Conjure up the most desirable image of your dream house you can think of. Mine is by the beach: just about anywhere fairly close to the ocean would do. I can see the beauty of it, feel the calm and smell the sea. But — a house is just a house, no matter the location — if life all goes to hell.

Growing up— the youngest of three — my family was “middle class” but I always felt poor. Both of my parents were community college professors who scrimped constantly: shopping bulk and “warehouse” before warehouse was in vogue, always generic items, and only necessary staples. (All of our veggies and fruits were from our own back yard — an oddity at that time.) We never went hungry, but there were no luxuries. New clothes came from places like K-mart; our cars were old: out of style and convenience. If ever there was talk of buying a new appliance, the lecture began, “What’s wrong with the old one?” Even if the oven door had to be held closed with a strip of metal my father had screwed on it — the ultimate Survivalist Handyman.

None of this mattered in my childish perspective until it did — coinciding with our change of home just as I entered the 6th grade. Suddenly I lived in what was known as “the rich people’s part of town” (even though our house was actually small and funky-looking, compared to the artful and luxurious homes around it). I attended school with children of heart specialists, surgeons, lawyers, and wealthy ranchers. I knew in an instant, by looking at clothing, perfect hair and even makeup (in the 6th grade??), that I was an outsider. But, I fell into a girl-group that actually stayed intact until high school, when we all went to different colleges, chasing success, learning life lessons.

I never attended the announced high school reunions until — I think it was my 40th. I was so curious as to how these women, the childhood friends I’d been so envious of, were living their lives. I soon found out that my envy was completely unwarranted. “Barbara”, who’d always wanted children, had been in a horrific car accident which prevented her ever getting pregnant. She and her husband had chosen to adopt, but the child turned out to have significant behavioral problems (the home-wrecking kind). “Jackie”, a close friend of Barbara’s, had married for money (dropping out of college) and had recently come-out to her husband and children. Jackie told me she’d known she was a lesbian since high school but lacked the courage to reveal who she really was. She continued to live under the same roof as her husband for six years, having affairs as women appeared in her life. She was living in agony but was in a holding pattern. Jackie was also ostracized by her son after she came-out and was mourning not being invited to his wedding. As Jackie told me her story, she also told me that Barbara had actually — on top of everything else going on with her adopted son— fallen in love with a married man who had just dumped her claiming overwhelming guilt over the affair.

I came away from this high school reunion pretty much stunned by how things had turned out for my friends: two women who’d grown up with all the advantages wealth could provide. All of the competition, mean-girl bravado about who had more perks (a horse at the nearby stables, the promise of a posh summer camp every year, a second home at Pebble Beach ) was so irrelevant and stupid. On the long drive home from the country-club venue of the event, I repeated Gratitude mantras until my eyes became teary. I let myself enter into a full blown sob (brief, but cleansing) as I pulled into my own driveway. What a relief to be reminded that comparing ourselves to the progress and outcomes of others makes no sense at all. There’s always a story we can’t see, until it’s time to see it.

Since my transition from an 8-to-5 career to one that allows for more creativity, flexibility and actual brain space to consider the world around me, I’ve started noticing the way that Media targets our sensitivities about food, diets, body shapes and — of course — weight loss. While I’ve never been one to moralize about the personal habits of others (although I do usually speak out against tobacco products), I take note that we’re all susceptible to the repetitive messaging that coerces us to commit our cash to achieve perfect health, vitality, longevity, whatever goal they believe will resonate with us. Checking-out the grocery store magazines: Paleo, Keto, Vegan Delights, Juicing and Mindful eating. There’s nothing wrong with any of these options, of course. On broadcast and cable television there’s a slightly different spin: packaged and delivered pre-portioned meals (Jenny Craig)- as if we didn’t already know how much is “too much”. The “new psychology” of eating (Noom)-as if we didn’t already know about how our emotions impact eating. And, the challenge of Peloton and Peloton digital: planting a niggling notion in our brains that competitiveness is essential to the mastery of fat burning. “To each, his (her) own”, as far as any of these tools go.

What I observe is the constant insertion of Media into our personal choices. If it really wanted to help, instead of simply sell products and subscriptions, it would back off and let us all figure out what foods and portions work best for us. This is, after all, a personal responsibility: a choice that we make each time we feel hungry (physically or emotionally). There’s plenty of information out there about the importance of clean, versus processed food and how it affects overall health. We pretty much know our stressors and triggers (I used to binge Oreos after a grueling day at work). Living lives at high-speed and often in a state of exhaustion, we under-estimate and even ignore our inner voices: what our bodies tell us is needed in terms of food, sleep, exercise, relaxation. Today, and hopefully tomorrow, I’ll choose to honor myself by listening and consciously choosing what my body asks for. Hey Media? I don’t need any prodding, thank you.

Full transparency: I was a reluctant mother. No, I didn’t have an unplanned pregnancy; being a mother just wasn’t very high on my list of things I felt I absolutely needed to experience.

Getting there. It wasn’t my father, telling me I’d “never feel complete without a child” (total bunk, but that was his perspective). It was being newly married, and my somewhat older husband really wanting another child (he was estranged from his daughter from a previous marriage). 
I convinced myself that I could retain a professional life and be a mom, so I agreed to this new adventure.

Sparing my readers the tedium of yet another “hindsight” story, I’ll cut to the salient bits. Birthing my son was an ordeal ( he was 10 lbs.), but he has — without a doubt — been my most satisfying life experience so far. Not without struggles — the years between 18 and 21 were pretty rough — but an amazing growth experience that continues, even with my “baby” almost 26 years old. Still,choosing to bring a life into this world is not for the faint of heart, even when conditions are prime (health of mom and baby, adequate resources, supportive partner). It’s a decision that I made consciously and rationally; one from which there was no turning back.

Being a Mom, with a formal day of celebration each May, isn’t a title that is only for women who’ve made a baby (or two, or three). The emotions of mothering are very like what any woman feels when nurturing another person, pet, or project. Love, protection, security and total devotion; playfulness, joy and gentle guidance are all aspects of mothering.

So, Happy Mother’s Day to all women who are nurturing something or someone. We all need your love and the power it has to transform our world.