January 13, 2014

Grandma’s 4 Tips for Living Well.

Next month will mark the 14th anniversary of my maternal grandmother’s passing.

I’ve written about her before.

She was a bundle of contradictions, a remarkable woman in many ways. She was far from perfect but was without a doubt one of the most influential people in my life.

She may be gone, but not a day has gone by that I don’t think about her or am reminded of her in some way.

While my Grandma would be the last person to ever claim she lived an ideal life, she had some great advice, which I try to follow in my daily life.

She may not have been the first person to ever come up with these ideas, but I give her credit for actually telling them to me.

Therefore, without further ado, here are my late grandmother’s top 5 tips for living:

1. Put some effort into your appearance.

My grandmother didn’t care if she left the house without applying “her face” first. However, she always made sure to do her hair and apply a bit of lipstick every day, even if she never left the backyard.

Now makeup may or may not be your thing (if you are a man reading this, then this doesn’t mean wearing a three piece suit everyday), but taking a little pride in your appearance is never a bad thing. This is especially true if you’re feeling down—i.e., you just got fired, got dumped, etc.

Just because your are feeling like crap doesn’t mean you have to look like it. Sometimes, just the act of caring for oneself can put us in a better mood. You’re worth it.

Plus, as Grandma liked to say, you never know who or what you may run into.

2. Just because someone is sleeping with you does not mean they love you.

Despite being born in 1916, my grandmother was no prude when it came to sex. In fact, one of the most memorable (and awkward) conversations we had occurred when I was 22 and on my way to spend a weekend with my then-boyfriend. “Be sure you have condoms on you!” she said.

In many ways, she was ahead of her time and spoke with a frankness that many people half her age lacked. One thing she told me was to be aware that just because someone is having sex with you, does not mean they love you, despite what they may say.

“Some people will say anything to get your clothes off!”

She was right. As I recently wrote, many of us are still coming to terms with that.

When in doubt go by actions, not words.

3. Make your own money, and pay your own bills.

My grandmother believed that a person who had their own money had power. She was right.

That is especially true in the case of women. Many of us (myself included) harbor or have harbored fantasies of someone swooping in and saving the day. I often hear many  bright, highly educated young women yearning for a rich husband or boyfriend to pay for everything.

Having actually met some current and former trophy spouses of both sexes, I can say that often times these situations do not result in happiness. While there is nothing wrong with loving someone who is much wealthier than you are, the fact is, it’s still a good idea to have your own money and some measure of financial independence.

At the very least, should one day your prince turn out to be a toad, it’s a lot easier to get out the situation.

4. Don’t romanticize the dead or people from the past.

Grandma freely admitted that one of her greatest flaws was that she was unforgiving. It was a family joke of sorts that she was a bit like the Mafia: you were either “in” or “out” with her. There was no in between.

However, from this flaw, she had a gift for seeing and accepting things as they were and not romanticizing them.

For example, back before I was even born, she had a falling out with her sister, which lasted for the rest of their lives. When Aunt Hilda died five years before my grandmother did, she did not go to the funeral or lament their lack of relationship.

I asked her why and she replied that while she wished their relationship could have been different, she felt that not having her in her life was the best for both of them. She also said that just because she died, it did not make her a saint.

While this situation may be a bit extreme, I have noticed that often times when people die or simply if they have been out of our lives for a long time, there is a tendency to gloss over the things they did to hurt us and beatify them.

This isn’t the same as forgiving them. Rather, it’s totally rewriting history, leading us to feel like the bad guy.

Sometimes, people are not in our lives for a good reason, and it is best just to accept what is.

5. If you love someone, let them know.

My grandmother never actually said this, but her actions let me and others know that she loved them. It’s no exaggeration when I say that I wish everyone could experience the sort of unconditional love she showed me.

She expressed that not just by saying I love you, but by making me feel like I was the most important person in the room when we were together. She never discouraged me from dreaming big and she always said, “Even if you don’t succeed, you can say you at least tried.”

Even when I became an adult, she didn’t hesitate to pick up the phone and call to say she was thinking about me. She didn’t need a reason or excuse to show she cared. Rather, she just did.

In closing, my grandmother was an interesting, complex woman, who knew a thing or two about living well. They may not guarantee a happy, stress-free life, but they certainly cannot hurt and may even help on your journey.

In any case, here’s hoping we each find our own respective path that leads to whatever our respective definitions are of “living well”.

Grandma would approve.


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