Lessons From My Ex Mother In Law.
I was 19 when I met Jackie. Clear as day, I remember sitting on the couch with my ex-husband (then a nervous 21-year-old) as we awaited his mother’s arrival home from a softball tournament.
“If you can’t make it past my mother, this won’t work,” he told me. I was terrified.
And while she was tired and worn out from a long day in the sun and a late night of driving home from Kansas, she still greeted me with a smile and welcomed me into her home as if we’d been friends for years.
This morning, I got ready for her funeral.
Even as my marriage was ending, I had wanted to hate + blame her for issues with my marriage. When I chose to look through that lens, I could see a lot of reasons why - none of which I’ll get into because they no longer hold any truth for me.
However, when I looked at our relationship through the lens of love, I began to grieve. For the first time since hearing about her passing, I cried big fat alligator tears.
Her vivacious spirit helped raise me from a young, naive college student to a grown woman. She was my second mother for 1/3 of my life. And upon further reflection, so many of the lessons I implemented in my life post-divorce were things I learned from her.
When in doubt, add butter. My former mother-in-law was an amazing cook. She loved to be in the kitchen and have her family gathered around the dinner table.
Being the health nut that I am, I chose not to watch when she cooked. Butter was a staple ingredient in any meal. Lord only knows how many pounds she went through in her lifetime. Butter adds a smooth, creamy, rich flavor to any sauce, casserole or veggie stir fry.
For me, butter is kindness. A relationship, situation or issue can feel lacking. It needs something, but you often can’t figure out what it is. Whether a listening ear, a kind word or some spare change, kindness is that key ingredient that adds a richness to the situations life throws my way.
The simple things in life matter most. In my former years, I worked hard to please everyone. I climbed the corporate ladder and never passed on an opportunity to network, never knowing where my next big break might come from. I did all of this at the expense of my family - my ex-husband, my parents, my in-laws, my sisters, nieces and nephews.
Yet, some of my favorite memories were sitting on my in-laws’ back porch with a beer in hand as my ex grilled burgers and my former brother-in-law shared lavish stories that had us rolling in laughter.
Life was good. Life was simple.
And yet, it wasn’t enough for me at the time. I needed to know what the bright, shiny object in the city was. I chased it. And, I enjoyed it for quite some time.
Yet, I often longed for the simplicity of those back-porch-kind-of afternoons.
For the first time today, I saw the wisdom of this woman I could no longer call family. She was wise beyond my years and tried to teach me, yet I wasn’t ready to listen.
When all else fades away and the shiny object has lost its sparkle, what’s left? Your family. On your back porch. On a sunny Sunday afternoon.
If they don’t like me, that’s their problem. There were probably a few choice words that came with this phrase over the years, but I’ll spare them here!
True confession: I am a recovering people pleaser. I used to have a desperate desire for everyone to like me. As a result, I often changed my personality to adjust to the situation or person I encountered.
Truth is, I didn’t know who I was. I was a young girl, trying to find herself in a marriage and town that was too small.
It was like trying to squeeze my size 7 foot into a size 6 pair of Louboutins. They look perfect on the outside. I want them. I want to tell everyone I own them, yet they just don’t fit.
I can’t shrink my foot just like I couldn’t shrink my dreams.
As I got ready this morning, I put on Kendra Scott earrings then promptly removed them. I put on black pants, then changed back to jeans. I wore lipstick, them wiped it off and replaced it with my go-to chapstick.
Her voice kept coming into my head saying, all of that doesn’t matter. Who are you trying to impress? Just show up. Be YOU. That’s all I ever wanted in the first place.
And so, I rolled up without my Kendra Scott dangly earrings, black pants or stilettos. I was the new, simpler me. I rocked my chapstick, studded earrings, jeans and boots. Simpler. Slower. More me.
Love ALWAYS wins. Blame, shame, guilt, anger - they hold you back. We are each given a precious few moments here on this earth.
When you choose to allow anger or guilt to control your life, you aren’t living. As she would have said, ain’t nobody got time for that.
If I’m being honest with you, which I always am, I was extremely nervous about going to the funeral. Would I even be welcome? Would they run me out of town to protect their beloved?
Let me tell you friends, even from the grave, she taught me that love always wins. What is your heart’s motivation? Do you make decisions from a place of love? If so, you can never go wrong.
Not only was I wrong about how my presence would be received, but I was told over and over again how much it meant to people that I was there. By her passing, we showed friends and extended family what love looks like. Through the exchange of hugs and kind words they saw forgiveness in action. They saw love for something greater than ourselves.
Don’t let your past haunt you. Don’t let it dictate your future. Forgive. Move forward in love.
As the pastor at her service reminded us, heaven is unknown. It’s scary because we’ve never been there before. We don’t know what will happen to those left behind or to our souls when we get there.
Never one to shy away from the edge of my comfort zone, I admire her. For her bravery. For her courage to embrace the unknown. For accepting her fate. And for trusting God to never leave her side.
Just as my journey of leaving corporate life or solo travel inspires others to do things that scare them, this amazing woman inspires me by her courage to accept the unknown and to trust with so much faith when all that’s necessary is a small mustard seed. Even in her passing, she’s still inspiring and still teaching.
May she rest in eternal peace. Gone, but not forgotten.