Monday Notes: New Mantra

I was raised by a celebratory family. My mother’s side was known to praise any and everything that I did. No matter what I accomplished – piano recitals, school functions, dance programs – my grandmother, grandfather, and great aunts and uncle would proclaim, “you were the best one!” On top of that, my mother was known for creating parties. Some planned and some instant.

“Punch in a glass is just punch,” she’d say, “but when you pour it in a punch bowl, with sliced oranges, well that’s a party!”

We partied often. And it was something I grew used to.

Similarly, my father’s side of the family is known for arriving from out of town to celebrate accomplishments. It doesn’t matter if they haven’t seen or talked to the person in months or years, if they’re invited to a graduation party, birthday event, or funeral repast, they will find a way to join in and turn up.

My childhood was wonderful in this way. But then my mother died, and so did her parties.

Eight months later, I threw my own seventeenth birthday party. It was the first time since the funeral that family members were all in one space. It was the first time since we’d buried my mother that things felt normal.

When I graduated high school, I asked Grannie if she was going to have a party afterwards. Some call it an open house.

“You want a party?” she asked.

“Yes,” I beamed.

“Well, you’re gonna have to pay for it yourself.”

biggest_fan_2So, I did. I bought royal blue streamers, royal blue tablecloths and napkins, and ordered myself a white sheet cake, with royal blue icing that read, Congratulations Kathy! After graduation, family and friends celebrated the occasion with me in Grannie’s basement.

Throughout the years, this pattern continued. If I wanted to celebrate me, then I created an event to do so. Sometimes these were joint, out-of-town birthday parties with friends. Other times, like my doctoral graduation or 40th birthday party, I planned a celebration independently to physically say congrats.

Over the past few years, I’ve grown weary of planning festivities for myself, yet I’ve continued to achieve. To maintain a commemorative spirit, I’ve begun taking myself out. If I do something that I believe is extraordinary, then I splurge on a meal.

I also share great news on social media, because even though sites like Facebook can be annoying, the reality is that Internet communities love to uplift you when you’ve done something positive. To be honest, it’s like dipping a glass ladle into that fancy bowl and scooping out the bright red punch my mother used to make. It tastes sweet. It feels special.

But as I approach 46, I realize those things are all outside of myself. And because I seek growth in everything I do, I’ve developed a new mantra. What I’m doing is important, even if no one else acknowledges it.

Don’t get me wrong. I still celebrate myself in explicit ways, but this phrase reminds me to also turn inward. It reminds me that my self-worth is not tied to my success or anyone’s validation of it. And it liberates me from expecting external gratification in the form of celebratory acts. This is a new practice. We’ll see how it goes.

In the meantime, tell me if you’ve ever had to re-frame how you function in the world because of your upbringing? Are you a celebratory person?

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82 thoughts on “Monday Notes: New Mantra

  1. Hi Kathy – I have always admired people who know how to celebrate themselves! (I haven’t been one of those people). I’m in my 50s and your new mantra really resonates with me. While all of our paths are unique, I am aware that my path has fewer of the conventional markers, so, for instance, I’ve never had a wedding or birthed a child, chalked up awards, or had significant career advancements etc. I’ve had some great experiences, but I often still feel like someone striving to make my mark. It is important for me to feel worthy, and believe that the things I am engaged in are worthwhile, whether or not external validation is forthcoming. And still, like you say, “It tastes sweet. It feels special.” to be seen and uplifted for doing positive things❣️

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  2. I started to recent celebrations, because it meant always frustration of people not willing to come, because others might come too. Even nowadays, I catch myself planning an event and forgetting about the most important rule “it’s MY party, if people decide not to come, it’s their choice (and loss)”.
    I believe acknowledgement is important, not to receive or give approval…for the purpose of appreciating each other. Just for being the beautiful imperfect persons we are.
    And yes, not sometimes, but all the times… We have to be our biggest fans ourselves. Great post again Katherin!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know what you mean Patty! At some point, I used to worry about the same thing, until I realized it doesn’t even matter. Those who show up are who matter at that point in time, and those who don’t? Eh…maybe next time or maybe never lol either way, it’s okay with me.

      I like how you’ve phrased that at the end. I agree. We should acknowledge and appreciate one another just because ❤

      Thanks for reading Patty! Also, our bdays are approaching soon!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. “In the meantime, tell me if you’ve ever had to re-frame how you function in the world because of your upbringing?” — HAHAHAHA, my whole entire adult life basically but specifically these past eight years.

    Anyway, your mantra is great. I remember I wouldn’t do stuff because “nobody cared” but I cared! I almost didn’t go to my grad school graduation because “nobody would be there,” but my friend forced me to go and then my mom and two of my friends showed up.

