Bear does not play well


Dear Mom,

Several of us were talking about advice others gave us while we were growing up.  I’ll skip over the made up advice of girlfriends at sleepovers and the colorful advice in college dorms,  but here were some of the others we had in common: “You can stand up for yourself without stomping your foot.” (advice from two mothers and one grandmother), “Remember: Pretty is as pretty does.” (from all our mothers), “Treat everyone—even your siblings—the way you want to be treated.” (from two grandmothers and one mother), and “Never wear white when you’re having your period.” (from older sisters and more experienced friends.)

The last one really got us started  (pun intended; guys probably won’t like this post…)  Once we began talking about cramps, we had LOTS of stories to share.  We had many similar experiences, but I was the only one whose mother had refused to excuse me from school—or at least write a note so I could cut gym class—when I had menstrual cramps.  While other friends got to take a couple of Midol pain pills, rest on a heating pad and take it easy watching TV, I didn’t.  You let me take a Midol after I ate a good breakfast, but beyond that it was school as usual.

“Do something,” you told me. “Stay busy doing other things. Act the way you want to feel, and pretty soon the cramps won’t feel so bad.”

I hated to admit it, Mom, but you were right.  If I participated in gym class at school, walked the dog or stayed busy after school…if I acted like I didn’t have pain, pretty soon I didn’t have much pain.

Recently my friend Diana Bletter blogged about “Act As If” and expanded the advice to illness, disappointments and major discouragements.  And as a poet and writer, you’ll appreciate this, Mom. How we face rejection slips—how we act and how we let them affect us—can determine if we quit or try again…and again…until we succeed.

But it’s important I also add the exception to your advice.  You never advised anyone to pretend they hadn’t been hurt or harmed.  If someone needed comfort, you always had open arms and an open heart, and the strength to help them through it.

It was only for life’s irritations, inconveniences, and minor disappointments that you taught me to act the way I wanted to feel.      Thanks, Mom!   Love, Marylin

(Read Diana Bletter’s “Act As If” at The Best Chapter at http://thebestchapter.com/2013/05/28/tool-for-tuesday-act-as-if/ )

cheerios smile

(all photos by Marylin Warner)

(all photos by Marylin Warner)


Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren

54 responses to “MIND OVER MATTER

  1. Marylin, this post made me chuckle.
    For some reason I don’t think I received Diana’s post.
    Off to check and see. 🙂

  2. You have a very wise mother. Wisdom shared lives on. Wisdom lived brings abundance to many.
    Very thoughtful post as always.

  3. Lots of good advice to receive while growing up! And yes, the power of the mind can be quite strong, although I’m sure it has its limits. I’m one of those girls who had terrible cramps and my mom still sent me to school and never gave me meds to help. When I moved to the US and discovered Advil, I was in heaven! That’s advice I would have loved to receive as a teenager. 🙂

    • This is amazing to me. Midol wasn’t much stronger than Advil is now, but it seemed to help. And a nurse told me to take Midol with a Coca-cola, as the combination of caffeine and carbonation would make it work faster. We do the best we can to fight lousy cramps.

  4. That time was torture when I was at high school. No modern aids then at all.

  5. Carol Stoffel

    ☺ Great article!!


    Sent from my iPhone

  6. Sounds like you always had a wealth of wisdom to turn too as a youngster, what a pity more parents couldn’t get it right. xxx Hugs xxx

    • It is a pity. Overall, though, I think more parents than we realize really are trying their best to get it right. But when you don’t have wise family or friends to help you along, if you follow what you read or see on television, you sometimes are getting the wrong advice.

  7. juliabarrett

    The same concept exists in Judaism. Act the way you want to feel – the inside will follow the outside. Oh… and wearing white jeans. Don’t get me started. To this day I refuse to wear white jeans.

    • Absolutely right about not discussing the white jeans! Your phrase is so much more poetic–Act the way you want to feel…the inside will follow the outside. Thanks for sharing that, Julia.

  8. I agree with the “act as if”. It’s great advice and your Mom sounds like a wonderful person, having both given it to you but also understanding that, when hurt happens, you need consoling as well.

