My mother was seventeen when I was born, so in some ways we watched each other grow up. While she was a single parent doing her best to raise a young man, I was watching her evolve into an amazing hard-working woman focused on pursuing her dreams.
I watched her as she went to night school then came home to study. I watched as she read book after book, expanding her worldview and educating herself in the banking arena. I was inspired by her determination to excel up the ranks by taking advanced training courses. I was proud of her when she finally “arrived” in her respected position at the Federal Reserve Bank office in San Francisco.
Not too long after, things began to change. Just as our social status transformed on the road to success, so did her friendships. She became distant from the people she grew up with and knew her well. The new people in her life weren’t quality friends, but mere associates and business colleagues.
Sparing the details, I’ll simply say that as I watched her world change, I also watched her abuse drugs and alcohol. I was twelve years old when the woman I admired and loved deeply began to unravel in the throngs of addiction.
She was an amazing woman: courageous, beautiful, confident, focused and charismatic. But none of that was enough to help her deal with the stress of work, getting caught up in public perception, or the pressure she placed on herself to succeed.
My mom lost her anchor. She lost sight of the things that were the source of her strength. By the time I was fifteen, I hardly ever saw her, as she would go missing for days, even months. Choosing her addiction over me, we lost everything and I ended up living on the floor at my grandparents’ house.
Years went by before my mom found her way back to the woman she used to be. By that time, I was thirty-two years old. She wasn’t the same woman prior to her addiction. Having lost her career in banking, she was financially bankrupt and carried its heavy weight of shame.
There are millions of women who, like my mom, are amazing, talented, driven, beautiful, confident, and ambitious in their pursuit of success – they are super-women! There are also people like me who admire them and look in awe of what they’re able to do. These women make us proud, for they are indeed heroes.
Women like this remind me of my mom and I cheer and pray that they never lose sight of the things that give them super-powers. So, as you go about your journey flying high in pursuit of dreams, remember these four things:
- Never let go of the community of people who “knew you when.” There will be times when things get hard and the stress is overwhelming. In those times, surround yourself with people who love you for you without any pretense;
- Always have a small group of friends who are willing to hold you with open arms. People you can be honest with and who will listen without judgment. Let them love you in your wounded places, the places where you need love the most;
- Have a therapist. One thing I’ve learned from being around highly-functioning, successful leaders is that they all have a therapist. It’s not something they readily talk about but each of them sees having a therapist as an asset – an investment in their emotional and psychological well-being. It’s somewhat like NASCAR where the race is fast and requires pitstops. The pit stops don’t take them out of the race. Their sole purpose is to make sure drivers have what’s needed in order to finish strong;
- Last but not least, pray and pray without ceasing.
My mom died more than ten years ago of lung cancer, and over the last five years of her life we had an amazing relationship. A church rehabilitation program helped her find healing from her addiction and for her soul. I miss my mom and every time I see an amazing woman, I’m reminded of Mom’s essence. So, cheers and know that I’m proud of you because I know it’s not easy. I am grateful because women like you continue to show men like me what leadership looks like when it’s done with class. I celebrate all the superwomen out there, and I wish those who we call “Mom” a very Happy Mother’s Day.