I can do it all by myself, except sometimes I need help

When I was young, about the age of 3 or 4 my mom gave me the book All by Myself by Mercer Mayer. At the age of 31 my mom still reminds me that ever since I read that book over 25 years ago, I have always wanted to do things all by myself. When I was a child it was simple things like tying my shoe, or doing my homework. I would sit and try it over and over again until I got it right. I wanted to do it all by myself. As I got older life became more complex, and the complexity of things that I could actually do all by myself began to change. In high school it was filling out college applications, I didn’t need help, I could do that all by myself. However, once I got into college I had to pay for tuition, books, fees, oh and lets not forget that I actually needed to move everything out of my bedroom in Queens to my dorm room in Connecticut, yeah I needed help. Mainly from my parents, and because they are great parents they helped, and because they had hindsight to know I actually couldn’t do it all by myself I really didn’t even have to ask for much help. They just knew what to do.

As we get older we have greater needs in life, and may need more help. I have always been one to hate asking for help because I could do it all by myself. My favorite question to ask my clients in therapy sessions is “how is that working out for you?” When I think about times that I didn’t ask for help but really knowing that I needed help, I reflect on how poorly that is working out for me. When I bought my first car, I went into full-blown panic mode. Buying a car is stressful and I needed help. Luckily I had that help, my ex boyfriend helped me find a car, and my dad helped me to get my care registered, inspected and ready to drive. Needless to say without that help I would have been left stuck and riding the bus for a mighty long time.

Before moving to Hawaii, my mom asked me was I scared to go alone. My answer of course was no, if the fear was there I was never going to admit that to anyone anyway. She told me she doesn’t worry about me because she knows I will be fine, she reminded me that I have always had that determination that I could do it all by myself. That determination helped me to take leaps in life and never look back. That determination helps me prove to myself that no matter where I am in life and what I am going through, I will always at least try to do it all by myself, even though sometimes I may fail.

I am no longer a 3-year-old kid who just wants to tie her own shoe, or a 4-year-old who just wants to walk into a new classroom all by myself just to prove that I am a big girl. I am a 31-year-old who has grown to realize that as much as I want to do it all by myself, sometimes I need help, badly.

I realized the importance of help when I was living in Honolulu, I was all by myself, and couldn’t possibly do everything alone. Upon arriving on the island, I received help from my first landlord. She was overwhelmingly kind to me. She was local from Kauai and now living on the Windward side of Oahu. She went out of her way to welcome me to the island, I had no car, she drove me around, she showed me how to get to my job, how to get to the store, and what I would need to do to be safe in Honolulu. Her warming attitude made me feel like I would have a great home in Hawaii. I continued to find help along the way in friends, those friends helped me to overcome a sense of loneliness, and seemed to always make sure that I was doing ok. I received help to stay in shape from my motivating workout crew, and due to the fact that I had amazing co-workers, they never failed to help me learn my way around the island, and adjust my mainland style of building therapeutic relationships, to the local style of how to be a successful therapist. I was starting to learn that needing help was not a sign of weakness, but much-needed to keep building future success.

Now I am back on the mainland and have found myself in a place where I once again need help, and I continue working to overcome the struggle to ask, although it has gotten a lot easier. A few weeks ago I went snow tubing and broke a bone in my leg when it hit a block of ice.  Ok maybe I should have not been so quick to jump into winter sports since I have been living on an island that was 80 degrees every day for the past 4 years. Nevertheless, it was fun, well expect for the part where I broke my leg.

Being on crutches with a broken leg, yeah I have needed help. I want to do it all by myself, but life’s turns has hit me and now I can’t. This has truly been an experience in asking for help. I literally have needed help from everyone who is around me. Even my 7-year-old god-daughter has had to help me carry my purse. Lucky for me I have an awesome support group. My friends have been nothing less than amazing and have been there fully to help me. I end up feeling guilty though, I hate to inconvenience others or need help for something that I could just do on my own a few weeks ago. I remind myself that this is a temporary situation. It’s still hard most days.  It’s not forever, just for now, and now I have to continue to ask for help. This has truly been an eye-opening experience, I was the girl who thought I could do everything by myself. I could do it all, no help necessary. Now I can’t even drive my car, so to go anywhere outside of the house, yeah I need help.

Though this current situation of my broken leg is temporary and with time my bones will heal, it is a sudden much-needed reminder that life is not meant to be lived alone. If you always have the right circle of support you will never be alone, and when life throws you a curve ball, don’t struggle, put pride aside and just ask for help.

