I always knew my mom was special. She was my best friend, loudest champion, fiercest critic, proudest supporter and cheekiest partner in crime. In the almost 40 years I shared with her I learned so many lessons- often when I didn’t actually realize she was trying to teach me.
I’m fortunate that while I lost her far too soon (to cancer), I have so many great memories and stories that still make me cry from laughter as well as ones that warm my heart. And yes, I do have lots of dirt but won’t get into that for fear that she’ll rise from the beyond just to give me a flick on the head, point and wag her finger at me (aka, “the Toby finger”).
But of all the lessons she imparted on me, here are the ones that I find myself going back to almost daily.
- You can do anything; and
- There is true joy to be had in taking care of others. That’s not just about being married or a parent (though I know she actively wished that I was both). It’s about making someone’s day better just because you cared.
My mother instilled the absolute belief in me that I can do anything. ANYTHING. But I had to work hard for it.
I think of just how powerful this lesson was, and how fortunate I was to have a mother with a progressive and fearless view on roles (particularly in the workforce). It was my mother who convinced me to apply to a grad school that I believed I had zero chance of getting in to. It was my mother who on my last day living at home taught me how to change a tire and a fuse, and then gave me a fully stocked toolbox as my going away gift. [Side note, that toolbox is still the envy of general contractors today.]. It was my mom who taught me that there’s no reason that I couldn’t or shouldn’t have a seat at the decision making table at work. It was my mom that taught me that when things get really really tough, you knuckle down and just move forward. Sometimes progress happens in millimeters, and sometimes in miles, but no matter what you just. keep. going.
And it was my mom who gave me the courage to reinvent myself & change the direction of my (work) life to follow my passion.
As tough as nails as she was, what fundamentally motivated her was the idea of helping others. Her family, her neighbours, her friends, her circle. Whether it was coming home from the market and bringing my dad a favoured food, or arranging a special vacation treat for a client, or picking up a tchotchke at the flea market for a friend just because she knew they would love it, her heart and mind were always on how to bring joy to those around her. She was the ultimate caretaker.
My mom passed in 2012, and after she did I stepped into her travel agency business to keep it running. Now to be clear, I’d worked for my mom several times over the course of my teens & 20’s, and so I truly thought that I understood her work persona. And I did, sort of. Over the course of several months after I stepped into the business, clients, neighbours and colleagues all made a point of coming into the agency and telling me stories of how much my mom meant to them, and how much she had helped them. Created special memories for them. Helped them when family emergencies struck. And made sure that they were ok when they needed someone in their corner.
My vision for Handled – creating joy and ease for those around us – without a doubt stems from the lessons my mom taught me. And it’s been more rewarding a path than I could ever have imagined.
As we celebrate Mother’s Day 2018 I thank all of the incredible moms and caretakers in my circle for imparting the important lessons that shape us. I wish each of you joy.