he secretly have a home? Maybe. But that is between Rodney and God. My kids saw an example that I would prefer them to see over complaining or calling someone like Rodney a name. God has the big picture and somehow an act of good, even if seemingly redundant or ineffective, puts good energy into the world.

What saps our energy? Toxic people, you may have discovered, drain your energy and may even hurt you. Memes on social media encourage us to jettison these types. We should indeed protect ourselves, not set ourselves up in yet another situation with people who we know will take advantage of us or demean us mercilessly. But rather than hate them or vilify them, try to pray for them. The energy when we protect ourselves is even greater when we avoid hatred or resentment of the other.

This morning I was putting my feet up just for a few minutes before getting my son from school. I put on the end of an old episode of Downton Abbey. As Amazon transitioned to the next episode, it inserted a preview of another show it “thought” I might like. Well I didn’t. The sudden image of a bloody murder with a woman screaming. Oh, nice — thanks, Amazon. Now, I don’t mind a mystery, but I do not go for overt violence and gore. How many children see this trailer and others like it? No wonder our children are so full of anxiety about the world, and are depressed in record numbers.

It is simple to change a channel or look away from the television, and we have always needed to be careful with what our children watch. We should warn and educate them according to their age. We can note our opinions in feedback polls. Recently I reduced my time on Facebook, finding that Instagram, properly managed, will show me pictures of beautiful gardens, amazing geodes and sublime interior decorating. It could probably become as irritating as Facebook was during the US Presidential elections, but it seems easier to control what is displayed and it is peaceful, educational and relaxing.

You may have discovered other ways to make your world more peaceful. Do protect yourself. Hope and pray for others in the meantime. There are too many who suffer and we need to be at our personal best in order to help them. The end is thus the reason for the means. Change begins within ourselves however incrementally, but it does not stay there. Like concentric ripples in a pond, even tiny changes for the good move outward, until they affect the wider surface of the pond.

Just One Apple per Day

Last week I saw the movie Steve Jobs. I recommend watching it, as well as The Social Dilemma and The Social Network. Steve Jobs particularly expressed how the world would never be the same after most of humanity had access to the internet.

I don’t remember the movie discussing the now-iconic image of the Apple with a bite taken out of it. I have read that he was thinking more of Sir Isaac Newton, but there is quite an argument for the biblical allegory of the apple representing all knowledge. Most of us know the story of Adam and Eve and how they were tempted to eat the one fruit that their Creator, who put them in the Garden of Eden, in paradise, expressly forbade them to touch. The one thing. Eve was tempted by a serpent (English word). The Hebrew word for the serpent was Nachosh indicating more of a vicious, scary beast like a dragon, who discredited and scoffed at God’s warning that if she bit the apple she would die. Not true, he told her; rather, she would have all of the knowledge of God. Eve took a bite and offered it to Adam, who by the way, was nearby and allowed Eve to go head-on into the situation without protecting her. Many theologians believe Adam was fully complicit, not influenced by temptress Eve at all. He should have protected Eve but his fear of the serpent allowed her to be corrupted, and he as well.

Knowledge, like the internet, is neither inherently good nor bad. Great knowledge can enlighten and save people. I have written before about this. But akin to the foreknowledge of nicotine manufacturers that cigarettes could indeed become addictive, Jobs is aware of the potential dangers of what he is marketing. I have read that he did not allow his children to have iPads or iPhones. We, the amazed and trusting public saw them as fascinating and for our children potential safety devices, if not babysitters, keeping us connected when the child was at the skate park, or when we took the kids to a fancy restaurant. But now we have a pandemic far worse than any virus. Our children are more anxious than ever and across many populations suicide rates are increasing exponentially. Through so many eyes, the world is seen as an ugly, dangerous, hopeless, and depressing place. Once upon a time our parents successfully shielded us from upsetting news, but now virtually all news is delivered instantly into the hands of anyone with a smart phone, young children included.

Parents are catching on, now setting limits, or trying to. They are calling therapists to set up appointments. Every therapist I know has expressed that they have been overwhelmed with requests for new patients, or appointments for existing patients in crisis. Of course this has something to do with Covid19, its fears, lockdowns and restrictions, but it is just these which have forced many to increase their hours online.

