Max once asked me, “Why is it that we have to go to school for 15 months a year and we only get 2 weeks off for winter break and only 2 months off for summer? That seems so unfair.” I said, “Max, how many months are there in a year?” He said, “Twelve, why?” I said, “Then how is it that you are going to school for 15 months?” He said, “Don’t question my math when I’m trying to make an important point, Mom.”
My Max, as I did in high school – and sometimes still do, struggles with the structure and immutability of a school system that tries to cram a wiggly star shape into a square hole. Don’t get me wrong. I am grateful for my education. But I think part of why I like my work as a lawyer is because I learned early on, from my mother, that bureaucracies and systems are not inherently correct. And that individuals, especially creative, artistic, badass, bodacious, individuals, have a right to buck those bureaucracies and systems. I sure do love bucking the system. I’m with Max. Fuck the math. Let’s count what really matters. Not time spent trying to accommodate policies that don’t make sense when you are actually doing good and being good.
My mama, who moved in with me in August, was diagnosed with cancer in January. The first oncologist told us that she had maybe a year to live. She did not accept that. In the face of unremitting pain and an obdurate health care system, she refused to be crammed into a square hole. Her next oncologist gave her a different prognosis. She has gone through surgery, radiation, and now chemotherapy treatments. And she is kicking cancer’s ass. She is showing me – and my sons – real courage and what really matters. That challenge and inquiry and often rebellion are necessary. If you don’t challenge the status quo and stagnation, you never evolve and get better. And that courage comes from not giving up. You have to keep going. No matter what. That courage leads to doing and being better, for all of us.
Last week, my mom told me, “I am lean, mean, and ready to start kicking ass.” She started walking outside for the first time in months. First to the driveway outside my house. Then down to the end of the block. Last Sunday I walked with her to the end of the block and back. Along the way, she pointed out the blooming trees and plants. “Look how beautiful that is,” she said for each one. And you know, she was right. Each one was beautiful. Hell’s yeah to my mom’s rebellion against cancer’s status quo.
Today is my mom’s birthday, I am grateful, so very grateful, for her. I am grateful to the woman who raised me to be a fighter and to be courageous even when I am scared out of my mind. I am grateful that my mom taught me to question and advocate and rebel. I am grateful to the woman who taught me to appreciate art and music and literature. I am grateful to the woman who taught me that it is important to love and serve those who need us, without judgment. I am grateful to the woman who taught me to be a good mother to my amazing sons. I am grateful to the badass mamaninjawarrior, who taught me that life is beautiful. And that we should never, not ever, give up a single moment of that beauty to doubt, pain, incorrect diagnoses, or math – none of which matters when you’re making an important point. And that the real mathematical equation and the true point is – love.
“And in the end, the love you take. Is equal to the love you make.” – John Lennon