How many times have you said this to your kids? I have said this a countless number of times in my 8 plus years as a mom. I have encouraged them to try new foods, new sports, new classes and new experiences. Sometimes it is met with compliance, but more often with a hard and fast “NO!!”. Then the negotiating begins, sometimes that works. I have even resorted to bribery on occasion for my creatures of habit – come on, haven’t we all? What is it about the new and unknown that makes us shut down and refuse to consider that we may, in fact, like this new thing?
I know where they get it from… me. (Well not the food part! I love trying new foods.) I’m 100% a creature of habit. I like my routine and scheduled days. My first reaction to new things is usually no and to think of all the possible negative effects of said new thing. I wasn’t always like this. I think it stems from my attempt to control everything in my adult life. To have as many constants in place as possible, limiting the variables and preparing for all worst case scenarios. Because in my life, the worst has happened… the other shoe has dropped and that feeling of having no control is one of the worst feelings in the world.
My dad died very suddenly, without any warning of a massive cerebral hemorrhage three days after Christmas, almost 12 years ago. And my sister, who was 14 at the time, and I found him. Life changing doesn’t even begin to cover it. I found comfort in the the things I could control, the things I could do. The logistics became my comfort zone. More planning and paperwork, less feeling the devastating blow our family had just taken. This event changed the course of my life. It made me very aware of how short life really is. Before my father’s death I had no plans for having children and shortly after that was the farthest thing from my mind. He would never meet them, never know them and even worse… they would never know him.
Something changed a few years after his death, as the size of my extended family took a nosedive, I realized for the first time that I wanted my own big crazy family. Eight years ago my daughter, who was named in honor of my dad, literally brought life back to my little family. She brought so much joy and happiness to all of us. He would have adored her, and she him. But all of her milestones were bittersweet, as we could not share them with him. A few years later, the boy he had always dreamed of was born and as my son has grown he reminds me so much of my dad. He has his temper, the same mischievous look in his eye right before he does something he knows he shouldn’t, the exact same knees (if you knew my dad, you know what I’m talking about) and his love of fun. I have shared pictures and stories with them since they were born, even though its difficult. They ask tons of questions and talk about him often. We were getting on with life, happy with our little growing family and busy with life when the rug was pulled out from under me again.
Three short days after the 9 year anniversary of my father’s death, we received a phone call that no family should. My little sister, who was only 23, had committed suicide. She took a lethal dose of over-the-counter sleeping pills the day after the anniversary of my father’s death and it had taken the police 2 days to locate us in a different state. My sister and I had a complicated relationship, to say the least. She was 7 years younger, stubborn and struggling to manage her Bipolar Disorder. We were not speaking at the time of her death, I was going the tough love route with her… which may not have been what she needed. The amount of regret and what if’s will haunt me for the rest of my life. I always thought we would have time to mend our relationship. I imagined we would grow closer as she grew up and started to take responsibility for her actions. I’ve learned a lot about mental illness since her death and I regret not trying to learn more while she was alive and battling it everyday. I’ve heard so many stories from other survivors of suicide that mimic her struggle. The stigma that is attached to mental illness and suicide make it difficult for people to talk about. And that needs to change. I don’t blame my sister for taking her own life, it breaks my heart but I understand why she did it. In the year after her death, I felt paralyzed. I wanted to shut out the world and protect my family. I wanted to control everything around me and if I couldn’t control it, I would run from it. Not the best example for my children.
Since my sister’s death, we added another sweet little girl to our family. She has brought such happiness to our whole family… not as a replacement, but a loving reminder that life goes on. I will never be an an aunt, nor will by kids ever have cousins from my side of the family, which is something I will always mourn. My dreams of what the future would hold have been rewritten.
As I have slowly picked up the pieces and realized, once again, how short life is I want to live my life to the fullest. I want to lead by example and show my kids that life is meant to be lived. Getting out of your comfort zone, even though its scary, is the best part. And this blog is how I will document and hold myself accountable to trying new things. I can guarantee I will not like everything I try, but I just may surprise myself. As for the kids, they will continue to hear “try it, you might like it!” on a daily basis, because how how will you know unless you try?
I’d love to hear how you have stepped out of your comfort zone or an activity that you have always wanted to try. I’m always looking to add to my “Try it” list, so comment below and you may see your suggestion on the blog!!