Yesterday was Mother’s Day and, unfortunately, my own mother is all the way in North Carolina while I’m in New York. After a few silly texts and two FaceTime conversations, I took some time throughout the day to feel gratitude for the things she has taught me. Today, I want to share with all of you three lessons I’ve learned from my mother which have shaped my ideas about life, myself, and other people. I hope you are able to reflect on some of these things today because they have certainly helped me become the person I am proud to be.
Love of any kind between two people – when it is healthy and benefiting both parties – is about matched energy, effort, and respect. It is not desperate, and it should not make you feel bad.
Throughout the years, even in recent years, my mother has watched me chase after love that would never chase after me. Writing pleading letters to absent family members, crying over boys and girls who are more concerned with themselves, and running myself into the ground for friends who needed far more than they could/would ever give back.
I remember the first time my mother gave me this piece of advice and all the times after. In so many of those situations, I wasn’t in a place where I could hear it. It takes a certain amount of self-love and self-respect to be able to look at your relationships objectively and understand that they are not serving you and that you do, in fact, deserve better.
As I’ve grown into who I am now, this is a lesson I think about and practice all the time. It has made my relationships stronger with family, friends, and partners. Most importantly, it has made my relationship with myself stronger. When love isn’t serving me, despite the energy I invest in it, I no longer beat myself up and wonder what I am doing wrong that makes the other person not want to invest the same energy. Instead, I am able to let those feelings go to the universe, understand that the other person has their own struggles to work through, and acknowledge that there is plenty of love out there that would be just as happy to work for me as I am to work for it.
Love yourself, and more love will find you.
Silly, I know, but this is one of the best things my mother has ever taught me. Be weird. Stand out. Never care what other people think, because that is much more about them than it is about you.
This has manifested in little, seemingly insignificant ways throughout my own life and my mother’s. For her, it first meant sending her two oldest daughters off to middle school – one with bright pink hair and one with a mohawk – to be the “weird kids.” But it also meant that, despite our inherent insecurities and shyness, she sent us off to school feeling like we could be apologetically ourselves. It taught us to navigate life with a clear sense of self-expression and a curiosity about our own identities that would never fade.
This was a strong foundation for me to build my own confidence upon. As I got older, not caring what others thought about me helped me through some of the more challenging parts of my life. Coming out of the closet as bisexual, pursuing (and finding!) a career as a writer despite the unlikely odds, and even just starting this blog – where I talk about things that so many people might find strange despite their importance to me.
I admire her for her ability to be herself, and I still have a lot to learn in this department. I still laugh when I see her with crystals pressed to her forehead meditating on a crowded riverbank or barefoot hugging trees as bystanders look on. I wonder how on earth anybody could be so comfortable with themselves that the opinions of others don’t even cross their minds.
But I am working towards it.
This lesson is probably the one I fought my mother on the hardest when I was growing up. With a fierceness that was always a natural part of me, it was easy for me to justify withholding kindness from those who I believed wronged me in some way. When I was hurt by something someone said, I was ready to fight. Nobody was going to walk all over me if I could help it.
My mother, on the other hand, could co-exist with just about anybody. While passionate about her opinions and a fierce fighter for what she believes in, she never withholds kindness from anybody. She forgives, no matter how difficult, and she finds peace in seeing the good in people.
It took me a long time to realize that kindness would not make me weak and that forgiveness served me far more than it served those who have hurt me. When I did finally understand this, through her advice and her example, my life changed dramatically.
I learned to keep the fighter inside of me alive – with all of that passion, fire, and fierce nature I have always loved about myself – while keeping compassion and forgiveness in mind. As a result, I have found softness in others where I thought it was lacking. My conversations with the people I disagree with have changed, and I find that my point is more readily accepted. I can be strong and kind.
There are some people your kindness and forgiveness will never reach, but, as my mother would say (despite her aversion to swearing), “some people are just assholes.”
At least the world knows that I’m not one of them.