I once again pay tribute to my mom, Atlanta Georgia. She passed away on May 15th, 2003 at 94 years old, a milestone by anyone’s standards. Even at 92, she was driving a four-speed Chevy truck with no power brakes or power steering. Unbelievable! I’d drive the truck during my visits to Phoenix to visit her and have to see a chiropractor upon my return home–no kidding! Failing eyesight forced her to give up driving, much to her displeasure, as she would say, “It feels like someone cut off my legs!”
Before she became enlightened, I would tease her saying, “Mom, your angels are calling out, ‘Georgia, Georgia, Georgia, when are you gonna learn? We know it’s not your time to come to heaven; but would you please lighten up? It doesn’t matter that your son-in- law, Ed, bought red potatoes rather than russet. They stew the same! Who cares anyway? Don’t get angry, get happy.’ ” And Mom would try to coach herself thinking, “Shut up Georgia – keep your mouth shut! It isn’t any of your business! If the kids don’t care about something, why should you care about what they don’t care about? Who cares anyway?”
So, how did a transformation take place when she could have easily said, “To heck with everyone. I’m too old to think differently. You guys are the problem, not me. I’m in my 90s and I ought to know something.” What happened? How did mom move from a negative state to a positive place?
Mom and Dad lived with my sister, Ann, and her husband Ed, for many years and let’s just say ‘the kitchen had room for only one cook.‘ They had some tumultuous times and, after one final argument, they decided to move out. Can you imagine two 90-somethings moving out of their home, and refusing help? Anger can create powerful physical/mental strength and they accomplished this move, single-handed! (No martyrdom here, right?)
By the grace of God, Mom began listening to what life was telling her; she even seemed to enjoy the conversations we would have about life and change. One year when we were driving to my sons soccer match, I said, “Mom, I think this CD has a message for you.” For an hour she listened to and processed the CD (it was on forgiveness and letting go). We discussed it afterwards and I could see a light bulb switch on in her head and in her heart. It was astonishing!
As a life coach, I’ve had to develop enhanced listening skills and I was utilizing them to the max. I’ve discovered that being heard, really heard is the key to developing strong personal relationships. One of my favorite movies is Runaway Bride with Richard Gere and Julia Roberts. There is a scene where Richard is sitting next to his former wife who is playing the piano, and he asks her, “Did I ever see you?” She says, “No, you never did.”
I was given an incredible opportunity to see mom. I could see her grieving over Daddy’s death. I could see how lonely she was and how her low self-esteem was ruining her life. She made others wrong so she in turn could be right. Sometimes we do crazy stuff in our lives. In retrospect, it makes no sense, but still we continue on autopilot.
There’s a saying, “To walk 100 miles in my moccasins, you must first take off yours.”
Early mornings when I walk my dog, Brandy, we walk on a bridge over a lake. As we walk, I notice the early morning mist, the trees that seem almost black, and the lake appearing dark. As we turnaround and head home, I notice the sun peeking out of the clouds, the colors of the leaves brilliantly changing, the reflective lake surface now shining with soft silvery ripples. How different things look. I am amazed.
My point is this: Pay attention to the viewpoints of others; see their side of things, not just your own. I did, and it made an incredible difference in my family.
My brother-in-law Ed emailed and said he could not believe the change in my Mom. He asked, “What did you do?” I replied, “I listened; I heard and left the judgment behind. Mom did all the work.”
Remember, you can’t change anyone. Only they can change themselves. So don’t give up on people too quickly; they are doing the best they know how to do. And even though this is a tough one, don’t take things personally.