I recently visited some friends who just bought a really old, run-down house that they are renovating. The work they’re doing is fabulous – the home will soon be restored into a lovely ante-bellum townhouse. But when they purchased the house, it had some crumbled walls, years of accumulated dust, antiquated kitchen and bathrooms – and it was floor-to-ceiling full of “stuff.” Old furniture, glassware, dishes, boxes and boxes of things wrapped in scraps of newspaper – just “stuff.” As they’ve sorted through the odds and ends of the old house, however, they’ve discovered some items that were quite valuable. An old Confederate bill. An antique mahogany chest. Some exquisite dishes and glassware. They’ve been able to find things of value in those boxes.
In the past few weeks, my family’s been sorting through things that belonged to my Grandmother. It’s been bittersweet fun – and I’ve carted home a few things that some folks might have rolled their eyes at. But you know, it’s valuable to me. For example, I brought home a quilt, but the edges are pretty ragged and torn. Some folks might have tossed it away. But not me! It’s one of my most valuable treasures now! So is a ceramic turtle planter that I now have. It’s one of two things that I think I’ve ALWAYS remembered from my grandmother’s home. (The other one is a ceramic bluebird that now has a place of honor at my sister’s home!)
I recently gave my daughters some pieces of jewelry that were very valuable to me. I have no idea what the monetary value of the jewelry is. But the pieces were given to me by their dad, and were special to me because of that. I don’t know if my daughters yet fully understand the value of their gifts, but I pray one day they do.
This past week, my mom & dad sent me a calendar they’d found rolled up and stuck in a closet at my Grandma’s house. As I unrolled it, I had to laugh at the Norman Rockwell prints on each page. And then I realized why mom & dad sent it to ME – the calendar was from 1956! Now part of me knows that my grandparents kept that calendar 52 years because they like the Rockwell artwork. But a little bit of me wants to think they kept it because that was the year they first became grandparents!
As that thought occurred to me, it sort of hit me how much my grandparents and parents have valued ME. They don’t have to come out and say they are glad I’m around – they’ve shown me, in big and little ways, all my life.
For a while, I reveled in that warmth of knowing my parents and grandparents have appreciated me all my life. They’ve always lifted me up, encouraged me, praised me, tried to build my self-esteem. And then I began to realize that I had taken their positive evaluations of me very much for granted. I had NOT been as appreciative of my own life as I should have been. In fact, I’d valued the feelings of others toward me that were not nearly so positive for far too long.
I lived in emotional barrenness for several years, being brainwashed into thinking that I really wasn’t worth a whole lot to anybody. When I finally gathered up enough self-confidence to leave the relationship, I think my self-esteem was about minus-10. I’d gotten so accustomed to being told that my opinions were wrong, or that my decisions were stupid, I had trouble determining which side of the slice of bread to put the peanut butter on!
It’s taken a few years to overcome that personal setback. I still have bouts with people who question my decisions, who point out what they perceive to be my flaws and mistakes. And I’ve had some pretty tough times coming to grips with the fact that some folks that I love very much just don’t quite understand or appreciate me. But the gifts of loving and understanding parents, and a husband who definitely appreciates everything about me helps me to see that I’m ok, just like I am.
I’m learning to accept who I am, to value the person in my skin. I think it’s an on-going process for most people. We grow older, hopefully wiser. Our tastes change. Sometimes our attitudes change. Some things we hoped for might not come to pass – but we learn to get over it, and hope for other things. It’s all a part of living, you know?
So – who do you value? And who values you? Why not take a few minutes today to let someone know that you really, truly appreciate them?
PS – to my husband David: You are amazing & I love you! "Appreciate and reciprocate" truly works wonders!
PS – to my mom & dad: I love you more every day. Thanks for always believing in me!
PS – to my children: I love you, even in the midst of turmoil. You are valuable to me, always.