Last Tuesday my dad grabbed my shoulder in the lobby of a Central American hotel, and said the four words every momma’s boy fears the most, “Your mother is sick.”
Yesterday we received the news that my mother’s lung cancer is in phase one and should be easily treatable. My mom is going to be OK, and I am back home in the arms of my wife and our two little one’s, but I still can’t breathe — so I am going to write it out.
What lies below is a brain dump of the life lessons my mom has taught me over the years in an attempt to (and I quote my mom), “Jump back into the land of the living.”
1. My mom taught me that “Making We Special” is so much more important than “Making Me Special.”
“Life is a lot more fun if you stop thinking about which character traits make you different from others, and start thinking about which character traits connect you to others.”
My mom is community.
2. My mom taught me that the beauty of compliments is that you never know where they are going to end up.
“Everything you have in your life was not created by luck, but rather little nudges from people that were kind enough to notice your details. So pay the favor forward and tell people the good you see.”
My mom is supportive.
3. My mom taught me that thoughtfulness is the difference between good and great.
“Take a look around you and take note of the people in your life who are the happiest. It is not a coincidence that they are the same ones who notice what makes you smile. These people are keepers and their small actions will lead to lasting friendships.”
My mom is a friend.
4. My mom taught me the importance of thinking positive.
My dad told me when my mom was told she had cancer, just as fast as he broke down, she stood up and said, “Let’s do this.”
My mom is a fighter.
5. My mom taught me how to fight.
Being the wife of an intelligence officer my mom had to go through some of the same training to see how far she would go before she broke. Long story short — she was the only spouse that never did.
My mom is strong.
6. My mom taught me the importance of being proactive when it comes to helping others.
“The only true measure in regards to what makes a successful life is the number of people you help. All of your needs will be met if you are helping the people around you to meet theirs. Full stop.”
My mom is a giver.
7. My mom taught me that there is no higher compliment than asking people what they think.
“What’s the fun in telling people what I believe? You can’t learn much by doing that.”
My mom is a learner.
8. My mom taught me that everyone’s reality is different.
I cannot count the number of times I got frustrated with someone and my mom came back at me with the words, “You have no idea who that person is or what they are going through, so relax, your unnecessary anger is not helping the situation.”
My mom is understanding.
9. My mom taught me to not make assumptions about people.
“If you think you impress everyone you meet on the first go of things, you are sorely mistaken. Life is long Michael — the more room you give people to show themselves, the more they will surprise you.”
My mom is patient.
10. My mom taught me that “reliable” is the most undervalued word in the dictionary.
“People want to spend time with people they like and they want to spend time with people they trust — so as long as you are not an jerk, and you do what you are going to say you are going to do, you will be alright.”
My mom is consistent.
11. My mom taught me that the truth may hurt, but to embrace it and the people who are kind enough to say it to us.
“You are hurt because what they said to you was true — so suck it up and go thank them for it.”
My mom is wise.
12. My mom taught me that what makes us different is also what connects us.
“My best friends and I share similar values, but we hold very different beliefs, and that is what makes it fun. Life has taught me that sometimes the things you do not have in common can build a connection just as quickly as the things you do have in common.”
My mom is open-minded.
13. My mom taught me how to get girls.
Growing up my mom said these words time and time again, “The key to a woman’s heart is an unexpected gift at an unexpected time.” I used to say that if contact lenses were never invented I would still be a virgin (220/20 vision — think Ralphy from the Christmas Story except with acme), but in reality I would still be one if she hadn’t shared that pearl of wisdom with me.
My mom is clever.
14. My mom taught me how to appreciate what I have.
“When your father was your age he was in Vietnam. You have a life most people only dream about so stop complaining and make the best of it.”
My mom is right.
15. My mom taught me the importance of creating opportunities.
Like I said, my dad was military, which meant marching order arrived every two years. Unable to work in some of the countries they were stationed, like clockwork, on day one, my mom went out into the world and got involved. From volunteering at libraries, to working at soup kitchens to starting book clubs the list goes on and on.
My mom goes first.
16. My mom taught me the power of a smile.
My wife is Catalan and her parents do not speak English and my parents only speak English. But the first time they met my mom literally killed them with her smile. They do not speak the same language, but they are friends, and the world could use a little bit of people like that.
My mom is welcoming.
Most of all…..
17. My mom taught me that creating and maintaining relationships is our only job.
My mom is cool.
Over the last year on Medium I have shared lessons I have learned, and experiences I have had, but looking back over this list, the real author is my mom. My mom made me.