I am the youngest of six kids. When I was born in July of 1981, my Dad was 48 and my Mom was 43. My siblings were 20, 19, 18, 17, and 14 years old.
It is shocking to me the amount of people who, my WHOLE LIFE, have said, immediately upon hearing this information, “Oh, so you were a mistake.” Sometimes instead of “mistake” the word “oops” has been substituted, but still, the sentiment was the same.
Of course, I get it. Fourteen years is a long time. I welcome exclamations. Appropriate responses could include “Wow!” or “What a big family!” or “That’s a big age gap!” But maybe, and I’m just riffing here, but maybe you shouldn’t call someone a “mistake,” like ever, maybe. Even if you’re thinking it, don’t SAY IT! Keep it in your thought bubble, as they say at my son’s school.
Like, how exactly should I respond to that? “Yup! Totally not meant to be. It’s a wonder I can even do anything around here being all mistakey and stuff. Just going to head over here to the Island of Misfit Toys…”
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Ah, the depression and therapy is making ALLLLLLLLLL sorts of sense and it’s only her fourth post. Katie, you can start saving all those co-pays, I understand the root of all your issues!”
But surprisingly, from the very beginning, these words—though having very destructive potential—miraculously never impacted me. For all of my shortcomings and immaturity in a variety of arenas, not to mention being overly-sensitive at times (lots of times, Rick might say!), I have always had an amazingly mature perspective on this one. For some reason, I always knew that this kind of statement said nothing about me, and everything about the speaker. After all, who says that!??! (It turns out, a lot of people.)
My sense of security in this area stems from the two greatest parents, Tom and Alice Morris. My parents made it very clear that, technically, none of their children were planned. As Catholics and the OG Rule Followers, Rulio Iglesias and Rulia Louis-Dreyfus, they put it all in God’s hands.
Now, I’ll take a step back and give you this: When three of your siblings are in college and two are in high school at the time you are born, you are a bit of a… surprise. And that’s the word I use. Surprise. See the difference?
I hear “mistake” and I think of grubby elementary school worksheets with smudgy pencil marks that have to be erased. But “surprise”? That’s like, colorful balloons and confetti! A surprise party! And trust me, I’ve been a party.
Over the course of my life, I’ve learned more about the details of the story. My Mom, being positively GERIATRIC at age 43 was at a higher risk of having a baby with a genetic abnormality because of her age. And on top of that, she also suffered from ulcerative colitis (similar/related to Crohn’s disease) so there were some major health risks that would come along with this pregnancy. She was heavily advised by her doctor to have an abortion.
Now, Alice wasn’t having that for even a split second and she made that very clear to her doctor. For that, I am grateful. But I can appreciate that, at that moment, life took a rapid hairpin turn right back to the starting line of parenthood. For over two decades, she and my dad had worked very hard together to raise their wonderful kids. They were almost there!
While my Mom (a nurse by training) was at home running the show, my Dad was making the benjamins as a middle school math teacher. Together in their “off hours” (if parents even really have those) they also worked on their side hustle, a group tour travel business, which was really taking off. They were finally getting to be in a financially secure place, starting to travel themselves, and beginning to put their retirement plans into place. As we ALL can imagine, traditionally retirement plans do not include a smart-assy, shrimp cocktail-eating, demander of cotton stirrup pants because jeans feel uncomfortable. Traditionally.
Now the logical trajectory of this argument is for me to now say, “And WHERE WOULD THE WORLD BE without Katie Morris Feeney in it!??!” But I also have enough perspective to say, I’m just a person. I’m insignificant to most. I haven’t found a cure for cancer. I don’t have the solution for world peace. I’m sitting here right now (on January 17) looking at my Christmas tree because I haven’t even taken that down yet. (Don’t judge.) But I can make my small mark, have my small ripple effect on the world.
Speaking of Christmas (excuse the out-of-season reference, but this Christmas tree is right in front of me) isn’t that the reason, for decades upon decades, people love the movie It’s a Wonderful Life? Through George Bailey, we’re reminded that we matter. We make an impact. Our reach might not be the whole town of Bedford Falls, but we affect our close circles nonetheless. After all, “No man is a failure who has friends.”
Having depression and going through those ups and downs, I work very hard to keep that thought top of mind. Though somehow the “mistake” language never got to me, depression did. I have felt the low lows, the negative self-talk, and the feeling that I don’t matter. You’ve probably seen the quote, “To the world you may be one person, but to one person, you may be the world.” When you’re feeling down, especially with depression, it’s really easy to focus on the just being one person part. It’s much harder to remember or believe that to one person, you may be the world. You may not even notice who you are impacting.
I’ve been on the receiving end of one of those random acts of kindness—you know, when the person ahead of you in the drive-thru line pays for your coffee? (I know, I know… I have a coffee problem…) I have to tell you, that really put a spring in my step for the rest of the day. It made me appreciate the importance of the little things.
It got me thinking, Isn’t that enough? Aren’t we enough if we can just make a moment in a day better for someone else? I sure hope so, otherwise I have some serious brainstorming on world peace to do… But it’s definitely an approach that has helped me crawl, inch by inch, out of the darkness. And sometimes, when you focus on helping other people, you start to feel better yourself.
As Mother Teresa said, “Do small things with great love.” We’re not all going to do big and important things that change the world, but we can absolutely do little things that positively impact those around us.
And on that note, if you’ll excuse me, I have a Christmas tree to deal with!