Photo from Channey on Unsplash
Welcome to the next episode of the Wise Not Withered Show! This week’s interviewee is the mother of one of my best friends. I’ve known this wonderful, kind lady for a little over ten years, and it was really great to get to know her even more. My friend and I always say how alike our mothers are, in their overall positive and upbeat demeanor.
About her relationship with her mother: “I was pretty rebellious as a kid—I was the fourth of five kids. So I think by the time I came along, my mom had kind of seen it all, was kinda tired… So I didn’t feel like I had a very close relationship with my mom. It felt like she was kinda checked out.
My siblings were a lot older. She started her career—she worked at the telephone company, and she worked the night shifts. Her shifts started at 3 PM and ended at midnight. So after school, I didn’t see her. So I just felt like I didn’t have a really strong or good relationship with her.
In high school, we started having a better relationship, which is odd because I think it’s the opposite for a lot of other people. But that’s when we started talking, and learning about each other. And from then on, high school on, I felt like I had a good relationship with her. But not early on.”
About her job as a clerk at the Marine Corps Air Station: “I liked working at the Marine Corps Air Station, because I got to meet a lot of Marines, and they were from all over the US. And I was a young thing, so they’d all talk to me. But it was so interesting to get to know all these different people from all these different places. Being in Hawaii is kind of sheltered. Meeting people from Mississippi, for instance, well that was a big deal. Wow, Mississippi! New York! Things like that—it was very interesting for me. I found that I liked talking with the people, and helping them. So that was good.”
About one of her biggest challenges: “I think one of them has been knowing that I can’t do everything. That was really hard for me to accept. When I was in my mid-30’s, [when my kids were two and seven], I decided I wanted to go back to school, and finish my undergrad. I had dropped out in Hawaii, to go to the beach, work at the pizza place, all that fun stuff, and I never finished. … I was working a full-time job, and I was supervising about ten people. Up until then, I had never felt any limitations about anything that I could do. So I went back to school, full-time. And I was working full-time.
I did it for about a year and a half. Then I crashed. I started having anxiety attacks. … I would stay up til like 1 o’clock in the morning, studying and writing papers. I would sleep til about 4:00, get up and study a little bit, go to work. Drinking coffee, diet coke, because I had to stay awake. [My doctor] said, ‘I think your body is telling you that you’re doing too much.’ I said oh no! I can do this. I have always done this. I can always burn the candle at both ends, I can do anything. I never thought anything would stop me.
I mean, looking back on it now, it makes total sense. What was happening was I wasn’t getting enough sleep, I was over-caffeinated, so I on overload. That was a really rude awakening for me. I was 35, and I thought what? Up until now, I was able to do anything I set my mind out to do. How can this be happening to me? And I was really mad at myself and upset.
My doctor said, okay I want you to talk to a therapist. I’m like, I don’t need that! He said well, just give it a try. And I’m so glad he said that. Because in talking to a therapist—somebody who will actually listen to you for an hour—it really made me stop and think that wow, you know, I’m really hard on myself. I expect that I can do this, and this, and that… I never wanted to ask for help.
So it brought me to the realization that I can’t do everything, that that’s not a bad thing. It’s okay to ask for help. When you’re overwhelmed, it’s okay to step back from it for a bit, and take a break. Until then I’d just been go-go-go. That was the hardest thing for me to accept. … Up until then I expected I could do anything, and I expected everybody else to be just like me. I had to readjust what I thought about myself and what I expected from others as well. So it was a good thing that I learned then, instead of later.”
About a failure at the time, and what she learned: “Thinking about work… There were times earlier, when I was in my 30’s, where I was very impatient. … One day, [I got into an argument at work with someone with a strong personality like mine]. We were yelling at each other. That wasn’t my finest moment. Afterwards, my boss talked to me and said, ‘That was very inappropriate. You’re not supposed to yell to get your point across. Yeah, he was mouthing back to you and provoking you, but you have to take the high road, and that was very wrong, the way you handled that.’ So that really hurt, because I still felt I was right, and [the other guy] was wrong. But my boss told me that wasn’t the right way to handle that.
After that I felt very embarrassed, I felt like oh I’m a failure, I didn’t handle that correctly. In the heat of the moment, I was yelling at him. But then, because of that, I had to really stop and think and say, you know as mad as I am at him and think yeah I’m right, I have to look in the mirror and say you know, I was at fault. I shouldn’t have done that. So that was really hard for me. Because I just felt I’m right, you’re wrong, shut up. I had to really take a step back and acknowledge that I wasn’t.
At the time I was devastated. I was just like oh no, how can I go back to work? I was so embarrassed, how can I face him and everybody who listened to it? But I talked to him. I apologized, and he did too. We came to a better understanding. And then separately, I went and talked to the other people and apologized for my conduct. I wanted everybody to know that I had done some introspection, and that I felt that was not appropriate. I didn’t want them to think oh, it’s okay to go around yelling at people, because she did it.
At the time, I felt really devastated, I thought it was the most horrible thing. But now when I look back at it, I think that was good, because I really learned a lot from that situation.”
I’ve heard that come up a lot—it’s more important how you damage control afterward. We all explode at different times, but how you handle it after is more important. Cause you have to admit that you did something wrong, which is really hard to do.