Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
By Bernadette A. Moyer
When I was just a teenager in 1977 at just 17 years old my father used to tell me “don’t sweat the small stuff.” Often I found refuge at his house after my parent’s second divorce. Yep! In their craziness they married twice and divorced each other twice. My mother and I were like oil and water, we just didn’t mix. I couldn’t or wouldn’t play the game that she had with all my sisters the one that would have required me to have an “adjusted” reality to view things their way.
We were told “not to air our dirty laundry in public” and living with my father who was a raging alcoholic required us to live in shame. We never brought friends home because we never knew what personality of his was likely to show itself. Would it be Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde?
I was sensitive probably considered “overly sensitive” I saw it all and took it in. My parents fought like cats and dogs, dad turned to alcohol and other women, my mother sharpened her tongue and her professional skills at being a nurse in the critical units of a well-respected hospital. What skills she lacked in her personal life, she surely made up for in her professional one.
With all the family craziness and by today’s standards it would have been viewed as an “abusive” environment for raising children, no doubt. We were raised on fear and loads of Catholic and Italian guilt. We knew not to get into trouble and did our best to make our parents proud. Looking back I don’t think it even ever occurred to them, to make us proud that they were our parents. It was a different time.
My parents both claimed to have grown up in “poverty” yet their parents stayed married their whole lives until “death do us part.” My mother was afforded many opportunities growing up as she was in the marching band, played the clarinet and the piano. Her parents owned a hotel and bar business and they never knew hungry.
The biggest void in my father’s life was when he was growing up his baby brother died at age 7; this caused his mother to grieve him for her entire life. I suspect dad learned to get attention by being the “bad boy” with a young history of drinking and womanizing. He was always popular with the ladies.
We grew up in a time when “children were seen and not heard” and a common response to childhood tears was; “You want something to cry about? I’ll give you something to cry about!” And yet we never ever felt abused by our parents. We respected them just because they were our parents.
I wasn’t the daughter that painted her bedroom black or the one that got busted with a naked boy in their room and totaled the family car. Nor was I the ones that demanded attention by their high grades or their failing ones. I was the one that took it all in and most often kept to their selves.
Growing up with grandparents that were immigrants and survived the “great depression” I learned early on about recycling and being a good steward with all that was given to me. When Vietnam was the war that we were engaged in, I wore my P.O.W. bracelet proudly and as a young pregnant wife in my early twenties I religiously watched the Iran hostage crisis.We all endured “gas rationing” with odds and even days when you could have the privilege to purchase gas. At that I time I could fill the gas tank of my 1971 Ford Pinto with just $5.40. Cigarettes and yes I used to smoke were a mere 60 cents a pack. Yes, I am getting older!
As a fully grown woman now in my 50’s I look back and never blamed my parent’s for my shortcomings, I never had a sense that whether I was successful or not that somehow it was their fault. Rather I grew up knowing that if I wanted something I could work for it and achieve it and this included my own happiness. My happiness was my choice.
My story is real, considered “interesting” by some and others may view it as sad or dysfunctional or abusive and yet I never ever felt that way. I saw it for what it was and looked at everything as a learning opportunity, what was I supposed to learn from all this. In the end, it caused me to be more understanding and compassionate.
I knew my parents were people with their own issues and flaws, I never expected them to be perfect. They had their own wars, their own inner demons and their own life challenges that they were facing.
The greatest gift my parents bestowed upon me was their faith. They were both Catholics and we grew up being Catholic. I was baptized and later confirmed. Where I may not always believe in the Catholic Church; I have always believed in God.
I am proud of my beginnings and of being “sensitive” I was always tuned in, I know that my parents have transcended this life and are now positioned in the next life with an afterlife that affords them all the peace that they may have been lacking here on earth.
Every single person here on earth can declare themselves a “victim” of some sort or a “survivor.” How we view ourselves and our lives is our own choice. We can find a reason, a reason to be a lover of life or a hater of life. A lover of other people or a hater of them.
We can find reasons to love our family and our parents or not, what we can’t do is go back and recreate our history. Our history is ours and it is not changeable. What it is; is a tool that we can use to gauge our future. What do we want to retain and what do we want to discard.
My father wanted me to develop a “tougher skin” he wanted me to let go of my anxiety and by not “sweating the small stuff” he wanted me to appreciate the bigger picture, where at 17 I was unable to achieve that, today I not only don’t “sweat the small stuff” but I have the life skills to understand that it isn’t a perfect world nor does it have to be perfect. I take my sensitivity any day, over being insensitive and I now know how to manage it.
We age and we come to understand that all our power was always there within us, it wasn’t with our parents or our siblings or our families nor with our children or our friends, all that we ever needed we already had and it was always there, there inside of ourselves. Today I appreciate everything … because good or bad, it is all a gift, it is all the gifts of life and of living …