About Mama Duck

Blogging about my young-adult kids, family, faith and LIFE during this season! Blog: https://family5power.org/

An “Old Soul”

Are you fluent in the languages of love? | Psychologies

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My daughter was in the 8th grade when someone had first referred to her as an “old soul”. It was her social studies teacher who was also an assistant coach of her field hockey team. I stood in the parent-teacher conference slightly annoyed at his remark.

About a month later, someone else made the same comment.

The word “old” was not fitting for a vibrant, beautiful young teenager with long hair and a terrific laugh. A strong athlete with a quick-wit was anything but “old”.

The word “soul”? Well, that word was right on.

I was viewing the word “old” negatively as if these adults were making her less-than. Really what they were trying to do was locate a word to describe a teenager who was anything but typical. The teachers in particular always wanted to share stories with me about how my youngest not only befriended the special needs students but went out of her way to check in with them daily, saying “hello” and “how are you?” that perhaps meant more to the observant teachers than the children.

On the last day of eighth grade, she emerged from the traditional end-of-year award ceremonies empty-handed. “Mama, what I’m good at is not valued at school. It’s not graded.” I nearly died from heartbreak in the school hallway. Her eyes were quizzical as she too attempted to locate words to describe herself.

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It was a curious mix back in her youth: a sweet, gentle spirit who would be readily labeled very friendly but not boisterous, on the quiet-side, but also spoke up loudly when another was being belittled or ridiculed. Athletic and captain of her teams, she demonstrated tremendous ability to lead but sat back in group settings, allowing others to be “first”. I suppose the only term that came to the teachers’ minds was “old soul”.

This memory recently came back to me and so I researched a few minutes regarding what the term ‘old soul’ means. There were a wide array of contradicting definitions. Most didn’t resemble my child at all. However, one repetitive noun was “empath”. “An empath is someone who understands the mental or emotional states of others in a way that defies conventional science and psychology. Empaths have the ability to sense the feelings, the thoughts of people.” (Urban Dictionary) Essentially, feeling and thus expressing far more empathy than a normal human.  i feel your pain - GapingvoidWhen my youngest was 12 years young, she learned of the diagnosis of a 5-year old boy with terminal cancer. We did not know this family personally but were praying for the boy. I watched my daughter pray, carefully follow his treatment over the few short months he had remaining on this side of heaven, and observed her emotional collapse when he left to be with the Lord. As she lay crying on the couch, she choked through her tears to me, “I don’t want you thinking I’m crying for my own sadness. I’m devastated for the parents…they will never get over this.” She was 12.

My baby girl is now a senior at a university she loves and thrives at. She’s known and loved by her friend group, has a wonderful boyfriend and professors gush over her public speaking skills. If you met her today, your first thought would definitely not be “public speaker” but the moment she takes the front of the room, she brings it to life and commands attention. She’s gentle in spirit, she listens when you speak-regardless of how important you may or may not be in the world-and she loves Jesus. She sees people in a world where most of us are sincerely invisible.

While finishing the decorating of my daughter’s room in her new apartment at school, I was frustrated because the little sunflower lights weren’t yet exactly how I wanted them. I was likely huffing and adjusting them when my youngest’s hand suddenly appeared, and laid ever so gently upon mine. I looked up from my crouched position on the floor at her smiling face. With her hand gently tapping mine she very softly said, “patience my little grasshopper”. I laughed out loud at her adaptation of the famous quote, which was far sweeter with “my little”.

Most actual definitions of old soul don’t fit my daughter, but the few consistent attributes of an empath were reminders for me. While this little jaunt down memory lane turned into a Mom-post, God used the fleeting memory and my quick internet searches to draw attention to the desensitization I’ve been experiencing lately. Normally a highly empathetic person myself, I realized that reviewing nearly 40 cases highlighting man’s worst depravities (see previous post/I’ve been serving on a grand jury for several weeks), my initial disgust has transitioned into desensitivity. We’ve been told that we’ve seen more horrific cases than many juries in past years. The fallout from the presidential election and the claims from those who “say that evil is good and good is evil; that dark is light and that light is dark” (Isaiah 5:20) has additionally increased my guardedness. This is not good when I’m usually quite approachable.

How good it will be to have a day this week purely devoted to gratitude, family, games and delicious food. The timing of Thanksgiving amidst the serious unrest across our Covid-globe and in our hearts…my heart…is much-needed. Perhaps I’m not alone in recognizing the need for renewing empathy and being more sensitive toward others. 

image above: studywithfriends.org/wp-content/uploads(fruit of the spirit image)

 

 

Life Shifts Continue…🎃

I vividly remember driving to work a year and a half ago, starting my first day back into what I term the “business-work-force”. After 20 years as an adjunct professor, raising three children and getting them into college, I was looking forward to taking a much-needed long, deep breath, expecting to slowly consider how this mid-lifer would resurrect one of my hobbies, or read a few books or start really writing again…you know, the kind of things that running a household and raising a family often prevent for a couple of decades.

These plans were quickly squashed when my teaching salary could not compensate for the unexpected termination of my husband’s position, due to a corporate restructuring at his ‘big pharma’ company.

He ultimately secured another job that was to be “temporary” and suffered a hefty pay cut. Yep, this mid-lifer was forced to reinvent herself in a world where youth rules.  

More than the tasks of the job or meeting the staff on that very first day, it was the traffic that caused me the greatest stress :). My teaching schedule required a 6am departure for morning classes or 3pm for evening courses. I was not a part of the “rat race” which I wrote a post about last year HERE. Teaching college has its own challenges but I wouldn’t call it a grind. The “grind” in my opinion begins when rubber hits the road.

