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http://www.nextavenue.org re-posted this piece once again, originally written in 2015 in honor of Mother’s Day and my mom.
Their title: My Mother, My Inspiration…
You remember the phrase our parents used to say, “Do as I say, not as I do?” Here are some “Do as I say” edicts spoken by my Mother:
-Sit up straight.
-Walk looking up, not down at your feet. (My sister Linda stepped on a nail when she tried that!)
-Your face is going to freeze like that.
-Don’t talk to strangers.
-Yes you are going with me to so and so’s house. Why? Because I said so.
-Go to school. If you still feel sick in a few hours, call me.
-Play nice with others. Treat them as you want to be treated.
-Put on lipstick. You never know who you are going to meet.
There were 25 people at Mom’s 95th birthday February 2nd. It was a joyous, energized and eclectic occasion filled with relatives and friends, old and young, gay and straight, black and white. People couldn’t wait to hug and kiss her and tell stories about where they met and how she inspires them.
Linda and I are in the most enviable position of being able to focus, and change, the second half of the phrase ‘Do as I say, not as I do.’ We now tell ourselves, as we navigate through our lives, ‘do as she does’ .
I bet some people look at Mom’s wonderful smile and her ‘in the moment’ energy and think, “Wow, this woman has had an easy, happy life.” From loosing both her parents by the age of 12, raising three children with no child support, to the loss of one of her daughters, how wrong they would be.
Author Vivian Greene wrote: “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning how to dance in the rain.”
This is how Mom chooses to dance:
-By not putting herself down, beating herself up or saying negative things that demean who she is.
-By never saying, ‘why me?’
-By accepting that “this is the way life is.”
-By recognizing the good in others and treating everyone as an individual. She still tells Linda and me not to speak to strangers, but she never meets a stranger. It doesn’t matter if it is a clerk in a store or the person in the auto detailing shop, the first thing she’ll ask is their name.
-By never forgetting about the little girl who lives within her. She brings her out to play. When I called the other night, she told me she was watching a ‘penguin movie’ and could not talk. She failed to hang up the phone properly so I was able to listen to her laugh, all by herself, while watching Happy Feet on TV.
-By repeating daily, “Some one up there is watching out for us and I’m so GRATEFUL.” Grateful being the optimum word.
-By getting out of her house and engaging in life. “I have to see people every day.”
-By saying, “Exercise. I notice one of the first things to go are your legs.” Mom rides a stationary bike at a gym almost every day.
-By carrying herself with dignity and grace with her head held high. And I don’t remember her ever stepping on a nail!
-By putting her lipstick on before she walks out of the house!
Do what she does? You bet. I’m learning how to dance in the rain.
One of my goals is to celebrate my 95th birthday, happy and healthy, with family and a group of eclectic friends, while wearing a brilliant shade of red lipstick!
How about you?
Until a few weeks ago, it had been quite a while since I thought, “Boy, if I knew then what I know now!” It happened at my 50th year high school reunion the beginning of August. Reunions can be benchmarks of growth in one’s life. Wouldn’t you agree? If you have gone to a reunion of any sort, haven’t you walked away thinking, ‘Wow, I never would have thought that about that person/circumstance/situation.’ I am very proud of how far I’ve come. And maybe, just maybe, if I share some of my insights after leaving my reunion I can make a difference in some one else’s life.
What I wish I did not do:
-Smoke! Geez, what was I thinking. It definitely impacted my skin. And, who knows what it did to my insides.
-Be totally focused on the popular kids: trying to act, dress and talk like them. And even after all that, I never felt accepted nor did I find my own identity.
-Boys, boys, boys. Need I say more?
-Let the stigma of growing up in a single parent environment in the 50’s and early 60’s, run a lot of my life.
-Put my education way down the list of priorities and importance.
-Make assumptions about people based strictly on appearance.
-Ignore a compliment.
-Complain profusely about having to work at age 16 every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday.
What I’m glad I did do:
-Listened to mom when she told me to moisturize every time I washed my face.
-Walked or rode my bike everywhere, swam at the local pool and skated on an iced parking lot all winter long. Exercise. It’s second nature to me now.
-The boy who broke my heart in high school told me he peaked at 17 and has yet to find himself!! I’m glad we never married!!
-Started work at 16. It taught me a work ethic that has served me well, throughout my entire professional life.
-Realized that if my Dad was in the picture, I never would have the wonderful, intimate relationship I have with my mom for a variety of reasons.
-Learned I never fit in with (who I thought) the popular kids were because I did not accept myself. It had nothing to do with them. I went on my own personal journey. That journey has taught me, don’t judge a book by it’s cover!
-Be thankful that even though education did not feel like a priority especially in high school, I received a wonderful education that has inspired me to be a life-long student.
-Learned to accept a compliment.
When I hear myself saying, “If I knew then what I know now”, I seem to follow it with, “Well, you didn’t so what difference does it make?” I realize life is a process, and if I knew EVERYTHING at 14 years old what would be the point of it all!! Life is an adventure and if one chooses to be open to it, a constant source of “AHA!” moments that are woven together to create a unique tapestry called YOU!
STAYED TUNED FOR: IF I KNEW THEN WHAT I KNOW NOW…PART TWO I have asked some exquisite women to write what they would say to their 35-ish selves today. I can’t wait!!!
Originally posted 2015-08-30 18:04:48.
“Parents do expect their children will take care of them when they get older. Pamela. The truth is many children don’t.” That is what a social worker friend said to me in 1988 when I talked to her about my plan. I was living in Dallas, did not have children and wasn’t going to. My plan was to gather others who did not have children, form a group, get to know one another so we could rely on each other as we aged. The above response from my friend floored me. I said, “Huh? That can’t be right. Who doesn’t take care of their parents?” “More people than you can imagine,” was her response.
