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Mar
28

MY MOM IS AN ACTIVIST

Elderly with ComputerMommy is an activist. She’s ninety-three.

Every week she sends forwarded emails, encouraging me to sign a petition, write my congressman, watch a video and pass on a message. I’ve given up trying to get off her mailing list. She keeps putting me back on. That’s what activists do. They DON’T take “no” for an answer, even with “please” attached to it.

Everyone who knows my mom loves my mom. She gives, gives, gives; her time, her support, her recipes; which is why no one says “no” to Granny when she calls them for fund raising. She has no qualms about asking for money. Why? Because it’s not for her.

I can’t do that. I’m uncomfortable asking for anything. It feels like I’m begging, or worse, manipulation. And suppose I get turned down? EMBARRASSING!

But everybody asks for things ‘cause that’s how it works in the world, especially my world. I’m free-lance in the film business.

Everyone is looking for the next hot script, funding or a job. Everything floats in entertainment and everyone’s on the phone fishing for dinner. Consequently I’ve had to build a mental work-around for asking, an attitude adjustment of offering my services instead of requesting work. Ultimately it’s the same thing and the people who confidently ask for things that benefit themselves usually get what they want.

They get what they want because confident people believe they DESERVE it. I still don’t. Or rather I do inside, but I’m not convinced the people I’m asking think I’m deserving.

Are you that way too?

*****

CatBeggingI know why I’m that way. I was taught that achieving success is not easy.

I grew up in a household where the word “money” was synonymous for “not enough.” I’m not talking about greed. I’m talking about having to make a choice between two needed things because you can only afford one. Money was precious and there was a tingle of desperation surrounding hard-won salaries and the accumulation of savings. My father was middle management in the garment industry. He had to yell at people to earn his paycheck. Even after a tense day of phone-screaming about late deliveries, it still wasn’t enough – his salary or his intimidation.

Dad was very bad at intimidating people, mostly because his bosses intimidated him.

My mother added to the household income by selling houses. That’s how she learned to be a people pleaser, although she was always a caretaker and giver. Me? My dad wanted me to be a giver as well – to him. It was understood that all the things my father did for me was a loan, an investment in his future. I was expected to pay it all back by taking care of him when he was old.

Well now he’s old, ninety-five years-old, and I’ve been doing the pay-back thing. Had to. I’m the oldest son, the only son, and I can’t break my Bar Mitzvah pledge. Still, whatever I give Mom and Dad isn’t enough.

They don’t say that but I know it.

I’m not like my cousin B. who has more money than he could possibly spend. He’s so rich, politicians call him. He took two meetings with President Obama, both times a one-on-one. My cousin’s a part-time lobbyist when he’s not an equity banker flying to Dubai or London or Hong Kong. Cousin B. never mentions his connections. He doesn’t have much to say to me about anything. I don’t live in his universe, or his 1% tax bracket.

Still, B. told me he’s willing to pay more to the government and believes he should. Except the tax codes won’t let him. So he gives lots away to worthy causes and invites me and my wife to those tribute ceremonies where he’s honored by a thousand grateful souls.

When do you know you’re powerfully rich? When you give pots of gold away to make the world a better place, and people give you awards for that. I too give money to make the world a better place. But unlike B., no one gives me tribute dinners and unlike Mom, I’m not an emailing activist.

I’m not even an activist in this blog, where no one tells me what to write!

You see, something inside me says, DON’T RANT. It’s not that I’m afraid of losing readers. It’s about taking Mom’s high road about avoiding BLAME. Even with her political agenda, Mom doesn’t judge people by any one criteria, including global warming denial.

Okay, so she’s referencing her friends, but I still don’t agree with her. I feel a person’s political convictions demonstrate core beliefs about social issues, fear and hate.

I guess this makes me prejudice, hating the haters. But I won’t write about it. It’s not a quality I’m proud of.

But jeezz! We’re so polarized in the country now! We’re swimming in a simmering red-blue, rich-poor, rural-city civil war, with TRUST burned to a cinder!

*****

Still, as I said, I feel uncomfortable trying to convince people to get thoroughly informed. And the reason why I don’t volunteer for political phone banks and knocking on doors or passing out leaflets is because I don’t want someone trying to convince ME to think like THEM!

It’s the reverse Golden Rule: Don’t do unto others what you wouldn’t want them to do unto you.

And here I am blogging, throwing out ideas to believe or not, to accept or not, but mostly to remind you – You are not alone.

  • We all want to keep our money and it’s never enough, for rich people, for people like me, for bag people pushing shopping carts.
  • We all want the world to be a better place, but in very different ways and for very different reasons, which makes wars, atrophies our congress and creates brilliant innovation.
  • We all want security, but half of us want it with government help and the other half think government is taking it away.
  • We’re all convinced we’re on the right side of God as we take opposing sides on hot-button issues set up by power players intent on dividing us.
  • We’re all afraid we’re running out of everything, including our country’s number one power spot in the world. And we are. Read Kishore Mahbubani’s new book, The Great Convergence.
  • We all want love and understanding, but how many of us majored in that in college?
  • We’re all afraid to die, except my wife’s mom who lives in Germany and is ninety-eight years young.
  • But most importantly, we all WANT TO MATTER, to make a difference, to have a reason to be alive.

My mother knows why she’s still alive – to connect with friends, family, the community and her congressman; except he’s a Republican and she’s a Democrat. Doesn’t matter. Mom’s an inclusive activist. She sends him the stuff she sends me.

*****

Three months ago I asked my ninety-three year-old mom, “Are you afraid to die?”

You know what she said? She said, “I don’t know.”

I understand what that means. It means Mom’s not finished yet. And I’m glad she isn’t. And I’m waiting for her next MUST READ email. When they stop coming, a little piece of the world will lose a very big heart.

 

Originally published on Curiosityquills.com.

 

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4 comments

  1. Jerry's Cousin says:

    May God bless your mom. She sounds like a real sweetheart.
    I lost my mom too early – she died at 66 yrs old – I still miss her wisdom.
    I could’ve written this blog – it sounds a lot like many of my thoughts.
    Keep up the good work Irv.

    1. Irving H. Podolsky says:

      Mom had a tough life, all her life, and I didn’t understand her coping mechanisms until just recently. Our family has some pretty big flaws and all through the years Mom either ignored them or made some huge spins, always in the positive direction. From Mom’s POV we were the perfect family.

      When I was younger, I didn’t trust Mom because I considered her world a lie and I don’t trust lies of any kind. But now that Mom and I talk all the time, about everything, I asked her why she changes the facts to give the illusion that things are better than they are. Her answer surprised me.

      She said that happiness is a choice and she would rather “see” the positive potential in a person rather than destructive behaviors. If she accepted all the bad stuff as it is, she would be depressed all the time. The bottom line: she knows exactly what is going on and steers towards the good stuff.

      I didn’t realize that before. I thought she was living in a bubble without an ability to make decisions based on facts. Now I know she’s the closest thing to a giver of unconditional love that I will ever know.

      Irv

      1. Irving H. Podolsky says:

        My mom said to me last week, “I look at myself in the mirror and ask, ‘Who IS that woman?'” (This is my first quote within a quote!)

  2. David says:

    Sounds like your Mom and mine developed very similar coping mechanisms for dealing with the negative. Much like you, my first wife doesn’t trust lies of any kind, so she never quite trusted my mother’s intentions and instincts, much less her offered love.

    I’m astonished that at her age your Mom’s handling email and all the computer headaches that can go with it. Really impressive.

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