Resiliency Lessons from Mama
Today is the one-year anniversary that my twin brother, my sister and I surrounded our almost 96 year-old Mom and loved her on her final solo flight "home". Can't help but think about the lessons she handed us some of which are only understood in hindsight. They are all related to resiliency to growing through challenge or opportunity. Here are but a few: Traditions can be broken. Mom was one of three women in med school at Temple University when she graduated in 1937. Caring for people was her passion. Caring for her country was even greater. Mama was one of the 10730 Women Air Force Service Pilots
who collectively flew over 60 million miles of domestic wartime duty in WWII, forty years later, these non-traditional women were finally honored with the Congressional Gold Medal by a country that almost forgot them. "No" does not mean "NEVER".
Although Mom and her fellow pilots were not permitted to become active duty military as promised, they kept the faith. Many of them became instructors, commercial pilots, and flight nurses. Because they HELD FAST to their belief that women could perform this duty, they paved the way for today's women in the cockpits of military planes. .. women like Lt. Col Nicole Malachowski, the first female Thunderbird pilot. Life itself can be the greatest adventure. Mom didn't seek fame or fortune but she could make any activity into an adventure. Whether sampling new food, going by herself to Italy (ok there were people on the tour but she didn't know them), or watching waves roll onto the beach, she never failed to express delight at the ordinary and extraordinary.
Sometimes resiliency is found in realizing the very precious nature of a single moment. In the last few years, we called her "YoYoMa" because her physical and mental health went up and down like that toy. On December 31, 2011 for about 2 hours, our caregivers had her up and ready for 2012. Even with a stroke paralyzing her entire left side, her eyes were bright. She loved the altered universe she lived in. I told her I was going to go on a retreat for a few days and she announced, "I will go with you. Let's be daring. Let's have an adventure." Be daring. Have an adventure. Would that I could have taken her! But her words keep ringing in my head. That's why I said yes to speaking in Bogota in March at an HR conference. That's why I am going to India for a week to lead a management retreat. I see Mom pushing me out the door, telling me to be safe, to call her when I land.
Where are you headed now? It doesn't have to be a new land. I also realize that waiting for adventure is postponing life. Perhaps finding adventure in the ordinary might be the greatest skill of all continually learning, seeing fresh answers, meeting new people, walking instead of driving, talking instead of texting. Be daring. Go have an adventure!