    So anyway, the fact that I care is enough for me now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Akilah,every time you comment, I think to myself, “I wish she would’ve stayed just one more year so I could’ve gotten to know her a little more” ❤ Anywho, I gasped to think you almost didn't go to graduation! Like, I'd NEVER miss graduation lol but I understand feeling like "nobody cared" because a lot of times I'll go to the thing or have the celebration, but the people I want to care most, just aren't into it like I am.

      I completely understand and agree with you…our own care is sufficient.

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      1. I have thought the same thing! We will have to get together when I make my way back to Florida.

        Also, it was also partially arrogance. I didn’t think the master’s was as important as the doctorate. But here I am years later without a doctorate and a master’s degree that has carried me even further than I could have imagined. Imagine thinking that degree didn’t count! Wow.

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      2. ❤ Let me know. But you know I live in Jacksonville.

        Also, that's just society that teaches us a master's isn't as important. I think a lot of us fell for the banana in the tailpipe on that one :-/

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  4. Well done. How did you celebrate this great post? LOL. I am a celebrator too, even though it wasn’t installed in my home of origin. But sometimes a negative can be a blessing when you go the other way. From a little girl who was not celebrated on her b-day or any other holiday to a woman who celebrates every thing. That’s a victory in itself. Little celebrations involve a new book or music, flower bouquets or a special meal or anything on/in/by water. Bigger celebrations involve concert tix, trips, spa vacays.

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    1. Ha!

      Well, I’m glad to hear that because I was starting to think that those who came from non-celebratory homes continued that pattern, while others did something different.

      Thanks for sharing those ideas too!

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    1. Thanks Ann! it’s like a balance between the two, you know? I knew I had to do something because expecting others to function the way my mother did, is ridiculous, really, but also continuing to throw myself elaborate parties (sans help) is also ridiculous lol I think it should go well.

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  5. “What I’m doing is important, even if no one else acknowledges it.” – Yes!! To answer your question, I am not a celebratory person. I never was celebrated for my accomplishments growing up because my parent’s couldn’t afford it nor made the effort to do anything. I find it weird openly celebrating myself. It’s something I do plan to do more of.

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    1. Thanks Ash! It seems that those who were not celebrated, take that into adult life and, like you’ve said, “find it weird openly celebrating.” I find it fascinating how we navigate adult life based on our upbringing. Anywho, if you’re ever stuck on ways to celebrate yourself, just ask me lol ❤

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  6. Definitely had to reframe based on cultural beliefs and Life itself. Growth is exponential… growth requires more. Self-worth is imperative. You received the Why from your Mother…the rest is up to you/us. Love you, Doc! Celebrate You ♥️ #mothers

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    1. I like what you’ve said Michelle. Self-worth is imperative and the rest IS up to me, isn’t it. You’re right. You’ve made me think about this a little more. I guess in my re-framing, I’m also trying to maintain a celebratory mindset, without having expectations of others to do it for me. Thanks friend ❤

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  7. I am not a celebratory person. I am a cultivated optimist due to my upbringing after the age of 5. Lately, since writing my book I feel moments of happiness when someone tells me how much they love the book. Also, I have had celebratory moments when actors I want to interview for my next book return my emails. (Hot cha cha!!). But this is followed by the fact that no one else in my family can share this feeling because no one is invested in this project to the degree that I am. Which makes me sad. But it certainly won’t make me stop writing my new book. It’s a lot of fun and I get to meet really nice people.

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    1. I do understand what you mean when you say, “no one else in my family can share this feeling…” Sometimes this is the exact emotion and subsequent feeling, sadness. I like your approach. Thanks for sharing this.

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  8. What you are doing is indeed important, even if no one else acknowledges it. Do we define the success of a blog by the number of readers or by the people who have benefited from it? If we spend an hour writing, or volunteering, or working, and someone benefits, public acknowledgement is irrelevant. That said, you are doing a great job! 😎

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a really good point! And you know what? I actually have never measured the success of my blog by the numbers, necessarily, but really by everything you’ve mentioned. Your comment really has resonated with me, so thanks for this. And also, thanks for the compliment 🙂

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  9. Such a beautiful and deeply thoughtful post! Your mother and family were so wonderful with celebrations and those memories must be so precious. My families were kind of the opposite. They didn’t really know what or how to celebrate. And getting together for celebrations was more drama than what could be enjoyed. So I think I had to reversely reframe and find a way to enjoy my moments 🙂 I truly enjoyed reading your post.

