This year, my New Year’s “Revelations” are based on some of the witticisms and words of wisdom that my mother and father imparted to me.
When I was young, I used to roll my eyes and shake my head at them – not really heeding their words.
Or so I thought.
They’ve since passed, and not a day goes by that I don’t miss them.
Most importantly, their words – often colourful and humorous, but always spot-on – resonate deeply with me today.
I now share them with you.
My mother used to say:
“Why the hell should I care what anybody thinks of me?!”
My mother danced to the tune of a different drummer. Although a Roman Catholic, she did not appreciate having religious dogma “jammed down her throat” (her exact words). She questioned. She rebelled. She made adjustments. To her, religion was deeply personal and spiritual. She did not join groups and attend Church gatherings, just to socialize and keep up appearances.
She prayed. Privately. She believed. Deeply.
She was a woman of Faith – but in her own, singular way. She was actually more religious than some of the people I knew who went to Church daily.
Ever since I can remember, she would instruct me not to care about what people thought about me. She spoke to me about the importance of embracing who I was, to try to change the things about myself that I needed to change – but not for anyone else. She taught me to accept what I cannot change – to embrace my flaws, as well as my virtues. She taught me to be me.
She rarely wore make-up and, as for jewelry – just her wedding band. On special occasions, she’d wear a strand of pearls. She didn’t have pierced ears, nor did she ever pluck her eyebrows (she didn’t have to, they were perfectly formed). She preferred the smell of Bromley’s English Fern soap to any kind of perfume. My mother used to tell me a story about her mother (my grandmother, who died well before I was born) and how she didn’t need to wear jewelry in order to feel or be rich. Apparently, a woman once asked my grandmother why she never wore jewelry, implying (in a derogatory manner) that she must therefore be very poor. My grandmother replied “My children are my jewels. They enrich my life.” My mother was the youngest of six children and all six adored their mother (my grandmother).
My mother was not one to self-edit. She spoke exactly what was on her mind, not mincing any words. This often made for some awkward moments and uncomfortable silences when in the company of friends and relatives. Whilst we (my siblings and I) would wince (like all young people, we were very easily embarrassed by things that our elders would say or do), my mother would shrug the moment off. She always, always stood by what she said and did.
It’s no wonder, then, that I – despite having to wear eyeglasses since the age of two, endure years of eye patches, endure school taunts about being “four-eyed”, or having skin as white as a ghost, and on and on – am a very, very confident woman.
I do not conduct myself or my life… for other people.
I do not seek approval, I need to approve of myself.
I dress the way I choose to. I do not second-guess myself.
I do not care what others say or think about me. Everyone is subjective and each person’s perspective is based on their own life experiences. So, what is important to me is how I think about myself. I always ask myself “Am I being the best I can be? Am I doing the best that I can do? Am I learning as much as I can? ” The answer is not always a resounding “Yes!” but the journey is not over, yet. Fingers crossed.
Most importantly, I stand by what I do and what I say.
My closest friends and family know that when they ask me for advice, I will not sugar coat it. I tell it like it is (unfortunately, telling it “like it is” is not always what they want to hear).
I am my mother’s daughter.
“The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.”
– Friedrich Nietzsche