my biggest challenge

True story: When I was 16 and on a 6-week trip to Israel with my Confirmation Class, my mom and her pixie twin turned 40. (What’s a Pixie?‎) They celebrated the occasion by having a Mexican-themed fiesta at a local restaurant. Naturally, they adorned themselves in colorful twinner outfits.

Neither my sister nor I were on hand to commemorate this milestone birthday – as I was away, and this wasn’t really a party for kids anyway if you catch my drift. (Wink, Wink) Needless to say, it provided my cousin A and I (who was with me in aforementioned trip) much amusement and horror when we received the telegram from her dad with deets on the event’s most memorable highlights. One of the pixies, it had seemed, had been, let’s just say “overserved” and spent the rest of the evening at home throwing up next to the toilet.

[In an effort to protect the innocent, I will not reveal names]  

Wait, what?

I was mortified. My mother? (Ooopsie. I gave it away. Cat’s out of the bag.) Partying? And drinking so much that she threw up? But she was…40! Who does this at 40?

[See: Halloween Party, The. Circa 2011]

Another memory I have is carpooling to school from Sleepy Hollow to Marinwood with like 9 kids in the car (no seatbelts, natch) and depending on the driver de jour, being subjected to a particular radio station or music. Why couldn’t we listen to the music we wanted to? How come the grownup driving was the one who could decide? The unfairness of life enveloped us as we were forced to endure 40 minutes of easy listening or classical music in the morning.

Fast-forward a couple of decades, and I’m the mom now. Have I worn a crazy costume to a party and been over-served? You bet. Have I bickered with my kids in the car about their insistence at controlling the music? Totally.

Kelly Corrigan introduces us to the term “the middle place” in her memoir of the same title. In it, she chronicles her journey with breast cancer and her father’s battle with prostate cancer with humor, self-deprication and honesty. (If you haven’t read this book, you must! You must!) She articulates the challenges of being both someone’s kid and having kids at the same time – hence the definition of the middle place.

Now more than ever, I understand what she’s talking about and can completely relate. I’m not only CZ&J’s mom, but I’m also my parents’ daughter too. It’s a tricky path to successfully navigate. Some days I’m confident, capable, and making decisions for my kids; other days I’m seeking advice from my parents when I’m incapable of making decisions. Some nights I’m sharing the warmth and security of our bed with the kids while we all cuddle and watch TV together; other nights I long for the familiar smells and safety of my own parents’ bed. I want to care for my kids, but I also want to be cared for.

Another balancing act I’m facing on my CJ is the concept of time.

“Live fully in the present!” people say.

“Don’t focus on the past!” experts advise.

“Try not to worry about the future!”  friends offer.

My present moment is of being someone living with a tumor in my breast. Forgive me if I don’t want to live fully in the moment right now and I instead opt for my life in the future. That’s what I’ve been focusing on. Being healthy and moving on.

But when I attended the Celebration of Life services for a dad in our community yesterday, I was struck by several things. Despite his 12-year battle with melanoma, he managed to live in the present. I was in awe of his unwavering dedication to this belief as we were treated to a slideshow which spanned his life. Trips to Disneyland, Washington DC and the mountains with his daughters and wife while he received treatments for his cancer. I was overwhelmed by his ability to live in the now and his commitment to “making memories” with the people he loved.

And so, I shall strive to strike that balance. It’s gonna be hard. But so worth it.




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