Back in the 1990s, Martha Stewart did a show where she taught young people the basics. Just basic life skills, homespun wisdom. Like “If you don’t want to iron your clothes, don’t buy linen or cotton.” Things like that. Wisdom these young people weren’t learning from their parents nor their schools.
This got me thinking about the many wise adages that fell from my mother’s lips. As I live my life, I often recall her tidbits of wisdom. The older I get, the more confirmed they are.
I’d like to share the wisdom of my mother with you now.
“Just ignore ’em.”
At the extremely strict, religious school I attended, you were more likely to be abused and bullied by the faculty than by your classmates. I experienced only one episode of bullying on the schoolbus. In retrospect, it wasn’t much but it still hurt. Then, as now, I don’t handle meanness well.
“Ignore ’em.” That was Mom’s advice. “You’ll take all the fun out of it if you simply don’t react.” I wish she’d also taught me to look beyond the bullies, to the hurting children they were. But “Just ignore ’em” was excellent advice.
I tried it.
No more bullying!
It’s advice like this that has stood me in good stead for a lifetime. But it does have a drawback. Some bullies don’t quit when ignored. I’m talking about narcissists who spew hurtful “teasing,” sarcasm and criticisms as naturally as breathing. I ignored it for a lifetime. It continued for a lifetime. That’s why I went No Contact which is really just “Ignore ’em” on steroids!
“A new broom sweeps clean.”
Does anyone even say this anymore!?
Does anyone even sweep anymore, what with robotic vacuums like the Roomba!?
Seriously though, this is one of the best adages you’ll ever hear. It means simply this: Every new person you meet seems wonderful. No dirt. No baggage. No dysfunction. They seem like a peach of a nice guy or gal.
What’s troubling is how long some new brooms sweep clean and/or how long it takes us to notice the dirt, grim and dust bunnies they’re accumulating. Suddenly we realize, “Damn! I did it again! Another narcissist. Another user. Another dysfunctional person. I gotta get out…now!”
“We teach people how to treat us.”
Although this adage could be easily appropriated by abusers to blame us for their treatment of us, that’s not how Mom meant it. She meant that we, ourselves, subtly and powerfully affect how other people relate to us, speak to us, treat us. Not to let them off the hook, but to make us aware of our own behavior.
I developed this idea in last week’s article Codependents, Decision Making and the Perpetual Rescuee.
“You only get one body. It’s a long life. Take care of your body.”
The young feel so invincible. Take crazy risks. Treat their bodies with disrespect. They don’t think ahead to the decades of chronic back pain they’re flirting with. All for a viral YouTube video.
Grandma taught this adage to Mom and Mom taught it to me. Now, I’m teaching it to you.
Protect your eyes. You only get one set. Don’t use your teeth as tools. Don’t take illegal drugs. Lift with your knees, not your back. Don’t be a hero. Protect your body. You only get one. Whatever happens to your body, you have to live in it for the rest of your life. So take care of the one precious body you were given.
I’m sure there are many more wise words from my mother, but I’d like to end this article with a wonderful piece of wisdom from Desi Arnaz. That’s right! Mr. Ricky Ricardo of I Love Lucy himself!
“Nunca hagas negocios con amigos.”
(Translation: “Never do business with friends.”)
I had an uneasy feeling in my gut. Of course, it wasn’t exactly my fault. First we did some business together, then they became friends. Each time goods or services were traded, I felt uneasy. Desi Arnaz’s saying, “Nunca hagas negocios con amigos” played on a loop in my mind.
Of course, he was right. I was cheated. It opened the floodgates. Suddenly I realized the friendship was hurting me even more than being cheated hurt me.
In retrospect, I wish I’d been one or the other. Either a friend or a business partner. Not both. It would’ve been wiser. The relationship ended and ended badly.
Desi was right. And Mom was right.
Researching for this article, I ran across a fascinating codicil to the broom adage. Apparently, “A new broom sweeps clean” is actually an incomplete saying! There’s more to it.
“A new broom sweeps clean,
but the old one knows the corners.”
Now that is what I call “food for thought!”