I have seen firsthand how children respond to parents who expect to be taken care of by them. It’s not pretty. In this particular case, the mother had taken care of her mother and assumed the daughter would do the same for her. The mother let her independence go when her husband passed away. That included giving up driving before she needed to give it up. As a friend of mine said, “It goes to show how out of touch the mother is with today’s world.” I agree with my friend’s observation. The daughter, who is in her early 70’s, has a husband, daughters and grandchildren. She has a life of her own. I know how much I dig in my heels when someone ‘expects’ that I respond a certain way! I REBEL. That’s exactly what the daughter did. How would you feel?
When I explained the above situation to my 95-year-old mother she said, “I was just as shocked when I moved to Florida and got a first hand look at friends whose children were not involved in their lives. I personally can not imagine you and Linda not being in my life, however, parents should never expect to be taken care of by their kids.” Every time Mom has let my sister and me know that she has gone to the gym, paid all her bills, hired a handyman to fix things, made friends with folks who ultimately call her to make sure she is doing well, de-cluttered her home, updated her will, paid for her funeral arrangements (it’s reality folks), used her long-term health care policy to hire an aide for 6 hours a day…and the list goes on, we are relieved. And a voice inside of me says, “Thank you Mom. Now, what can I do for you?”
What I learned from that conversation in 1988 is whether you have children or not, taking care of yourself to the best of your ability is the ultimate gift! Do whatever it takes to keep, or get, your own house in order. There are many websites dedicated to physical, mental and spiritual health, finances, insurance and more. Study them. Use them.
Listed below are a few of my favorites:
nextavenue.org: Where Grown-ups Keep Growing
seniorplanet.org: Aging with Attitude
prevention.com: Information about getting fit, losing weight and living healthier lives
aarp.org: Information on estate planning-living wills-trusts-inheritance
intentionswork.com: Leave a legacy of love
nealedonaldwalsch.com: Daily Inspiration
yogajournal.com: Learn to meditate and yoga transformation
lifepathretreats.com: Integrative Wellness Center and B&B
The ultimate gift is that by taking care of yourself now, you and all those who are close to you can breathe a sigh of relief and live long and unencumbered lives.
Originally posted 2015-07-27 02:01:31.
I am saying ‘grown up’ not grown old! Big difference. Remember when you used to fight with your siblings, or a friend, and they’d say, “Oh, why don’t you grow up?” I don’t know about you but I’d usually yell back, ” I AM GROWN UP!!!!” That’s when I was like 12!! HA! Who knew there was a lot more to learn! I rebelled. I fought back. That was being a grown up, right? I frankly did not have a clue what I was doing. I plowed through decisions without thinking of the consequences. And, there were a lot of consequences. I loved to shock people, among them my twin sister. If I could get her to yell, “PAMELA”, I knew I’d reached my goal of totally being obnoxious, and in my opinion, grown up!
My last blog post, 8 Ways To Leave A Lasting Impression spoke of how older generations(grown ups) can leave a lasting impression on younger generations. On a Friday afternoon many years ago, my algebra (UGH!) teacher, Mr. Scott, asked me to stay after class. This hulk of a man (he was over 6 feet tall) pulled up a chair very close to my face and said, ‘So you think your antics in class are funny? You think chewing gum, talking and being sent to the assistant principal’s office (often), is being grown up? Well, it’s not. You have all the potential in the world and you’re throwing it away. Being an adult takes courage. It means being responsible for your actions. Now leave. And, if you want to continue in my class, you’ll think long and hard about what I said before I see you again’. YIKES! First of all, no one had ever said I had potential. Did Mr. Scott’s in-my-face confrontation send me down the more grown up path? Well, yes and no. Did I have the courage to take a hard look at myself? A little bit. Did I ever act up again? No.
I thought ‘being grown up’ meant I had to conform. I did in many ways. I didn’t like it. I shrank. I struggled to fit in…that meant trying to be accepted by the popular girls…which never happened, and of course, I took personally.
In the Washington Post magazine dated May 24, 2015, an essay by Jim Sollisch, a creative director at an ad agency in Cleveland, writes about an audacious decision he made in the 9th grade, and “marvels at the boldness of my decision…that wasn’t driven by principle as much as by ego and impulse, two things we learn to control as we become adults.” In The Day I Stood Up to the Man Sollisch says, “Humans are hard-wired to seek social approval, to join groups. We are conformists who create norms for every organization we form, no matter how small.” He wonders, “…what ideas I might not have censored, what risky paths I might have taken. I’ll never know, but as I grow older, I grow younger. I care less about what others think…I am inspired by the ghost of my former self…”
So, how can you tell when you’ve grown up?
-Are there audacious moves you have made that would make your ‘former self’ proud?
-Do you play with abandonment? Examples include: Dancing (even if you think you’re not good at it), singing (same as dancing), traveling somewhere you’ve never been, saying ‘yippee’, ‘wahoo’, ‘yaaaaaaaa’ often?
-Do you treat yourself?
-Do you know that not everyone is going to like you and that’s okay?
-Do you ask for what you want?
-Do you forgive your shortcomings? And, other people’s?
-Do you take responsibility for your actions?
-Have you stopped blaming your parents for how you were raised?
-Have you taken a risk now and then?
-Do you not conform to what society says you should, ‘be like’ ‘act like’ ‘look like’ ‘dress like’
at a certain age?
My 50th year high school reunion is coming up this August. I would love to see Mr. Scott so I could tell him he set me on the path to being a grown-up and it only took me until I was 68 to figure out that I think I’ve arrived. “WAHOO,” she says with reckless abandon!!
Originally posted 2015-05-25 22:13:51.