I come from a long line of smart, courageous, funny, loving women—none more so than my mother. So when I think about what I want to be when I “grow up,” I naturally look to her. She’s taught me many lessons through her example. Today, I share three of the most important.
1. Open your heart and your home. I’ve never met anyone more accepting of people from all walks of life than my mother. She has taught me to accept people where they are and love them for who they are—even if I don’t completely “get them.” (And we so rarely do, right?) My mother is quite conservative—religiously and politically—but she genuinely welcomes the longhaired tattooed grandson-in-law just as warmly as the clean-cut church-goer. She loves the confirmed bachelor, the gay couple, and the traditional young parents all the same. She appreciates (and brags up) the studious bookworm, the exuberant comedian, and the eccentric artist equally. I can’t imagine anything I could do that would make her turn her back on me or love me less—lose some sleep, yes; but love me less, never.
2. You can survive just about anything, and you can be strengthened by hardship without being hardened. My mother survived a winter in 1950s Fairbanks, Alaska—in a travel trailer with no indoor plumbing or electricity. And she wasn’t an outdoor adventurer, either. She was a pampered city girl just one year out of high school—who happened to be madly in love with an outdoor adventurer. Of course, she hasn’t just overcome physical hardship. She’s mentally and emotionally tough as well. She survived the murder of her beloved husband, two divorces, and the violent death of her youngest son. You might expect a person who has been through all that to become cold and bitter or weak and frightened, but not my mother. She is strong, hopeful, and warm.
3. Dream big, but appreciate what you have. Happiness is made of life’s little joys. Growing up, my mother would religiously mail in every Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes entry and daydream aloud about what she would do if she won—the mansion we’d live in, the fancy car we’d drive, the exotic vacations we’d go on. In our limited financial circumstances, it was fun to dream, but—and this is a big but—she didn’t wait for that golden ticket to enjoy life. I don’t know anyone that enjoys life’s little pleasures more than my mother—food, books, music, shopping (even grocery shopping)! She passed that joy on to her children (okay, not the grocery shopping thing). Here’s just one example: Mom has this little happy dance she does when she eats something that tastes especially good. I’ve seen a couple of my sisters do it, and I’ve caught myself at times. If you’ve followed my blog, you know how many food pictures I post, and Friday Favorites are all about enjoying life’s little gifts. I believe that true happiness isn’t about those few extraordinary moments as much as a bunch of little ordinary joys strung together. Even in the worst of times, the little joys continue—and sustain you—if you’ve trained yourself to watch for them. Thanks Mom for that training.
Okay, those are the top three lessons I learned from my mother. What about you? What lessons did your parents (or other significant adults) teach you?
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Christie is an author and professional communicator who blogs about life transitions, wellness, mindfulness, and anything else that answers the question “So what? Now what?”