Notes from My Mother

Yesterday. The day started out ordinary. Most days are ordinary, I’ve come to learn. Extraordinary living comes from seeing the miraculous in everyday life. It took me a long time to realize this. I used to wait impatiently, going from one experience to another, searching for extraordinary moments, when I was younger. This was a mistake. Of course, there were some amazing things that I experienced along that younger-self-journey. But between the spaces of time, while going through the daily routine, I missed out on the small things. As it turns out, the small things are actually the biggest and most important of all.

So, I was going through a pile of crap, cleaning out one of those drawers that we all have: the ones where we toss stuff when we don’t know what else to do with it. Yeah, well… I have three of those. I like to keep things. I call these “just in case drawers.” I had some new things to put into the “just in case drawers.” So, I needed to get rid of some of the old and make room for the new.    

Finally, I get close to empting the drawer; I can actually see the bottom. Yippee. This was no small accomplishment; there was a lot to go through. Anyway, right near the end, I see it: The Envelope. And just like that, my eyes well, my nose burns, and then the tears stream down my cheeks. This is no ordinary envelope. This holds my mother’s poetry. Some of you know that my mother was a writer. She never got to write the book she had promised to write; the loss of her possibility to do what she had always intended makes me so sad. But I do have her poetry, and it's not typed. These are words written by her hand, in her elegant and curvy letters. I open The Envelope and read her words – both heartbreaking and soothing.  

It is so strange how an empty space can take up so much room. The loss, the emptiness, it’s greater than anything around me. When I let myself feel it, deeply – the loss, it overwhelms me. I also learned so much from losing her; in many ways it's changed me. This is not easy to reconcile. How can I gain anything from the greatest loss I have ever endured? It doesn’t make any rationale sense, and yet, it makes total sense emotionally; it is my lived experience.

Having endured the loss, while also surviving it, made me stronger. Somehow this strength made her life lessons clearer. My mother was a very wise woman. It breaks my heart to think that she is not here to know that I am a better person for having been her daughter, and that much of what I have learned about life, she taught me. 

Underneath The Envelope is a piece I wrote a couple of years ago, but was never published. Along with a long narrative and some poetry, there’s a list of things I’ve learned from her. So here it is: lesson learned, notes from my mother.  


Don’t let others’ judgments stop you from being who you are. You’ll never make everyone happy.

Don’t waste precious time worrying; things have a way of working themselves out. And worrying certainly won’t make them work out any faster – or better.

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Most of what we sweat is pretty small when compared with losing someone we love.

Speak your mind, but if you speak too loudly no one will listen.

Always treat people with kindness and compassionate, but don’t allow people to mistreat you.

Doing nothing is often better and speaks louder than doing something. And you will always feel better about yourself and be stronger for it.

Spend too much money on an expensive vacation – occasionally. You deserve it.

Live fearlessly (within reason).

Love wholeheartedly. Love so much you look and feel foolish.

Try something you’re afraid of at least once a year.

Be joyful in the present. It really is a choice. Much of how we feel is dependent on the way we see the world and experience ourselves in our world.   

Don’t ruminate. It’s good to contemplate, but ruminations are useless and a waste of time.

 Never be arrogant; it’s not a redeeming quality.

Treasure your old friends; they knew you when you acted childishly and they still love you. But always open your heart to new friends, too.

Believe in yourself.

Don’t compare yourself to others. Everyone has struggles. No one is immune to challenges in life. Be grateful, not hateful.

And… never take anyone for granted, especially the people closest to you.