Pink Tube Socks 

I never understood the reason to be just “sugar and spice and everything nice.” How limiting it seemed! Of course I told everyone that. I could play house, play school, play with my dolls and do their hair. I could dream looking through the JC Penney catalog at all the princess dresses I dreamed to wear with my long golden blonde hair cascading in waves over the back. I could sing lullabies to my sisters and give eskimo kisses to soothe souls.

But I could also climb a tree higher than anyone I knew and win every race on our bikes. I popped the best wheelies and had the best hot-wheels collection in the neighborhood. I could dream of being a stunt driver. I could scare the other kids with spiders and snakes and worms and any creepy crawly. I could be dared to do just about anything. And I never lost a game of dodgeball! I loved my “snips and snails and puppy dog tails” side.

I was lucky that my family supported my supposed contradictions in my tomboy/princess persona. I remember months and months of my parents going store to store to find a pair of pink tube socks for me. This gesture exemplifies the love and dedication my mom gave me. And this very specific fashion need exemplifies my true nature.

My mom would have done, and did, just about anything for me possible. No desire was ever considered silly. The countless hours caring for my hair and learning new styles so I could feel like a princess in a fairy tale as I ran around in my green baseball tee, nike shorts and pink tube socks are cherished memories. My beautiful dollhouse and coveted race car track for my shiny hot-wheels weren’t the most expensive toys in the neighborhood but they were exactly what I wanted. And the yards and yards of fabric for me to make clothes for my barbies stored next to my sports equipment fed my imagination and boundless energy. My mom made all of this possible.

I was encouraged to be uniquely me and proud of my complexities and gifts. Pink could be my favorite color even if I loved sports. I could be a tough princess. And I could be very clear on what I wanted and fight for it with a loving heart.

I was artistic and athletic. I was adventurous and nurturing. I was a peace maker and a leader. I was loving and driven. I was tender and strong.  And I was always supported.

No matter how many struggles life threw my way–hospital visits, abuse, lost friendships–I never doubted I was loved for just who I was.

Like many women, the world challenged my strength and my unique nature. I subscribed to magazines that advertised very specific ways I should act and feel. I listened to music about how I should love and dream. And I lost myself a little bit more each year.

The path of least resistance was the path of suppressing some of what made me uniquely me, until I forgot just what made me special. But life sent me a wake up call a few years ago that I couldn’t fully appreciate until recently. When you realize life is short you realize you need to make the most of it.

We have to do what makes us truly happy. We have to be true to who we are and make the most of our gifts. This is our mortal cause. Every year we must become more and more who we truly are.

The world needs our unique contributions and will love us for who we are, if given a chance. My mom taught me this and I’m finally learning to believe.

And, today, these pink tube socks remind me of this.

How do you remind yourself to be bravely true to you?

 

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Lessons from Mama

My mom, Mama to my sisters and I, gave me two important lessons:

  1. Always leave a place better than you found it.
  2. No mortal has ever been nor has ever needed to be perfect.

Words cannot describe how much I needed these lessons. The first lesson was easy for me. It made me a super-star babysitter, an amazing house guest, and, ultimately, an activist.

I have always been feisty and at least outwardly tough.  I was old for my age, with an imaginary husband and angel instead of a mere friend. I loved soap operas and decided at age four that I needed a pair of heals (blue plastic clogs did the trick), long hair (I wore a purse with braided straps on my head), and starting preparing to be one of those “wonder women” I heard about on tv. I was going to do it all, be it all, and take the world by storm and set everything right. I was  a perfectionist with a strong desire to make the world better–my version of better.

My dollhouse was a place to clean and organize. Public restrooms needed my attention and I would often have to be dragged away to be stopped from doing more than wiping down the counters. It was important to me the angle at which the tv guide sat on our table and how our kitchen was arranged. I was six when I first told a teacher, “I’m going to do it like this instead because I think that’ll be better.” I got away with things like this because I have my mom’s frame and. let’s face it, a tiny girl with oversized glasses and just enough freckles on her nose is just too adorable to say no to. And I told people that.

Every once in a while, though, there would be those who were not willing to let me “improve” things. When ever I encountered someone who questioned me, or worse, someone who observed me make a mistake, I found myself at a loss, almost debilitated by panic. I was riddled with anxiety as a child, never sleeping through the night, always crying and worrying.

A library book left on the bus? I did not sleep the entire weekend until my mom contacted the bus company and it was retrieved. My mom and stepdad had a fight? I would cry all night as I planned how we would survive without a second income, where we would live, and how I would help out. My mom had to work late? I had to stay awake until she got home so I knew she was safe.

If I saw a movie with a fire, I needed to make a fire escape plan. If I heard on the news about political conflict, I would pray, for hours, that our leaders would be smart enough to do what I thought was right.

This isn’t all bad. My perfectionism and anxiety led me to create my first chore chart at a very early age, to help my family be organized and make things fair. I was a teachers’ favorite. I always sought work and responsibility. I definitely was working on Mama’s first lesson.

That second lesson, though, that was a killer.

“Sarah,” she would remind. “Only our Heavenly Father is perfect.” I would smile and fight the urge to roll my eyes. “And Jesus was only person to ever walk the earth who was perfect–and even he was tempted.” I never told her that didn’t sound like perfection to me. I was pretty sure I was above temptation.

My ego helped me through a lot of difficult times but obviously got in the way more often than not when coupled with my perfectionist streak. Pride resulted in migraines and health problems and eliminating all remnants of a social life by the time I was a teenager. I had other things to attend to than the frivolity of the young, I thought.

So, how did I finally learn that I cannot nor should not aspire to perfection–but can still make a positive impact on the world? I don’t really know. I do know that Mama’s words echo in my mind during every yoga practice, every professional conflict, and every quiet moment of self-doubt.

I also know that this is the one area that I feel like my MS has helped me to improve. My diagnosis felt like I was branded: MS, flawed. I had to accept that I cannot change my condition. I can strive to be a success story though. Mama reminded me of that when she visited for first formal MS visit to the neurologist.

This lesson and this trial with MS has helped me to create a much more balanced outlook on life, and on myself. I know I am doing the best I can–and I will always do the best I can at everything. But I won’t be perfect. MS reminds me of this daily. I cannot even pretend to be perfect. I take a handful of pills each day. I experience pins and needles all the time. I know the names of all the MRI techs in the area. …Yep. This mind and body are far from perfect. I accept that. And I don’t need to be perfect to make the world a better place. I do it every day. IMG_0024