She’s been dead for almost 16 years, and, like most women who have lost their moms, I still think of her every day, many times a day, especially as I watch my own girls grow. For a long time, I was just too sad to write about her in a public way. I felt I could never do her justice with mere words, and was just so raw about the loss that I didn’t want to talk about her.
I still carry the sadness of her absence with me at all times, but I have woven in some of the frayed ends of that sadness, so that most of it feels beautiful in me now. When I do cry about her, the tears are different. Early on, they burned hot and stung my eyes, and left me angry and exhausted. Now, the tears, which still come, just feel like “overflow,” as if the bottomless well of love that she carried in her was transferred to me, and just gets jostled from time to time, spilling a bit out of my eye holes.
Okay. Don’t worry. I am not going to stay all deep and philosophical and touchy-feely. Here is the reason for this post: I wanted to write down a few tips I thought she would give me, give us all, if she were still here to do so. Little things that stand out in my memory as being quintessentially her, or things people noticed when they met her. In no particular order, here they are.
MOM TIP #1
Use a warm washcloth when you wash your face. She did this every morning and night. She would hold the warm cloth over her face and keep it there for a few breaths. I have been doing it lately, and it is incredibly calming. Not steaming hot, just nice and warm. It’s also an excellent method of increasing skin circulation before cleansing. But I think my mom did it because it just felt so dang good.
MOM TIP #2
Overdress. Her version of “jeans” was a pair of linen/silk/cotton blend trousers. And the poor woman was cursed with a daughter who wore real denim jeans 343 days a year for about 30 years (I’m down to about 300 days a year now), and a son who did the sniff test to see if his clothes were clean enough to wear (and still does). Karmic payback is always at work, as evidenced by the fact that my children dressed like they were blindfolded and drunk for many years. But here’s the point. She always looked put together. Like she was presenting herself, gift that she was, to anyone she met. And people noticed. Even now, every time I wear something of hers—a shirt, earrings, a handbag—someone compliments it. Every, single time. And I smile and nod, acknowledging that she was right.
MOM TIP #3
When you meet someone, if there is ANY chance you have met that person before, and perhaps even if you think there's no chance, say “it’s nice to see you,” rather than “it’s nice to meet you.” It’s such a simple trick, and could prevent a thorny moment, such as “Uh, yes, we met when we all went skinny-dipping after Pam’s wedding...”
MOM TIP #4
You can be discrete about it, but find time to pamper yourself. My mother was a partner in a DC law firm with a busy practice and a hugely successful career. But, when her secretary said she was “in an appointment,” I knew what that meant: she was with a masseuse, or her esthetician, or having a manicure, or a getting a haircut. You get the idea. No matter how busy her life got, she took time for herself. She used high quality skin care products, and bought well made clothing. She never apologized for it. And neither should you. You don’t NEED these things, and they can't buy you happiness. But taking a few moments to nurture yourself will make you happier, which makes it infinitely easier to nurture others in return.
MOM TIP #5
LAUGH—especially at yourself. My husband was a junior lawyer under my mom for eight years. They were working together, presenting to clients in a large conference room. She ran the meeting in her competent, professional, uniquely graceful way, and left the clients impressed; they were in good hands. She concluded the meeting, got up from the table, and promptly strode into a closet, which she thought was the door to exit the conference room. He remembers her bursting out laughing, instantly dousing any sense of awkwardness, inviting everyone in the room to laugh at her, with her. This is a trait she passed to me, and one for which I am endlessly grateful. Taking yourself, and LIFE, too seriously is a heavy burden to carry. So put it down. Lighten up. And laugh.
Hope you get to put one of these little tips to use soon.
On behalf of my mom, Judy,