By Marilyn Tam
My mother was a gift wrapped in sandpaper – cutting and abrasive upon contact, but when carefully examined and thoughtfully experienced, she became my most powerful and inspiring teacher.
My mother just passed away between the American holiday of Thanksgiving and the year-end holidays of light and gift giving – an auspicious time of giving thanks and celebration of life.
Helping to sort out the things in her home, I found something that added significantly to my perspective of her. My mother’s home had been left basically undisturbed in the last four years while she was incapacitated with no physical mobility or speech and needing 24-hour care.
Many years ago, in my last futile attempt to get her approval, I presented her with a copy of a Chinese American magazine that featured me on the cover – the Chinese American Immigrant Success story. Would she approve of me now that even the Chinese American community regards me as noteworthy?
What the general American press said about me in newspapers, Fortune and Businessweek magazines etc. didn’t rate in her eyes. Here’s an opportunity to finally show her that I was not “a waste of a pregnancy” as she regularly told me. She took the magazine and laid it on her lap for a moment, without glancing down she placed it on the coffee table and turned to watch television.
I realized then yet again that I have to approve of myself and not hope or wait for outside approval. That was my final bid to seek her acceptance. I was freed to be me, living my life as I best knew how, granting myself the recognition that I had secretly longed for from her. What a gift! To be able to fully live my life purpose, without the heavy shadow of outside expectations.
Now so many years later, on the bottom of the hoard of news clippings and articles about my brother, the Buddhist scholar, professor and monk, was that magazine with me smiling on the cover. Maybe she did notice, conceivably she actually approved, and perhaps she did feel a little bit proud of me? And equally important, it seemed possible that she might have been happy with all her children and was at peace with her own life. I sat there on the floor, holding the pile of papers, magazines and clippings and cried. I cried tears of joy, gratitude and love, I had been given another gift from my mother, that of acceptance.
Her life long criticisms had made me stronger and I strived harder to excel more than I would have otherwise. I developed deep compassion and the desire to help the less fortunate from understanding how it felt to have less and be judged as not being good enough. So many gifts have I gained from what on the surface was a miserable situation. Thank you mother for your gift wrapped in rough sandpaper. I am truly blessed.
Who or what situation in your life is your precious gift, wrapped in sandpaper? What can you gain from that? How can you share and celebrate your lessons learned?
In this season of the celebration of Light, Life and Thanksgiving, I honor and bless you. Indeed you are a gift, thank you for being you.
Marilyn’s new book, “The Happiness Choice – The Five Decisions that Take You From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be” will be released in February 2013. Marilyn has two more books, “How to Use What You’ve Got to Get What You Want” and “Living the Life of Your Dreams”, which won the Global Inspirational/Visionary eBook Award for 2011. Her books and work have helped numerous companies and people globally.
Marilyn Tam is an international selling author, speaker, entrepreneur, humanitarian and former CEO of Aveda, President of Reebok Apparel Products & Retail Group and VP of Nike and the Founder and Executive Director of Us Foundation.
This week on my radio show, “The Happiness Choice”, http://www.fmgradio.com/show/marilyntam you can hear from Harville Hendrix Ph.D., best selling author, featured relationship expert on one of Oraph’s top 20 TV shows, and the co-creator of Imago Relationship Therapy and “conscious partnership”. He is sharing about how he learned many of the secrets on how to be happy ithrough his relationship with his wife of over 30 years.