 

Positive thoughts, positive energy, positive experiences

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My mother: Over 50, Fabulous, Fearless, and ready to take on the world!

When I was child I thought my mother was superwoman, she always knew everything and had all the answers. When I was a teenager I couldn’t wait to move out and get far away from mom because obviously, I knew everything and parents were no longer needed after the age of 14 (except for money). Between the ages of 14 and 21,  I just knew that I had all the answers. Now as a 31-year-old woman, I know with absolute certainty that mom is a mix of superwoman, combined with a woman who does not always have all the answers. The best part; she is not to afraid to admit that she does not have as many answers as I once thought. Therefore, my 31-year-old self can just say that my mother is truly amazing.

A few days ago mom celebrated her 59th birthday. As she reaches her final year in her 50’s, and prepares for her 60th birthday week bash next year, I must say that mom is truly an inspiration, the epitome of the woman who I desire to become. She is over 50, Fabulous, Fearless, and more ready than ever to take on the world.

While I was growing up I strived to make mom proud. Looking back as an adult I appreciate her approach to parenting. She allowed me to make my own mistakes and develop my own life path. If and when I messed up, she allowed me to learn how to fix it, always offering help when she saw that help was needed. It’s funny how life happens and how times change. As an adult, I am watching mom grow into the woman who she was always meant to be. She is meeting the strong, confident, driven woman who has been living inside of her, yet she had always feared letting her out. Day by day as I watch mom grow, and learn I smile. For all those years of her being proud of me, now I am the one who is proud of her.

On the refrigerator at our house in Queens there is a quote by Joel Osteen, it says “your best days are yet to come”. When I go home I always look at that quote and think to myself, wow, mom is actually living that way. I once heard Oprah and Mya Angelou say that life begins after 50. I don’t know what happens after 50 because I’m still tying to figure out my 30’s however, when I think about what mom has accomplished over the past decade, then life must be great after 50. My mom has started to live. Sure she had a life before 50, she is married with 3 kids. She had a life that consisted of taking care of other people, hardly taking care of herself. I grew up watching her give all of her to everyone around her, leaving little to noting left for her as an individual. She frequently put her needs aside to be the best mother for our family. However, today at 59 she can put her needs first to be the best person to herself. She has finally started to show herself that she matters, and with that comes a sense of peace and happiness.

A few years ago mom started going back to school. Taking one to two classes a semester, she has the determination and the heart to earn a college degree. That makes me proud. She pushed me to earn a college degree, I actually did not believe I had a choice to do anything else. Now I can push her to earn her very own college degree, leading her to believe that she has no other option. I tell her not to stop at an associate degree, or a bachelor’s degree, to keep going for that master’s or Ph.D. I know she can do it, so why give up.

Being a woman over 50, mom has conquered many fears. She used to be afraid of the classroom, now she has the passion to learn. With the desire to know more information, she is no longer intimated by not being smart enough. She knows she can push through it, and succeed.

Mom was raised as a country girl in the south. She tells the story of when she first arrived in New York City at the age of 18, she was afraid to get on the escalator and ride it to the top of the bus station to meet her uncle who was picking her up that day. For a small town girl, the city was a huge scary place. However through fears, and doubts,  she ended up staying in New York, and made the big city her new home. She never trusted that she could conquer the city life, go to a museum, a restaurant, or a broadway play alone. Yet today, she is able to go anywhere in the city alone, and actually love it!

Mommy at Pearl Harbor

When I moved to Hawaii, mom supported my decision to move to an island in the middle of the pacific, where I have never been before, and knew absolutely no one but myself. She didn’t try to talk me out of it, or ask why. To my amazement she thought it was a good idea. Previously to my move, she had never travelled away from the east coast. Within a year of my move, she had made her first plane trip out to Hawaii. I quickly realized that my crazy, overly impulsive life decision, not only changed my life, but also affected a major change in mom’s life, and that change is very good.

The first time mom made her journey to Honolulu, she was overly fearful. Her first experience of taking a plane for over 10 hours, and having to fly for a full five and a half hours directly over the pacific ocean. Mom has a passionate fear of large bodies of water. Yet through it all, she made it and managed to return to Honolulu the following year. Currently she is preparing for her third trip out to the middle of the pacific, obviously she is filled with excitement.

