Last week in a team building exercise at work I was asked to share my greatest achievement. Many shared an educational one, many shared that their kids were their achievement.
I was the first woman in my family to graduate from college. I have backpacked through the New Mexico mountains. I got into grad school. I have not 1, but 2, 1/2 marathons under my belt. I'm Mom to 8 kids in total. And my husband I have grown and changed together for 13 years. But what I feel is my greatest achievement and what I shared with my team was:
My relationship with Maria.
Similar to Cherub Mama's comment on my last post, I've had to forgive people I didn't want to for things that were unspeakable. For things I couldn't even fathom. I had to go completely out of my comfort zone to understand their circumstances, their motivations, and their point of view.
I wasted a lot of precious energy on being angry. On hatred. Stressed out about little things not understanding those things were little.
I didn't want to work with Maria. I wanted her to fail so the kids would be mine forever. I wanted to judge. She was an undocumented mother to 4 kids with 4 different dads who committed a serious crime. She knew nothing about how to care for kids as evidenced by the fact they were living with me.
That's how I felt then, 4 years ago. Before she looked into my eyes and told me she wanted me to be important to her kids. Before I could see the ways she did care for her children. Before I understood the many,many obstacles this woman had overcome. The lady with little more than a 3rd grade education from a foreign country was supporting her 4 kids the best way she knew how. Because she had to. Because she was their Mom.
Somehow out of all of those negative thoughts and across the language barrier we forged a friendship. I listened as she shared her story of how she came to the US. How she was abused and stuck in dysfunctional family relationships. I helped when she needed coaching on parenting. And when she needed a letter of recommendation for immigration court, I lovingly wrote about why she should be a permanent resident of our country.
What changed? Me. I learned that there is a lot I don't know and had no frame of reference for. It's amazing how interesting our lives can be when we allow ourselves to have open minds. My greatest achievement is that I let go of all the things "I should think and feel" and embraced the idea of knowing very little about the ways of the world. To be able to bridge the many gaps we had and truly come to love this woman is an achievement of the highest kind.
I got an excited call from Maria today. She got her drivers license and wanted to drive the Fab Four to our new house as a surprise.
She can now drive anywhere and where does she want to go? My house! Amazing! And so proud of her for sticking with her goal. What an example to her kids. I tell them all the time- "your Mom is amazing".
It's scary to step out of your comfort zone but sometimes it is so worth allowing your heart that room to grow. I'm a better person for having met Maria. And I'm so glad she gave me the chance to be her friend.