What of our own safety? Have we taken a good look at how social media is affecting us? Have we looked at the number of hours spent online each day? Have we assessed that we, too, are feeling more anxious, depressed or hopeless about the future? One therapist friend advocates that her patients consider intentional use and intentional limits. She recommends getting back into reading books, especially printed books. In Proust and the Squid, written by Maryanne Wolf, an Ivy League professor and researcher, it is proposed that civilization was profoundly affected by humanity learning to read. A process that changed the brain over thousands of years is now encountering changes in a matter of decades with digital media. We read differently now. In some ways she describes our brains as becoming less able to “deep read” because we are so used to information presented in bytes, with embedded links and distractors. Another effect of our brave new digital world.

I do find it harder to get through a novel. I try to force myself because reading was once a great pleasure. I honestly feel more distracted and impatient. My friend suggested reading books of different genres. Our brains are healthier and create differently when we read deeply, rather than skim, or watch a movie. Again, I am not advocating one over the other. I do think our brains need variety. When my children are in front of a screen too much, I send them outside, or to find a book to read.

Adam and Eve were not stupid, nor were they imprisoned in paradise. They had all they needed for contentment and perfection. They were, however, given choice because they were not robots commanded to worship their Creator. They were given freedom. Perhaps as the famous quote from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, they “chose…poorly.” They were tempted by “more.” We see the concept of freedom these days as the ability to do whatever we want, but in its truest sense, freedom is the choice and ability to do what is right. Sometimes that is the most difficult of choices because it may involve what feels like a restriction in our actions.

The bite has been taken, and yet we have a choice to intentionally monitor ourselves. Take a break from social media. Read a novel. Talk to someone about your feelings. Take a walk in nature. All these can be restorative. Strive to choose…wisely.

Robert Eddison as the Crusader

A Great Man

After four daughters, I had a son, and contemplated the enormity of raising a boy. My friend wrote some Bible verses for me in a card and one stood out: In Genesis 4 Eve says: “I have borne a man with the help of the Lord.” A man?

I have thought about this throughout his childhood, as well as those of his three brothers. Some may say that gender does not matter, that we raise them the same, as people with integrity. I agree with that premise in regards to raising confident, intelligent, loving children regardless of gender. But there simply are differences in individuals, and in order to prepare our children for the world they live in we need to prepare, teach and enculturate them realistically. We may do these things differently from family to family, but we do so ideally with the best of intentions, with love and caring of not only them but of the world.

When my oldest daughter married a wonderful young man I asked his advice. What did his Mom do so obviously well? He thought about it and replied, “You know, I don’t think anything, except love me. I always knew she was there for me, and that was important as I navigated the tough things growing up.”

Loving has never been hard for me, especially for my children; yet life is so very hard on them these days.

We teach our boys to consider good examples of men. Is a great man one who makes profound societal changes, who has statues erected in his honor? Is his behavior impeccable, does he invent history-changing devices, amass great wealth, or become known the world over?

Most often not. So what truly defines him? What is the essence of him, what causes the best to come forth from him?

Some would answer that it is his character, but even that is fueled by something deeper. His world view? His philosophical precepts? His religion? Many things are important, yet the “greatest is love,” Jesus said. Buddha taught that peace was the goal, but peace can only exist in its purest form in love–certainly not in anger, hatred, selfishness or divisiveness. The latter is tragically so prevalent in the world our children see.

And so I think of my father and my husband’s father as I teach my boys. A great man loves what is true. He loves his family, he loves others–he even loves his enemy when it comes right down to it. He is afraid at times, yet relies on an inner wellspring of peace, and a love of what is right. He has continence– that is, self-control. If he fights it is truly a last resort, and it is not out of hatred, but for whom he protects and loves. He will make mistakes, and he may remain unknown, without great impact, or statues, or inventions or wealth or fame, but he has integrity and love of fellow man. He helps those in need and offers kind smiles. 

I teach them that though our effect on the world may seem imperceptible, like a ripple in the vast water, we persevere in love. We put one courageous foot in front of the other, because each ripple will combine with others to become waves that have power to move the earth.  

