Thursday, March 15, 2012

An Open Letter

While my brother and I were on the train back from our wanderlust excursion in Rome, we had the great fortune of sitting next a woman reading the NYT.  Our great fortune was not that she was reading our "hometown USA paper" but that Patti was the best riding companion and the most perfect stranger you could conjure up.  After chatting a while about Clint’s military service, we delved into her time in Italy (she is American) and the fascinating jobs she has since undertaken.  There isn’t much Patti hasn’t done or seen or any subject matter she cannot speak eloquently about. 

Frankly, it’s admirable that anyone could acquire as much knowledge and not use it for world domination.

After exchanging contact information and a solemn promise to visit her in her countryside home on the outskirts of Florence --- someday---, we have kept in contact every so often to exchange life tales. 

Recently, Patti lost her mother.  The natural order of things suggests that it is reasonable that all of us will be orphaned at some point in our lives.  However, knowing that in advance does not preclude you or in any way soften the blow of experiencing the stinging loss once it arrives at your doorstep.

Our email exchange this week had Patti reminiscing about the loving legacy her mother left.  She asked that I share a story about my mom.  What I wrote to her really was not as much of a story as it was a short testament to my mother’s continued legacy… how it inspires me to be more purposeful in my everyday interactions with others, show more grace and acceptance of others then I could ever ask for or expect in return.

It is good to remember that at this moment, today, we are all writing our own stories, crafting our own legacy.   What will mine be?  What will yours be?

Even still, I have people who knew my mother (some in a very superficial capacity) seek me out to relate stories of something she said or wrote to them during their darkest moments that had a profound impact on their life. She had this intangible quality that attracted others to her.  By the droves.

Her influence was not a result of knowing all the right words to say, or having some overly empathetic aura.  I think her secret (as far I can put into words; it is mostly intangible) was that people knew that she accepted them wholly and completely as they were.  It was immediate and without reservation.  Thinking back, I know that part of her was crafted both by nature as she was always a compassionate and caring person.  Yet, I know that part of her was also crafted, more painfully, by nurture. 

I think my mom struggled with feelings of inferiority and unworthiness.  This may have been spurred on by her lack of desire (and she would have said lack of aptitude) to excel in school.  She had "only" dreamed of being a mother.  People in her life further solidified these and other negative core beliefs, mostly unintentionally.

Mom knew what it was to look to others for approval and come up empty handed. That led her to turn one of her perceived frailties into a great strength.  What was withheld from her she so freely gave away. Unconditional acceptance. 

No matter who we are, where we came from, or where we think we're going, once we inquire of the world (and we all do... it's not really a question of "if")  "Am I enough?  Am I lovable?" we’re already defeated as we have left our most vulnerable of questions open for debate.  

How rare and lovely are those who, by their very presence, convince us of our own worthiness before we can even open our mouths to persuade them of it.