Mom had lots of wisdom

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Psychologists suggest ways to cope with life, be happy and feel less pain. Christian ministers offer God's plan for dealing with ups and downs and suffering. My mother had her own method of dealing with catastrophes, disappointments and rejection. When thing got out of hand, she would say, "You just have to take life as it comes."

Although I often believed this common advice, it was too simplistic. Although people back then did not consult psychiatrists, psychologists and other mental health professionals commonly as we now do, a lot of what a person said and practiced then meant the same thing. And it worked.

There are so many things to deal with in life. People want to run away or hide from the unpleasant. Sometimes one takes a pill, leaves the situation, hides his emotions, prays or eats, drinks too much. There are lots of coping mechanisms.

Although Mom's advice seemed simple, they were valuable sayings handed down from generation to generation. Most are used by mental health professionals and doctors today -- just in more sophisticated vernacular.

Taking life as it comes means don't fight against what you can do nothing about (now the Serenity Prayer). Mom certainly had a life less than perfect, but it was fine in her mind. My dad had a small farm while I was growing up. That can tell you that our finances were meager. Little money was available for recreation. Nevertheless, Mom made the best of it. One especially unpromising summer, things were particularly bleak because my dad was ill and she had the responsibility of supporting the family. Suddenly, we were unable to locate Mom. After searching the farm we found her down on the ditch bank fishing. She fished a lot that summer. When she became bored or depressed (she never admitted that), she found solace in the activity. A smile and words of encouragement were never gone from her lips. She always had dreams of a better future -- a happier tomorrow.

Mothers can instill much wisdom and hope in their children through their words and especially actions. Although kids certainly learn about life through watching moms and dads, they need to hear quotes, stories, Bible scripture and learn coping skills, too. Without having knowledge of ways to deal with what comes in life, youths are without the necessary tools to live when the bottom falls out.

Mom seldom told me what to be or do with my life, but she was cautious about the types of people I claimed as friends. She believed that "birds of a feather flock together." Some might call that attitude judgmental.

She didn't believe in complaining, either. You dared not gripe about the weather, although she let you know she preferred the heat. She approached spring, summer, fall and winter with "This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it" (Psalm 118:24). Who could argue with or disapprove of Scripture?

Although Mom lived in the present, she looked to what was ahead. Things would improve the next day and she personified that outlook. She dealt with reality but owned a Pollyanna viewpoint, too -- a help in taking life as it came.

When our family finally moved from the farm into town, Mom was in heaven, she thought. She approached her new position working in the kitchen at a hospital with gusto. She threw everything she had into her job, making friends with whomever she worked. Mom delighted in the opportunity to be creative in decorating desserts for patients.

After Dad's death, Mom continued on. Sitting was not her style, so she never turned down an invitation to go somewhere. What an inspiration Mom was. I wondered why things never seemed to get her down but I now know. She kept on "taking life as it comes."

Ellen Shuck holds degrees in psychology, religious education and spiritual direction and provides spiritual direction to people at her office.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: