Saturday, April 18, 2009

One about Mom and it's not even Mother's Day

I’m heading out soon for the third and final day of the Las Vegas Writers Conference. The conference is always a lot of fun; it gives me a chance to reconnect with some writer friends I haven’t seen in a while and I’ve met a bunch of new, really neat people. (Neat. Who am I, Wally Cleaver?) It’s also reinforced that, for me anyway, self-publishing is the way to go right now and it was nice to hear such enthusiastic and genuine encouragement from my fellow writers. One gal, upon hearing of about my self-publishing plans, responded with, “It’s about time! I’ve been waiting two years to read that book.” God bless her.

My mother is the one who has always been my greatest cheerleader, though; it seems like she’s been on me about writing forever. And now I'm nagging her to tell her story.

For many years, Mom suffered from agoraphobia—the irrational fear of being in public places. With five children spaced 14 years apart, she developed a lifestyle where she became increasingly comfortable at home, to the point where it became fearful for her to leave.

As a child, I can remember her leaving the house only a few times without my father. My father did most all the grocery shopping, and brought the kids shopping for clothes at the beginning of each school year, to dentist appointments, and to ballet classes.

Despite her inability to leave the house, my mother was devoted to her children. She would bravely venture out with my father for things that were important to us—teacher conferences, school award ceremonies, dance recitals. And as long as she could secure an aisle seat, I knew there would be a good chance she would be able to stay to see my performance.

Then, when I was in my 20’s, my mother had a special reason to break out of the prison she called home. With two babies less than 13 months apart, I needed her help. She realized she would need to be able to get to my house without having to rely on my father, and so she joined a support group for people with agoraphobia and other types of phobias. Together they would practice doing things that most of us would find mundane: walking through a mall, riding an elevator, driving over a bridge.

Her next step was to get a driver’s license and soon after, her own car. More accomplishments followed: she enrolled in a continuing education class at the local high school, then got a part-time job as a bookkeeper (her first job since she was a teenager!) She and my father divorced and she began working full-time to support herself. Secure with her independence, she bought a house and decided it was time to start her college education.

Over the course of several years, she took classes toward an associate’s degree in accounting, which she completed at the age of 58. And then, at age 66, she went on her first business trip—to midtown Manhattan of all places!

The thought of my mother, someone who was once afraid to leave the house, walking through Times Square is unbelievable. These days, we’re lucky if we can find her at all—she’s always going somewhere, she'll even fly cross-country by herself.

I always tell her she could be a real inspiration to others, particularly those people whose lives are ruled by their fears. She recovered not by the use of drugs, but by her own determination. It would be nice if others could hear her story and perhaps find the courage to change their lives as she did.

So the other night I started in on her; I told her she needs to write a book. I can edit it for her and I know how to get it out there to the people who need to read it. I mean, she has a daughter with her own publishing company! What more could she ask for?

“But I can’t write,” she said.

“That is such bullshit,” I told her. “You’re as good a writer as I am, probably better.”

“Oh, for Christsakes. I can’t even write a goddamn sympathy card without messing it up.”

I rolled my eyes and then she told me the sentiment she inscribed that day, which necessitated a trip back to Walgreens to purchase another card.

“I’m so sorry to hear that Jeffrey has gone to a better place.”
HA! Okay, you got me on that one, Mom.

But I still think she has a great story that has the potential to change another person’s life. What do you think?


Sandi said...

That is a fabulous story. Love her card! I would have laughed out loud at that one!

Stephanie said...

Sounds to me like your Mom has a great story to tell. She should be very proud of herself!

Anonymous said...

Our mother's have a lot in common. My mother has never been able to drive a car or go to places without time to prepare herself for an outing. I think your mothers story would inspire many and help others understand the illness better.I believe that everyone has something wonderful to share, a lesson they learned along the way about themselves or others. When we share something positive, inspiring or spiritual, we help others feel connected to us and help us to see the goodness in people and life. You have had some unique experiences that others will never have. By sharing, you are helping others learn more about themselves and others.
This teaches us how to be brave, courageous,compassionate, kinder and more gentler human beings.

Debra Lynn Shelton said...

Absolutely! That's a great story and can potentially make such a huge difference for so many people. Come on, Mom! WRITE!!!!

Bar L. said...

ABSOLUTELY YES - she should write about this! I have a mild case of social phobia, and its one of those things that only someone else that has it can understand. So for others with agoraphobia to read something written by a person who REALLY GETS it, would be a huge help.

Vegas Linda Lou said...

Thanks, gals! Mom reads these posts, so if she won't listen to me, perhaps your comments will give her further consideration. I think she has a fascinating story that could really help others.

KriMonster said...

You should invite your mom to be a guest speaker on your internet radio show. I think it would be an instant hit!

AmyK said...

You are a breath of fresh air. I love your honesty which sounds like that gene came from Mom.

Vegas Linda Lou said...

@ KriMonster: Good idea! I'llhit her up for that.

@ AmyK: Thanks, Amy, and welcome to my blog!

Andi said...

I'd read your mother's book if she were to write one! Sad to say, I recognize myself in so much of what you've shared about your mom.

Lilly said...

What a fantastic and inspirational story. She has to do it. I think a lot of women had the same issue. My mother had five children close together and had issues leaving the house for a while too. You look like your mother, great smiles. And I bet great writers too (sympathy card aside of course, lol)

Mimi said...

Linda, I'm hooked!

First you have this amazing, inspiring story about your Mum (and I've just finished a course on CBT, phobias, OCD).

But the sympathy card line is Super! I hovered with the pen earlier today, trying to think of good words for 2 sympathy cards, can't remember now what I wrote, but it wasn't as good as this.