One of my favorite characters in the Bellingwood series (I have a lot of favorites … so, sorry about that) is Lydia Merritt. She is a force to be reckoned with. Not much frightens her and she’s willing to step in and tell people when they are being stupid. She frustrates Polly … and probably did so to her own kids as well. When Polly wants to feel sorry for herself, Lydia simply won’t let her.
That part of Lydia’s character comes directly from my mother. Now, Mom was never as outgoing with people in town as Lydia is and Mom was never as happy as Lydia to be around babies and other people’s children, but she didn’t put up with much in the way of pity parties.
You all know that I’m a night person. I have been that way my entire life. Mornings stink. They always have. Mom wasn’t much better, but she was certainly not going to let me get away with being a sourpuss in the mornings. I remember coming downstairs, bleary-eyed and barely functioning. This was back in the day before kids drank coffee or caffeinated soda to get them moving. I could drink orange juice or milk or water. None of which was going to help.
Mom would ask what was bothering me and I might be able to grunt out a ‘nothing,’ but we weren’t going much further than that if I could help it. Well … I didn’t get the opportunity to be that grumpy in the morning. I was told – many, many times – that if I had a reason to be upset I could let it show on my face so she could help me get it fixed, but if I had no reason to be upset, it was my responsibility to tell my face that everything was okay. I received that lecture a couple of times and then she’d had it and got all “Mom” on me and I had to fix things. My outer facade is much more pleasant in the mornings now, even when all I want to do is crawl back into bed. Even if it hurts my face to turn up the lips into a smile, I know how it works now.
One of the other things Mom refused to tolerate was blaming others for our own problems. Oh my goodness, she wouldn’t have that. Ever. We took responsibility immediately or life was worse for us later. One of her favorite things to say to me when I was complaining about the awful treatment I might be having from the world was “If everyone is telling you the same thing, it should occur to you that you might be the person who is wrong. Pay attention, Diane.”
Well, that’s not what I wanted to hear from her. I wanted her to tell me that I was always right and that she would support me no matter what.
The truth is, she did support me, no matter what. She was my biggest support and always stood by me … when it was the right thing to do. Otherwise, she forced me to evaluate my own behavior and face the truth of it.
These lessons weren’t all that difficult to teach or to learn because of their consistency. She never wavered in her insistence that I take responsibility for myself, from the moment I woke up in the morning, to the way I interacted with people all day long. I could certainly choose to do things my own way, or I could figure it out, learn from what she had to teach me and live in a bit more peace with myself, with her … and with the world.