Human Endurance

The year 2020 has drawn to a close. Toward the end, memes were prolific on social media pleading and rejoicing in the end of an unprecedented year in human history. The Covid-19 Pandemic changed us in many ways that a year before, we could not have predicted.

Amidst the horrors and losses that many lived through, the strength of the human spirit endured . It was not so evident on social media, where anger and ugliness rose to new heights. But throughout history those who are left to pick up the pieces of shattered dreams, of tragedy, do just that and keep moving. Depression, hopelessness and illness slow us and stall some of us to immobility. The human spirit endures and transcends. This is evident when “Helpers” appear, as the mother of Fred Rogers called them. Those who aid the plight of the suffering, who understand and care about the feelings of the downtrodden emerge.

There are others who appear. The “Change-Makers” are more outspoken and visible. They may have connections or skills which allow them to enact positive change. Those who are able push for human rights and improvements. Scientists and researchers find cures and methods of prevention which help to make the world healthier and safer.

All move humanity forward. Skeptics rail, but though perhaps annoying, they also play an important part in the stimulation of critical thinking. Thoughts and opinions and hypotheses are strengthened and better processes and methods are developed. Outliers are needed in order to open minds to new ideas, to test theories or simply to test mettle and character.

Though the time we are living through is indeed unprecedented in magnitude and global awareness, it is not in terms of human experience. Humanity has suffered through pandemics and plagues and injustice. It has experienced world wars and local wars and genocides. Millions have lost lives, lost freedom, lost loved ones, lost their homes. What have we learned?

Each life is as important as another, especially to a loved one left grieving. It is excruciating to bear, and hope in the future is maimed. How do we go on?

We grieve, each on an individual time line. We take one step at a time– or someone helps to take that step for us. Little by little our strength returns. The Helpers and the Change Makers keep the things moving which we cannot. When we are strong enough, we take on those roles for others. We inspire others to do the same. We begin to assess what is still good, now. We are grateful for experiences we had. We begin to see that there can be more good ahead.

The world may look very different in 2021. Time and humanity will continue. The future may look different, but here in the present we can remember the good things, we can perform a kind act, we can simply persevere to the next moment. We can look outside of ourselves, and think of others. We can pray. Those prayers have an effect on us, on others. There is a ripple effect that makes real differences in the world. It makes differences in you.

Happy New Year, 2021

Pain in Growth

Have you seen a clear solution to a problem, or worked very hard at something only for your ideas and efforts to be ignored? Perhaps you are in the middle of a situation now.

I’ve been a nurse for almost four decades. I know the feeling pretty well. At one job there was a turnover of two managers before I was hired, so that the people who both recommended me and hired me were gone. There was no set orientation process and I volunteered to help the new head of the unit to research best practices for a new process. I put in a lot of unpaid hours making phone calls, searching the internet and writing up a proposal. Not only did she ignore it, but a new hire of hers with far less experience and no degree became her “right hand man.” I have a kind demeanor yet I was treated very poorly. Because I wanted to help?

It still makes no sense to me, yet the hours were not in vain. I knew what the standards were and when we did not meet them and I was somehow marginalized–I knew it was not me. A friend of mine is going through a situation of her own and I can’t help but think that it is too easy to become bitter. If she does, the person who is affected most is she. So many things in life make no sense. My friend who has great experience and an altruistic desire to help goes unheard. Squelched. In situations like these, one could leave a job, but one could also continue to plug away, maintain dignity and focus on gratitude. Gratitude that they are making money at an awful time where others have lost jobs and businesses. Gratitude for health, or family. Gratitude that they are in a position to help others. Gratitude for faith.

Time has passed; that nurse manager left after a few years and the nurse she favored went on to another unit. They are both fine nurses and are helping people. I learned much from the experience and developed a thicker skin. Avoiding bitterness freed up my spirit to maintain a positive attitude for my patients and for my family. It wasn’t always easy and I wasn’t always perfect in the process, but the pain was not in vain. Through it we learn and grow.

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered;
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God;
It was never between you and them anyway.

