“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ever since I knew my DC (Darling Child) was on its way, I have too often felt a lack of success: I couldn’t extend my maternity leave; I earned only enough on my return to pay for infant care (thank goodness my own mother could help me pick up the slack, letting us live and eat with her, rent- and board-free – in spite of the fact that she, herself, was renting); I couldn’t leave the “real” teaching job (in favor of picking up my former, highly successful interpreting career again) I had finally decided to take – even though it had become quite challenging in terms of my relationship with higher-ups – because I felt I had to be “responsible;” I was “not re-hired” from that real job – after five and a half years – and went back to editing on a contract basis for a textbook developer, only to discover that much had changed in those five and half years and no one really cared what the client wanted (I was vindicated when the publisher-client finally pulled the project from the developer – a mere two weeks before the bound book date, which is sacred in publishing; no, I am not a Cassandra!); something I did seemed to stymie my DC’s desire, at 15 months, to potty train – and delay it until the summer before my DC entered kindergarten; when we moved to a nearby city, I didn’t transfer my DC to a new school immediately in first grade, in spite of the fact that, as an experienced educator and a parent, I knew her first grade teacher – and principal (I talked to both, and sent endless notes) – were not covering the curriculum (neither the one mandated by the state nor the one they advertised)…consequently, when she transferred from that private school to the public school in our new neighborhood, we discovered she was at least a full semester behind in math. I was making work/career missteps and parenting missteps left and right….and feeling miserable!
I got back on an even keel for a few years – another five as a matter of fact. But, now, find myself back there, feeling unsuccessful no matter how hard I try. That is, I was until I happened to pick up a copy of Tony Robbins’ Unlimited Power (I’m at the point where I’ll even read what I avoided reading/buying into in the 1980s, as the Robbins phenomenon was actually happening) and read the above quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson.
I used to “laugh often and much;” it’s time to allow myself to do that again, to see humor in everyday situations – perhaps it’s time to start watching “I Love Lucy” episodes on Hulu or Netflix again, like we used to occasionally. For some strange (to me) reason, I do have “the respect of intelligent people” and I also have “the affection of children,” in spite of having turned into Monster Mother on two all-too-memorable and still-guilt-producing occasions. Heck, I even have the affection of the random dogs we meet on the street and the cat who likes to escape from the apartment upstairs and spray all over only my things in the small hallway leading to my apartment door. So, my heart must be pure, although sometimes my surface behaviors belie its goodness. Also for some strange (again, to me) reason, I have “earned the appreciation” and, in some cases, even friendship, of fellow parents, single and married, and have even “endured the betrayal of false friends” (that is, at that ill-fated first teaching job, my confidante/mentor/fellow teacher and my department head, the two people I trusted most, turned out to be frenemies).
I always “appreciate beauty” and I have always managed to find “the best in others,” even when they themselves could not. As a teacher, even at that first job, my students over the last ten years have always let me know that I did manage to accomplish my mission of sowing the seeds of self-confidence, love of self, and, in consequence, love of learning for the heck of it; and, I haven’t changed what is essential to my DC’s heart, soul, personhood – in spite of myself! So that takes care of the “leave the world a bit better…to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.”
By this measure, I am richer than Croesus, richer than any soul on Earth deserves to be. I am humbled and grateful on this first Sunday of Summer!
Please, especially if you have been feeling down lately, measure yourself by Emerson’s standard; I am sure that, like me, you will see that you far exceed the measure (and if you don’t, well – what are you waiting for?! Start laughing, loving, appreciating…take action!)! Then, feel free to share with us your own experiences and thoughts on success, as a parent, as a human being!
Until next time, I wish you