Content and beaming with pride, she was happy to be a stay at home mother. But one blustery spring evening, news came of her husband’s sudden passing. Possessing no life insurance, there was little to cushion the financial blow from losing the breadwinner of a family. Still reeling from the tragedy of losing her husband, she made a plan to return to the workforce and rebuild their lives one daunting step at a time.
This woman was my mother, the queen of taking a comfort zone and breaking down its boundaries one wall at a time. She was a master at keeping her secret pains hidden whether it sadness from missing her husband, anxiety from tackling a great fear or the depression she felt when cancer invaded her life. She fought in the midst of adversity to keep pressing on with a smile on her face. As a child I thought she was fearless. As an adult I saw the truth, which made her my greatest hero.
In my return to writing, I had to find something inspirational to stay motivated. My mother always inspires me, making her an easy muse.
Recently, we moved far from home where everything and everyone was new to me. I’ve enjoyed meeting so many fresh faces, but it’s nerve wracking having them meet me. Does that make sense? Let me explain… I worry how people interpret my quirky personality when first introduced. There are many layers to my identity, added by my years spent on this earth. And I don’t mean like the age rings on a tree I mean, for example, fear. Fear is not a trait we are born with, it is learned. Fear can be so thick a layer it can become a barrier to trust, believing in ones self or trying new things. It can make us guarded and used as a shield, hiding who we truly are or keeping us from what we are capable of.
I find people fascinating; everyone has a story to tell. The stories of our life creates who we are, much like the elements created the terrain around us. Depending on how much wind, sun or rain we have faced determines how rocky or smooth our nature. I turn 36 this month and don’t like to admit how much the past decade has carved away at my foundation. I’ve faced my fair share of rain and hurricane force winds in my lifetime, each one shaping and changing me a little at a time. Some areas remain weakened and worn down, never to stand as they once did. Though, others have grown a root system strong enough and deep enough to weather the next storm without losing ground.
I’ve gotten more settled with my new rehab team and my desk at work screams me. There’s a lot going on between the practical (computer, calendar, and P.T. goniometer), the whimsical (flowery tissue box, fluffy bird pen, and a Magic 8 Ball) and the odd (a coffee mug picturing a missile launcher). The coffee mug is quite the “which one of these items does not belong”, and I can imagine the staff’s facial expressions when they see me drinking my coffee every morning. Are they curious? Maybe they are, but after surveying the various pieces on my desk, they deem me unstable and forgo the questioning.
The mug was my mother’s and when I see it, I don’t envision war. I feel her tenacity, the fire inside her hot enough to burn down the walls too weak to confine her. Once a timid yet clever stay at home mother turned widow turned army secretary. She packed up our lives for a better future and moved us hundreds of miles from home to become the manager of Ft. Bragg’s Central Issue Facility and eventually a Logistics Management Specialist- all in less than ten years. The woman who chose the church she got married in based on the shortest isle to avoid individual attention, became the woman who stood at a podium to address the Armies leading generals on the latest weapon system technologies.
I.T.A.S (Improved Target Acquisition System) was an anti-tank missile system, new at that time. Back then, I would come home and complain about all the high school drama or the stress of exams and just how “busy” my day was. She was always exhausted and would give a vague report on her long days. I just didn’t realize her kind of “busy” was directing practice launches of these technologies for the generals to see in action.
So when I feel my fear taking over or have days when I can’t fight the self-loathing pity party, I see that mug and remember the seeds of fire buried in my genes. If another storm brews or a new challenge presents itself, I know when pushed out of my comfort zone what I am capable of… because my hero showed me.