Advice from My Mother

It’s Mother’s Day weekend here in the UK, so in honour of my mother and in keeping with my theme of reflection, I wanted to share some of the good advice I’ve received from my mom over the last couple of years. We’ve kept up an email correspondence ever since I moved overseas, but when I met Mike it started a whole new flurry of emailing about the relationship and all the changes it brought to my life. Some of you have probably heard me talk about the things my mom said in those emails! They are full of good advice and often very funny.

So here are excerpts of her advice on a few important topics!

My mom and I on my wedding day

Dating and marriage

‘I heard one time that […] Celtic men make the best husbands….that they were CHARMING, jolly, easy-going and affectionate.’

On future differences in marriage
‘If/when unexpected differences arise within [a] marriage, you will have something you do not have now to help.  You will have the history of having walked with the person for a while, so you’ll have a lot of positive experiences…compassion and caring and working together and giving/receiving support, etc.  In other words, that conflict will come in a cushioning context that hasn’t yet been fabricated.  And you CAN trust in the cushioning context because you can vouch for the absolute certainty that when you are with Mike, the cushion-in-infancy has always been there.’

On keeping things in perspective
‘Marriage is, in a way, a big picture decision, and a casting of bread on the waters.  Heaven help the marriage that can be derailed by little issues.  You won’t [and] can’t think of them all [or] encounter them all prior to the wedding.  How dull later life would be if you actually could!’

On pining for a guy who won’t commit
‘[…] it always used to strike me that girls would go around mooning over someone and wishing to marry them, and I used to think, “Well, for me, one of the main requirements of my wanting to marry someone is that they want to marry me!”  How could you possibly actually want to […] be married to someone who was even a little bit sour on being with you?  How could such a man be labeled “perfect?”  I realize they’re saying they want the guy to WANT to marry them, but still, if he’s indicating a great deal of aloof-ness or distance, why is he the “perfect” guy?’

On dating without heartbreak
‘I know one imagines dating casually sans heartbreak, but it doesn’t really happen much in real life, I don’t think.  You’re either pretty quickly disinterested in someone, or you’re very interested but it doesn’t work out and voila! heartbreak.’

On trying to figure out how you feel and ‘ought’ to feel about the guy you’re dating
‘As to how you ought to feel and when, BLEH!!!  Who would want to figure that out?’

On compatibility
‘[…a good match is] as much (maybe more) how-they-treat-you as who-they-are.  Obviously, those are related, but a perfect match in interests with someone who denigrates you is just no good.  A wind-surfer who treats you with love and respect is just fine.  Either can have the dirty socks!’

Worry and anxiety

On imagining the worst
‘If I could change one thing I did in early marriage […], it would be to NOT go down certain mental paths, just stop before I went down them.  You build a negative or worrisome mental picture that just is NOT so.  Let the mental pictures be GOOD things.  Instead of “What if he’s NOT attentive” […] think, “Mike does x really well.”  “Mike makes me feel y.”  Mike really helps me with z.” ‘

On dealing with panic
‘[…] there is a lot to be said, spiritually, for the just BEING before God, just laying the things that you think are stressing you out on the table […]. The few seconds of prayer to offer Him that initial panic the moment it rises up inside or that pit-of-stomach grip or that stress headache, can be pretty transformational.’

And finally…

Following God

On decision-making
‘I’ve decided in my old age that even “God’s will” becomes a sort of idol, something that becomes the focus rather than God Himself.  Some days I say to myself, “Wake up, praise God, and go with your gut.” ‘

On praying for peace
‘I used to say, “I ain’t got no stinkin’ peace” […], but now I say, “I ain’t got no stinkin’ peace, let’s have it now!”‘

Famous one-liners

To a daughter who clearly didn’t listen well enough
‘ExSQUEEZE me if I did not say this to you JUST a MONTH ago […]’.

Signature to an emphatic email
‘My name is Susan Neal and I approved of this message!!!’

To a daughter who for once said something really wise
‘Preach it, sister!’

Finally, the one time…

…when my mother actually almost told me what to do!
‘Now I’m going to say something directive, which I try not to do to my girls because you are adults, but here it is. I NEVER SAW A COUPLE THAT NEEDED TO BE MARRIED AS BAD AS YOU AND MIKE NEED TO BE.’

3 thoughts on “Advice from My Mother

  1. This is Jennifer’s mother talking. It’s pleasing and flattering that she chose to quote me on Mother’s Day on her blog, but I could compile a similar list of quotes that SHE has made over the years in her relentless quest to live well, to live the examined life, to develop a high and pristine paradigm for how to treat others, ALL others, that she encounters.

    They always say the best manager is the one who makes himself redundant, whose staff can operate completely without him. While I look forward to years of good times (and good e-mailing) with my two daughters, while their communication is irreplaceable nourishment to my soul, I realize as Jennifer (and her sister as well) matures, I am reaching the “good manager” level. They are able to stand, and stand well, on their own two precious feet.

  2. I finally have some time to catch up on all your posts and I love this one! Thank you so much for sharing! And Mrs. Neal, thank YOU for being the mom you are to your girls. I love that bit about God’s will… it’s really resonating with me today and definitely something I needed to “hear”.

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