Sr. Iphielya: Oy Vey, Christmas Can Be Difficult

Sr. Iphielya
Hello, there.  I’m just getting the hang of this email and, oh my, there is a lot to learn.  So many buttons!

Well, it seems there are more than a few of you out there that could stand a little more empathy and understanding in your lives.  Sr. Iphielya is here and in the motherhouse, so let’s spend a few moments together, shall we?

I received many, many letters since I made my debut on Mary Tyler Mom last week.  I love her, don’t you?  Such a nice lady.  Where was I?  Oh, yes, the letters.  I do wish to respond to all of them, and I will, but it will take some time, please.  Single file will do nicely.

Christmas is just around the corner.  Seven days and counting, my friends!  This time of year is difficult for many of us.  So much to do, so little $ to do it with, so many dramas with the family, and lots and lots of deep seated feelings of grief and loss bubbling up to the surface.  In the convent, I learned that efficiency is a virtue, so I am going to try and address two letters with one post!

During this season of joy, merriment, family and office gatherings, many of our hearts hang heavy with the things we don’t have, but wish we did.  For some, it is toys for the little ones.  For others it is that little one — the little baby we wish to hold and call our own.  And for others still, it is the one who held us when we were babies.

The holiday season often means we spend lots and lots of time with cookies and cousins.  There is small talk and good cheer, but there is also forced cheer.  You know what I mean, don’t you?  That gathering where all together are doing their level best to ignore the sadness that is shared, but so often not discussed.  One of my letter writers wrote to me in hopes of finding another mother, as she had lost her own this past summer.  Oh, dear.  Losing a mother is hard.  I know this myself.  For those of us lucky ones, our mothers were all they should be.  They loved and cared for us, cheered us up, prodded us, poked us when needed, and held us when things weren’t going too well.  There is no other soul that does quite what a mother does for us, is there?

If you’ve lost your mom, these holidays of family and cheer can be difficult.  And as hard as Christmas Day will be, Mother’s Day will hurt you, too.  I like to think that the holidays turn up the volume of our hearts.  All that we feel is just a little more intense this time of year.  And that first year?  That first year when your mother won’t be baking the cookies, wrapping the gifts, encouraging her flock to behave as they should — that is one of the hardest of all.

I’ve some words of advice for you.  Nuns always do, you know, have words of advice.  I do hope you will consider them in the spirit in which they are offered — with love and empathy.  Consider remembering your Mom that day.  Be it with the green and radish Jell-o mold you told me about, or with a toast before the feast.  Talk about her.  Mention her name.  Acknowledge that she is missed.  If tears are shed, offer a Kleenex.  There is no shame in a tear being shed for a loved one gone before us.  We miss them.  It’s okay to talk about that.

Other gatherings may include a loss that is more personal.  Like for the reader who shared the difficulty of infertility.  Unlike losing a mom, a grown adult who all recognize and miss when gone, the loss of a child through miscarriage, or even the idea of a child, the desire of a child, is not always as well recognized.  People don’t understand it, do they?  There is no great way to grieve that loss publicly, or even with others you may be close to.  I might suggest, when the well intentioned (one hopes) comments come about, as they most certainly will, you act as a duck and let that water roll off your back.  Talk to your partner about your pain.  He, or she (it is the 21st century, even for us nuns), will understand in a way others will not.  Or, at least, I hope they will.  I suppose even your partners don’t always understand that pain.

My point is, dear one, is that the insensitive comments you receive are uneducated, but not malicious.  They want for you what you want, these folks free with the advice, and think their comments might just help.  You know and I know they do not.  This week of celebrations will no doubt provide ample opportunity for the “well intentioned” in your life to trot out their advice for you.  They don’t want to know of your medical difficulty.  They just don’t.  They want you to have a child, because they know you want one.  It is sad, to be sure, but I believe it is true.

Harsh, perhaps.  I am sorry for that.  I know from experience the holidays can be brutal.  Sr. Iphielya wants to prepare you for that brutality.  Arm you with some coping skills that will help you get through the day.  Some years, that is the best we can hope for, right?  Get though the day.  I assure you that come January, that volume on your feelings will eek down just a bit.  You will feel a little more yourself and less vulnerable.  I do hope so for you.

Alrighty, dear ones!  Sr. Iphielya is being called to mediate a squabble over who will peel the potatoes and who will mash the potatoes for Sunday dinner.  Please do take care of yourself this holiday season.  And remember, the motherhouse is just an email away!



Sr. Iphielya: Patron Saint of Empathy

Sr. Iphielya

I love nuns.  Some of my best friends are nuns.  Well, okay, not really, but two of my aunts are nuns.  One of them is pictured here.  She lives at the “motherhouse” now, and as a mommy blogger, the idea of a motherhouse is something I can relate to.

I think a lot about nuns, about how their way of life is growing extinct, like the dinosaurs that Mary Tyler Son is so enamored with.   I have always been around nuns, was taught by them (even sex ed., 1970s style; thank you, Sr. Morrison!), can identify a nun in or out of her habit, and used to pretend to be one as a girl by placing the green tweed cover of our living room arm chair on my head, just like my aunts.

Nuns bring me comfort.  They are familiar and soothing to me, though I appreciate not to all.  My southside Irish Dad tells more than a few tales about how cruel the nuns who taught him could be.  Then again, he’s never liked authority and my guess is that his nuns sensed that and probably tried to break him like a horse.

A few months ago, chatting with a co-worker, sharing our troubles, I found myself replying to her tale of woe with the phrase, “Oh, sister, I feel ya.”  This is a string of words I use often to convey empathy.  Oh, yeah, I’ve been there.  I get it.  That sucks. 

Sr. Iphielya was born.

We all need more empathy in our lives.  Who better to provide it than someone whose name is Sr. Iphielya?  Who better to understand than someone who lives in a motherhouse?  Who better to confide in than someone who will always tell you she gets it?  No one.

In nun culture, the head nun, the big cheese of the nun world, is known as “Mother Superior.”  She is the boss and is charged to run a tight ship.  That’s not the nun I’m going for as the alter ego to my alter ego.  Nah.  I want something a little less threatening.  We will leave Gwyneth Paltrow to pretend to be Mother Superior.  She seems to need that.  (See — I’m showing empathy right there).  Mary Tyler Dad suggested “Mother Inferior” as a tag line for Sr. Iphielya.  Good.  Funny, certainly, but flirting with disrespect.  Sr. Iphielya is neither superior nor inferior.

My mother-in-law suggested “Mother Interior.”  Nice.  I like it.  Mother Interior.  What is empathy, if not an understanding of another’s interior world, their experience, our own interior world and experiences?  We all need empathy, all that we can get, all that we can give, and a double dose of that for ourselves.

A few days ago, on the Mary Tyler Mom facebook page (the place to be on facebook), I posed what I thought was an innocuous question to my readers, “What types of things are the things about your life that you wish people understood better?”  Seventy-nine raw and heartfelt responses later, it was imminently clear that we all feel misunderstood.  We all wish folks could see the world from our eyes, from our interior.

Sr. Iphielya is going to be busy.

Like any self-respecting alter ego of an alter ego, she has her own gmail account:  Please use it.  Sr. Iphielya will be a regular feature here at Mary Tyler Mom.  She stands at the ready to lend an ear, a cup of empathy when you’ve run out, and a dash of perspective.  Maybe even a rap on the knuckles, but only if necessary.

Think of her as your Mother Interior.  When you want to vent, when you need to be understood, when you just feel like reading about yourself in a thinly veiled disguise, Sr. Iphielya will be here.