Sunday, May 13, 2012

The best lesson

I've never been big on holidays whose original purpose has been lost in a sea of maudlin Hallmark sentiment. It bears noting that the woman who campaigned for a recognized memorial day for mothers in the early 1900s was by the 1920s dismayed by its commercialization. She made her criticism and disdain for such commercialization known throughout her life. She even criticized the purchasing of greeting cards, which she deemed being too lazy to write a personal note. The woman was even arrested for disturbing the peace with her anti-commercialization protests on year.

I like this woman. She reminds me of my own mother, actually. My mother is a woman who questions the status quo at every turn and raised four children who do the same. We're a non-conforming, anti-commercialism, stubborn, intelligent bunch. Among us are an unschooling Christian yet non-denominational mom, a practicing Episcopalian who is a counselor and yoga instructor, a Buddhist-leaning music composer who lives and works in New York City and me, a stay-at-home mom, converted Catholic and recovering alcoholic. We were raised Baptist, by the way. She felt it was so important to teach us to question and think for ourselves that she did so even though it meant we were tough teenagers. Not because we were wild, but because we all definitely had a mind of our own. She's proud of all of our choices, even though they are different from hers.

However, that's not what I had intended to say about my mother this morning. That's just what came out.

I was a very self-conscious child and teenager. I was paranoid and thought everyone was talking about me and teasing me (and sometimes they were). I thought I was ugly and did not like to be around other kids. It was a monumental effort to get me to go to youth group gatherings. To say that I did not make friends easily is an understatement.

Whenever I felt scared or uneasy about social situations, she would tell me look around the room and find the one person who was standing alone. And talk to them.

To this day, I do that, wherever I am; meetings, church, the park, neighborhood gatherings. It's a simple way to get out of myself and help another person. That person that I used to think was just stuck up and too good to talk to me? I now think of that person as someone who may be having a tough day, who is self-conscious and uncomfortable in social situations and just doesn't know how to make the first move. Maybe they think no one likes them or that they are unlovable or unlikeable or unapproachable or have nothing to offer. Maybe no one has talked to them like their opinion matters.

It's really the only social skill I know and practice well. It may very well be the best social skill of all.
I'm not sure that these things are actually related. Maybe they are. Being able to think for myself has given me a level of confidence that has banished fear of people to a certain degree. 

So thanks, mom.


Kelley said...

"My mother is a woman who questions the status quo at every turn and raised four children who do the same. We're a bunch of non-conforming, anti-commercialism, stubborn, intelligent bunch."

Well said--glad you said it so I didn't have to :-) And I love you all.

Anonymous said...

Your mom is awesome. From her, I learned to love reubens and Huxley. And you and your siblings all turned out pretty darn awesome. Happy Mother's Day!

Monica said...

i really liked that post.