Five Things I learned from Mother about getting back up after life’s hard knocks

IT’S NOT FAIR. Shouting those words only led to hearing her say, “Life isn’t fair”. I despised hearing those words back in my elementary days, as she sent me off with a hug. I wanted her to fix whatever it was in the moment; I wanted her to make it all better. Instead, she helped me see the truth about life. This week as a friend is preparing for surgery to (hopefully) be free of colon cancer, I am again reminded: life is not fair. I cannot make it all better. Still, I can comfort him and his family with an immune-boosting healthy dinner and fun-loving movie. Life is not fair. Remember to always send your loved ones off with a hug of reassurance.

LIFE CAN TURN ON A DIME. When your eyes meet up with a homeless man standing on the corner or a fanciful dressed woman waiting in a line at the grocery store, please know that one is no better than the other. Chances are that man wasn’t always homeless and that woman wasn’t always dressed in fancy clothes. Mother would say, “life can turn on a dime” ugly or pretty, good or bad. Seize opportunities to help another. Givers eventually become receivers because life is full of hard-knocks, as well as good-knocks.

YOU CAN’T WORRY ABOUT WHAT THEY THINK. The only person who can get you back up when life knocks you down is you. Surely, other people can help, and hopefully they will. Surely, you should pray, and hopefully you will. Surely, words of wisdom will give you a needed boost, and hopefully you will be open to listen. Surely, your actions will affect those around you, and hopefully you will consider them. Yet, too much time spent thinking about what they think will stifle you, and maybe keep you from doing anything at all. As mother would say, “you’re the one who has to live with it. You can’t worry about what they think.”

DON’T SULK OVER IT. Beating yourself up is a double-whammy. The only thing worse than the hard knock itself is sulking over it. When my mother fell at the age of seven, lapsed into a coma and then developed seizures years later, she could have sulked over the head trauma and what came in its wake. Instead, she combated the consequences by seeking God, attending daily Mass, and being thankful for the protection of her brother (“mean kids” existed in the 40’s too). Mother lived with life’s hard-knocks for most of her life, but she tried her best not to sulk over it. Find reasons to rise; give others hope to rise again.

PEACE AND QUIET COMES FROM WITHIN. In this world there are plenty of things that promise to us help de-stress and escape from daily pressures. Vacations can provide good medicine after life’s hard knocks … until you get back home to that empty house. A close friend of mine watched her husband die of a rare blood disease at just 47 years of age. For many years afterward, their home was a stark reminder of his absence rather than a place of respite for her. My mom built on her peace and quiet with every walk she took through the woods, until Alzheimer’s stole her ability to navigate. My friend navigated the hardest knock of her life by building new memories in new places, and eventually taking home a “practiced” peace and quiet within.

Life is never fair and it can always turn on a dime. If you spend your time worrying about what others think you will sulk over what went wrong, and it will rob you of all peace and quiet within.

Whether you are recovering from a hard-knock or preparing for the brunt of an impending one, take note of the 5 things from my mother. Alzheimer’s delivered hard-knocks for 14 years (after epilepsy did so for decades) but mom never stopped getting back up. In fact, even when she could no longer get up, she still mustered the courage to show up. I am still in awesome wonder of how she did that. Let me hear from you … how did mom teach you to get back up during life’s hard-knocks?

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