On this day, February 1st, in 1926 just a few short years before the Great Depression my grandmother was born.  While she is no longer with us I continue to remember all that she brought to me and my life experience through her tenacity and strength.

Ours was not the usual part-time visits and full-time spoiling grandparent/child relationship.  To say that I was raised by a single parent would be technically true though it would fly in the face of all my grandmother gave me in her unabated and steadfast love, security and discipline.  Though she didn’t reside with us she was, as often as she could be, my before/after school guardian, my mom-is-working-late babysitter and my weekend respite caregiver which made my Grandma Jammye my second parent in many regards.

Looking back I know I spent time in good quantity and more importantly great quality and I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt that I said how much I appreciated her often and in great detail.

I also know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that she never really heard my accolades.  When I talk to my kids about their Great Grandmother and how much she adored them and all that she was to me and for me I have to also add that she never really knew what a gift she was to me and to the world around her.  Every compliment was denied, every example was admonished as an exaggeration, and her every attempt at finding peace in herself for all of her mistakes through life was clouded and mired by her deflated and defeated self image.  She died truly believing she was a failure.

Needless to say, this was a painful reality to all of us who treasured her.

Here I am, 8 years later, reflecting on what that means to me.  What I come up with is this:  though I’m all too good at hearing the bad stuff and working on it diligently I will not let the people nearest me feel that I do not hear them when they speak of the good.  I will hear their words of kindness, love and compassion.  I will understand that my contributions to this world are, in large part, positive ones.  I will believe what they say about me if, for no other reason, because they took the time, energy and courage to say it to me.

With this in mind, World, I am listening, not to my inner dialogue that declares me unfit, unprepared, or not enough, but to the messages and confirmations that come from the people in whose lives I participate.  Because when it comes right down to it those words are reflections of my natural gifts…the gifts I have that I SHOULD be nurturing in order to develop and share them.

We come in contact with countless people every single day.  What messages are we hearing from them when we’re listening?  Strangers may smile and offer a quick, “thank you” for a small kindness.  Listen to it.  Know that you contributed something positive to that person’s life today.  Loved ones may tell you that you’re easy to talk to or that they look forward to your visits.  Know that you’ve given them just what they needed to feel treasured.

Live your life with a robust understanding of the gift you are to this world and you will energize yourself to be more of the wonderful person you naturally are and to achieve more of the wonderful goals you’re reaching for in the process of living.

I would love to hear from you once you’ve begun listening.  Will you share with me in the comments what you’ve heard?  Keep a mental databank of these comments.  Or, better yet, actually write them down in a small notebook and refer to them when you’re down.  Recording, recalling and sharing the ways in which you’re cherished is not an act of hubris – it is a necessary act of self recognition.