10 Lessons I Learned From My Mom &
Some Truth Talk About The Mother Of All Relationships
Stevie (my mom), circa 1980 something
Mother’s day is quickly approaching and naturally, this always shines a light on the mother-child dynamic in people’s lives. I’ve read a million blog posts, articles and Facebook memes where people gush and romanticize about their relationship with their mothers. This is lovely and genuinely beautiful that some people have nothing but positive, heart swelling memories of their moms. They may remember their childhoods (accurately or otherwise) as being full of hugs, homemade chocolate chip cookies and milk, calm, lilting lullabies, heartfelt talks and bedtime stories. No word of a lie, these are some of the memories I hope my own kids have.
However, can we all just admit that this is definitely not everyone’s reality? Not everyone’s relationship to their mom’s is a Hallmark card. The truth is, a whole lot of folks had/have a tenuous relationship with their mothers. Some may be completely estranged from their moms for a whole variety of not so warm and fuzzy reasons. Some people may have lost their moms in natural or unnatural ways. Others may have a hard time relating, and not know how to, or be unwilling to, go about repairing the bond that has been damaged over time.
The mere fact that we are all human (including moms believe it or not), means that we are not perfect. So despite our best efforts, we all fuck up. Some of us, more than others maybe, but not one of us is infallible. Even though I hope my own kids have mostly fond memories of me, I’m not delusional. I know that I’ll do stuff that pisses them off and stuff I wish I could take back. Being human, is like that.
My own relationship with my mom has been complicated, to put it mildly. If we’re being totally honest here, whose relationship with their mom hasn’t been in some way, at some point? I’ll spare you all the specific details right now, but suffice it to say that my mom and I have not always been on the same page. We're up, we're down, and everything in between, and it's rarely easy.
Despite the roller coaster that has been our mother-daughter relationship over the years, I have come to terms with the fact that Stevie is a genuine, imperfect human, just like the rest of us. As kids, and even adult children, it can be very difficult to accept our parents' humanness. So, although our relationship is definitely not, and likely will never be, all sunshine and rainbows, I've forgiven my mom for her shortcomings, and hope she forgives me for mine.
Regardless of what point we're at in our dynamic, be it in the eye of the storm or the calm before it, I can say wholeheartedly that I've always had respect for my mom. There are times that that respect was buried under a mountain of emotional baggage, but it's always been there somewhere.
Though the lessons didn't always come easily and weren't even always intentional, Stevie has taught me a lot in 47+ years. I know I would be a very different, much more fragile and less resilient person had it not been for her. So, I want to share with you, some of the most valuable lessons my mom has taught me. If you have a tenuous relationship with your own mom, or no relationship at all, I hope this helps you in some small way. I also want you to know that you are not alone.
10 Invaluable Lessons I Learned From My Mom:
1. Nobody is the boss of you, except you. Some people may try to be the boss of you and for awhile, you might even believe, or let them believe, that they are…but in the end don't ever forget that you are in control of you. Nothing anyone else says or does can or should have power over you.
2. When the going gets tough, you always have a choice to be either the victim of your circumstance or the hero. Being the hero is harder and scarier, but it's always the right choice. Victims blame the outside world and other people for what happens to them. They feel hopeless, defeated, angry and out of control. Heroes may not like what life hands them, but they know they have the power to overcome it. Heroes tend to use challenging stuff that happens in life as an opportunity to learn and grow. Even though they may be scared, they always rise to the occasion and never leave their fate in someone else's hands. So, when life knocks you down, get up. Every. Single. Time. Know that what doesn’t kill you, can give you super powers.
3. You have permission to have the occasional temper tantrum. If something really shitty happens, if people are really pissing you off, if some dumb ass just doesn’t get it, or even if you're suffering a self inflicted wound, acknowledge that it's frustrating as hell. In fact, it really sucks. Vow to make a more self-loving choice next time. Do what you need to do to get it out of your system. Have your tantrum, and then get on with life and also know that depending on how you chose to direct your tantrum - you may have caused collateral damage that will need to be dealt with in the future.
4. Sometimes you have to surrender to what is. I know this sounds a little contradictory but hear me out. If you’ve been slogging and fighting and grasping at straws to make some situation different than it is, and no amount of force is resulting in your desired outcome, then admit that you gave it your all, but that maybe the universe has a different plan for you. So lay down your sword, rest for awhile and see what happens next. Once you’re all rested up, get back up and kick some more ass.
5. Be willing to learn, and never stop. If you can learn, there is nothing you can’t do. Try new things, watch documentaries, read something other than the back of the cereal box, if you don’t know how to do something you want done, figure it out, don't wait for someone else to do it for you. Be open to new ways of looking at the world and maybe even your own life.
6. Think big. Life is about so much more than the mundane things. Too much small talk has always driven Stevie and crazy. It bores her to death. I inherited this trait. She taught me to spend time talking about ideas, beliefs, philosophies, etc. This helps us to grow and evolve as humans, both individually and as a collective. It also makes life way more interesting. Sure we all have to deal with everyday stuff like laundry, work, paying the car insurance, getting our toddlers potty trained, taking our animals to the vet, or baking those squares for the upcoming bake sale. But to paraphrase Stevie, ‘For God sakes, use your intelligence for more than that! You have a great big brain in your head, but if you clutter it up with nothing but concerning yourself with the best brand of baby wipes, or what the neighbours ate for dinner, it isn’t doing you much good now, is it?’
7. Do your research. Don’t just blindly believe what people tell you, what you read, or what you see on TV or Youtube. Find out for yourself. Get the facts. Pay attention. Question everything! Then, make an educated decision or have an informed opinion. Even if your decision contradicts the research, at least you're going in with eyes wide open.
8. Listen to your gut. Ignoring it can cause you to be your own worst enemy. Trying to drown out, numb, or cover up the signals your intuition is sending you, even if you think you're doing it for other people's benefit, can be lethal. It can cause you more grief and discomfort than anyone ever needs to endure. Even if you don’t necessarily like what it’s telling you, it’s always better to acknowledge the truth, then move forward with clarity and in integrity.
9. Words are powerful, whether they be positive or negative. Things you read or hear can impact you for a lifetime. Things you say to or about others, can also impact them in ways you may never have intended. Words can change the trajectory of your or someone else's life. Words can scar or heal. Choose them wisely.
10. Forgiveness is possible. Even if no true apology is ever uttered. Forgiveness it's necessary for your own wellbeing. You are allowed to forgive but not forget. Your brand of forgiveness may not even look like forgiveness to the outside world. It may take a long time. It may not necessarily be ‘deserved’. It may be unbearably painful at times. It may be the most difficult thing you ever do. You may even have to set new boundaries and leave old patterns and beliefs behind. You may take flack for protecting your heart. But no matter the circumstance, you have the capacity to forgive. And that forgiveness can be a game changer. It can liberate you in ways you never imagined. It can shed light on the darkness and make your heart and soul feel a million times lighter when you set down the burden of holding onto guilt, shame, regret, anger, and hurt. It can repair and rejuvenate relationships - including the one you have with yourself, it can heal old wounds, and give you a new lease on life.