For the small town girl from the south, mom has grown to appreciate life and what the world has to offer. On her last visit, we traveled to Maui. Many people spend their whole lives dreaming about what it would be like to actually be on the island of Maui, many die never knowing. At the age of 58 mom got her first experience at taking Maui by storm, and that experience was far better than what she had ever imagined.

Now if anyone ever travels with me, trust me, we will do any and everything possible in the least amount of time, probably getting the least amount of sleep. With mom it was no different. We were on Maui, and we were going to explore all of Maui. Mom is afraid of the water, yet she got on a boat to travel to the island of Lanai. Mom is afraid of heights, however without hesitation she went with my idea of taking a tour to the top of Haleakala to watch the sunrise. That is a volcanic crater over 10,000 feet high, and it was about 30 degrees up there. To see God’s work as the sun rises over the clouds is definitely worth facing all fears, and taking in the freezing cold air. Such sights in life should never be missed, that is truly one of them.

Maui maui 2

On Oahu, I took mom to climb Diamond Head crater. Mom was still afraid of heights, and had never hiked up a volcano before in life. I was taking her on a hike that was 762 feet up a crater. Once we entered the park area, I pointed to where our end point was at the top of the mountain. She laughed, called me crazy, and adamantly said that she was not going up there. Her mind was set and she knew that she was not going to the top of that very large volcanic crater. I nicely convinced her to start walking, we started on the trail, one step at a time, and just kept going. Mom complained, cursed me, and I think she even yelled at me a few times while walking on the trail, then suddenly she could see the top. She could see the motivation to keep going. When she wanted to turn around, I reminded her that she could keep going, one step at a time, she was almost there. In my mind it was too late to turn around, she was so close to the end, why stop now. As she came upon on the final stairway to the top, she was more motivated than ever, other tourist gave her encouragement, and she was able to make it all the way to the top of the mountain. While we were at the top I pointed out to her where she started, and where she was when she finished. She finally saw how far had come just because she kept moving forward, she didn’t turn around, and despite all the odds due to being tired, and hot, she did not give up on herself.  A true metaphor for life. She was literally looking down on Waikiki. The fearful southern girl, who moved to New York at age 18,  now was over 50 experiencing life while looking down on the beaches of Waikiki. It may have seemed like a dream, but no that was mom’s reality.

Mom thought that she would never make it to the top, but she preserved and broke though her own self-doubt. On her journey she proved to herself  that she could do things that she would  have never thought were possible 10 or 20 years ago. It’s funny because now she can’t wait to climb Diamond Head again, and even wants to time herself to see how fast she can climb to the top. Yes, I have created a monster. But all I can do is sit back and smile, like the proud daughter that I have become.

Life is for living your dreams, and making those dreams come true. To talk to mom, puts my own life in perspective. Life is short, we have to live it today, life happens quick then its gone. Mom has found love in treating herself, finally. She takes herself on spa dates. Last month while I was in New York we went to the spa at the Trump hotel in lower Manhattan, she was reading a travel magazine which had an article on the Big Island. Now imagine the irony in that since we will be traveling to the Big Island in a few weeks. Just a few years ago, mom would have picked up that magazine and only have dreams of what it would be like to visit Kona, well that day she was able to plan what she would do, what she will see, and what she will eat, WHEN she arrives on Kona.

At 31, mom still is able to teach me so many lessons about life, and growing into a woman. I have realized that you can start living life at any age. Whenever you are ready, life is ready to have you live it. When I look at the 59-year-old woman my mom has become, I am so happy to see that she is more excited than ever as she ages. Her youthful spirit gives her the energy to keep going, he desire to learn gives her the will to grow, and her renewed sense of confidence gives her the ability the face the things she has feared all her life. Through my mom, I have learned how to live. Mom truly sets the example because, like mom, in 29 years as I am approaching the age of 60, I also want to be fabulous, fearless, and ready to take on the world!

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Positive thoughts, positive energy, positive experiences

29 and counting…Lessons learned from my mother

As I gear up to approach 30, I have finally come to realize that I am an adult. A true adult.  OK, I know it took me long enough to grab on to that concept, but since I have been fighting the responsibilities of adulthood for so long, its has never been easy to accept that I am a true adult.  With adult actions, come adult choices, and adult consequences. Being an adult is not fun. As I move into a  phase of embracing this adulthood, I also am realizing that I have grown into a woman who is much like my mother. When I take a step out of myself, and examine the woman whom I have become, I see a lot of my mother in me. In my actions, my words, even in my crazy and somewhat chaotic thought process, I have grown into a younger version of my mother (Is this really what parents want from their kids?). While the 15-year-old teenager  in me yells and screams in pure rebellion format, the 30-year-old woman in me is pretty proud of what I have grown up to become.

