It becomes part of our being, hugging us like skin. Not something that you can slip off at night and toss on the floor with the clothing of the day. No, attitude is much deeper and harder to change. Attitude begins to grow within us as babies when we are introduced to the world around us. We learn to love, we learn to hate, we learn to discern as bad and good. Yet somewhere along the journey of life, some of us may find ourselves consumed with the negative…like straining to see in the dark of the night…only making out the bad things around us.
Many times a parent declares, “I don’t like your attitude” or “you need to change your attitude” without understanding how difficult this process of change can be… We are asking one to quickly morph into another… or face our consequences. Yet we as parents have helped define their attitudes. Combine that with the world we currently live in…wow it is a ticking time bomb. Take a moment and consider that children are living in a very complex world today. You and I may have walked a mile to school (I confess I did not) but we never dealt with the intensity and gravity of cyber bullying. We may have had to eat what was on our plate or go hungry ( I hated roast beef) yet we never felt the aggression and severe emotional pressure many kids of today experience. Today for fun, our children occupy their time with a never-ending visual stimulation of violence through our media and high def gaming videos. They kill with a deft handling the game a skill once acquired by playing jacks or marbles. They watch live social media capturing death, destruction, mayhem and violence. Some kids have had siblings, friends, parents die on the streets. Today doomsday preppers are glamorized on tv as they are proudly hording guns and ammunition…life and death, killing and survival concepts discussed as matter of fact like cooking shows and recipes. It has become a harsh world. Attitudes become armor to protect from that which is so difficult to deal with in life. And we are partially responsible as parents. As adults we become blind to the attitudes we carry as we strive to make the dollar, pay the bills and seek our own escape from the craziness. But we all travel with deep feelings and beliefs that keep us separated from each other. And we teach our children to do the same. Attitudes, they are so hard to change…
So what happens to tomorrow if there is not a positive shift in attitude? What happens if the adults do not begin to see that their bigotry, intolerance and closed minds are imprinted upon their children? I do not want to go there. Attitude…while deeply ingrained does carry ability to change. We see an epiphany realized by the family who adamantly declares strong anti-gay attitudes…until a loved one comes out. We see the ability to empathize during a natural catastrophe…as strangers extend a hand or even risk their life for another. Why is it only then that we are willing to see beyond the dark…why is it only then that we feel we are all a part of a larger whole? Those beautiful moments when a connection of respect for life of another is made with no thought of what is to be gained in return- action without attitude.
I often wonder why we wait until desperate times to rise above our attitudes. Why do we join the cause only after we feel personally affected by the war. Cancer, poverty, unemployment, inequality, gun violence, bullying, racism, sexual abuse, domestic violence, addiction…on and on they march in front of us. Our attitudes block us from the fight unless life has chosen to throw us through the ropes. Only then do many of us awaken and see that the fight is worthy. We take up our sword and add cause to our existence. But I ask, why wait?
October 13, 1934 is my mother’s birthday. Many years ago I would have gone to the “Five and Ten” store to proudly buy her a pretty pin or some cheap perfume for this special day. Makes me wish for the innocence of yesterday when life was so carefree and I thought she would be with me forever. Sometimes I would craft something for her and it would hang proudly for years- to this day some are still on the walls of the house I grew up in. Seems like yesterday I was a painfully shy little girl in awe of my mother who was so very outgoing and gregarious as she lit up the room with her smile and her stories. She could make everyone laugh and never ever stopped laughing at herself. I miss you Mom.
As I grew older I realized that this woman was really beautiful ( I know all mothers are) but she was seriously very attractive. She modeled some, did local tv commercials and taught “charm school classes” to girls. Mom also opened a health club for women. A woman years ahead of the times she was fearless in her determination to make her mark.
In my teens, my mom was someone my friends and I could talk to- about anything. She did not always understand us but she would listen. In her own way she was very traditional in her thinking (very unlike me) but I am sure it was her love that helped me grow into my own person.
Beloved Mema to my children, Mom was the ultimate grandmother. She lived and breathed love for her grandchildren. Upon her passing, my son- a college student at the time- looked at me with great sadness and simply said “ I just lost my best friend.” I knew it was true. They were SNL buddies, calling each other at midnight laughing about the show that was just over. He shared her wit and love for laughter. She had attached herself deeply in his heart. My daughter also shared a very special relationship with my mother. Amazingly they were so very alike in their appreciation for success, always striving to reach further. At times they seemed to butt heads- I think my mother saw herself so clearly reflected in my daughter that Mom sometimes felt driven to push her even further forward. Oh, but they were powerfully connected and to this day I hold a secret belief that they were once sisters in a previous life.
Losing your mother. It is tough, very tough no matter how old you are when you lose her. Like the unraveling of a favorite skirt hem, life remains intact but a bit frayed. It hurts, phone calls no longer made and milestones shared only in my heart. I miss you Mom. I thank you for being my mother and a wonderful grandmother to my children. Your life was a gift to us and you have left us with many exquisite memories filled with laughter and love. I think of you daily, and talk with you in my dreams. Happy Birthday…I miss you Mom.
As a very young child, I was extremely shy. I recall how difficult it was to exchange a hello when introduced to my mother’s friends. I could only whisper my greetings. I knew it should not be difficult, but it was. It was awkward and very uncomfortable.
My mother was a very extroverted person. She carried herself with confidence and was one of those “life of the party” people. I was so unlike her. My father is an introverted person, one who while quiet in a group- his thoughts always deep and willing to wander beyond the box. I tell you these things about my parents as I wish for you to picture our mealtimes at the table. Mom could always make us laugh and Dad- well he made me question the world around me. So our dinner discussions would include thoughts on life, death, religion, capital punishment, racism…sprinkled in with Mom’s ability to kill a good joke with the punch line too soon. Those dinners taught me something very special to me. They showed me I have the right to think deeply, explore my beliefs and be able to pronounce them aloud. They showed me how to laugh at myself ( as my mother always did) yet have confidence within. Those dinners are where I found my voice.
As I age, I realize the gift that my parents gave to this very shy, introverted child. They helped me overcome my reservations and become me. As a result, I have been able to use my voice to help others, many in great physical and emotional pain. I feel beyond grateful for the experience. I now know the power of one’s voice.
Today I find my thoughts always wandering beyond the box. I love to share and receive others’ insights on life, death, religion…I feel strongly compelled to react to racism, intolerance and discrimination. I am able to use my voice and I am not fearful of doing so. I do not feel awkward and uncomfortable unless I stay silent. Ironic isn’t it. So different from that little girl who could hardly whisper hello. And I have learned not to take myself too seriously…I laugh at myself often. I have found my voice. I won’t give it up and I won’t stay silent anymore. Thanks to my mom and dad.