Caroline was one wise woman. Her gentle, intentional, and joyful way of going through life meant that she was sometimes misunderstood or diminished. And yet, she was keenly-attuned to the human spirit. She didn’t need an online emotional intelligence course, a personality test, or a knowledge of neuroscience to inform and shape how she related with others. People responded to her warmth, her unconditional kindness, and her genuine curiosity about them. They relaxed and their protective masks and world-weary personas softened. Caroline had a way of making everyone feel unique, special, and worthy of the space they took up.
I am humbled by what she knew and practiced, often in the face of circumstances and people who made doing so a challenge. Well, let me revisit that: a challenge for the likes of me maybe, but not for our Caroline. I can’t count how many times she would look me in the eye and say:
“You’ll see, Jeannie. Getting older is beautiful…you get the wisdom.”
And here’s the thing: she never uttered those words in that preachy, “I know better” way. She spoke them like someone unexpectantly privy to an inside tip. But more importantly, she spoke them to give me the strength to trust in tomorrow, and to respect the inscrutable mystery that is the process of living and maturing.
Eventually, when I got over myself well enough to see with greater clarity, I came to understand that “the wisdom” was nothing shy of a proper noun:
For me, it is a gift worthy of reverence. As my process of living and maturing ensues, I am exceedingly aware of four specific things I learned from my mother’s mature and ripened wisdom:
- The “situation” doesn’t define you. You can always choose how you will be.
- People will always matter more than anything else.
- You can learn something from every person you meet – and it isn’t necessarily good.
- Listen to your intuition. Trust that which knows better than you do.
My mother and I shared a love of birds, flowers, and surprisingly, words. In some ways, our loving relationship was hard-won. We were more like oil and water than a perfect blend. We both understood this and did the work of understanding, healing, and moving forward together in love. I am so very grateful for my mother, my first teacher, my most profound example of what it means to live with a heart wide open. She would have loved this photo.
Can you, can I live with the courage and vulnerability of a heart wide open?