Words of Wisdom – Part II
July 2nd, 2010

Today’s post is the second in a two-part series in which I’m exploring some of the best advice I’ve received from my two best female role models – my mother and my mother-in-law.  You can find the first installment here.

My mother-in-law, E, gives advice freely.  However, her advice is as likely to be nonsensical as serious.  Her most repeated refrain in life is, “That’s what you get for marrying a man.”  This statement is almost always offered as a response to my frustrations at GAP having done something stereotypically male, such as forgetting that we already made plans for this weekend, or not brushing IEP’s teeth before bed.  “If we’d all married women our lives would be so much easier.  I warned my daughters but they married men anyway.  You’ll have to do a better job if you have daughters.”

So there you have it:  E’s words to live by blazing a path to worldwide lesbianism.  Clearly, she has a sense of humor.  But there is so much more to this woman whose words deal predominantly with fun, but whose actions address a full menu of more substantive qualities.  And so it has been by the power of her example that I have come to learn a lot about life from E. 

My favorite thing about E is not her boundless energy.  It is not her insatiable thirst for her grandkids.  It is not even her willingness to sacrifice her formal living room to a big screen television and a Wii.  It is her confidence.  E is a woman who exudes confidence in a way that I’ve never quite seen in anyone else.  She does it without apology, but also without arrogance.

At least in my experience confidence is often coupled with some undesirable bedfellows: cockiness, abrasiveness, unchecked ego, and a lack of regard for other people.  E, on the other hand, somehow manages extreme confidence in herself without looking down her nose at anyone else.  She doesn’t care a nit what anyone thinks about her, but this never influences how she treats others.  I am accustomed to people without the insecurities of perception using their confidence to barrel through life with a “take no prisoners” attitude.  They are unconcerned with the collateral damage they cause because the effects to their reputation are irrelevant to them.  But E has shown me (unwittingly, I suspect) how to free myself from the weight of worry about other people’s opinions while still conducting my life with empathy and humanity. 

The result of this kinder, gentler brand of confidence is a happiness and lightheartedness I’ve known in few other people.  Because she feels no need to prove herself E is not defensive.  Because she doesn’t concern herself with other people’s judgment she approaches everyone with equality and magnanimity.  Because she is free from the burdens of insecurity she finds the best in nearly everyone she meets.

Women are so prone to insecurity.  We are so inclined to worry whose career is more prestigious, whose skin is more flawless, whose jeans are a size smaller, and whose children are more perfect.  I am particularly susceptible to those burdensome (and shallow) concerns myself.  But in the eleven years I’ve known my mother-in-law I’ve come to see that there is another way.  And bit by bit I’m adopting that way in my own life. 

PS – Happy Fourth of July!

6 Responses to “Words of Wisdom – Part II”

  1. TheKitchenWitch Says:

    Sounds like you won the MIL lottery! I want to be E when I grow up.

  2. Cathy Says:

    Sounds like a great role model. You are so fortunate to have someone like that in your life. I am always jealous of those women who have a great relationship with their MILs.

  3. anne Says:

    I love how you describe E’s confidence…what a cool trait. and I totally agree:) Happy fourth indeed!

  4. BigLittleWolf Says:

    Your MIL sounds like a wise, fascinating and funny woman. How wonderful to have her in your life!

  5. Gale Says:

    BLW – You are correct on all counts. I really lucked out in the in-law department. I couldn’t have asked for a better MIL.

  6. E Says:

    :) The same holds true for E’s DIL and we are clever enough that we both recognize just how happy we are together!