This morning I was looking through an issue of  “O Magazine.” I noticed a page called, “The Question,” in which readers all respond to the same question. At the bottom of the page is “Our Next Question,” and the magazine invites people to email answers to another question.

The “Next Question” this time was, “What is the most important thing you’ve learned from your mother?”

I decided to sit with that question and see what arose.

Within a few minutes, I was at my laptop, whisking off an answer. Here’s what I wrote:

The most important thing I learned from my mother, Rebecca, is how to find happiness in ordinary moments. Despite the many challenges and emotional traumas my mom has experienced , she is always at the ready to find humor, delight, or contentment. 

When we play the Andrew’s Sisters “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” my mom will start to shake her hips and pull my niece and me into a spontaneous dance party, sometimes complete with makeshift costumes or props. When the platter of taco fixins’ gets knocked over and splatters everywhere, she starts to laugh and recalls all the many food mishaps we’ve shared together, as if they are our best memories. When she gets a new book, she is like a child who visits the bookmobile for the first time ever. On every extended visit with her, there are always running jokes that create moments of laughter and connection. 

The most important thing I’ve learned from my mom is that we carry joy within us and can choose to feel it, no matter what. 

I’m curious how you would respond to this question.

It doesn’t matter whether what you learned is “positive” or “negative.” It doesn’t matter if what you learned was hard, fun, sad, bittersweet, poignant, difficult, or anything else.

I think what matters is the learning.

Here’s an example: If you asked me what I learned from my father, I would say that I learned the importance of intentionally spending time with family and nurturing relationships with family. My father didn’t hold this value. He moved away from his family when his children were all young. It was never important to him to stay connected. In that experience of him, I learned that I wanted something very different than what he chose.

If you want to post a response in the comments, I’d love to hear what you learned.