Moms, Choices and Life Legacies
Mother’s Day Week, 2013
Over on Google+, my good friend Brian Matiash (newly head of the Google+ Photos Team) asked us to post something everyday this week over there with the hashtag #HeresToTheMoms. It’s been a special tribute to our moms and it’s been lovely! My mom shifted dimensions on July 20, 2008. But as one of my dearest friends – and someone who was such a bright, shining light – celebrating her spirit has been easy. And hard. Mostly because sharing all the amazing things about her makes me want to wrap my arms around her and tell her I love her one more time. Luckily, I was able to do that hours before she passed… and since I feel like she’s standing here, looking over my shoulder as I write this… she never really feels that far away.
Her name was Bettylou, born in 1920. Actually, her given name was Beatrice Lillian, which I thought was beautiful. But as a youth she disliked that name so much she changed it legally. Bettylou always had a strong head about things. Her family always, always took pictures. That must be where I got that photo thing. We even have images of the Norwegian part of the family on the boat coming over to America! So, photography is pretty entrenched in my soul. It’s also why we’ve got scads of photos from Mom’s early years, that sparkle and light of hers always shining through.
Not that she was perfect. Much as I loved – and still love her, no one is perfect. Thank goodness! Who could take that kind of pressure! But that’s kind of my point here… and it’s come even clearer to me as I’ve shared things about her on G+. There may have been some major speed bumps along the way in our lives with Bettylou… but the bigger picture is that there were life lessons that she managed to instill in us that have seen us through ours in brilliant fashion. One of the big ones is Choice. We always have one. We always make them (whether we realize it or not), and we always define our own reality with them. And furthermore, the life we build – full of the choices we’ve made – all adds up to the Legacy we leave. I decided upon five of Bettylou’s favorite choices to share with you. Five is the number of Grace, and that seems fitting.
5 Choices Mom Taught Me To Always Make:
1. Choose Kindness
Of course, Bettylou loved animals of all kinds. She’d pick up gopher snakes and think they were the most beautiful things on the planet. I would shudder! I found a ginormous wolf spider on the guest bathroom wall once, shrieked, ran and didn’t go back in there for 6 months. But she went in and captured it – all the will Ooh’ing and Aah’ing over it’s loveliness. We used to joke that there was an invisible neon arrow pointing up our driveway visible only to stray animals in need of a home. She was like a lifelong episode of Wild Kingdom! But it didn’t stop there… kindness was extended to everyone. With people it took the form of being someone who listened, never judged, always had a “glass-half-full” way of seeing things and offering advice. You’d always feel good after spending time with Bettylou. Speaking of that…
2. Choose To Feel Good
Bettylou loved to have fun. Clearly this propensity started early! This photo was from the early 1930’s near a public swimming pool that the family frequented. There were several hilarious pictures from this particular day. But Mom believed that you choose how you feel – and that choosing to feel good was one of the magic secrets to an awesome life. It was also something well within our grasp everyday. Doing it acted like a magnet, drawing more “feeling goodness” to you. “Life happens”, she’d say… “But you choose how you feel about it. In that way, you choose what happens next.” I suppose it’s alot like the more modern “Law of Attraction” teachings… but she and her family were doing it looooooong before it became All That.
Is always choosing to feel good always easy? Not by a long shot! Was she always successful at it? Nope. Who is? (and she viewed that as a choice too.) But it was something she always focused upon. It was her superpower – and it became part of a life legacy that I’m so grateful for.
3. Choose To See The “Glass Half Full” and Be Grateful
I think Mom was taught at a very early age that she was blessed. Blessed to be alive, blessed to live in San Francisco, blessed to be part of a family that would share with anyone who came to the door looking for food during The Great Depression. Her family wasn’t wealthy – but always managed to keep working. I think her mother may have been a nurse. Her grandmother made all of her clothes. She never took her blessings for granted; I think she’d seen too much in her early years. But somehow, she came out of all of it with the certain knowledge that she was blessed, grateful and that “You are what you think.” As an adult, people used to tease her about seeing the world through rose colored glasses and being a “Pollyanna”. But she maintained that it was all part of creating the life she wanted to live and if that made her a Pollyanna, then so be it. She did have a sweetly disguised spine of steel.
4. Choose Your Friends Wisely
“Friends are the family you choose”, mom would say. “Choose them wisely.” I’ve discovered she was oh-so-right. We found SOOOO many photos of Bettylou with her friends. In this photo, mom’s the 2nd one from the right; the one with the model-thin legs. She had a way of attracting wonderful friends and valued them like treasured gems. The best friends are the ones who don’t judge you, always tell you the truth, listen, support you in good times and bad, offer great advice – and also know when to shut up. (BTW… we were never allowed to say “shut up” in our house. It was tantamount to cursing!). She had lifelong friends with whom she shared laughter, joy, heartbreak, marriages, divorces, children, deaths… the whole big, wide, beautiful expanse of a life well-lived. But she chose them wisely. She had healthy boundaries. In her own positive way, she invited people to step up and be their best selves. Most did. But Bettylou didn’t suffer fools or negative drains on her life force – or anyone else’s for that matter. I always admired that quiet line she held. She was compassionate – but definite. And she always chose well.
5. Choose to Choose
Choosing to choose gives you a leg up in life (Bettylou’s the one in the middle). Mom used to say that if you don’t do the choosing – it will be done for you. The results might not be to your liking and you will have no one to blame but yourself for not making a choice. She even said NOT choosing is a choice… so there’s really no getting around it. Choices will be made! You might as well make them, own them and learn from them so you can start making better ones. We are the authors of our own book of life. And the best time to make a choice? Now! About what you want, how you intend to feel, what you think about, what you put your energies into, who your friends are, what kind of life you want to live. It’s all a choice, so start making some this very minute! That was Mom.
Bettylou’s “Legacy of Life”
Mom spent most of her adult life trying to figure out what she wanted to do when she grew up. That was how she described it. She was an equestrienne, a writer, a mom, a photographer, a quilter, an artist of life. But she never quite saw the true gift she had; that of herself. Her own radiant life force; blessing, teaching, enriching, enlivening everyone around her. She was like a beam of light in that way; a slice of the Divine. She also fought depression, struggled with her self worth most of her life, was stubborn as a mule, and a bunch of other really human, sometimes incredibly annoying stuff. The legacy she leaves doesn’t have a job title attached. Heck, it doesn’t have a title of any kind. What do you call a person who left the world better than she found it and empowered people? Who somehow, in perfectly imperfect ways, gave us a brilliant demo of How To Be in this world. How could she have known we’d need her lessons about unconditional love, life, kindness and making the right choices and a steely dedication to Light now, more than ever?
I wish there could have been a college degree or a job title for her – so her perfectly imperfect human self could have known what a monumental legacy she left. What an enormous difference she made… and how I thank her every single day for Grace she brought and shared with us.
Above is Mom and me on my wedding day…
And this is my sister and me with Bettylou, on our last Mother’s Day, 2008. She left this dimension for her next adventures two months later. Tomorrow, I’ll post the video I made for her Celebration of Life back then – and believe me, it was!