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  10. A very interesting post. If I think about it, our big family celebrations went down hill too after my mother passed away. But my mom had an interesting view about celebrations. It was as if parties stopped once we became a teenager. I don’t know if that is because in the Jewish faith you become a man or a woman at 13 or what. But when my siblings and I were little we had glorious parties. Then it was dinner as usual and she would make my favorite cake (Cheese cake) for dessert and that was it. My brother and sister had a party at 13 but I did not. My brother had a huge bar mitzvah and it was like it was a wedding. Lavish in every aspect. Nothing was spared. We then moved to Florida and life became simpler. My father wasn’t financially as well to do so lavish parties ended. I opted out on having a Bat Mitzvah because at the time, it was unusual for girls to study Hebrew. None of my friends had Bat Mitzvahs. So my 12th birthday was my last party as a child. My sister wanted to have one and my mother stated years later that she was embarrassed because the party was held by our pool and was just for the children. Nothing like the extravagant party held for my brother. I wasn’t interested since we had just moved to Florida and I didn’t know anyone yet. With my own children I found that both of my sons by the time they were teenagers preferred to invite a few buddies to a game themed party or go see a movie and something with a theme. They didn’t want anything over the top. For their high school graduation for my oldest son I had a party catered at my home and for my younger son we had a bash at a restaurant.
    I was married to a man who really didn’t do parties. I did often feel left out. But then again, I was born on Easter Sunday and Passover and so we had a Birthday cake at every seder but it was made of matzah meal so it was awful.
    It wasn’t until my 60th and 65th when my sons had a party at a restaurant for me and made a big deal. That was really lovely. When I got divorced my sister did make a divorce party luncheon for me. She made a cake and gave me tiara and called me the Divorce princess and we had a great celebration.
    And last week I turned 70. I told my kids not to make a big deal of this b-day, so knowing that I love Sherlock Holmes, they got an escape room with a Sherlock theme and we had a wonderful Mystery Birthday party filled clues, events, unlocking a mystery and dressing up as Holmes characters. Best Birthday every!!!!!!
    I used to feel a bit sad when I accomplished something and nobody did anything so I tried to make a big deal for my children. And somewhere in my 60’s I just stopped worrying about what people did for me and about what I had accomplished for myself. I am not sure if this photo will post, but it is my gang at my Sherlock Mystery room Birthday Party.
    /Users/lesleykluchin/Desktop/IMG_7547.jpeg

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    1. First of all, I hope this doesn’t offend, but I can’t believe you’re 70 Lesley. You give off a younger vibe. The Easter cake sounds absolutely horrid, so yeah, I wouldn’t look forward to that either lol

      As far as the recent bday, I love that your family knew what you liked and then accommodated based on that. But I think my love language is gifts, so this might be why.

      And no, the image didn’t show. WordPress really does need to do a better job of being up-to-date with what you can link here :-/

      Thanks always for sharing these stories about your background; they always help refine my opinion a little bit.

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      1. I can’t believe I’m 70 either. That number sounds so old. My vibe has always been young and free spirited. I still feel like the same girl who stepped on stage in 1966 and played in the first all girl’s rock band in South Florida, like the young woman who played Juliet in college, The young model who glided on the runway in the 70’s… the young hippie who protested for peace and equality….those young girls still live inside of me. So 70 is just a number. My soul is still young and vital!

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  11. Yessss. Beautiful post!
    I’m very celebratory. I encourage my circle to be as well. And with my birthday falling between two major holidays, I have decided not to take it personal when I have to spend it with myself or plan something on my own.

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    1. That’s cool to hear! I’m now trying to attract more celebratory people, cause I’m a little tired of encouraging I can see how a bday mid holiday frenzy could get lost, so it really is up to you to remember how important that day is to you!

      Also, did I mention we’re doing an Atlanta book reading on June 15th? 5-7p…hope you can come!

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      1. I get it. My mom used to throw these elaborate New Years parties and everyone would show up, but it was so much to prep for and clean up (that’s why she had kids).

        And whhhhhhhy will I be in AL for my cousin’s wedding THAT evening?! Maybe I can make up an excuse not to go? Help me.

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  12. I like the part where you say that self worth isn’t tied to success and other’s validations. that’s true, but not everyone – or actually most everyone would seek approval – or validation – that what they did was a success. Or maybe we just need to show off a little and feel important at times.

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    1. Thanks Jina! I’m a little confused by your answer. Are you saying that most people don’t seek validation or that most people do not seek validation?

      Either way, I think it’s a pretty natural thing, but for me, I’d learned to rely on it because of how my family reacted. I’ve had to un-learn the idea of seeking approval, I suppose.

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      1. Hmmm, It was late at night when i left that comment 🙂 but what i mean is that people shouldn’t seek others approval for their success, but most people do any way. It feels good receiving other people’s praises knowing that people who matter to you approve of what you’ve accomplished.

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      2. lol I hear you. I read it and re-read it and still came up with nothing.

        This makes sense to me and I definitely agree, especially the part about “knowing that people who matter to you approve of what you’ve accomplished.” That’s the message I’ve been trying to convey to those who matter to me, but I don’t think it’s come through quite like that. Thanks for commenting Jina!

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  13. I always thought it was me…I don’t particularly like the idea of all the hoopla to celebrate everything. I mean, the kids love it, well, one of them does, which is fine, but for myself…meh. I hear you.

