9 Lessons From My Mother

Typically, my brother and I abide by a strict blogging and social media embargo when it comes to our mom, but occasionally, she makes an exception, and we can write about her. This is one of those times.

9 Lessons from My Mother 

Celebrate people.  Perhaps one of the most important lessons I’ve learned from my mom is that your happiness multiplies when you celebrate other people.  (I would add that it conversely decreases when you put others down, even if they never hear about it).  She’s thrown unforgettable parties for the milestones of others, integrated strangers into holiday meals seamlessly and graciously so that it appeared as if they always belonged, created an elegant, makeshift annual poetry reading for a friend who’s 103 and lives in a nursing home (who was pals with novelist Edith Wharton in the early 1900s in New York City—how cool is that?), planted trees in her garden to signify people being born or passing on, and delivered a “girls night in” to a recently widowed friend who was not keen on venturing out yet.  At the behest of my mom, the group of women all wore pajamas and showed up at their friend’s door bearing food and laughter when it mattered most.

Do not deal in petty bullshit.  My mom doesn’t like when I swear on the blog, especially—she would have you know—”no effs!”  However, this is an important point, and I think it needs an expletive.  What else do you call the catty behavior of grown adults when they undercut each other for petty reasons, like being more or less attractive, affluent, experienced at work, or successful in life than one another?  If someone is rude, harmful, or annoying to you, that’s one thing.  But snipping about people behind their backs in conference rooms or on the beach because you’re insecure about yourself?  I don’t get it.  I’m glad I don’t get it.  Thank you, Mom.

It’s always better to be overdressed….or in costume.  If I have learned anything about fashion’s ability to be fun and whimsical, it came from Mom.  In my entire life, I’ve never seen her dress according to trend or covet a specific designer, and I think this says a lot about her creativity and confidence.  In keeping with #1, she’s also big on celebrations that require costumes.  So if you show up without one, she will happily accommodate your wardrobe needs.  Consider yourself forewarned.

Have a private life.  Long before having a blog, Facebook, Twitter, and all the rest, I had a childhood where I couldn’t really go anywhere in our small town without someone knowing my parents, especially my mom, the consummate social butterfly.  (It’s no wonder I didn’t go on a date till I was 25…kidding).  My parents owned a popular restaurant.  My mom was on several committees related to business and the community, and this lack of anonymity drove me nuts.  However, I also realized that my mom was an equally private person as she was public.  Her work, community involvement, and creative spirit could be shared.  They were up for grabs.  Our life at home was not.  Her quiet mornings in the garden belong to no one but her.  She’s not one to broadcast triumphs or troubles too freely.  She likes to keep certain people, places, and moments wholly to herself.  She’s the opposite of your Friends on Facebook who are chronic oversharers, and I respect this.

Be natural.  My mom has never dyed her hair a day in her life.  If asked for a favorite beauty secret, it would probably be to sit on a beach and exfoliate using beach sand.  Not even kidding.  It’s refreshing, in an era when injecting one’s face with Botox to freeze out signs of age and emotion is officially commonplace, to have a mom who wouldn’t dream of it.  We all have our quirks and flaws, scars and cellulite, a chipped tooth here and crow’s feet there, and fixing them is fine.  It’s a personal choice.  The lengths to which one woman will go to improve her appearance are between her and her reflection only.  However, there’s something to be said for remarkable examples of beauty that make others feel beautiful, just by being in their presence.  Because they’re real.  That’s my mom.

Build community.  It’s one thing to be a social butterfly flitting among existing communities.  My mom can do this, too.  But what’s more impressive is how often she builds communities seemingly out of thin air.  It started with small businesses that operated like extended families, but it evolved from there.  For instance, my parents recently took a vacation and ended up incorporating 20 friends on the trip.  Just like that: they built a tour group to Europe with zero fussing or experience as tour guides.  It’s that natural for them to inspire people to work and play together.

Get dirty.  My mom is a talented gardener, so she’s often happiest when playing in the dirt, soil on her hands, sun in her face, possibly leaves in her hair.  This is her yoga, the time when she is most herself, relaxed, and connected to the world around and within her.  There’s no judgment when you’re in nature, which is one reason we should spend more time there.

Dance.  My mom does this.  Sometimes without warning, in the kitchen, on a Tuesday….which leads me to my final lesson.

Never wait for permission from someone or something else to do something you really want to do.  I haven’t mastered this one yet, but thankfully, I watch and learn from my mom.

Thank you for being you, Mom.  It inspires me to be me.  Happy Mother’s Day, all!   






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  • http://www.hilaryphelps.com Hilary Phelps

    Well written and a beautiful message… thank you for sharing this!

  • http://www.anamayaresort.com Costa Rica Yoga Retreat

    These nine lessons from your mother inspire not only you but also your readers. Thanks for sharing.

  • Tui

    This is beautiful and very inspiring. I am going to share this with everyone so that their lives will be so enriched.Thanks to you and your Mom

  • JP

    Thoroughly enjoyed this. I’m envious, as my relationship w/ my mom is a little estranged. Not her fault, just her way. The distance my mom keeps has helped me build a stronger relationship w/ my kids & wife. Your piece has helped me fortify it, and I thank you for that.