From My Dad – Integrity is your greatest asset. I have never met anyone so committed to doing the right thing as my dad. In all things, no matter what else is at stake, he responds with compassion. Growing up, whenever I told a lie, my dad would not punish me; rather, he would make me set things right, which was often a difficult (and embarrassing) process, and a strong deterrent for future dishonesty. I still hear my dad in my ear when I find myself in a situation where doing the right thing is not the easy thing, and he helps me find the time, courage, money, willpower, empathy, etc. to live into his high standard for personal integrity.From My Mom – The best way to care for someone is to listen. My mom is a nurturer by nature. The seventh of eight children, she has been a practicing nurse for more than three decades. When I was a teenager, my mom went back to school to become a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She is a much acclaimed and sought-after nurse, therapist, friend, and mother because of her ability to listen without judgment, and to hear what the person is not saying. By contrast, I have always been a chatterbox, and more on the selfish side, so my mom is a constant reminder not to think about what I am going to say or do until I have really listened to the people around me. It is a lesson I am still learning.
From My Sister – Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. My little sister is always smiling …. at least, on the outside. Growing up, she had more close friends than me, and I assumed it was because she was so agreeable and easy going. But she later taught me that the secret to building intimacy is vulnerability. It was so important to me to be perceived as capable and confident that I rarely allowed myself to feel doubt or fear, much less disclose such insecurities to others. I practiced with my sister, and am now a more authentic and relatable person because of her advice and example.From My Husband – Why complain? No one listens anyway. My husband in unflappable in his optimism, and tireless in his helpfulness. He makes the best of a bad situation effortlessly – a flight delay is just more time to explore a new airport; a bad cold is a welcome excuse to stay in PJs all day. My husband has a knack for identifying people in need – a friend who needs help with his car, a stranger who needs a door held open, a wife who needs an extra hour of sleep – and he springs into service without being asked. Furthermore, he does it all with humility and humor. My husband is my hero, and I strive every day to be more like him.
From My Mother-in-Law – You can’t have it all at once. My mother-in-law often reminds me to appreciate where I am in life and to take advantage of all that I have, rather than worry about what is lacking. She says there are three stages of life: 1) Youth – you have plenty of time and energy, but no money; 2) Adulthood – you have money and energy, but no time; and 3) Old Age – you have time and money, but no more energy. The lesson is to enjoy life and all the things you have at the moment. I remind myself of this often; especially when it seems like I have neither time, nor money, nor energy. It’s all relative. Even when I’ve only gotten a few hours of sleep, I have more energy than my parents, and although I’m a government employee with two dependents, I still have more money than I did as a single law student. And I’ve made an art form of making the most of the time I’ve got. Sometimes it just takes a reminder from my mother-in-law to see that I’m about as close as it gets to having it all.
From My Father-in-Law – When the road ahead looks blocked, send in the hurdler! My father-in-law has battled a barrage of illness and injuries. Just last month he was treated for a severe hematoma and bladder cancer. But he takes it all in stride, without any sign of self-pity or despair. When receiving bad news, my father-in-law says, “It’s a good thing I’ve been through a lot before; I know I can beat this.” He does not see physical ailments as punishments, problems, or even as bad luck, just as obstacles that he must rise up to overcome. At eighty years old, he is an Olympic-class hurdler! This can-do attitude is in sharp contrast to my own, sometimes desolate, response to life-changing challenges. My father-in-law’s strength, courage, and positive attitude offer an inspiring role model I will turn to often in years to come.
I have learned lessons from my two brothers-in-law and sister-in-law, too, as well as from my many aunts, uncles, and cousins, but suffice it to say that my family is not only loving and supportive, they are also all people I admire. I feel so blessed to have such amazing individuals in my life, if only they were not all so far away! Happy (Belated) Thanksgiving, all.