Mind Cleanup – Sept 2020

The “back to normal”-vibe that August had, did not set through into September. If I would have to choose a theme for the ninth month of 2020 I think it would be “Dealing with unpleasant facts”.

The month started out with a visit to the hospital for my mom, resulting in a breast cancer diagnosis a week later and the confirmation that it had spread into at least one lymph node one week after that. On the very last day of the month we heard the first good news in weeks, being that the cancer had not spread into her bone marrow.

In hindsight, I felt like it was the best possible way to deliver such news to a pessimistic person like my mother. After she first heard the word ‘cancer’ she was convinced she was going to die. By the time she heard the bone marrow biopsy did not contain any cancer cells, the tumor in her breast sounded like good news and it completely perked her up.

Self-reflection

People around me reacted surprised/confused to my rational and reserved analysis to my mom’s situation. Perhaps it was a way to balance out the irrational and unfounded convictions my parents were slinging into the world.

I don’t think I didn’t take it seriously or that I was untouched by it. I just didn’t see the point in starting to plan my mother’s funeral if the results of the tests weren’t even in yet.

I considered the idea that I was just in shock and that reality would hit me later, but it didn’t. I checked myself a few times to analyze if I was suppressing my feelings and harming myself in the process, but I concluded that really wasn’t the case.

People seem to interpret my lack of tears as indifference, and I assure you that that is not the case. I love my mother. I’ll do everything I can to be by her side when it matters.

I will say though, that my attachment to my mother is “different” than perhaps many other people’s own personal experiences with their mothers. And that’s OK.

I am blessed with amazing friends that care about me and check my state of mind regularly. I can be fully honest with them and trust they will do the same in return.

Also, I am lucky to have an employer that is understanding to this new factor in my life. They have basically given me full freedom to put my parents first and not worry about the rest. That is not something I take for granted.

Underneath the walnut tree

When I was driving home from “up North”, where my parents live, I was listening to the radio and was thrilled to hear my favorite Dutch hip hop artist (not that I have any other Dutch rappers in my playlist), Typhoon, had released a new song after a hiatus of several years. To make it even better, the song was a collaboration with one of the best Dutch vocalists imo, Paskal Jakobsen.

In that moment, it felt like the song was repeating words to me I had spoken to my mother that very day. If you ask me, it’s about overcoming fear, about seizing the day, valuing life and maintaining a sense of wonder for what is in front of you.

I later heard the song is actually a message from Typhoon to his younger self. Makes sense. For me, it will always be a message from me to my mother.

The lyrics

You’re right on time.
Come lie down on the grass.
You are my guest of honor.
And now I have found you.

You cannot reproduce growth or make the same trip twice.
I’m grateful for who I am, both in my good and bad days.
If only we could look over the fence every now and then.
Although I don’t think we would be able to understand it, if we did.

I see you in the mirror; there’s the first gray hair.
Let just say it’s a sign of early wisdom.
I foresee the best years are yet to come, as if it all has yet to begin.
Don’t worry, I’ll take you along.

I hold you dear, I can’t do it without you, and that’s all I know.
Don’t be afraid to be in love, nor afraid to succeed.
Fear does strange things; it leads you to sabotage
Don’t be afraid to stop searching or to find what you already have.
It’s all right to feel melancholy, when I tell you:

You’re right on time, lie down on the grass.
You are my guest of honor
and now that I’ve found you, you are right on time
For everything there was; my heart, my friend, my guest of honor
And now I have found you

Don’t be afraid to be right. Don’t be afraid to serve.
If only you could see what I see when you smile or feel sad.
Don’t punish yourself for your lightness or happiness.
Just feel it: it’s how it’s meant to be.

And so what: what if it doesn’t work? What’s the worst that can happen?
Don’t be afraid to fall. Don’t be afraid of your success.
Don’t be afraid of ‘the nothings’ and ‘the everythings’.
Never forget how we lie under this walnut tree,
how we look without wanting to see, as in a dream…

You’re on time, lie down in the grass
You are my guest of honor and now that I’ve found you,
you are right on time
For everything there was; My heart, my friend, my guest of honor
And now I have found you

And everything is made for us as new
An adventure especially for us
Everything made anew into a melody,
that I hum every morning when you wake up.
When you wake up, yeah

Diamond droplets on the branches
Made anew into a melody
Diamond droplets on the branches
Like pearls on a clothing line
Diamond droplets on the branches
Don’t be afraid of being afraid
Diamond droplets on the branches
You are right on time.

