Monday, 12 September 2016

Happy Birthday, Mum!

Today it is my mum's birthday! Two months ago while I was writing a post about my dad for his birthday, I felt inspired to also write one for my mum. And luckily I did not have to wait long to post it!
Below are some things that my mum taught me. My mum and I share more differences than me and my dad, but I am getting to a point where I realize I have more in common with her than I previously thought, and many of those things I have been taking for granted, because at first glance they may not seem 'spectacular', 'bold' or 'extraordinary'. Most of us don't appreciate subtleties and intricacies anymore. 
However, the following points have proven to be important building blocks for me to become the person I am today and I am often reminded of them as I go about my life.

Treasure and respect nature
Throughout my life, mum taught me a lot about nature. We went berry picking, picking mushrooms and went for long walks in the park, marveling at all the different creatures, big and small, plants and trees. I learned to treat all beings like they matter, because they do. And not just outside the house, but also inside. She taught me how to catch creatures that had gone astray with respect and care by trapping them in a glass with a piece of paper covering it, and then leading them outside. That is how I still catch spiders, beetles and flies in my house (and even mosquitoes nowadays, which used to be the only exception). Mum taught me to see how we are all a part of the web of Life and that purposely killing a creature without provocation is always unnecessary.

Appreciate the little things
Mum has taught me awareness of many things that most people (including me) tend to take for granted most of the time. Mum often points out her gratitude for the air we breathe, the flowers, the trees around us, and all the wonderful beings we share the earth with. I have always been a big-picture-kind-of-person, so for me it is easy to forget about things that are always there. And nowadays I find myself more and more noticing the things my mum consistently and often pointed out to me while I was consistently overlooking them as I was growing up.

My mum offered her couch to travelers from near and far long before it became fashionable. I often had friends over that I met while exploring the globe and she always welcomed them with open arms. She loves learning about different cultures and is always eager to host people from anywhere to exchange views and experiences. We literally had visitors from each of the (habitable) continents on earth.

If you can help someone in need, help them
When I was about 17, I met a boy who soon after became homeless. He had no family to help him, a big debt and no job (and no hope of being considered for a job). He was recovering from an accident at work, and got zero support from the previous employer, nor the government. Then he lost his home – I think it was because the person he was living with disappeared. Once you lose your home, it is very difficult to get your life back on track (at least in the Netherlands). It is impossible to keep a bank account, because you don’t have an address. Without an address and bank account, you also can't get a job, nor receive any unemployment benefits. Once you no longer work in our society, you get discarded and treated like you don’t exist. You don't get health insurance either, because you need to pay for that in the Netherlands. And you can’t pay for it if you don’t have income (or a bank account). However, the government can fine you at any time for not being insured, because it is mandatory for all citizens.
He came over e to meet my parents and my mum adopted him as her own son from the moment she met him. She said he could stay with us and he ended up staying for a long time, much longer than I personally wanted, because he had a lot of problems which caused a lot of tensions in our house. Mum guided him through all of the red tape and bureaucracy of getting his finances back in order, getting him a bank account, getting him welfare and finally also helping him find a place of his own. It took about eight months. All the time my mum was always understanding, stuck up for him when he was having angry outbursts towards the system and helped us to try and see the world through his eyes - even for a moment. 

 I am pleased to say that my adopted brother is doing well and still part of the family, visiting my parents at least once a week. He has become somewhat of an expert with technical appliances, and often helps my parents out if they are having trouble with their phones or computer.
I was amazed though that it was so difficult for a person to get back into the system once they were out. It was my first experience of seeing how the state really has no interest in its citizens, only in the profit that is being generated. It made me realize how silly the system is, and how lives really don’t matter in that system. We are just a number, a spoke on a wheel. Our needs don’t matter, even our most basic ones. As soon as we need support - the support we pay for through taxes and by being a member of society - that support we believe exists is not given. And since we have been discarded from society, we lose our voice. No one will hear your cries and you will be left to die. People will walk past you as you lay crying in the curb, but most people will just think you are crazy and worthless - and leave you to die as well. Not my mum though. My mum will not give up on you. When she was 15 she also helped a friend to get back on her feet by offering her to live with her in her room for a couple of months (with the support of her mum), and another time when she was 18 with another friend. They are still good friends.

Coloring outside the lines: it’s okay to stand out
My mum is an artist. She creates her artworks from the heart and lets them flow from her personal experiences. Personal experience is never generalized. To have interesting ideas, it helps to have an interesting life. And to stand out, it is important to question the very fundamentals of society that most people blindly accept as the norm. Standing out may make you a target for criticism, but it also gets you seen and heard. If the message is worth it, then don’t be afraid to stand out and make yourself heard. It is not about you anyway: it is about the message.
Here are some of my mum’s beautiful works (and the catalogue of her most recent work can be found here):

Anti-waste mentality
Mum definitely knows who to save money, and my moneyless challenge was partly inspired by her. She hardly buys anything for herself and is very creative with what she has. She gives most of what she has to others. She also knows a lot about expiry dates and so I often turn to her for advice on the things I find. Following her guidelines, I have never been sick from dumpster food. I think I would never have had the courage to eat some of the things I found while diving if it wasn't for her reassurance. 

Patience and seeing the value of experiences
While me and my sister were growing up, mum had a lot of patience with us so that we could learn about life and explore and grow (even when things were challenging and not going particularly smoothly, because my sister and I are very different and had a lot of fights). We had real childhoods and spent a lot of time outdoors. We often came back with dirty or muddy clothes, sometimes with animals we found and often with interesting friends. My main friends as a young child were the ducks that lived in the nearby park. They stayed clear of most people but they came to me for cuddles and we spent a lot of time together. Some of them moved into our garden and practically lived there. Once one of them accidentally got trapped in the house. The whole house was full of duck-poo when we got back home.

I am extremely grateful for the childhood I have had, growing up in harmony with nature and learning about the value of Life. I am grateful that I got so much freedom and unconditional love growing up, and that I got to learn to make up my own mind. This has certainly helped me to choose an unconventional path in life. To me there is just no better feeling than knowing you are a part of Life, in all its facets, and having the freedom to follow your heart.

May all of us be able to find a way to create this for ourselves. <3

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  1. Happy birthday to your mum! :) I think your mum had a lot in common with mine... both amazing women.

  2. Happy birthday to your mum! :) I think your mum had a lot in common with mine... both amazing women.