Twenty-four years ago, I took Mom to a one-day workshop on writing nonfiction magazine articles. The speaker began the session by asking how many specific suggestions participants would include in an article about The —#— Secrets of Success. While many in the group had ideas for five, eight, or even a dozen secrets for success, Mom had two. 1) Greet each sunrise with a hopeful smile, and 2) Keep moving. In her experience, those two pretty much pointed her in the right direction each day.
During one of my trips to visit Mom this summer, I was sleeping in the guest room of her assisted living apartment, and for some reason I woke up at 4:40. The sunrise was just a thread of light on the horizon. A crescent moon and a single star glittered in one corner of the view from my window.
I peeked in on Mom to see if it had awakened her, too. In a different time and place—maybe in the bedroom of her real home, and certainly before losing my dad to Alzheimer’s and now losing much of her own memory to dementia—I think Mom would have smiled as she watched the moon and star on the horizon, then taken a deep breath and gotten out of bed early to welcome the new day.
“The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you. Don’t go back to sleep…” These two beginning lines, my favorites from a longer, well known poem by Sufi poet Rumi, are lines I’m sure would have struck a chord with Mom. For many of her 96 years, her favorite time has been in the quiet early breaths of a new day. She would use that private time to work in the yard, read and write letters and poetry, pray and sometimes even bake. Before the dementia took over, it was her first secret of success.
Her second secret of success was short and simple, but essential on many levels: Keep moving. Regardless of obstacles, set-backs, illness, disappointments or worries, to keep moving meant staying focused on what had to be done, breathing deeply, singing or humming as she worked, and being grateful for the things she learned and noticed along the way.
One beautiful example of someone who kept moving is April Holmes, Paralympic Gold Medalist in the 100-meter dash. April was 27 in 2001 when, as a college track star, she lost her leg from the knee down in a train accident. Instead of giving in or giving up, she kept moving…physically, emotionally, hopefully and with full commitment. Against all odds.
I’m sure my mother had more than just the two secrets of success she used that day for writing practice at the workshop. She was a woman of faith, kindness, creativity and common sense, and she had an amazing capacity for love and trust. I wish now that she’d kept writing on that workshop exercise and written out many more of her success secrets.
September is World Alzheimer’s Month, and many forms of devastating memory loss plague families, communities and countries everywhere in the world.
But one day this month, Wednesday, September 10th, is “Swap Ideas Day.” This is an excellent opportunity for us to share our favorite Secrets of Success. Do you remember poignant, funny, strange, or insightful secrets of success from your parents, grandparents, teachers, friends or motivational speakers?
Today, September 6th, is National Writing Date Day. Make a commitment today to write some of your secrets of success and share them with us!