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  14. This made me sad, a little. That you had no one to celebrate you and your accomplishments. It makes me hurt for those who don’t have that from family. I think we are all shaped by our upbringing and that shapes the decisions we make. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of celebrations for me, but I do feel honored and loved when people throw them for me. My mom and sister-in-law did a baby shower for me because none of my friends did and then none of my “friends” showed. But at least my family loved me 🙂

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    1. Yeah, me too Lisa lol That’s why I initially had to sit down and kinda trace back how this happened, that I began and continued to throw myself a party for everything.

      I agree that we’re all shaped by our backgrounds, which is definitely where I was going with this. Even something that is super positive can (depending on the trajectory of one’s life) kinda end up sad.

      I find that most people feel honored when others show appreciation and love ❤ Thanks so much for reading and replying.

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      1. I just realized I reiterated what you said. Lol. I was trying to explain that I agreed with you about what you were saying but instead I just sounded like I was repeating you. One thing too, is when we are the ones who always do things it’s like people expect it of us so they get used to not doing it. And sometimes they are just jerks and don’t care about anyone except themselves

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  15. You grew up in a loving and lively family, it sounds great and I like the comparison of punch in a glass or in a bowl . It is the spirit of the celebration.
    My mother would create a party with great ease and was a very happy and caring woman.
    I love celebrating small ? or big achievements with impromptu parties.

    miriam

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  16. I try to celebrate all my kids accomplishments with a cake (usually a Pinterest fail) or a congratulations balloon, or a cheers. I don’t throw a party, just a family dinner.
    Since they are busy adults sometimes we celebrate lots of things at once.
    I never had that growing up, neither did my husband or son-in-law. My son-in-law loves it now. You can see him beaming when he is toasted or I make him a cake that celebrates just him.

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    1. That’s cool Alexis! I think providing any kind of something is an appropriate way to acknowledge someone’s accomplishment (if they don’t mind). I like the idea of celebrating a bunch of things at once and it’s so nice that you have introduced this to your son-in-law ❤

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    2. My husband was rarely celebrated by his family growing up. He was always told his dad didn’t want his sister and so she was treated special. Oddly, his dad left them both and never came for him either so not sure why he was treated less than. Anyhow, now that he’s in my family they celebrate him with birthday dinners and special gifts and pies and he feels so weird because he was taught his whole life he didn’t deserve it. His mom and sister don’t talk to him at all anymore so my family is it. I’m just glad someone celebrates him now.

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  17. I’m not big on Celebrations. By nature I’m a quiet reserved person more so as I’ve gotten older.

    Growing up some family Celebrations were fun while others were occasions for family members to ask embarrassing questions and be rude. I don’t miss that part and since the deaths of the older generations Celebrations have gone by the wayside. Actually most of my paternal cousins shun both Stephen and I. Disabilities are not allowed but after all the problems I went through I’m glad to be rid of Celebrations. And No I don’t really celebrate my birthday not even when I turned 60. Being that I was born in the dead of winter, I don’t drive it would have been stupid to make plans. I rarely reward me. It feels unnecessary and unnatural.

    I will Celebrate my brother Stephen 58th Birthday next month May 3rd. He deserves All rewards and accolades because he is the Best.

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  18. I’m not a celebratory person. But, to your other question, every thing I do or don’t do is shaped by my upbringing. I make decisions based on what happened in the past and what caused it, etc….

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  19. Your post is very thought-provoking, Katherin. With the lens of my own experience, I equate celebrations as “family obligations.” Growing up, there were many occasions that my parents insisted their children attend. I was obedient, though a bit resentful. After losing my parents and most of the older generation, it’s been an interesting switch. I miss many of those celebrations now and my own children refuse to attend any kind of event. Sometimes, that saddens me and brings me more understanding about how my own parents insisted I attend everything. I never want to pressure my children. But it’s interesting how my perspective has shifted since I’ve gotten older.

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    1. I think that happens to many of us Judy. As we move through life, perspectives shift and suddenly we’re the ones begging our children to come home for a holiday smh. It’s like a crazy circle of life.

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  20. I love celebrations…from extravagant and fun birthdays for my son to small gestures like shouting a colleague coffee to celebrate completion of a PhD or surprising a friend by baking a cake for their birthday. I realise some people feel awkward being celebrated or feel like my gesture may be over the top but it’s something I love doing.

    I celebrate personal milestones and achievements with anything from a day on my own doing nothing or being spontaneous and doing whatever takes my fancy, or having a spa day, again on my own. My ultimate indulgence is being A L O N E 😂

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      1. 😂 i just meant geographically. But they have potatoes! I could easily see myself living in NYC…always had a strong feeling about there and Paris…I made Paris happen, so one day NYC 🍎❤

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