This post is dedicated to my Mom, your Nana, who was one of the nicest people…ever.
EVERYONE who knew her believed this. I can’t even count the number of times I heard, “Your mom is such a nice person!” This comment was often preceded or followed by, “I love your Mom! or “I’m not surprised your Mom did that!” or “That’s your Mom!”
You would think Nana would have reveled in the glory of her reputation. But, she didn’t.
Nope, anytime the topic of her niceness came up she’d respond with,
“Don’t you dare use the word “nice” in my obituary!”
And, while repeating this multiple times in a conversation, she would also be jabbing her finger in my direction, and threatening me with the “I will haunt you if you do” phrase. (Take note, girls. It’s a family tradition to utter this warning.)
The first time Mom voiced this edict, it floored me.
Why didn’t she want to be remembered as nice?
Despite my many inquiries, Mom refused to reveal her reasons. I recall ruminating about this mystery for days, even going so far as to look up nice in the dictionary, just in case there was an obscure secondary meaning I didn’t know about.
The definition of nice: polite, kind, pleasing, agreeable….
Words associated with nice: alluring, charming, soothing, gracious, hospitable, cheerful, kindly, personable, harmonious, amiable, joyous, happy….Merriam Webster Dictionary
There wasn’t. I only found positive meanings and beautiful synonyms. Who wouldn’t want to be remembered as any and or all of those things?
Fast forward a dozen years, and ohhhh…now I understand.
Being a mostly nice person myself, there have been many an instance when I’ve felt used, abused, betrayed, ignored, neglected, taken for granted, manipulated, swindled, patronized and trampled upon by not-so-nice people.
After an incident, I’d spend hours seething, and concocting some pretty awesome paybacks.
However, when you’ve been rigourously trained to be nice, retaliation is a BIG NO-NO.
So, I never executed any of my brilliant plans.
Nope. I followed Mom’s example and “took the high road” even when I felt I DESERVED retribution and that no one would fault me for my actions.
No one that is except for myself and my Mom.
In retrospect, it was the right move every single time, but doing the right thing usually felt like crap.
One night, as I paced the floor of my bedroom plotting yet another never-gonna-happen revenge, it ocurred to me that THIS is what my mom felt like too. This is why she detested her “Queen of Nice” title.
Because choosing to take that high road over and over again is REALLY hard, and it can make you feel like a powerless wimp. But…when people are mean to you, there are only two choices.
1. Don’t retaliate, feel crappy and beat-up initially, but then later on feel proud and relieved you didn’t betray your value. This choice is also known as turning the other cheek, ignoring the offender, taking the high road, being the bigger person, etc.
2. Retaliate, feel gleeful, righteous, but then later feel crappy because you’ve gone over to the dark side. This choice is often known as an eye-for-an-eye, retributation, counterattack, revenge, etc.
Actually, there might be a third choice… for some.
3. Retaliate, feel gleeful, righteous, and never feel consciously (but maybe subconsciously) crappy because even though you’ve joined the dark side, you tell yourself that your act of retributation was righteous and that you’re still one of the good gals. This choice is a slippery slope of hypocrisy, self-delusion, etc.
The secound choice always sounded deliciously wicked and satisfying in my head, but thankfully Mom always reminded me that if I pursued vengance, I would ultimately despise myself.
So girls…Mom…Hear this.
Nice is a beautiful, powerful, strong way of being, and it takes incredible strength to adhere to it for a lifetime.
Mom, you were a warrior not a wimp and I am so proud to be your daughter.
By the way, there’s no need to haunt me.
I respected your wishes and did not use nice in your obituary. I wrote this instead.
Universally recognized for her kindness, empathy, radiant smile, and generous heart, Judy’s uplifting impact will live on forever. (April, 2021)
All my love.
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