A Most Remarkable Woman
Answering the question "What is the best advice you've ever received from an older, wiser person?" is both very easy and not at all easy for me . . . identifying the "older, wiser" person is easy - my mom. Narrowing her career as a mother down to the "best" advice - that's the tricky bit.
I hope that everyone enjoys a great appreciation for what they have in life, I hope everyone believes that they have the best wife, the best kids, etc . . . and I've written threads on exactly that, announcing to the world that I do in fact have the best wife, the best family, the best dog, and I could easily write 6 separate hubs on having the best (6) kids in the world. But somehow having the best mother in the world seems to me perhaps the most instantly definable. All my life my mother was always the strongest, smartest, prettiest, most remarkable person in any room.
Some of my mom's remarkableness was easy to see. I grew-up in the 60s, when there was national attention given to a redefining of women's roles in American culture, women were coming to recognize that they were not 2nd class citizens, they were not just generally inferior to men, that they had their own worth and began to demand the respect they deserved, etc - the women's movement was totally superfluous to my mother. She simply didn't need a massive cultural shift to inform her she was not 2nd class to anybody, she didn't require a new philosophy of gender roles to demonstrate to her that she was the equal of any man, my mom just did not need anyone to tell her she ought to be respected. The legitimacy of her intellect and abilities informed her of all this and the weight of her character evidenced it to those around her - my mother was 'liberated' before there ever was a women's liberation movement.
It wasn't difficult at all for me to heed my mother, to listen for and benefit from her advice. My mother, as a mother, operated right in the pocket of a perfect balance between love and discipline . . . I knew my mother loved me, no matter what - and I knew my mom was the boss, no matter what. When I was growing-up there was no 'eat your dinner or you don't get dessert' - if my mom had to tell me to eat my dinner, I had to eat my dinner, like, I had to start taking bites until I was finished, no 'or else' required. If she told me to clean my room, there was no 'if you don't clean your room you're going to stand in the corner', etc - there was no 'if not' about it, when she said to clean my room I had to start cleaning my room and not stop until it was clean.
Because I saw her as so deliberate, no piddling around with things (or people) but accomplishing well-considered plans, any kind of commentary or insights to life, any manner of axiom or advice she might share, seemed a likely treasure to me. To my mom, words were important, words meant what they actually did mean and they didn't mean what they didn't mean . . . if you didn't like brussels sprouts then you didn't say 'I'm not hungry' you said 'I don't want to eat those brussels sprouts because I don't like them'. In nearly all things, both ideas and actions, my mom 'cut to the chase'. If we heard noises outside our window or saw someone moving around in the dark, my single-mom didn't call the police, she would grab a broom and rush out the front door.
My mom seemed always in control, always the one to go to in any circumstance. Here's an example of the kind of woman my mom was; I only ever saw my mom drunk once in my life - and by 'drunk' I mean she had a bit too much to drink, she was a little tipsy. We were at home and she had made (another) fine meal, Italian . . . and she had some red wine with her pasta. Recognizing that she had a bit more than she thought best, she sat my sister and I down (we were probably about 9 and 11 years old) and told us that she had more to drink than she realized and didn't want us to see her under the influence of anything other than her own competency, so we were to clean-up, watch a little tv, and be in bed by 11 - and she went to bed. Even without her full faculties she was well-reasoned and deliberate.
So, for me, to isolate one piece of advice, to share one idea or statement from this remarkable woman is a daunting task, her whole life was an example - but I will share two things that she said to me that I remember her saying, I mean, I recall the occasion of her sitting me down and having my attention and imparting to me. The first may sound so simple a phrase and so obvious a truth that you miss the profundity of it, but, not just to a 10 year old boy, but to me, to the 10 year old boy that I was . . . everything changed for me, when my mom said to me; "Mickey, no body is any better than you - and you're not any better than anyone else". Everything changed for me because, I believed her. I began to live my life more as though the real truth was that no one WAS any better than me and that I was certainly NOT better than others.
And I don't think there is anything I got from my mother that I've tried more earnestly to pass on to my own children than this; "Mickey, if you are good at anything, if you have any gifts or abilities, anything that gives you any advantage over others - use that to help others . . . that's why you were given those advantages, not to serve your own interests, but so you could help those who don't have those particular gifts or abilities". I'm nearly 60 years old now, and I'm 6'2" - when I go to the grocery store with my wife I just wander around the store as she shops . . . looking for people who may not be able to reach something on the top shelf.