My mother has been a substantial role model for me, and if I had a choice on who would teach me how life is supposed to be lived, I surely had the best pick of all when it comes to my mother. My mother is a woman who carries herself with integrity and grace, she has never taken a life experience for granted, she embodies the true definition of strength.  My mother does not give up, she not only keeps going, but does her best encourage others to keep going. She understands that life is not perfect, but she has a spirit that motivates her to keep living life to the fullest everyday.  A woman who has never been a taker, a woman who is an outstanding giver of herself, her time, her energy, a woman who will easily put the needs of others before the needs of her herself. To be fortunate enough emulate a woman who has excelled beyond measure as a wife, a mother, a friend, and an individual exemplifies the true meaning of a blessing. I was given a mother who is not only a role model, but a leader for my life. A woman who very much without her knowledge provided me with gifts of influence and lessons of womanhood that I would have never embraced had it not been for her.

So today, as I recognize  the woman who I have become, the future wife, and future mother in me must truly say thank you to my mother. She has shown me how to not only live as a woman, but to live as a woman with integrity.

Lessons I learned from my mother

Lesson 1: To whom much is given, much is expected:

My mother made sure I had a good education. Sher always expected me to get good grades, and go to college. I never thought college was not an option to me, my thought was that is was a requirement of life. My mother was proud to see me go to college. No matter what college I got into, I knew I could go. She would never look at me and say “I don’t have the money”. If I got in and wanted to go, she would find the money to make it happen. My mother didn’t have money in a college savings fund, but she knew the value in me attending college. She made it happen. My mother often stretched herself to give me a lot. For this she always reminds me, To whom much is given, much is expected. I was always given an opportunity to do better, now it is my turn to help others do better. My mother expects me to keep growing on the opportunities that were given to me. My task is to not waste the sacrifices that others have made for me. She always tells me that she wants to see great things from me, and daily I continue to work to make that happen.

Lesson 2: Be grateful to others and make sure to show appreciation:

When I was younger I would frequently watch my mother go out of her way to help other people. Anyone could call her and ask her for a favor and she would do it, she would not only do it but she would go beyond what was even asked. No matter how tired, stressed, or overwhelmed she was, she would make sure she was available to help those who would ask. I would sit back and wonder why as it looked like it was just extra trouble for her,  and she was getting absolutely nothing out of the deal. I would sit and think, ” is mommy a doormat?” Why do we have to keep doing things for these people, especially when it appeared they were taking her for granted. My mother would then tell me countless stories of incidents when she needed help in one way or another and there was always someone there to help her. W ether it was someone who allowed her to stay at their home, cook her a meal, or just check in on her when she was having a bad day, someone was always there. So she would easily give back to them when they asked for help, she could never do enough to show her appreciation to whomever it was for being there in her time of need.

Lesson 3: Whatever you do, do it well:

I hate art. I am a really bad artist, and if anyone ever tells me to draw anything I spiral into a pre drawing anxiety attack. In elementary and junior high school, a lot of projects required some type of art accompaniment. Since I was so bad at art, my drawings, paintings, and projects were horrible if every form. For me to take it to school and turn it in like that was completely unacceptable for my mother. Since I hated art, I put no time into it, and threw something together that I hoped would get me at least a B grade. I have no artistic talent and hated to pretend otherwise.  We would then spend hours working on projects until they looked presentable enough to leave the house, until it was good enough to take into the teacher. The project represented me, it showed the value of my work. My mother taught me the value of putting time and effort into things, even when I hate doing them. If I am going to do something, then I need to do it well. My work represents me, it is how people make their judgement of me. My mother taught me the value of doing my best, being proud of my work, and even if things do not come naturally to me to keep working at it so at least it will look like it is a natural talent in the eyes of others.

Lesson 4: Make sure to look like a million bucks, even if your entire outfit cost you five bucks:

My mother is the greatest bargain shopper. She loves a good sale, and has the ultimate willpower to wait for the price of an item to be marked down to the price that she is willing to pay for it before she will buy it. My mother does not buy anything on impulse. She shops smart, and she shops well. My mother can wear the finest most expensive outfit, knowing that it was not expensive for her. When she goes out to an event, she is prepared because she has bought items piece by piece as they were on sale. Form the top, to the skirt, to the shoes, she is prepared to look her best and impress. Even if she is not going anywhere soon, she will be prepared for when the time comes. The greatest part of her ability to impress is that she is always able to impress within her budget.