    • Before the dementia, she was one of the women that children and other women could absolutely count on for help. Sometimes they just needed a listening ear; other times they needed an ally to stand up for them or a gentle voice assuring them things would work out.

  9. Makes me think of “When you’re smiling, the whole world smiles with you..”

  10. Interesting post. You sure did have people around you with wealth of wisdom to share as you were growing up. And it is a fine thing that you share them.

    • Thank you. But I also think that we all have stories from their childhoods that contain wisdom taught to them by family and friends. Sometimes we just have to talk to others about holidays, average days, one-time events, etc., and the suddenly little nudges of the wise lessons come through.

  11. I was one of those who never had any cramps or period pains – and thought I was missing out! How stupid can peer pressure make us when we’re 13 or so? 😀

  12. Jane Thorne

    I love your posts Marylin. Your Mum was right and it does cover all sorts of life’s events…get busy ‘being busy’ and distracting. My Great Granny always used to say ‘if you can’t think of anything kind to say, keep quiet’. Love to you and yours Xx

  13. I think your Mom is related to my Mom! Good common sense!

    • Oh, Kate, if we could somehow have gotten your mom, my mom, and Jane’s great-granny together for lunch, can you imagine all the bits of wisdom and advice we would have!

  14. I was never allowed time off, either, unless I was really poorly – and then there was nothing better than being tucked up on the sofa with a bowl of Mum’s vegetable soup.

    • Now THAT is a memory, too, Jenny. Cramps didn’t get much special care, but when we were actually ill with a bad cold, measles, mumps or chicken pox, my mother made several different kinds of wonderful soup. And she would make cinnamon toast triangles for a treat when we started to get better!

  15. Being surrounded by women for most of my life this topic is nothing new and not embarrassing in the least, but and I’ve asked Ishbel this question, what’s with those appalling adverts on TV for all those products, they are so bad and make you all out to be a bunch of …….

    I’ll stop now Marylin before I open my mouth too much, again …… Xxxxxx

    • Yes, Tom, it’s tempting because you add such color, but yes, now might be a good time to stop. ;=)
      But you’ve definitely been around lots of females–mother, wife, daughters and grand-daughters–so I’m sure you understand this post and could definitely comment on all the TV ads for too many products! Thanks, Tom.

  16. Very nice post! Tried to act like I am NOT drugged today but it didn’t work! On second round of meds for itching and burning body, and the cure is making me as crazy as the problem. I can’t imagine people do drugs with desire for this loopy feeling. Maybe tomorrow I can ACT normal and it will work for me, think? 🙂

    • I hope this isn’t shingles you’re describing, Claudia. I have two friends who swear that shingles was the worst itching and burning pain ever, and one said she’d choose chemo over the meds she had to take for shingles.
      In your case (as with all major illnesses) I’m afraid acting like there’s no pain won’t make that come true.

  17. I love the way you are honoring your mother, Marylin. I also appreciate that you are sharing her pearls of wisdom.

  18. I have read that exercising more the week before your period helps ease the cramps during it. I do take the advice, so I hope it helps! lol

  19. Great, solid advice for sure! Thanks.

    • Especially the advice for writers. When I think of all the rejection slips through the years, when I just wanted to give up. But I couldn’t, or at least not for long.
      You just have to shake if off, act the way you want to feel (confident!) and try again, right?

  20. Daniela

    You know without me saying it – I love your posts. And for many reasons; honesty, sincerity, humanity. But this one is just plain great! It made me chuckle and it made me think about advice I gave my own daughter -:)! Thank you,

    • You are so supportive and generous, Daniela. Thank you.
      This one was fun–especially since cramps are no longer an issue–and it does make us think about our advice to our own daughters.

  21. winsomebella

    My mom had the same approach and I must say her advice has served me well :-).

    • One of the many things I enjoy about blogging is that occasionally it turns out we all had the same mother! But really, good advice had a way of reappearing in our mothers’ generation, I think.
      I hope the same is true of our generation.

