My Aunt Gloria left this world the other day. 84 years young and full of life right up until the end despite hauling around an oxygen tank.

Though I knew her most of my life, I don't recall any real conversations with her as a young girl visiting my cousins in their Queens Village.

In fact, I think the first time my aunt came to life for me was at the memorial gathering for my own mother when I was almost 50! We found ourselves sitting on a couch together and ended up having a really interesting conversation about how she quit smoking and drinking years back. It turned out that she was one of those rare people who could make up her mind to stop doing something and then just stop doing that thing. Like flipping a light switch from on to off, she quit smoking and drinking with little backslide or drama.

After the service I remember thinking that besides the opportunity to reconnect with my wonderful cousins who were rallying to take care of the details of my mom's wake, that fifteen minute conversation was one of the great gifts that came from that sad occasion. All because of her mantra.

Of the over 300 mantras in my Pocketful of Mantras book, only a handful are credited directly to the person who said them first or made them famous. Mostly these attributions were for authors or famous scribes like the Dalai Lama. But #91 came straight from my wise Aunt Gloria.

It was not a hearts and flowers saying. Not a mantra for the squeamish. But it is, in my opinion, one of the greatest wisdoms to keep up front and present every day so as to live our best lives. For some its truth is too 'in your face", too distressing. But for me, it was so powerful that I felt compelled to give her credit in the book.

I remember exactly how she offered it to me. I asked her how she was able to so instantly, so easily, choose a new course—like quitting a two-pack a day smoking habit cold turkey—or even just deciding to say 'yes' to lugging her, now ever-present, oxygen tank out for ice cream with her grandkids. Shrugging her shoulders and tilting her head slightly, she leaned over and in her beautiful, raspy, matter-of-fact, New York drawl said, "Well I'm gonna be a long time dead."

•••

I flew in for my Aunt Gloria's funeral. It felt important for this family love to come back around to my dear cousins and return the hugs they gave me when my own mom died. But I guess I also wanted to honor a woman whose brilliant, hard-earned, heart-filled life left an unexpected and beautiful mark on my own by being witness to when her mantra, sadly came true.

She will be missed but not forgotten. Rest In Peace Aunt Gloria

Past is yet to be determined

The past is yet to be determined.

It was a comment made by one of my professors in grad school during a discussion on how to help clients get unstuck from their past stories.

It was the kind of line that didn’t make sense to me at the time, so I tucked it away in my unconscious puzzling it out until it finally made sense. Eventually I got it big time. Both professionally and personally.

It is not a literal comment. Events and facts about the past are still facts. You have an older sister. Your father was abusive. You were married and then divorced. You have two children. You were fired from your job last month. Etc. But what those facts mean to you, how these facts effect you, is determined not by the past but by where you are in the present.

Suppose you got fired from your job last week. You are devastated, blind-sided, feel hopeless and afraid and spend the week half stunned, half depressed. At some point you get back out there and stay at the job game long enough to land a new job. A year later you are telling your friends how much you love your current job and that same firing is the luckiest break you ever got.

Of course it can go the other way too. A month after moving to a big city you are having a fabulous time enjoying the sights and sounds and bragging about the fact that you made the move. 3 years later, cramped in a small apartment because that’s all you can afford, you are cursing yourself for that impulsive decision.

I’ve seen this kind of remorse, regret or even resentment spin on the past at the break up of a long term relationship. The points of the past that get elevated are the ones that correspond to current feelings. He was always a selfish person. She was never please-able. Did we ever love each other?

When the past has a negative spin, when it diminishes joy or success or positive regard, it can be wise to be particularly wary. It helps to remember that this spin is much more of a statement on how you are feeling right now than what really happened back then.

Getting to the root of why you are spinning your story a certain way can serve you. What need are you seeking to fulfill? Are you looking for support? Empathy? Validation of the struggles you’ve had to endure? Permission to feel helpless or hopeless or angry?

There is nothing wrong with these reasons. But be careful of the price you may pay to contort the past this way: Being depressed... Holding on to anger... Living life as a victim...

Throwing yesterday completely under the bus may serve your mood now but at the cost of dismissing the benefits of that same past. Can you find balance with those negative highlights? Can you find gratitude for your past or shift your story to notice how far you’ve come? Can you work to acknowledge the strengths you now possess exactly because of those past challenges you’ve had?

I invite you to be determined to determine your past in such a way that you feel stronger, lighter and more at peace. Find the value in those past facts and I guarantee it will serve you right now. Today. In the present. (And because of that, your past and your present will surely determine a nicer future as well!)

Father-son momentA Mother’s Day Letter to Fathers & Partners

Hopefully you are someone who not only appreciates your own mother but is also open to the idea that assisting your children in honoring their mother is a worthy cause as well.

If so, on behalf of mothers everywhere 'thank you' for caring about this role. Respect for your mother is one of those aspects of family life that is often easier to learn when the message is heard and reinforced by others.

I was reminded of this lesson recently when chatting with a friend who is the mother of five. I asked her what she wanted for Mother’s Day and she said that she had already gotten her present and that it was the best Mother’s Day gift ever. Interestingly it came not from her children but from her husband, on a day when the kids were being rather disrespectful. When her husband heard their sassiness he went on a tirade:

"Don’t talk to your mother like that! She loves you and cares for you and does so much for you! Your mother is the most important person in the world and you should treat her with respect!'"

Of course, her kids weren't crazy about the dress down but it did make them more mindful and it was clearly a message they needed to hear. (As well as see modeled!)

As she told me this story I had to agree that it really was the best Mother’s Day present ever. So this Mother's Day, while helping them write a card or reminding them to get her a gift or call her is wonderful, if you really want to get her a present, here is my suggestion. Go on a mini-rant (or just sit your kids down) and tell them how important it is to appreciate their mother.

Here's to appreciating awesome mothers on Mother's Day and Everyday! ~ Annie

p.s. Dear Everyone Else: Kids need to hear this message many times. Especially if there isn't a second parent in the picture! Relatives? Friends? Teachers? Neighbors? Lady in line behind them at the supermarket? Speak up! The more sources the better!

p.p.s. Dear Moms: Don’t forget that you too have work to do. Starting with self-respect in whether you allow your children to talk to you in certain ways (think consequences) AND whether you try to teach them the skills of communicating what you want them to learn. It helps when you can model that respect toward them and toward their other parent! Here's hoping you have a wonderful Mother's Day!

FindingFifty1stDraftDear readers,

I love writing so much that this year I have taking on the biggest writing project yet. A memoir about my adventures of when I turned 50. Turns out though, that I only have so much time to fit in writing so some of the articles that I would like to put together will have to wait.

If you want to connect, please feel free to email me at annie@practicehow.com. Hopefully you are out there finding your own adventures and living the life you were meant to live.

Take care ~ Annie

p.s. If you want to be one of the first to hear about the release date for Finding Fifty: What I learned from 50 women, walking 50 miles, in 50 pairs of shoes - please sign up on the right side of this page ------>

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