This is the second in a series of reflecting on lessons learned. I’m sharing them because I think it’s really important to consider how we learn from those around us. It’s about actively engaging in the learning process, throughout our lifetimes.
I think it’s universal that the relationships between mothers and daughters are complex. I know mine is, but in a good way.
When two women which such high-powered EQ co-exist in a variety of roles over decades, there is simply so much to navigate. The roles of nurture within a home, parenting, then be-friending, supporting, challenging, disciplining and helping create self-awareness – all these roles have become shared in our relationship. I’m grateful for that. I’ve learned a lot about how to love and serve a wide range of women in my life from this relationship with my mother. I’m also lucky to share some aspects of that relationship with my sisters, although no child has the same parenting relationship there is certainly plenty to learn and observe from our shared experiences.
As with Lessons My Father Taught Me, these are my words to describe what I’ve learned from a woman who raised me, teaches me and inspires me still.
- Fix the problem that starts with you.
It used to drive me crazy as a teenager and young adult. Now I try to ask myself the question before I need Mum to – it’s a really powerful question. In any situation or conflict that didn’t go my way or I found myself in some sort of trouble, she would ask, ‘Well, what was your part in it? What did you do to get that reaction?’. It’s possibly the smartest way I started to learn the power of self-awareness, when to think before speaking and when to risk it regardless. It’s an incredibly powerful tool in forgiveness and reconciliation to be able to humbly own your own part in any conflict. There is rarely any shame in being responsible for your own actions, when it comes to making an apology.
- If there’s something you want, there’s always something you can do to get it.
As much as my dad has taught me to always believe and look for hope, it’s my mother that has taught me to always consider what actions you can take to pursue the result you want. She’s an expert problem solver because of that, always looking for action you can take to move you closer to the goal.
- Just tell the truth and then we’ll deal with it.
There’s not much to say about this. Other than, I’ve learned this is most valuable in relationships. Too often, it is in relationship with others that we struggle to be most truthful about what we think, what we feel and how that might affect each of us. So this, is possibly the singular most important thing, because it goes hand in hand with a promise. Just tell the truth (and I will be graceful enough to receive it well) and then we’ll deal with it.
- Let your brain rest on it, great solutions sometimes need time.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I have talked to my mother about a problem or challenge I’m facing, only to have her call me back the next morning or email with a solution I never would have considered. From time to time, she’ll even say – ok, let me think about it and I’ll call you tomorrow. I’ve learned that our capacity to come up with creative solutions is often most effective when we let our instinct and subconscious have a few hours to wrestle with the problem first. Often now, I’ll come back from a meeting with a client and just need to sit and think about the information. It’s digesting time. It’s time for the genius within to do work.
- Creativity, hospitality, traditions and atmosphere welcome people in.
I’m sitting at my mother’s house right now, surrounded with Christmas decorations. This is the first year in a long time we haven’t thrown a traditional Christmas decorating party with our extended family and friends. Mum has a knack for creating environments that people can enjoy, for hosting with enthusiasm and creating traditions that welcome other people into them. I realise that I carry many of these traits from her – annual parties, traditions and creating atmosphere for people to enjoy. I learned from her and I hope to teach my family the same.
- You make your family and then you choose it.
Maybe it’s because we have a small and geographically dispersed family, or growing up in the church but for whatever reason, our extended family counts more friends than blood relatives. But they are close as close can be. Mum has consistently welcomed people into our family life, including our friends as we’ve grown. From that I’ve learned the value of investing in the children of your friends and known the peace that comes from making a family of friends, even as a single person.
- Always look for opportunities to connect people.
Mention the word ‘networking’ and people sometimes visibly shudder. It conjures images of self-serving, rapid business card exchanges and a set of shallow, transactional relationships. I prefer the word ‘connecting’ because that’s what Mum does in her professional life and her work life. She is constantly connecting people to one another for no personal gain, but in a way that enriches others. I’ve learned from her that connecting other people is a rewarding process from which goodness comes.
- Be generous with your time, your love and your money.
There’s a fine line between living a life of true generosity and living a life of obligation. From my mother, I’ve learned to give what you can, when you can. To make choices about generosity wisely is something I’m still learning, however I think the more you connect with giving something away for the sake of someone else and less for yourself, it matters less.
- Be active in your creativity and in your rest, so that you add to the world.
My mum is a maker and a teacher. Of course, that’s not her job. But if you were to ask what my mother does, I would tell you she makes and she teaches. What makes her a good teacher? She offers what she knows without pretence. She shares her knowledge willingly. She makes constantly – whether it’s foodie treats (no one can beat her strawberry jam or tamarillo chutney), quilts, scrapbooks, room renovations – you name it, she is constantly making. She adds to the world. So I try to make, create and rest by adding something to the world.
There’s a way of living which is earnest, good and generous. It’s wholehearted and passionate, a force of nature and I aspire to live in that way too, in the steps of my mother.