My mother died when she was 48 years old. I was 21 when she left me, and I was still trying to figure out my place in the world (as I still am at 42), and I was angry for a long time about her leaving me with no one to look to for guidance and wisdom.
Looking back now I realize that in her own eccentric way, she did share much wisdom with me. It is all becoming very clear to me—now that I have children—the lessons and values she instilled within me. I look in the mirror now and I see her, I spend time talking with my children and I hear her. The things she taught me are now being passed along and hopefully will continue with my grandchildren and their children. It is inevitable we all turn in to our parents in one way or another—it’s simply a fact of life. Hopefully we can learn from their mistakes and forgive them for their imperfections and move beyond being pissed-off all the time the many things they did wrong.
My mother was an eccentric, off-beat, somewhat geeky, extremely compassionate, artistic and beautiful woman. Unfortunately she battled depression most of her life, which eventually got the best of her. In her own unique way, she found humor and joy in unusual places—and had a knack for imparting knowledge in somewhat alternative ways.
She had several common sayings, meant to teach me lessons, which are embedded in my memory. While most of them are pretty funny (and sometimes crass), they all have an element of truth and practicality to them.
1. “Scratch your ass and get happy”
She shared this special saying with my only when I complained too much. A simple-yet-effective statement. I use this on the job quite often.
2. “You’re big enough and ugly enough to take care of it yourself”
This comes in handy when you run in to somebody who never wants to take responsibility or do their own work. It was her way of humbling my sister and I to bring us back down to earth.
3. “Only boring people get bored”
I use this one regularly on my kids.
4. “If you misbehave, I will smear the walls with you”
This was most effective when I was little. The visual on this is pretty scary.
5. “Everyone makes mistakes, that’s why they make pencils with erasers”
A simple and practical way to remind us all that we are not perfect.
6. “There are only two things you should fear in life, God and the IRS”
A great reminder of what is really important—ain’t that the truth!
7. “Every woman deserves a good wife”
She tried to reinforce the fact that although men have their uses, what women really need is a good wife to help with the kids, cook dinners, do laundry and provide real emotional support. Very, very, wise.