What My Mother Taught Me About Doing Things For Myself

by Bridey Heing
Originally Published: 

But there’s one truth about my mother that I like to think I’m doing my best to carry on as her oldest daughter: If you need something done, just do it your damn self.

My mother once replaced a toilet with no tools aside from a butter knife and sheer willpower.

One day she decided it was high time the dining room drywall was replaced, so she knocked a hole into the wall and started the project. Our dining room walls were half hollow for years, but she did it, start to finish, all on her own.

She dragged a hot water heater out of the basement and to the curb just because it needed to be done and no one else was around to do it.

It’s not that my mom won’t ask for help. She does, often, when we’re back in town to visit. My partner is greeted at her door with a smile, a hug and a list of pieces of furniture she’d love some help with if he doesn’t mind. No rush, sweetie, just before you leave. More times than I can count, my siblings and I heard our names shouted from the depths of the house, her voice strained and sharp, in a tone we knew meant she had started rolling up a huge carpet that she couldn’t move on her own.

If we ever need a motto for a family crest, it will be, “Get your ass in here and help me with this.”

Perhaps my mother’s willingness to get on with whatever needs getting on with is born of impatience, a lack of desire to let it sit for one more day. Or maybe it’s impatience with a fierce independent streak, the same streak that helped her weather all the storms and come out the other side whether she was on her own or not. Or maybe she just has really poor impulse control and can’t gauge how much she bites off.

But whatever drives my mom to shrug, grab a butter knife, and replace a toilet, or grab a hammer and start tearing down a wall, or start another project without the tools or the help any normal person would need to finish it, the lesson I learned was the same. It doesn’t matter what task is ahead of me. It doesn’t matter who is there to give me a hand. It doesn’t matter how daunting it is or how long it takes.

If I try, I can do anything my damn self.

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