A couple days ago was my son Chris’ 21st birthday. Yikes! How time flies. Hard to believe 21 years ago today I was at Cedars Sinai Medical Center, just a stone’s throw from The Beverly Center, in excruciating pain and abject terror over anything other than having missed the designer shoe sale at Saks. But there I was, bringing life into the world.
I called my son a couple of weeks go and asked if our family could throw him a party, but he had other plans with his girlfriend. That’s okay. He’s 21. It’s his birthday. He should have it his way. Then 3 days ago he calls me in the middle of the night a bit distressed. No, very distressed. He and his girlfriend had just broken up, birthday plans a big bust. He was heart broken.
“Mom, she doesn’t appreciate anything I do; my kindness, my understanding, my helpfulness. She doesn’t appreciate me”. Of course my inner voice was screaming. “Forget her, she’s not worth it. Move on.”
Instead I thought about it for a moment, wanting to choose words he himself could appreciate; “Chris, how can you expect anyone to appreciate you more than you appreciate yourself? If you appreciated yourself, your values, your sensitivity, your sense of humor, you probably wouldn’t be with a girl like that. No judgment on her. She just doesn’t value the same things you do.”
He sat silently for a moment, so I continued on with the mom monologue. “ Many times in life you’re going to be placed in a situation where your values are met with total opposition or extreme indifference. You’ve got to stand tall under that pressure. The reasons why you choose to put yourself in the lion’s den. Your feelings of self worth need to be bolstered by the people you surround yourself with, people with the same core values. Find an audience who values your contribution. Then you’ll be appreciated. Heck, Michelangelo would have been dubbed an eccentric hippy had he painted frescos on the ceiling of a mobile home in Salinas rather than on the Sistine Chapel in Rome.”
Silence came over the phone and he finally responded in a sad voice, “no Offense mom, but I’m gonna call Richie and Cheryl.” My heart slid a notch. Guess this audience didn’t value my contribution.
The next night we’re at Richie and Cheryl’s for a dinner party. Chris comes bouncing through in full power and joy like nothing had happened. Not a worry in the world, full of confidence. I turned to my friends and said, “ wow, he looks great. I was really worried about him after this thing with his girlfriend. I tried to share some words of encouragement about choosing people with similar values. I really thought he’d get it. But I guess he couldn’t appreciate that. What finally made him come around?” Cheryl chuckled, “ I told him his girlfriend would have to be able to suck the chrome off a trailer-hitch for him to put up with that sh-t.” and Richie chimed in, “Yep, I told him to dump the tramp.” That’s it? Those were their words of wisdom?
Okay. I stand corrected. It’s not just about the value of your contribution. It’s about the presentation of your contribution ….. I can totally appreciate that.
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