There are lessons for us to learn all the time, especially from the people we share our lives with.
When I was a child, I learned a lot of beautiful lessons from my parents and grandparents. After my mom passed away, I missed hearing her wise words, getting her opinion on things, and gaining her insights. I have to admit, 20 years after her death, I never expected to have the opportunity to get advice from her.
I went to a sleepaway camp for the first time when I was nine years old. That first summer, I was incredibly homesick and savored every letter I received from home. When it was time to leave camp, I stuffed my letters into a ziplock bag and took them home to my closet. Unintentionally, this pattern of saving any letter I received and added to the bag continued until I graduated from college.
Twenty years after the death of my mom, thanks to an unexpected discovery, I remembered I had this bag of letters.
One evening, I finally opened the bag. I was shocked by what happened next. Rereading the letters, after so many years, brought me unanticipated peace, love, and a renewed connection to my mom. Reading the letters, I could feel her personality, hear her voice, and from my adult perspective, got to know her a little bit better.
I gave myself permission to let go of the sadness I’d been holding onto since her death and was reminded of many beautiful lessons I want to make sure I teach to my daughters.
As a mom of two daughters, Zoe, who is 21, and Avi, who is 18, I try to pass on family traditions and wisdom, weaving the past with the future, making sure my daughters know who they are and where they came from. I want them to know as much as possible about my mom, feel connected to her, and be proud to call her their grandmother.
Here are five lessons I learned from my mom I’m passing on to my kids:
1. Life isn’t always going to be easy.
We will all experience challenges. For a long time, I felt angry and sad because my mom passed away so early. Finding the ziplock bag of letters and reading my mom’s words, reminded me that we get to decide how we’re going to approach the day, regardless of our circumstances. The older I get, the more I realize finding happiness isn’t about dodging challenges. It’s about having the courage to decide to move forward, doing the best you can, even when things get hard and life isn’t easy.
2. What we think matters.
Believing in ourselves and practicing positive self-talk is incredibly important. We can build ourselves up or tear ourselves down. It took me a long time to realize this. Telling myself my life sucked or my family was dealt an unfair hand didn’t serve me well at all. It just made me feel worse. Instead, intentionally practicing positive self-talk and using daily affirmations can help to shift our mindset. The power of our mind is significant. We should use it well.
3. Manage stress and take care of our mind and body.
We have one body, and we can’t live life to the fullest if we aren’t healthy. There will always be things to feel stressed about, but staying grounded and having tools that really work will make all the difference. Daily meditation, yoga, and exercise are the biggest ways I help myself show up each day feeling my best. I find myself leaning on these practices now more than ever and encouraging my daughters to figure out what tools work best for them. It takes commitment and consistency, but having a daily self-care practice is a game changer.
4. Define success for ourselves—not other people.
For a long time, I measured my success by the amount of my paycheck, the size of my office, or my title. It is incredibly important to live the life we want to be living, not what other people tell us to want, or what we think we should want. I’ve tried and failed at a lot of things in my life. Learn from our mistakes, don’t let the fear of failure get in the way of giving something an honest effort, and give ourselves permission to listen to our own voice. Make sure you’re creating the life of your dreams, not wasting time living someone else’s dreams.
5. Count our blessings—not our problems.
It’s easy to focus on what isn’t going well in our lives or what we don’t like. However, regardless of our situation, there are always blessings in our lives. Sometimes, we just have to look a little harder to see them. Living with gratitude is the difference between living in black and white versus living in color. There’s a lot of beauty in the world. We just have to be willing to open our eyes, pay attention, and notice everything around us. It’s easy to get distracted by all the external noise in the world. But, we have to remind ourselves to stay present, release anything that isn’t serving us well, and remember that every day is truly a gift.
I’m incredibly grateful I found these letters and received this relevant and timeless advice. There’s not a day that goes by when I don’t think about my mom, and I miss her a lot.
Reading my mom’s words, I got a much needed dose of her relevant wisdom. I want to make sure I pass these lessons on to my daughters—and doing so will help make their lives richer and fuller because of it.