Thruway drivers weaved in and out, cut me off, and acted as if traveling at 60mph was a granny-pace. On the side roads, cars ran red lights and rolled through stop signs while their drivers sipped coffee and scrolled Instagram. My personal favorite was sitting at lights that changed four times before I could get through with 20 vehicles ahead of me.

At the beginning of my new career, I moved within the company cautiously, careful about who I befriended while examining the proverbial “lay of the land”. I was also managing silent insecurities having to navigate a corporate environment that I hadn’t been a part of since I was 26 years young. People much younger had more experience. This truth and my own desire to succeed forced me to work harder – for myself. An unexpected outcome was a promotion within three months along with a raise. Four months later, I was offered another generous raise. This too was unexpected since by that time I had become respectfully vocal regarding how the company had to make improvements in staff benefits, create an employee engagement plan, and execute a few other items if they hoped to retain good people.  

They were receptive to a few changes, so I moved forward with implementation knowing full-well that a few free lunches, celebrating birthdays and adding a newsletter would not make up for the level of unethical behaviors, potentially illegal actions and bizarre management practices.

Really bright and well-paid engineers were leaving the organization for less money. Horrible employees were inexplicably retained. Micro-management of high-level staff was suffocating. Several months ago, I determined to leave. The problem was finding time to send out resumes when the president continuously called me on my days off and the amount of work had risen to 11-hour days.

During August alone, I had moved my youngest back to her university, moved my oldest daughter back home, helped my son through a wonderful job change and my semester of teaching started back up (I still teach part time online). The nest was full at the end of summer and now the twins are both home working remotely for great companies. September’s non-work-non-teaching time was spent planning a baby shower for a friend’s daughter. We are the sorts who can’t seem to do the minimum. We are of the life motto: more is more and life events should be celebrated in BIG ways. The shower was last Sunday and the effort was worth it.

Throughout these home-life changes and additional responsibilities, the stress at work escalated to an unhealthy level and the owners were immovable when encouraged to rationally consider why ¾ of the employees had exited. When you can’t get through a brick wall, nor find a path around it and are prevented from climbing higher, you find something new.

As I drove to work on my final day, I weaved through traffic like a champion NASCAR driver. However, I’m a safe-never-run-stop-signs-or-red-lights kind of gal who always lets people merge. But I’m tougher in spirit now than I was a couple short years ago. There are pros and cons to being in difficult situations and living out unexpected turns in the road of life. One positive is that I collected some good people along the way. These same sweet souls gave me three weeks of farewell cards, gifts, food, etc., and have reached out multiple times with expressions of missing me deeply since my departure only a couple of weeks ago. For those that exited the company long before me, they still keep in touch.

God gave me peace that it was time to leave but I wasn’t clear about what was next other than continuing to teach. One thing was for sure: the highly professional, always-dressed-up corporation I worked for displayed unethical behaviors that really disgusted me. Little did I know, being disgusted was about to take on a vastly more elevated meaning.

Two days after my final day at work – just when I was praying about my “next assignment” – I was stunningly placed on a grand jury that would require my faithful attendance for two months. Before any of the 25 of us could say “what-the-what?”, we were immediately sworn in for duty. As the lot of us walked to our cars, stunned as to why we weren’t questioned as we had been in previous years when called for jury duty, we realized that fear of COVID was preventing swarms of potential jurors from even showing up. For those gainfully employed, they were beside themselves about the amount of time required with less than $5/hour in payment.

Many people LOVE jury duty. They sincerely LOVE it and wish they could go back more frequently. I’ll agree that it’s interesting to learn the inner workings of our judicial system up close and personal. However, the lawyers warned us that the material our particular group would see was especially “difficult”. To my knowledge, there is only one person out of my large group that believes this to be a fun experience.

I love my country. It’s important to serve, but day after day, hour after hour, we review case after case of the worst atrocities. You already know this from staring at your social media and your preferred news channel, but humanity is depraved. Each day we sit in our chairs, reviewing endless, sickening behavior. I’m viewing in real-life what I wouldn’t ever watch on television.

Two random, (non-grisly) things you are already aware of but I’ll share to confirm from my brief legal experience: 1) There is a camera recording you in places you really don’t think about. Did you get that? Not just at stop signs, street lights and outside of buildings. We are being recorded e v e r y w h e r e.  2) I have learned that Google can virtually pinpoint how long I was in the produce aisle at my local grocery store two years ago on a specific date merely because I have a gmail account. Did you get that? Via the email accounts they can track a person’s whereabouts.

If I wasn’t already repelled with tech companies as described HERE and in other posts, these proceedings are merely additional confirmation. No one to blame but ourselves for downloading our apps and opening up our personal data to the global cyber-thieves. They remain lightyears ahead and it’s too late to attempt controlling them. While it’s great if they supply pertinent information to catch the bad guys, it’s astounding to be educated on the depth of their knowledge regarding our daily lives. I’ll let your imagination fill in the rest of the mind-blowing information we have been learning alongside observations of the most gruesome evil.

On that happy note (insert laughter), it’s been one month since I’ve posted but I hope to rekindle my online communications with the special people who write on WordPress. It’s been a community I’ve missed in the last several weeks. Most of you have also had lulls in your writings for various reasons, so I know you get it. Likely, I still won’t be able to write as frequently as I hope to during this current season, but I’m going to try…

Happy Halloween to all!