Mother Teresa

Agape’ and Peace

Hope and Peace in every sunrise

I am purposely writing before there is any known winner in the US Elections. Yesterday on a social media platform I posted a pretty picture of a tree with an American flag waving in front of it. A beautiful day, words of comfort and peace. I later saw a friend post a meme that such sentiments were offensive. Another posted a meme that implied that real love can only mean that you see eye-to-eye, not wanting the other to be hurt. I believe the latter condition of that last sentence, but not the former. Love of course has many meanings, with the most unconditional being from the Greek word agape’. Love, no matter.

I realize that both partisan sides feel as though they will be hurt if their choice is not elected. Both. So if being positive and resilient means you are offensive, and that it is somehow wrong to be that way, then it leaves only two options, both of which are negative and divisive. Some think that by not being afraid, the positive, resilient stance means that one is impassive or ineffective as well as uncaring. But that is not true nor is it logical. Faith in humanity or faith in God, and trusting that all will improve eventually, does not mean that one stops fighting in their own way for human rights (voting, marching, letter-writing, phone-calling, preaching, praying, teaching, being a role model, etc.). Neither does it mean that one does not care about or for the downtrodden. So why would anyone think that?

I can only surmise that it is because they are irritated by a positivity which seems to indicate a lack of caring for rights they hold dear. They misconstrue it for not believing as deeply as they do. They are frustrated that their beliefs–honorable ones–are not valued. But none of those ways of reasoning are correct.

Some have found away to muster the desire to carry-on positively– or at least to not fall apart and succumb to depression, angry outbursts, hopelessness or hatred. Those are the responses most likely to incapacitate. I have written about inspiring folk in horrible circumstances who managed to make a difference, small as it was, late as it was in coming to light: the “Dorotheas” suggested by George Eliott, the Victor Frankls. the Corrie ten Booms, the Mother Teresas. These are the examples I would like to, feebly as I might, follow. This type of resilience will get humanity through, as it has sustained it for millennia.

Peace and Good Vibes

Birdoswald, Cumbria, England

The morning is colder and grey. As a child I loved these days. I was always outside in nature. I loved the Autumn. I lived in the moment.

Hello, Mr. Fox, I am sorry to startle you on my walk.

The world is a serious place these days…on edge. How will the elections go in the USA? So many folks are polarized. Their positions are arguable and passionate. We care about our world, its health, the rights of the people in it, and the future of our children’s children. We do what we can to make a difference.

In the meantime, there is the present. There are those whom we touch today by our actions, through our glances, our smiles, our frowns. These can make a difference to others now, and therefore affect the future. We could strive to carve out positive moments amidst the chaos. They may simply be thoughts or reflections with gratitude for something good.

My friend Marilyn believes that humanity is on a positive course overall, that it is becoming more self-actualized. She sees this in waves, with inevitable troughs and problems, but she believes in the good as well as the bad, and a general upward trend. She does not become caught up in negativity because “those vibrations are hurtful to ourselves and to others.”

Marilyn was and is ahead of her time. I’ve mentioned her before. At grad school in the late fifties and early sixties she studied and worked against racism and sexism. She was one of the only women in a 90% male class at Boston University. Instructors raised eyebrows as she entered the lecture halls. Half a century later, she continues to care deeply about human rights and the vote on political leaders. Though we are in an unprecedented time in terms of technology and instant information–and manipulated misinformation– she knows that the world will go on past this November. Humanity will get through this, too. She lived through World War 2, the Korean War, Vietnam and the Cold War. We will always have critical issues to work through.

While there is no space for complacency, there is argument for rest and for personal health. Enjoy a walk in nature, a beautiful view, or a cup of coffee and a good book, a time of prayer, meditation…these provide restoration of the soul amidst upheaval. It is not only possible, it is necessary.

“Good vibes” heal the self and work out from us like concentric circles on the water, affecting those around us and the world. Be at peace in the present moment. The planet and its people will still be there after your rest. Your body, mind and soul will be healthier and stronger for it. As will the thoughts, words and deeds with which you touch the world today.

The River Eden, Warwick Hall, Cumbria

Parentology

My firstborn is spending a couple of weeks at home before her own house is ready in a neighboring state. There are articles and studies about family life stages and the “launching” of adult children. Having four of ten leave the nest so far, I see that the launching path is different for each. Having a special needs child and a teen who has struggled for years with depression and poor choices supports that further.

