I was recently invited to be on a reality-type show that promotes spiritual healing through telling your story and inspiring others. I met with the producers as well as the small select group of others who were there to share their own personal experiences of grief and triumph. It was one of these recent warm and sunny Sunday afternoons. We all convened in the West Loop to film our stories and do our live interviews. I was skeptical at first when I received the call from one of the producers. Personally, I’m not much for reality TV; it’s just not something I grew up with (yes I’m a dinosaur!). As soon as I walked into the beautiful grounds, I was struck by great vibes and a general sense of well being. The courtyard was lush with fully bloomed orchid trees, live fish ponds, fountains and beautiful artifacts inside and outside. I met the other participants who were all warm, welcoming, interesting and so open that I felt an instant lift in my spirits. When it was my turn to speak about my experiences to the camera, I comfortably spoke from my heart, not from a script as so many shows want you to do.
It felt good, it felt right, it felt magical. At the end of this day the producers invited us all to go to Tulum, Mexico for a week of yoga, meditation, therapy and taping. I was so elated. After the day I shared with them, I was IN.
I came floating home and told my kids about my dreamy experience and my future trip, only to have my little cloud immediately punctured. My daughter Sloan anxiously reminded me of her eighth grade graduation which was right in the middle of my planned week in Mexico! I called Vanessa, the producer, right away, but she could not change the date. So, now I was left with a choice: Do I go on a much needed spiritual journey and appear on a show that could open up new horizons for me, or do I do the right thing as a mother and respect my daughter’s very clear wish that I be present for her graduation?
My very best girlfriends who are excellent mothers, of course, reiterated our mantra, “family first.” But something was causing me to hesitate. I felt that this opportunity was something that felt really right and good, and that is something that doesn’t always happen for me at the right time. In the end, common sense and Mother Love brought me back to making the right decision for me and my family.
I must say that solidifying that decision did cause me to dig deep into what motherhood means to me and what selflessness and sacrifice really means in support of our children. It also caused me to revisit my own childhood. I found that I could conjure up very few important milestones or memories. I don’t really remember how I got to school: Was I driven? Did I go on the bus? I know I walked to grade school and it was fairly far. I know that I seldom did my homework. Our family lived in a very unstructured way that was like “every man for himself.” My parents were loving and demonstrative, but their generation at that time seemed to live in the moment with a loose, carefree and unplanned approach to parenting. The realization that my parents were not as involved didn’t make me sad, it just made me question: “If I had been guided or taught more how much easier would things have been for me?” The answer I’m afraid was quite a bit easier. Isn’t that primarily what parents do? Impart knowledge and wisdom on their offspring? One would think yes, it absolutely is.
The other main ingredient to great parenting I know is to be PRESENT, not just in body, but in spirit with every ounce of your energy and interest. When I delivered my healthy, beautiful children, I secretly pledged to myself that I would invest the time to parent them the best way that I possibly could to ensure their future happiness. That’s really the simple goal: to raise happy, well-adjusted children. It’s a tough road, for sure, especially as a single parent. And as a single mom with disabilities, it’s near impossible. I can only hope that my children have a beautiful and happy road ahead of them. There is nothing we parents can hope for more than the happiness and safety of our beloved children.
I feel good about the decision I made and that I will continue to try to be there for my kids in every way, creating binding memories of importance. I’m grateful that my children speak up and tell me what’s important to them rather than try to go along while burying their own emotions. I know I did that my whole life: I played the strong, independent girl but I secretly harbored resentments that would implode at a later date when no one, including myself, understood where the bitterness had come from. I played the victim/ martyr/ good girl so many times in all my main relationships that I am only now realizing how damaging and unproductive for all involved that cycle of behavior truly was. I somehow felt as if I had to be agreeable and low maintenance to be loved, but I couldn’t sustain that. The consequences were often game changing.
The gift that I have been given is that my own children hopefully speak their truth so I know what to do for them, how to be good to them in the way they need me to be. The gift I give to them is the confidence to know that they are loved whether or not I agree with them and that I HEAR them loud and clear and respect how they feel about things.
Isn’t that love in the truest sense in all relationships? Whether it be in friendships or family or a romantic relationship, don’t we all just want to be heard, considered and cared for? I hope it is for all of us. I know that I feel even more love encompassing my world right now.
Writen by Penny Fisher
Penny Fisher has not only survived an unbelievable trauma, but also she has thrived. She is working on her memoir, and is available as a motivational speaker and mentor. To contact her, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.