I’ve learned a lot over the last 50 years (and still have much to learn). I think my most significant moments of growth have occurred, though, during life’s challenges. In the middle of them, it felt awful. But when I got to the other side, I realized I was smarter and maybe a little more compassionate. The biggest lessons have come from the people whom I’ve loved the most. I can’t choose just one person I’ve learned valuable lessons from, so you get to read about a few.
Although they are obviously two separate people, my children have taught me more than I ever thought possible. When she was little, my daughter was a spitfire. I bought her all this Barbie crap because I had loved playing with them when I was a kid. She was like, “Yeah, no thanks.” At first, I didn’t get it. She was my kid. Shouldn’t she like what I liked? And then I realized that although she came from me and had half my genetic makeup, this girl was her own person. She was going to love what she loved and think what she thought. And lucky for me, I got this through my Mommy Brain very early in her life. My son, with his sunny and joyful disposition, has taught me, too, that he is unique and amazing. His autism is not a flaw to be fixed (as I believed at his diagnosis); it is part of who he is and part of what makes him so special. He has taught me patience beyond belief. He has taught me to stop and smile and listen. He reminds me to dance. He wants everyone to get along and be happy, and he lives that desire 99.9% of the time. Anyone who knows my sweet boy loves him.
I have probably learned the biggest lessons of my life (so far) from their dad. Anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis knows that he left me for a younger (and obviously far inferior) woman after 23 years together and that it absolutely shredded my heart to pieces. Now, though, looking back over that horrific time, I have an ability (in a way that only comes with time) to appreciate that he left the way he did. His cruelty taught me kindness. His disregard showed me that I deserved better – and that being alone was better. His indifference taught me no amount of my love could save our marriage and keep our family together. I learned that I couldn’t do it alone. He taught me that someone can tell you they love you while their actions convey the exact opposite. Because of these things, I learned how to stand on my own two feet, to be alone and like it, and to move forward with grace (most of the time) despite being treated so poorly. I have watched him go from someone who callously walked away from everything we built to someone who today, 7 years later, understands what a precious gift he squandered. He breaks my heart for different reasons now.
And finally, I think the person whose actions have influenced me the longest are those of my father. When I was younger, I didn’t understand why he was so rigid, so stern, so strict. He would use his “teacher voice,” and I would freeze. My dad was never scary, and he’s a man who still loves to tell the same corny Dad jokes he’s been telling my whole life, but I always knew he meant business. I also always knew he loved me. Yes, he said it, but more importantly he showed and proved it every day. My car broke down, and my dad was there to help me tow it home. I locked myself out of my apartment, and my dad was there with tools to help me get back in. I was a puddle on the floor in the middle of the above-mentioned heartbreak, and my dad was there, arms open wide when I walked through his door. Granted, he eventually told me to get divorced or stop crying about it, but tough love is love too. When I was little, my mom was mad at him for some reason and was having my sister and me pack up the car to leave for her hometown (some 700 miles away). When we got in the car to go, it wouldn’t start. My dad had disabled the vehicle before he left for work. He loved her and knew they couldn’t work it out if she took off. During the upheaval in my marriage, when I was hanging onto my ex-husband with all my might, my mother said, “I don’t understand the way you love.” But I think she does.
It’s those I’ve been closest to who have taught me the lessons I’ve needed to keep evolving. I’ve learned I need to let people be whoever they are, to listen more and talk less, to love without expecting love in return, and to be grateful for the lessons the Universe sends me, regardless of how they show up.
From the writing prompt “Who is someone who has taught you a valuable life lesson? What was it?”