There are as many different parental reactions to child-launching as there are personalities and temperaments. Literature tends to suggest that those who were nurtured better as children are more successful at navigating the adult world, and become better nurturers themselves. There are, of course, exceptions and outliers. One of the best mothers I know is a friend whose parents were addicts and who was raised in foster care. She is amazing, and now has five biological boys, three adopted children, and helps to encourage families to foster children in need. Though fifteen years younger than I am, she has been an inspiration since the time I met her.

I did a quick literature search, wanting to see if there was any science on the reaction of mothers to children growing up. There was not much. I really thought I might find a term which was used for the study of how children are nurtured by mothers, but no, just “mothering.” Today perhaps it would be more politically correct to call it parenting. I just really thought there would be some word with an “ology” after it.

I thought about my own experiences with two step-daughters and eight biological children. I have learned a lot through them. In reference to my oldest biological daughter who is staying with us, I have learned so much through her, from her infancy to toddlerhood, and from school through adolescence into adulthood. I am not a “helicopter-parent” as I have never had enough energy nor selflessness to be one. I probably did visit her more than average when she was at college, since she was only 5 minutes away. That may or may not have meant something, when after college she clearly wanted to live 500 miles away from home for one year, and then 2500 miles away for another. All this time I have naturally missed her. I miss our married daughters with children, also. Photos and videos help.

We have photos of our children around the house as most parents do. I look at some from when they were very little and my heart aches. Is that weird? Why is it? They are happy and successful and we had wonderful years when together. One of my friends says that she does not look back in the past at all as a mother at all. She’ll say that she did not grow up with the feeling as strongly as I had of wanting to be a mother, as though it was the greatest thing to accomplish in life. Maybe that is why I do look back.

Again, each person is different. I write and self-disclose because perhaps someone who thinks as I do on this topic might not feel that they are the only sappy one. There are others like us! Of course I can only write from the perspective of a Mom, and one of a very large family, at that. In my heart the images of my children, even if they are adults now, are wrapped up in a composite of each that includes their younger selves.

I look back on my own childhood: did my mother feel this way about me? Without my own experience of motherhood I would not have a concept of what I really was to her. I did not consider at any time while growing up that my Mom might feel about me as I feel now about my children. I could not, because only a mother could. She was a good Mom and a caring person and this is of course a huge factor on which my positive feelings are predicated.

My own experience with motherhood was positive. I loved it. Utter joy, aside from the sleep deprivation. I find it interesting that I feel as though the life experiences of each child became a part of me; yet all the while, they were separating from me in the natural way that humans are meant to. They became their own persons, but I still have the imprints of all of the memories of their lives, indelibly-so. There is evidence in my physical body, but even more profoundly in my soul.

As in my own recollection of adolescence, my children learn who they are, and they are not concerned with how their parent views their experiences. It is their natural time to question, as every parent of a teen knows. In time the child must separate into a healthy adult, even if their experience is wrought with mistakes, problems or illness. Their pain and suffering cannot help but be felt by the mother. Perhaps this is especially so for those of us mothers who are feelers or who are empathetic. We surely must be in a subset of our own.

Letting go does not mean that we no longer care, nor that we stop hurting for them or missing them; rather, we let go in spite of it. Inevitably, all love will involve some type of pain. We bring them into the world through our physical pain, and we feel emotional pain with every skinned knee, bullying word, failed college entry, and for some even through substance abuse or run-ins with the law. When a child separates in a negative or estranged way, sometimes all that is left for the parent to do is pray. In truth, it is the greatest thing we can do. Prayer does change the world. It most certainly heals the one who is praying.

I am thrilled that my daughter is visiting, and that she is happy and successful. At the same time I have a son who is struggling, and that is very hard. I pray for those Moms and parents with children who have addictions and mental illness. It is a huge cross to bear for the one suffering, and for those who love them. I pray that they will do what is needed to stay healthy and to heal. There is still joy to be had. There continues on in our souls the indelible imprint of the child we love, who we gave birth to or adopted lovingly, who we cared for and taught, who we sang to and comforted, who made us laugh. Those memories are real, and though they may pang of bittersweet, savor and be grateful for every bit of the sweetness.