I woke up today. That is so much more than about 150,000 others can say. If you’re sniffing through this article, you are the lucky one, too!! The truth is, my ceaseless gratitude is blatant plagiarism. I would have SO been expelled in college had I pulled this theft on an assignment! I have morphed into this positivity essential oil diffuser, dispersing optimism into the air via a fine vapor that gently absorbs into your body, frankly whether you like it or not.
This attitude and outlook on life has been a massive part of my upbringing because of one key component: my mother. You might notice a sunflower tattooed on my right forearm. Tattooed. Permanent. Forever. AND ever. I haven’t made this type of commitment since, hmmm, 24 years ago when I came into this world. Thanks for the assist there, mom!
What I want to share has a lot to do with what I think of when I think of my mom and/or any sunflower strolling down the street.
When I look at my mom, I see strength. I see a woman who has faced such terrible degrees of loss in her life, yet still exults in the pure joy of waking up in the morning. I see a woman displaying the type of positivity and zest for life that makes your neighbor need a nap. It’s an organic, contagious energy.
When I look at my mom, I see a woman who would donate her entire physical vessel if it meant giving another person the opportunity to look at a sea turtle or do a 1000-piece puzzle in a poorly lit dining room.
When I think of my mom, I think of the night she kidnapped me from my hospital room, only to take me for a 10-minute wheelchair ride from one side entrance to the other, cafeteria cheesecake in tow. I think of the spontaneity that comes out of her mouth, and the way she keeps a crowd laughing and uplifted without a finger of effort. That’s the kind of person I want in my corner.
When I imagine the woman I want to be, I want to be the woman who rises to the occasion. If there’s an opportunity to sleep on a crappy, uncomfortable recliner parallel to my own daughter sleeping in a hospital bed, count me in. Because that’s the kind of woman who doesn’t just feel love, she expresses it through action. That’s the kind of woman I want to be.
When I look at the pain my own creator has endured, I feel as though I’m standing on the lip of a volcano, looking down at what could come. I am inspired to make the world’s best lemonade out of the world’s most rotten ginger root. If a human being can bear a child, birth a child, and lose that same child some time later and still have the drive to wake up and face her life, then I am convinced we can do just about anything. I mean anything. Except walk on water. Or go to Target without spending $100+.
My mom once made a joke about me favoring my dad more than I favor her. Emphasis on the joke. Looking at the hand I’ve been dealt in terms of parental figures, I couldn’t choose one over the other even if the ice cream market’s existence depended on it.
When I look at my mom, I feel an overwhelming amount of empowerment. I think “WWTD?” (what would Tina do?) and it’s game on. I’ll tackle whatever hand I’ve been dealt with determination, whimsy, and gratitude. You should, too. For example, if you stub your big toe, be thankful you have a big toe to stub. If you say something silly (hourly occurrence for the Wagner chicks), be happy you have a tongue to pronounce the series of words that make you wish there were a fireman’s pole within arms reach so you could swiftly make your exit. There is always a bright side, and while some find that perspective exhausting, it’s all that we know and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
When I look at my sunflower, I see healing. I see a reason to find the strength to carry on. I see the beauty in overcoming. I see myself thirty years from now, loving on my grandchildren and reminiscing on the time my mom and I visited my own grandma, playing cards and laughing until we all needed a doctor. I’ll be looking back on the day my mom pushed me around in a shopping cart at Walmart as a 21-year-old adult. Or the night I cried for hours, begging my mom to sleep next to me because my heart was so broken I didn’t know if I would wake up the next morning. And that’s exactly what she did. I’ll vividly recall the days we felt pure joy while eating stale omelettes from the hospital cafeteria, knowing full-well that the eggs were not in fact eggs at all. They were likely some sort of liquidized cardboard, obviously with a sprinkle of pepper.
Mom, I love you. I love that you gave me your smile, your bunions, your humor, and a first name that most always gets mispronounced. I love that you give every thing you have with nothing expected in return. I love that you face fear as if it is just another friendly stranger, when the rest of us want to crawl in a hole for a few weeks until we have no other choice BUT to face it. You’re a sunflower, and I can only hope to bring light into the world like you do one day.
Some X’s, but mainly O’s,
Your favorite daughter