      • Wise mothers ARE all the same mother, because essential wisdom doesn’t change with changing times or circumstances. Although the catch-phrases might change somewhat, the meaning of the lessons is always the same.

        I have to be honest–it took me years to figure out what “pretty is as pretty does” means. I heard it once.

        My neighbor’s mother, a busy mother of eight who had little time for words, tossed it out at us when we told her we were going to play “beauty pageant.” And then she turned her attention back to feeding the baby, assigning chores, putting on her nurses uniform to go to work…

        So for the longest time, I thought “pretty does” had something to do with how a girl walks when she’s wearing high heels and a bathing suit.

      • I’m still laughing that the interpretation of “pretty” has to do with how a girl walks when she’s wearing high heels and a bathing suit. Miss America contestants, maybe? My mother said that even the prettiest girl’s beauty wouldn’t cover the truth if, inside, she’s ugly in her attitude and how she treats people. That still left a lot of room for interpretation, but at least it didn’t involve high heels.
        Life can be so confusing, Tracy! ;=) Thanks for continuing to muddy the waters even more…

      • I used to be very good at confusion. I’m a little wiser these days (only took half a century to get here…) I never thought I had to worry about what being “pretty” would mean, since I was convinced, beyond a doubt, that the only pretty I could be, was pretty darned ugly. I’ve no idea where such the self-defeating notions (lies) came from.

        I did, however, pick up the truth that external beauty usually has absolutely no correlation to internal beauty–and I always thought that what’s in the heart is way more important than what’s on the face.

        And I gave up high heels decades ago. Shortly after I gave up wanting to win the Miss America contest. 😉

  22. My Mom had that same philosophy about “walking it off.” She had arthritis and would not let that hold her back when she wanted to crochet or walk.

    It sounds like your Mom prepared you well for life, Marilyn.

  23. dianabletter

    Thank you so much Marylin for adding me to your post. With a mom like you have, I’m honored I can add more life skills. As I’ve learned, we don’t smile because we’re happy, if we smile, we can deliberately make our own happiness. Thanks for the powerful reminder of your Mom’s lessons!

  24. I’m a great believer in “acting as if.” Your mother sounds like an amazing inspiration. And your blog is lovely. 🙂

  25. Such great memories! Thanks for sharing.

    I remember comments like…”People don’t throw rocks at you until you stick your head above the weeds,” “If you want to get something done, go to the busiest person you know.” …and many others, including, “no pain, no gain.”

    That no-heed to pain attitude prevailed through the medical community and homes for centuries in regards to women’s health. Still does. It’s a “put up and shut up” sort of thinking. It was presupposed women were the weaker sex, and illness was often seen as drama and ignored.

    On the playground, a city bus, subway, or walking home down crowded streets if you are doubled over…hey, what’s a little pain to a woman, after all? Right?

    It’s all in her head,

    Not so. We need compassion, research, and better education, and that takes funding. I do not believe physical pain has made me more productive.. The thing pain has taught me is compassion for others.

    Is the statement “act the way you want to feel” like “chin up?”

    Ignoring pain may only delay truly being your best and taking care of yourself the way you should.

    Every one must make their own choices in regards to their health. I’ve refused to go to doctors because I presume they will have no answers, and that I will be told once again it is only in my head…oh, and to stand up straighter and not walk doubled over.

    Don’t presume your pain or that of another isn’t real, or that it doesn’t mean something. There is a reason the body has fail safes. It is an alarm system. The body is an amazing, self renewing enterprise and a miraculous gift that we should listen to instead of ignore.

    • Thanks for adding that perspective, K. I think that my mother’s “act the way you want to feel” was advice for ailments like cramps, to stay active and they would pass. But she would have definitely agreed that many other “pains” certainly should not be ignored. However, it was a balancing act. At times she also wondered if all the doctors’ quick fixes with Rx medications was a good solution.

  26. There is something also to be said for letting children play in the dirt. If they don’t eat dirt the body isn’t going to be able to trigger the right responses to attack what isn’t right. Antibactiral soap may not be the best thing man ever invented. My Mother-in-law was fond of saying that a child should eat ‘a pound of dirt a year’.

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