The Best Advice My Mother Gave Me

I always enjoy the week between Christmas and the new year. I love the way it helps us let go slowly and say a proper good-bye.

My mother was a 7th grade English teacher. If you remember 7th grade English, it was saturated with grammatical work. Proper use of commas, dangling participles and conjugating verbs. She was the one we all called when we were stuck with a sentence while writing a college essay. “Mom – tell me again the difference between ‘lay’ and ‘lie’. Was it people lie and objects lay – or the other way around?” She always knew. And if not, she’d go straight to her textbook bibles to double-check. (But she always knew.)

The best advice she gave me, when I struggled through a particular phrase, was to simply change the sentence around.

When you can’t figure out if it’s ‘me and him went to the market’ or ‘he and I went to the market’ – stop trying so hard to figure out the correct grammatical rule and just rearrange the sentence! ‘I went to the market with Scott.’ It’s as simple as that. I’ve used that advice over and over when writing something out and getting stuck mid-way. Take a second. Back up. And rearrange the sentence. There’s always a different way out of the glitch you’ve worked yourself into.

It occured to me this morning that Mom gave me a much deeper piece of advice. The frustration surrounding this unmoored Week-In-Between which is filled with the pressure to make new year’s resolutions, is that too often we can become bogged down in the mire of Making It Important Enough. Looking back over the past year – or in this case, the past decade – we can tend to feel the weight of all the should’ves we shoulda done. This week is not unlike any of the other 51 weeks, but we all fall into the collective trap of Doing Better and Wish I Had… type feelings.

I’m going to take my mother’s advice and try seeing the simple solution: just rearrange the sentence. Can’t figure out how to cultivate a more grateful heart? Stop looking at all the gratitude journals and blessings systems, and simply say to yourself, ‘I am grateful for the sun’s rays this morning.’ Maybe that’s the last moment of recognized gratitude I’ll have all week. I hope not. But I don’t need to be weighed down with all the logistics. I just need to feel and recognize the gratitude and move on. Same with healthy choices and marital relationships and friendships and financial goals. Don’t get pushed under the current of what’s right, what’s acceptable, and what’s expected. Rearrange the sentence…the trajectory…of your life and then you’ll be able to move forward. One sentence after another until the paragraph, the story, the year, the decade begins to take shape.

We all have 24 hours, 52 weeks, and untold years in which to live out our uniquely chosen life. My mind often reels with questions about what is the right way to go about this task? What is the correct thing to do in this situation? Should I have… Could I have… And yet an unfinished sentence is a task not yet completed. An unfinished sentence serves no purpose. No solution.

Sometimes the most grammatically correct thing one can do is the simplest thing.
Simply change the sentence.

 
Here’s to a new year. A new decade! Sure, we have goals in mind and that’s great because that’s what keeps us moving forward and growing stronger. This is just a friendly reminder from a 7th grade English teacher: Don’t drown under the logistics of it all. Go to the gym – even if it’s not the right gym. Have the difficult conversation even though it might entail ugly crying. Reach out, even when you think you’ve done nothing wrong. Save the extra dollar instead of increasing your spending. Don’t get bogged down in the HOW. Live out the WHY.

I’m ready for you 2020. Let’s finish up this sentence so we can go kiss that cute boy waiting for me at my locker (which was always more fun than modifying a clause!) Still is!

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