Margaret

The Canadian prime minister may look like a fairy tale prince, but it turns out he has a mother, just like the rest of us. And reading about her life and feelings in the interview she recently gave on a local US radio channel, made me respect him (but mostly her) even more.

The fact that he is one of the youngest prime ministers Canada ever had and simultaneously one of the most balanced and mature politicians at present, makes total sense. He has been a grown-up since he was a child. He had to be.

In the interview, his mother Margaret speaks openly about her life as both the wife and the mother of a prime minister. Her life in the lime light was especially challenging for her, as she suffered from mental illness, fueled by the frustrations that must come with such a position. She explains:

I was becoming a very angry woman. I felt used and not useful. As a wife of the prime minister — as opposed to your first ladies in America — there is no position, there is no office, no assistant. I’m just supposed to be, as I said, a rose in my husband’s lapel. But I really was fighting since I was a little girl for the right to be equal. My mother raised her five daughters that way. And then I found myself in this very old-fashioned marriage, with the press using me as political fodder, and I was angry.

I think she is very eloquently putting a feeling into words that many women have felt at some point in their lives, especially in that era. These are things that are starting to change only now and we are just learning how to discuss it fairly and openly. I can imagine there must have been people that thought she had it all made and thought her ungrateful for wanting even more.

One of the biggest fears in my life is probably to be reduced to something as insignificant as “the wife of”. I crave for acknowledgment as much as I do for social invisibility. It’s a miracle I haven’t gone mad, all though I guess it may be up for discussion…

All though I joke  about “going mad” in the previous paragraph, I do not suffer from mental illness in any (diagnosed) shape or form, all though some of my most beloved people have in the past or still do in the present.

And that is exactly why I applaud Margaret Trudeau for stepping up to the plate and broaching the subject of mental illness. Most of all, because of the encouraging words she spoke at the end of the interview:

So if you can stop both the denial and the blame, there’s only one person who can help you. And that is yourself. You have to find the courage to say, ‘I want to have a better life,’ and then you reach out for help. You don’t know how many people are out there just longing to help you.

margaret-trudeau01-1000x666

Such a beautiful woman. He has her eyes.

“Give me a piece of your mind”

My parents are honest people with strong opinions for which they sometimes need loud words.

Even now that they have grandkids, I have seen them explaining matters of the world in a way some others may feel is not appropriate for such young kids. Some kids dig it and others zone out when being spoken to in this manner, but I always thought it was kind of cool that my dad never “dumbed things down” for me.

A request I got from my father on several occasions (and far too often, as far as I was concerned at the time) was “give me a piece of your mind”.  You can imagine it was something he did to get a sense of what his sulky adolescent daughter might be thinking. I never really knew what he meant and my answer never seemed to be what he was hoping to hear anyhow.

You could say honesty was valued highly in our household. And to express your honest opinions it was required to be eloquent. “Just because” was never a valid explanation for anything and I was allowed (up to a certain extent) to expect the same from them.

I remember my first boyfriend was quite overwhelmed by the in depth conversations we had over dinner.

The biggest liar and most truthful person, all in one

A line that I wrote down in my “ideas journal” the other day, is that my father is “one of the most honest people I know, as well as one of the least”.

He is one of the most honest because he doesn’t seem afraid to have an uncommon opinion. He will stand up for his beliefs, at the cost of being “the odd one” in a crowd. He is also unwillingly honest, as his face just gives away what he thinks about you and your explanation.

At the same time, he is one of the least honest people I know because as much as he tries to uphold the idea that he doesn’t care what others think of him, his fear of appearing to be weak always wins. He will say everything is going splendidly and that he has never felt better, until he reaches the point that the only one buying it is him.

Then again, does it count as lying if he lied to himself about it first?

