Sunday is Mother's Day, and I believe moms understand the third metric better than perhaps any other population on the planet. Their primary driver is not money nor is it power, it's legacy. My mom, like many, sacrificed money and power in the name of parenting. She is a psychologist by training and turned jobs down that would have offered her greater financial gain in order to be a stay at home mom during my formative years.
She did without, so I would have opportunities both she and my father didn't. We weren't wealthy in the material sense, but thanks to her, I was exposed to a wealth of experiences and opportunities. Whether it was summer camps, horseback riding lessons, tutoring or a private-school education she found a way to make it all happen on a school nurse's salary. I know she didn't enjoy taking on a summer job working retail at the mall, but she did so to provide me with learning opportunities and in the process modeled both work ethic and balance that were engrained in me at an early age.
Both my outlook on life and my career direction have been a direct result of my mother's subtle influence, so I'd like to share a little bit about her wisdom. At an early age, she taught me the power of the human mind. As a kid, I was involved in a freak, summer-camp accident. A simple, fun, all-camp, water balloon fight sent me to the hospital. Yes, you just read that correctly. Diagnosis: water balloon injury. I got hit directly in the left ear with a water balloon and the pressure of the impact ruptured my ear drum. I was on "injured reserve" and couldn't swim the rest of the summer. My equilibrium was thrown off from the injury so I couldn't do much else that summer either. Reading was one of the few things that didn't make me dizzy, so she took me to get my first library card, and this is when I first developed a love affair with books.
The doctor said my ear drum should heal on its own, if I kept it dry, and I was to return in six weeks for a follow up visit. To add insult to injury for those six weeks, my mother made me shower with a pink shower cap over my ear.
After six weeks, there was no improvement in my ear so the doctor recommended a skin graft to surgically repair the ear drum. (I blamed the ridiculous shower cap). My mom was visibly angry with his recommendation and declined the procedure, saying we needed to give it more time and scheduled a follow up visit another six weeks later. (Mom's know best).
My mom is only about 120 pounds. and I think 100 of it is in her right foot, so on the way home we were going about 85 mph in her 1969 Buick Skylark. (It had a 455 engine that could wake the dead).
I remember her shouting to me over the roar of the engine that I was going to spend 20 minutes every morning when I woke up and 20 minutes every night before I went to sleep visualizing the skin surrounding my ear drum growing back, repairing my ear. I laughed. She stopped the car in the middle of the interstate. Apparently, you can do that when you're going so fast everyone else is far behind you. (Don't worry, I was still in a car seat in 5th grade, but that's a whole other story). She explained to me that doing this was a non-negotiable and that visual imagery was known to help the body have its T cells hunt down and kill cancer. If it could do that, it could help repair my ear drum.
So when we got home, she showed me a picture of what a healthy ear drum looks like, and you guessed it, I did the visualization begrudgingly. Fast forward six weeks, we return to the doctor's office, he examines my ear and reports that it had completely healed. When he asked what happened she told him, "We got a second opinion, mine. And it worked. Think about other options before you're in a hurry to cut a kid open next time."
Looking back my mother taught me several valuable lessons through that experience:
1. Never take an expert's opinion at face value without exploring other solutions.
2. The human mind is the most powerful force in the universe.
3. Good can come from seemingly bad situations.
Unbeknownst to her at the time, she planted seeds in my mind that would influence my career direction in two distinct ways. Firstly, I developed a love for reading and writing which years later in adulthood I have parlayed into a career as an author. Secondly, from that fateful day in the doctor's office forward I knew I wanted to study psychology and the power of the human mind.
I'm one of the lucky ones this time of year, my mom's still alive. I talk to her almost every day, see her every week and she still shares her wisdom and subtle influence with me and now her grandchildren. Father's Day is a different story for me. My dad's been gone since 2001 and 13 years later I still catch myself picking up the phone and starting to dial the number to talk to him. Then I realize, I can't.
Sometimes we don't know what we've got until it's gone. Parents don't last forever, so if you're lucky enough to still have yours, invest time with them because there will come a day when you want to call and talk but you can't. Sunday is Mother's Day; celebrate it with your mom while you still can.