Blogger | Teacher
Life is full of transitionary periods: we move, we change jobs, we fall in love, we fall out of love, we have children, we go back to school, et cetera. And each transition is different from the last, with its own highs and lows and individual obstacles that have to be worked through.
But one thing that each of these moments has in common is that it brings with it anxiety and stress and has us searching for wisdom in other places. And more often than not, the wisdom and words of comfort we turn to most are the ones that come from our mothers.
As I enter a new transitionary period in my life, I find myself remembering all the lessons learned from my mother in order to find the hope, security, and comfort I need to move forward and find happiness in this new phase of my journey.
How Do You Eat an Elephant?
By far one of my favorite lessons learned from my mother, “How do you eat an elephant?” was her way of helping me cope with my stress and anxiety.
Around high school, I was diagnosed with anxiety. This diagnosis is always a part of me but makes itself known most during periods of high stress when I feel overwhelmed by all the things I need to do. These feelings and fears cause me to shut down and, at times, fall apart completely.
When these moments reach their peak, my mom always tells me “how do you eat an elephant” in order to encourage the response “one bite at a time.”
When we look at our high-stress periods of life as a whole, all the little bites can feel overwhelming and huge – a giant elephant sitting on a platter that we have to eat all on our own. However, if we can learn to break it down into smaller, more easily consumed pieces, the elephant starts to shrink and become more manageable.
Here’s the thing: there’s always another elephant waiting in the wings that you’re eventually going to have to eat. But if you can look at the elephant in pieces rather than as one whole elephant, you can figure out which bites need to be taken now and which can be eaten later.
This is all a really weird, slightly morbid metaphor, but it does work. So, like with my current stage in life, whenever I am overwhelmed by the tasks at hand as a whole I remember my mother’s words and take each step as its own bite, looking only at the piece of the elephant right in front of me instead of at its entirety.
If You Go Shopping with Something Specific in Mind, You’ll Never Find It
My mother is a southern woman through and through, so this is one of the lessons learned from both her and every other southern mother I’ve ever met.
Never go shopping with something specific in mind or you’ll never find it. Whether it’s a specific type of dress, pants, sweater, or shoes, the exact item you’re looking for will always find a way to hide from you. Instead, go shopping with something more general in mind – or with certain guidelines but no specific picture – and try to find something that fits your needs.
I also find this advice to be a great metaphor for life. It’s good to have goals and ideas for where you want your life to go, but if you have a specific image in mind about what your life should look like, you’ll never fully reach that ideal. You can also run the risk of concentrating too hard on your ideal and missing all the other amazing opportunities along the way.
Instead, set yourself some guidelines and general goals – i.e. I want to get married, I want to have children, I want to reach this level at this job – and create a life that fits those goals while still enjoying all the unexpected moments along the way.
Live Below Your Means
For those who are not so good at budgeting, one of the best lessons learned from my mother was that I need to live below my means. Life is full of unexpected expenses, both good and bad, and if you live equal to or above what you make, you’ll always live stressed and afraid that you can’t make ends meet.
Obviously, this advice doesn’t work all the time. Some people don’t have the ability or opportunity to live below their means because their means aren’t enough to allow them to live any differently. But a lot of times people make the mistake of creating too many expenses for themselves when they get promoted or come into a large sum of money and ultimately can’t keep up with those expenses.
So, if you can, live below your means. Create a gap in your budget that allows you to not only have security if unforeseen expenses occur (car repairs, appliance replacements, medical bills), but also allows for fun money to do exciting things with. It may seem enticing to move into a big fancy home when you can or buy a new car with that extra bit of money, but trust me when I say to wait. You’ll be thankful to have the extra room in your budget later on.
Go Home and Cry, but Do It All Over Again
Another one of the best lessons learned from my mother for managing anxiety and stress, “go home and cry, but do it all over again” was my mother’s way of saying “it’s okay to cry, but don’t use your sadness as an excuse for not getting things done.”
I’ve seen people on multiple occasions exist on extreme ends of the emotional spectrum: some tell themselves that they can’t cry or else they’re weak and instead just need to keep pushing through the pain. Some break down completely and can’t do anything other than crying and feeling sorry for themselves.
Both have their place, at times, but neither is an ultimately healthy coping system. You need to cry sometimes. Life is hard and it’s alright to allow yourself a good breakdown every now and again.
But you also can’t let that stop you from living your life and doing what you need to do to find happiness.
So, instead, go home and cry. If you’ve had a hard day at work, go home and cry. If you got some bad news, go home and cry. If you’ve experienced heartbreak, go home and cry. Then, in the morning, pick yourself up, take a shower and brush your teeth, and do what needs to be done.
The world keeps turning with or without you, so make sure you are taking care of yourself, both emotionally and physically, so you can continue turning with it.
Be Someone Your Mother Doesn’t Have to Worry About
Not so much advice or lessons learned, but one thing I always remember my mom saying to me is “I’m not worried about you.” She didn’t say it to mean that she didn’t worry about me the way a mother should or that she wouldn’t worry about me if I was in pain – instead, it was her way of telling me I was doing a good job. She wasn’t worried about me because I had proven that I didn’t need to be worried about.
That may sound strange to some, or you may be asking “But how is that advice?” And I guess I should amend this one by saying it wasn’t so much advice from my mother as it was the encouragement that I was doing well.
It can be so easy at times to feel like you’re failing. When life isn’t going right, we can oftentimes convince ourselves that we are in some way living life wrong somehow. But here’s the thing: if you are proactive in your own life, if you are taking care of your mental, physical, and emotional needs, if you are providing for yourself and your family and doing your best to find happiness in where you are, you’re doing amazing.
It doesn’t take a lot to live a good life, and it doesn’t take a lot to be someone your mother doesn’t have to worry about. Honestly, my mother told me she wasn’t worried about me while I was an adult living in her house.
Just do your best for yourself and your family and that’s really all you need to do to be someone your mother doesn’t need to worry about. See? It’s really not as complicated as we convince ourselves it is.
About Draven Jackson
Draven is an avid writer and reader who enjoys sharing her opinions on movies, books, and music with the rest of the world. She will soon be working as a teacher in Japan and hopes to use her experience to connect with other teachers and students around the globe. Draven spends most of her time at home with her family, her dogs, and her ferret.
To see more, view all posts by Draven Jackson here.