Lesson 5: You live in the community, treat it like it is your very own home:

Growing up I have seen my mother involved in taking an active role in the church, as PTA  President, and as someone who is always aware of community events. My parents have lived in the community for over 33 years, it is home. A lot of change has happened over the years, and my mother is very much aware of all the changes. My mother has put much effort into making the community better, into seeing what she can do to play her part as a community member. She has shown me that if you sit by and do nothing then nothing will happen, if you want to witness a change, then someone has to step up and be the voice of that change. It has been an influential aspect for me to see that every voice really does matter.

Lesson 6: By knowing your past, you can work to improve your future:

A few years ago I went for a Ph.D. interview at Columbia University. Both my mother and I were excited that I had the opportunity to be interviewed at Columbia for a Doctorate program. Before the interview my mother told me that I was standing on the shoulders of my ancestors.  At the time I really was uncertain as to what that meant. However I have finally come to realize that if it had not been for my ancestors than I would not have the opportunities that I am given today. My mother always does her best to inform us of her past, and the past of her ancestors. Through her countless stories I have grown to appreciate what my ancestors went through to make life just a little bit better for me. My mother would always tell stories of her childhood, the difficulties that her and her family went through, and how hard they worked to overcome the many obstacles of growing up black in the south. My mother continues to make sure that I never forget the trials and troubles of past generations, so I can do better not only for my generation, but also the generations that come after me.

Lesson  7: How to excel in the world as a Black woman:

To know how to exist in the world as a Black  woman is not easy. It is not a natural task that is innate at birth, and there is no book to teach you how to gain respect as a Black woman. It takes time, preparation, and modeling from elders, to learn how to define yourself as a Black woman. Other people will always want you to be who they think you should be, but you will not be comfortable with yourself until you truly know who you are. Black women are constantly defined by media stereotypes as being angry, loud, and always ready to fight (If you have watched the real housewives of Atlanta then you know what I mean). When I meet people from other parts of the country, they always tell me I don’t act like a Black Woman. As I sit and wonder, “what is that supposed to mean?”, sadly I already know exactly what it means. My mother was my first example of a Black woman, the ultimate role model. The woman who taught me how to act with pose and grace. No need to be the angry Black woman, because anger will get you never help you move forward. From watching the actions of my mother and by listening to her words, I have learned how to show strength in times of despair, how to prove my worth when others have doubted my abilities, and how to be confident in knowing that yes I am a smart Black woman, and yes I am a smart Black woman who is also capable of changing the world.

Lesson 8: Never give up:

My mother never had the opportunity to go to college. Today she is going to college. At the age of 57 my mother is back in school, working to get her bachelor’s degree. A dream that she had, she is making it come true. My mother enjoys learning, she is taking these moments that she has to enhance her knowledge, and create a better future for herself. It is never too late, go after your dreams, and never give up.

Lesson 9: Whenever possible, do your best to extend yourself:

My mother is frequently doing things to make the day better for other people. If she knows they are down, or not feeling well she will look for ways to cheer them up and put a smile on their face. She is often looking for what she can do to help someone else. Not because she owes them something, but because she wants to. My mother will do things to help other people have a positive experience, or just to experience something new in life. It makes her feel good to come up with an idea, put it into action, and see that someone else has had a positive day. My mother is ready and willing to extended herself when needed, and will do it with no questions asked, no monetary value needed. Just the joy of being available to help is enough of the pay back she will need.

Lesson 10: Live your life:

One thing people always ask me is how did my parents react when I told them I was moving to Hawaii. To much of my surprise my mother was very supportive about my move to the other side of the world. Since she thought it was OK for me to leave, then I really felt that this would be a great decision for me.  From when I was a very young child my mother has taught me the importance of living life. On weekends, my mother would take me and my brother to Manhattan to experience museums, the zoo, and concerts in Central Park. She would take us out of our neighborhood in Queens, just so we were aware that there is more to life than the block we grew up on. From my mother learned of learned the importance of going outside the box, I learned to desire more than what was in front of me, and that to truly live you may need to take a risk and explore what is unknown.