Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Quit Your Belly Aching

This was one of my mother’s more infamous lines. I believe it was passed down to her from my grandmother. I’m not sure of its origin, but I distinctly recall some of my aunts and uncles using it as well in conversations with my cousins, hence the grandma connection.

I never quite understood the meaning of this command, as I never was suffering from a stomach ache when my mother said it to me. And besides, if I did have a stomach ache there would have been an underlying cause for it. We all know if you have a belly ache, it is a physical affliction not a mental one. So telling me to simply “quit it” would have been ludicrous.
I didn’t carry on the tradition of using this expression when I became a mom. I used a more appropriate term – stop whining. I believed this was a bit less menacing than the other available line – stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about. That line could land you a meeting with DSS these days.

To this day, I get a kick out of the SNL parody with The Whiners – the cranky, pain-in-the-butt couple who whined about every aspect of their lives. I still find myself blurting out, “Don’t kick the china” in the most high-pitched, whiny tone I can muster, when I hear someone else whining about trivial matters.  
We all have a tendency to resort to whining at times. We all have those “why me” days when we feel as if everyone else in the world has it made and we are eating from the crap sandwich.  I have been guilty, you have been guilty. There is a saying that if you put everyone’s problems in a bowl, you would end up choosing your own. It only takes a few ganders at the issues plaguing others to find a way to quit your belly aching. I had a good dose of it recently.

For the past three months, my sister has watched her husband die. John was a vibrant, smart, salt-of-the-earth fella who loved his job, his wife and his life. A computer whiz, John enjoyed a very successful career at IBM. He could have retired years ago with his many years of service, but he loved what he did so much he didn’t want to stop. His client, American Express, loved him as well and also didn’t want him to stop. It was a match made in heaven, similar to his marriage to my sister. Three months ago, he came home from work and they sat to enjoy dinner together, their daily routine that allowed them to catch up. And suddenly, mid-conversation, John was not making sense. My sister knew something was very wrong and immediately called 911. First diagnosed as a stroke, they both thought he would be ok. But an MRI showed a suspicious growth on his brain and the doctors said it was inoperable. John came home from the hospital and although they were hopeful he would not get worse, little by little his memory disappeared. He and Arlene spent the next few weeks doing everything together – it was probably some of the best weeks of their lives. But eventually his functions were diminishing and he went to hospice. Almost three months to the day of that seizure, John left this life on May 28th at 4:35 AM.
Ryenna is a sweet Southern girl who cuts my hair, and my daughter’s hair, and my son-in-law’s hair and she gave my grandson his first haircut.  Since my first cut from her, I have stated emphatically that she could be working in a high-end salon in Manhattan, but she chooses to work in a little unknown shop in Greer, SC. Ryenna and her husband have wanted a child for many years, but for whatever reason, it didn’t happen. Until 21 weeks ago. I had an appointment for a cut and the minute I walked into the shop, I knew. She was glowing. She had a silly smile and appeared to be dazed. She finally fessed up and told me she had taken the test the prior day. I hugged her and could not be happier. I actually felt tears well up in my eyes. She deserved to be a mom. All was going well for 20 weeks, and then without warning, her water broke. It’s been a week and she remains on strict bed rest, popping three different antibiotics a day hoping to stave off infection. I cannot imagine the fear that grips her every day. She is literally fighting for her baby’s life. We are all praying for her.

I have close friends and family dealing with illnesses, financial hardships and an array of daily tribulations that are distracting and stressful. Do I have things to whine about? Sure. But if I compare them to the things others are dealing, my issues are a piece of cake. And they are overshadowed by so many of the amazing things in my life – a job I love, true blue friends and all the material things that I “really” need to keep me satisfied.  I also have the cutest grandson who thinks mamaw is terrific. And last, but most certainly not least, I have my two incredible daughters who somehow took over the mom role in my time of need. They stood by my side and nursed me back to an emotionally healthy state after a serious rug-pulling. I am forever grateful for their love, intelligence and compassion.
I really try to catch myself when I start to whine. I quickly change my tune by thinking about all the good things I have in my life, the intangible things like health, happiness and love. And I quickly remember those near and dear to me who are dealing with so much more than my trivial annoyances. I have vowed to never belly ache unless I have a serious belly ache – a physical one. If you find yourself getting ready to belly ache, just do a priority shuffle. It’s like popping an imaginary Tums.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Banana Split Seconds

We plan. We set goals and we create paths to achieve them. We save for a rainy day. We set out on a career path and work hard every day. We create retirement funds and find ways to invest in them. We take precautions and we try to live a clean life. We put our faith in a higher power and we allow ourselves to be humbled when we are shown mercy.

We chart a course and we use our navigation tools to steer the ship. We do everything according to plan and at times, we even get to coast for awhile. And then in one split second, everything changes. It could be an accident, it might be a diagnosis. It can be the loss of a friend or the loss of our financial security. The stock market crashes, the car crashes. The heart stops beating, the heart gets broken.
A young man named Reid Fisher died this week. He was riding his bicycle on Folly Road outside Charleston, SC. His bike collided with a car which caused him to lose control. An oncoming car was unable to avoid him. From the details I read, it was a gruesome accident. Passersby stopped and ran to his aid. They attempted CPR, but to no avail. In a split second, Reid Fisher’s life was taken. In that same split second, the lives of his family and friends were also changed forever.

There is a strange and ironic twist to this story. Last October, Reid Fisher’s life was changed in a split second. As he drove along that same Folly Road late one night, he hit a pedestrian with his car.  Twenty-five year old Beau Froehlich had left the Skinful Halloween party and was crossing the road to get into the car of a friend. He suffered severe head trauma and broken bones. After a week at MUSC in a coma, he succumbed to those injuries. Reid Fisher was charged with felony DUI.
Two young men, both in the prime of their lives. Two young men whose lives were changed, and eventually ended, as a result of a split second action. Two young men who will never achieve their goals or navigate their course. Two young men who left behind shattered family, friends and loved ones.

Banana split seconds can happen without warning and may be completely out of our control – fate, divine intervention, karma. We look up and ask “Why me?” But sometimes banana split seconds are a result of our own pre-meditated actions – getting behind the wheel after drinking, speaking or acting out of anger, betraying someone we love. You can’t take back those moments, and the aftershocks sometimes roll on for a lifetime. And there are also times when banana split seconds impact our lives in a positive way – choosing to rush to the aid of someone in need, reacting quickly in a crisis, letting your conscience guide you when temptation steps in your path. Those are the ones we react to by saying, “How lucky am I?”
You can’t plan for your banana split seconds. There’s usually no warning before they occur. They happen and you react, and when the dust settles you survey the damages or the blessings. If you choose to believe in yourself, live life according to the golden rule, and surround yourself with positive energy then maybe, just maybe, you’ll have more positive banana split seconds. Those are the ones with the extra whipped cream and the cherry on top. Savor them, because you never know when the next one will come along.