My mother kept a journal of things I did as a little girl. There are many silly anecdotes written on those pages, but my favorite is a little more serious. As the story goes, I often played by myself as a toddler, happy to be alone in my own little world. Sometimes, though, my mom would sing to me, and whenever she did, I would stop whatever I was doing and listen intently to the music.
It shouldn’t seem like a big deal, but that story actually explains a lot about our relationship. While both my parents push me to become a better version of myself, my mother has consistently encouraged me to not just be more, but feel more. Sometimes this means asking me questions that I don’t want to be asked – “What’s underneath that emotion? Why are you feeling this way – but then them mull over for several days. Other times, this is leading by example.
There’s a phrase over the window of our living room: “Live within the grace of each day.” The flowing cursive stands boldly above the window, proclaiming a need for a life of simplicity, of faith, of grace. My mom had it made several years ago, about halfway through “the ACT Journey,” or what is essentially a program for adults to re-evaluate their spiritual identities. It could have been disconcerting to watch an adult, a parent, re-evaluate their faith – but it wasn’t. My mother brought us all into the conversation, talking about what she was learning about herself around the dinner table, asking hard questions, and letting us hear the answers. Looking back, I’m struck by how brave that was. Authenticity is hard enough with your peers; to bring you children into the experience, to let them see your weakness and your fear, is another level of courage altogether.
My mom set a precedent for the rest of us. She showed us what it means to push yourself, what it means to grow in every aspect of your lift. Plato talks about education being the reorienting of oneself towards the correct thing – the Truth – and my mother, through music, questions, and her actions, has truly taught by example.