Thursday, March 8, 2012

Things I learned from my mum

Yesterday was my mum's birthday so today's post is on honour of her.

My mum has always been a great influence in my life. For all the ways she might drive me up the wall, she has also given me some really incredible teachings to live my life by. I am grateful to her for so many things. I probably couldn't actually list them all but I want to take the time to share some of the most important lessons I have learned thanks to her guidance.

1. You cannot rely on everything to go 'right'.

When I was three I would get really upset when the weather wasn't what I wanted it to be. My mum realised I was very small but even then she knew the importance of teaching me that some things cannot be controlled and it was futile for me to get upset because it was raining when I wanted sun.

It's relatively easy to teach someone that the weather is not something you can rely on because its ability to change so quickly is universally understood. I'm grateful that my mum gave me this teaching at such an early age because it has allowed me to understand that there is nothing in life that doesn't change. People are just as unpredictable and unreliable as weather. Any plan we may have can go awry for dozens, if not hundreds, of reasons.

Thanks to my mum I've been in training since I was three to accept that change is constant and that planning out every little detail can be done but that's not to say that everything will go according to that plan.

2. You choose how you feel.

"You make me so angry!" I would shout.

"I don't make you angry, you choose to feel angry," came my mum's infuriating reply.

I was a child and all I knew was that I was upset, angry and hurt after my mum had said something I disagreed with. For the longest time I didn't understand what she could possibly mean because the proof of cause and effect was so blatant to me.

She said something, I got angry. Clearly she was 'making' me angry.

But as I grew older I came to see the wisdom of her words. Whatever someone might say or do, even if they are trying to provoke a certain emotional reaction, is no guarantee on how we choose to feel. This is because our emotions are based on our experience and our experiences are very diverse. 

The best example of this that I can think of is the weather (good old weather!)

I grew up in a really dry climate. I'm used to snow, but for me, rain is a rare occurrence. I have come to really love a proper, lashing downpour. So when it's pouring buckets, like seriously raining cats and dogs, I can feel happy, inspired, excited, even joyful! I've gotten used to this feeling and expect to feel quite uplifted during a proper rain storm. I choose to feel good about rain. 

Now that I live in London rain is a more common occurrence (But not as much as rumours would lead you to believe) but I still get a thrill out of it. Your average Londoner, however, does not. Most people grumble when it rains. Even if it's not rained in three weeks, one day of rain will provoke a barrage of complaints about how 'miserable' it is and how 'typical' it is.

The rain is indifferent. It obviously doesn't have a motivation to 'make' anyone feel any particular way. One cannot predict how someone will respond to any given situation - except you yourself based on your own opinions, values and experiences.

3. Be mindful of how you say things. 

I'm fascinated with Neuro-Linguistic Programming but long before I learned about NLP training and started taking courses my mum was making me aware of language patterns.

"Can I go to the park?" I would ask.

"I don't know, can you? Are you able to?"

I'd roll my eyes, "May I go to the park."

It may seem pedantic or getting really hung up on semantics but she had a good point. Communicating effectively involves paying attention to how the meaning of a word or sentence can be very different depending on who you are talking to. 

By instilling an awareness of how I say things as well as what I'm saying she has given me an incredibly useful skill. when I moved to London I knew there would be cultural differences but my ability to pick up on differences in speech patterns and phrases has really helped me understand 'two countries divided by a common language.'

If I say, "That won't be too much trouble,' to a fellow Canadian they are likely going to take that to mean, "That's not a problem." But if I say the same thing to an English person they are likely going to take it to mean "That would be some trouble."

This teaching has helped me to be aware of how other people map the world with their language so that I can communicate more effectively.

4. Be assertive.

I remember her telling me very early on that if I was dissatisfied with something but did nothing to make my feelings known then I had to own that because I was making the choice to keep the problem to myself. 

I honestly can't remember how old I was but I know that before I was six my mum had already taught me to complain effectively when I wasn't delivered what was promised. For example, if we had ordered something in a restaurant and my order wasn't right, she would get me to call over our server and explain what was wrong with my meal and ask that it be remedied. 

I wasn't always very good at expressing myself though. My tantrums were so monumental that they have become legendary in our family stories. My mum said I taught her great patience as she had to really stick to her guns and remember the things she'd said because I'd try to trip her up. But she always gave me space to explain myself when I behaved reasonably. By the time I was twelve I was able to express my misgivings about her returning to work full time or always going into my bedroom when she knew that the mess would make her angry.

5. You are capable of accomplishing everything you set your mind to. 

My mum had very little tolerance for 'I can't'. It helped that I was fiercely independent and stubborn, but she has always instilled in me the importance of finding solutions rather than always finding reasons why something can't be done. 

As a result I've often been able to take charge of my life. When I was struggling in High School, lost in a sea of student IDs and suffering from depression, I took the initiative to find a different school setting that was more suitable to my needs. I was able to transfer schools in a matter of months and ended up graduating as valedictorian of my class. If I'd remained at my previous school I would have dropped out entirely. 

Either way, my mum taught me that what happens is entirely up to me. I felt my teachers were ineffective and that the environment I was in was oppressive and uninspiring but if I had dropped out, that would have been my choice and my choice alone. No one could force me to fail. 

I have carried this teaching with me and as a result I've successfully started up a not-for-profit organisation, organized my own art gallery shows and set up my life coaching business. 

Thanks to my mum I know that if I want to do something, I can and will find a way. If I don't then I'll find an excuse.


  1. Beautiful. Your momma taught you well!

  2. I feel blessed to know your Mother. Around the time when I first met you, I heard she encouraged you and your friends to come over for a koolaid party. As a teen I found that heartwarming because I felt she was doing a great job at keeping kids off the street and encouraging them to not drink or do drugs :)

  3. Awwwwwwww. Hugz all around.

  4. I loved this post it made me think of things my mum has taught me such as it is always nicer to ask then to tell such as when wanting my daughters to say clean their bedroom I would say "will you please go and clean your room" then around the 4th or 5th time that would change into "clean your bloody room NOW" but at least I asked


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