Mom turns 90 in November, and she’s still teaching me to laugh at myself, have more fun and focus on the positive. She shows me how to be grateful for the life I have and ready for when it ends. What follows are six of the most important lessons I’ve learned from Mom, lessons that demonstrate Mom’s compassion, confidence and strength of character and remind us to celebrate all that is our lives.
1. Wear more hats.
Late in life, hats have become Mom’s trademark. She wears them to dare to be her most fabulous self, and as the picture shows, that’s pretty fabulous! She wears them to stand out from the crowd and to enjoy her moment in the spotlight. Mom is never more self-confident than when she dons a hat; hats require that of us, which is why they’re such a courageous fashion choice. Hats signify to the world you’re ready for fun, and, thanks to Mom, I’m wearing more of them.
2. Show everyone your best self.
Mom grew up in a poor suburb of Boston. Her father was a milkman for HP Hood. When she and Dad married in 1949, they had $20 between them and a car with a hole in the floorboard. Mom never forgot these humble beginnings; they shaped her heart and formed her worldview. Mom doesn’t reserve her best self for Donald Trump or the other social elite in her circles. Strangers and friends, rich and poor all receive the same worldclass attention from Mom. She makes them feel special by getting to know them and learning their stories with genuine curiosity. This, more than any other lesson she’s taught me, has given me a vision for the person I always want to be.
3. Extend more grace.
Mom had a massive stroke in 2010. We nearly lost her. It all could have been prevented had one neurologist correctly diagnosed her prestroke symptoms. When I asked Mom if she would sue him, her reply was: “What would be the point? He didn’t do it intentionally, and he feels horribly.” In that moment, Mom transformed my understanding of grace. If Mom could extend grace to this person who had done so much harm to her and our family, how much grace could I extend to others for far lesser transgressions?
4. Never give up.
Mom’s finished everything she ever started. In 1947, she graduated from college. To be the first person in her family to earn her degree, she commuted two and a half hours each day on Boston’s subways and buses. It wasn’t easy, and her grades weren’t at the top of her class, but
she finished. Mom’s taught me that persistence is the quality that separates winners from losers. If you can’t be the smartest person in the room, you’d better be the most persistent. Mom always was.
5. Give back.
I’m not sure whether it was the nuns who taught her or her parents who instilled it in her, but Mom learned early on to give back and to do so with a generous heart. At the age of 72, when most people are slowing down, Mom formed the nonprofit Angels of Charity. In the process, she was a fierce advocate for children, raised substantial funds for their causes and earned recognition as one of Palm Beach’s most prominent, tireless and passionate philanthropists.
From Mom’s lifetime of charity, which she continues at 89, I’ve learned the power of helping others and building community. Mom inspired me to make her purpose my own and led me to start my business, New Chapter Coaching.
6. Be there for those you love.
In the days following her stroke, I fielded calls from throngs of Mom’s friends who were worried about her well-being. Each of them told me how Mom had been there for them: during their divorce, when their child died, when they were in the hospital and so on. When my partner, Elisa, was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, Mom was the one who called every single day to check in on her. Although none of us can be there all the time for one another, we can be there when it matters most, which is what Mom did and, at 89, continues to do.
This Mother’s Day, write down five lessons you’ve learned from your mom or another woman who has loved you in positive, maternal ways. Then call or write this person to share your loving insights and make a powerful human connection. Today’s the day, for tomorrow might be too late.
About Carolyn: At the height of the recession, Carolyn took her dreams off the back burner and started her own business, New Chapter Coaching. Crazy or confident, she’s never looked back. She’s dedicated to helping nonprofits get results that improve people’s lives and helping others make a difference along the way. Carolyn’s hit what she calls the career trifecta: She gets to do what she loves with clients she respects and earns a living doing it. She wishes the same for everyone.