Also, his stubbornness sometimes reaches truly absurd levels. He will stay on a chosen course even after being disproved by someone. Adjusting your course would be admitting you were wrong at some point and that apparently is not an option in his world.

He can also be very arrogant, in the sense that he will easily discard your idea as a lesser opinion if it is not in line with his. And not only is the opinion of low quality, so are you for coming up with it. He will use big, aggressive words to make you feel unsure about your line of thought, and make you back down. You might even accept his own idea at some point, just because he presents it with so much self confidence.

Intellectual & Emotional Honesty

What I figured out only recently is that the type of honesty I was taught to express was purely intellectual. That is the type of honesty that researchers and journalists apply in their work. It is the type of honesty that is based on logic, historical facts, knowledge, vocabulary and grammar.

This type of intellectual honesty is something that comes natural to me. I have never had trouble forming my opinion or pointing out to someone when they set off my bullshit radar and why.

Apparently the invisible, irrational, uncontrollable concepts of feelings are something you can be honest about too… You apparently don’t even need words to express them! Mind. Blown. And when it comes to being honest about those, I suck. I wonder why?

A child’s tears

This brings me to the final clue to my father’s dishonesty; he has never been able to handle my tears.

…Not that I even know how to cry anymore…

Unless some plant or tree is in bloom, or something.

And there’s some snot involved during these pollen allergies, as well.

But maybe they don’t actually qualify as tears.

Anyhoooooowww, see how awkward I get from talking about these things??

…where were we?

Ah yes, me crying.

Far before I reached an age that this was reasonable for, I was expected to be able to explain my behavior, especially when my behavior included tears. If I couldn’t come up with a “good” reason for my eye leakage, I was simply asked to stop doing that. And so I did.

All though my father told me years later that the crying prohibition was one of the few things he regretted in life, it did teach me to express myself pretty well. I know what I want and don’t want and am more capable than many others to express where my boundaries lie.

After analyzing the heck out of it during my long train ride home last week I came to a new theory. He saw my tears as criticism. Honest little wet mirrors rolling down a child’s cheek. And he couldn’t deal with that.

Time for a new lesson

Don’t get me wrong. My childhood was actually pretty awesome. Part of it was thanks to my parents, other parts were great despite of them. I hold no grudges. Or I try not to.

I am definitely thankful towards my parents for giving me the ability to discuss every possible topic, be it social, political or cultural in any crowd. When it comes to other forms of honesty however, I think I may have a lesson or two for them.

Let me be your Teddybear

“Stones or Beatles?”

I imagine this was a very relevant question back in the days when my parents were in their prime. My dad was most definitely a Stones kind of guy and I think until this day it is the music that excites him the most. So when I read yesterday’s daily prompt I new immediately what to write.

I remember discovering new music myself and wanting to share it with my parents, after which they put on a song of their own to show me. We would then go back and forth like this for a while, until my dad would get too rowdy and my mom would get annoyed by the fact he wasn’t putting everything back in alphabetical order.

All though I could name several songs that are intertwined with my childhood memories, there are two songs in particular that I associate with my father.

The first one is inevitably by the Rolling Stones. I never fully appreciated these guys and I’m sure some of this has to do with these memories. It is the music he would play the loudest, despite the LPs being slightly scratched. It is also the music that was guaranteed to put a frown on my mother’s face within seconds and lead to a riot in the house if it lasted too long. I gave my dad Rolling Stones CDs to replace his old records but he always went back to the (to my ears) horrible monophonic sounds from his LP records (and he still does).

Aside from Satisfaction the song he loves the most is most definitely Wild Horses. It is one of the songs I appreciate up to a certain degree as well, all though I must admit I often prefer to listen to a cover by someone else than the original. It’s also at the top of the list to be played at his funeral some day. Can you imagine that?

The second song is quite different. Sung by the king of rock n roll, albeit a lesser known song by him: Teddybear.

It’s quite an endearing song, isn’t it?

The combination of these two songs pretty much sums my father’s personality. He is as much the passionate trouble maker who will not let himself be dragged away even by the wildest horses, as he is the teddybear that wants to be loved unconditionally.