Things you should learn from my Mom
(The learning legacy of Jane Fox as seen by her daughter, Lyla)
My mother, Jane Darlene Fox, passed away right before her 65th birthday. She taught me so much in life and now, pushing through the sadness of her passing, I’m trying to learn from her even in death. By meditating on her lessons, I’ve tried to construct a positive canon of wisdom that she has passed on. In doing this I hope to cherish Jane’s legacy by being better in her honor and shine that teaching to all who’d feel her warm rays.
I’m not here to tell you Jane’s likes and dislikes. I’m not here to tell you how much she loved all songbirds and the crashing ocean waves. I’m not here to tell you the nuances that create her character and made my mom who she was. I am here to tell you the big arching ideas that made my mother exceptional. I’m here to share those bright gleams of light or stern looks into shadow that will teach you some of the brilliance that she has taught me.
Some of these lessons were direct and by example, some of these were through watching her struggles and challenges. My mother’s was not a charmed life- it was wrought, molded and forged through all that life can hammer us with. The good and bad, creating an alloy that is bound together… making us learn, fail, succeed and change.
Jane taught me that every problem has a good solution– you just need to open yourself to find it. Don’t just look at the problem as an obstacle, see it as a new path. Growing up, we were poor but that never stopped her creativity. It only made it grow. We didn’t have money for a doll house, so Jane made me one… building tiny furniture, creating little plates out of clay, putting up small scraps of wallpaper, even making doll clothes.
She taught me that creativity is a state of mind you open yourself up to and then let your mind flow. Solutions, options and ideas will wash over you. Creativity can be boundless, whether it is science, art, construction or solutions. That is a lesson that goes to the very marrow of my being… and it is all from Jane. I tell you that we ALL have that ability. “Being a creative person” is a matter of opening your mind. You can nourish it and you can let your own creativity flourish.
She taught me that science is just as creative as art. She and my father allowed me to grow up in a home that was equal parts art and science… another rarity so special it makes my heart ache. She loved late 20th century literature and could cross over into science talking about how meteorology of the time influenced the culture (for example, a mini ice-age during the writing of the “A Christmas Carol” by Dickens).
She opened me up to seeing art, science, nature and spirituality as all balled up into one glorious ecosystem that is full of miracles and eager to be explored. That open-yet-analytical heart she taught me to have has allowed me to grow more than I ever knew I could. Our world is full of marvels! Science is not just for the heady intellectuals. It can give us understanding that transcends our daily slog and show us the beauty of the universe. Don’t believe me? A simple example- look up the Fibonacci principle in nature and art. It is glorious.
She taught me how to be a true conservationist. You fix or transform things, you do not throw them away. Though I’ve often rolled my eyes at her… asking “Why do you still have this old thing?” But the lesson seeped in, making me question. Is there a use for this? Can I fix it? When we were young, if the towels had holes in them, she’d cut and hem them making them into washcloths. You patch and repaint.
Growing up, she made so much around me. She and my father built me a loft out of reclaimed 2x4s when I was 9. Which, of course, they let me paint lavender to match the sponge painted clouds on my walls. Showing this skill of conservation, she passed down a discerning eye that looks to recycle and diminish one’s own footprint in the most basic of ways. It’s an important lesson in our time… how can we consume less?
She never forced a path upon me. I didn’t grow up with expectations of marriage, children or career. It’s only been as an adult I’ve realized how rare that is for a parent to let their child grow up unfettered by expectations. This seems so remarkable. I never once questioned a career in the arts or felt incomplete for not being married. This lesson is so important, making me ask ‘How can I do that with the people I love? How can we be open to what ever path they take (with the exception of harming themselves or others)’?
Jane was always truly compassionate to others. She said “Sometimes when people make bad decisions is when they need understanding and their friends the most.“ I was so judgmental for so long. Late in life one of my mother’s gifts was teaching me true compassion for those who most need it. The broken, those who have made bad decisions or can’t help themselves.
It’s much easier said than done and a hard lesson to enact. For me in practical uses it most often translates to “Hate the sin and not the sinner” (Gandhi). Trying to remember we all do bad things but that doesn’t necessarily mean we are bad people. As I said, this is hard to enact but trying to will nourish your soul.
The Crushing Voice of Negativity. For the love of all that’s holy DO NOT let your negative voice hold you back. Wasted. This is a word that comes to mind when I think of people’s potential who let this take over. That crushing voice never lets you get out of the gate. DO NOT do this. I beg of you. It serves no purpose other than holding you and the human race back. Think of Jane, do not let your spark be put out by self doubt. I have heard that Buddha said “There is no one more deserving of compassion than you” It’s hard… but be compassionate to yourself and learn to flourish.
It really doesn’t matter what you look like. I will repeat. It doesn’t matter what you look like. Your looks, weight, age, race, disability etc… It doesn’t matter. I don’t care if you have 4 chins and 3 arms. Seriously. It’s what you DO that makes an impact on this world.
I have never believed this as truly as I do now and vow to not let it hold me back. Our actions and deeds are what makes us great as individuals. What if Steven Hawking focused on his body instead of his mind? What if Elizabeth Cady Stanton thought she was too fat to be a suffragist? Or if Angela Davis spent her time trying to tame her vivacious hair instead finding freedom for all? It sounds silly but we (especially a lot of women) spend so much time wasted on our looks instead of our deeds. Don’t let it hold you back.
It’s a sweet sentiment to always see the good in people. We often hear of the soft generous heart that is open to seeing people’s better side. I’m telling you, it’s ok to see the bad in people. Sometimes there are bad people (or people doing bad things) and you just need to get away from them. It’s a balance. Sometimes being good to yourself is more important than seeing the good in others. At first, this may seem incongruous with being compassionate but I don’t think so. AL-ANON has a saying “Let go or be dragged”. Be as compassionate as you can but don’t let someone repeatedly hurt you or drag you down.
Don’t let fear rule your heart. Don’t let fear hold you back. It CAN be surmounted. Don’t let it keep you from accessing your full potential. Do it for us – humans need all the good humans we can find! Don’t hold out on us! This is another lesson easier said than done… but trying will make you courageous and give you confidence.
All these beautiful lessons… I want to honor Jane by spreading these lessons to any it might help. To use her as an inspiration and let all her knowledge and struggles be a beacon to those who would have it. I truly feel a light inside me and I know that is in large part from Jane’s teaching.
I love you Mom. I hope your energy is now part of the wind, ocean and sunshine. I hope part of your soul rests in another new being, giving it your unique wisdom to springboard from as it embarks upon its life, helping it to be a wonderful new soul. I know you live inside me because you created so much of who I am. I will strive to be more, better and an inspiration to others to honor you and what you have created in me. As my cousin Susan said, “She is not really gone, because she helped shape who I am and that will always be with me. She lives on in my heart and so she goes with me wherever I go.”
In loving Memory of Jane Fox
April 1st, 1948 – February 22, 2013
(written with all her love and heart by Lyla Warren)