12 Things My Grandmother Told Me Before She Died
When my grandmother, Zelda, passed away fifteen years ago at the age of ninety, she left me with a box of miscellaneous items from her house that she knew I had grown to appreciate over the years. Among these items is an old leather-bound journal that she aptly named her Inspiration Journal.
Throughout the second half of her life, she used this journal to jot down ideas, thoughts, quotes, song lyrics, and anything else that moved her. She would read excerpts from her journal to me when I was growing up, and I would listen and ask questions. I honestly credit a part of who I am now to the wisdom she bestowed on me when I was young.
Although I’ve shared her wisdom with blog subscribers and book readers in the past, today is the day she became an angel fifteen years ago. So to honor her, I want to share some of my favorite excerpts from her journal with you. I’ve done my best to sort, copyedit, and reorganize her thoughts into twelve inspiring bullet points. I hope you find value in them.
- Breathe in the future, breathe out the past. No matter where you are or what you’re going through, always believe that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Never expect, assume, or demand. Just do your best, control the elements you can control, and then let it be. Because once you have done what you can, if it is meant to be, it will happen, or it will show you the next step that needs to be taken.
- Life CAN be simple again. Just choose to focus on one thing at a time. You don’t have to do it all, and you don’t have to do it all right now. Breathe, be present, and do your best with what’s in front of you. What you put into life, life will eventually give you back many times over. Read The Power of Now.
- Let others take you as you are, or not at all. Speak your truth even if your voice shakes. By being yourself, you put something beautiful into the world that was not there before. So walk your path confidently and don’t expect anyone else to understand your journey, especially if they have not been exactly where you are going.
- You are not who you used to be, and that’s OK. You’ve been hurt; you’ve gone through numerous ups and downs that have made you who you are today. Over the years, so many things have happened – things that have changed your perspective, taught you lessons, and forced your spirit to grow. As time passes, nobody stays the same, but some people will still tell you that you have changed. Respond to them by saying, “Of course I’ve changed. That’s what life is all about. But I’m still the same person, just a little stronger now than I ever was before.”
- Everything that happens helps you grow, even if it’s hard to see right now. Circumstances will direct you, correct you, and perfect you over time. So whatever you do, hold on to hope. The tiniest thread will twist into an unbreakable cord. Let hope anchor you in the possibility that this is not the end of your story – that the change in the tides will eventually bring you to peaceful shores.
- Do not educate yourself to be rich, educate yourself to be happy. That way when you get older you’ll know the value of things, not the price. In the end, you will come to realize that the best days are the days when you don’t need anything extreme or special to happen to make you smile. You simply appreciate the moments and feel gratitude, seeking nothing else, nothing more. That is what true happiness is all about.
- Be determined to be positive. Understand that the greater part of your misery or unhappiness is determined not by your circumstances, but by your attitude. So smile at those who often try to begrudge or hurt you, show them what’s missing in their life and what they can’t take away from you.
- Pay close attention to those you care about. Sometimes when a loved one says, “I’m okay,” they need you to look them in the eyes, hug them tight, and reply, “I know you’re not.” And don’t be too upset if some people only seem to remember you when they need you. Feel privileged that you are like a beacon of light that comes to their minds when there is darkness in their lives.
- Sometimes you have to let a person go so they can grow. Because, over the course of their lives, it is not what you do for them, but what you have taught them to do for themselves that will make them a successful human being.
- Sometimes getting the results you crave means stripping yourself of people that don’t serve your best interests. This allows you to make space for those who support you in being the absolute best version of yourself. It happens gradually as you grow. You find out who you are and what you want, and then you realize that people you’ve known forever don’t see things the way you do. So you keep the wonderful memories, but find yourself moving on.
- It’s better to look back on life and say, “I can’t believe I did that,” than to look back and say, “I wish I did that.” In the end, people will judge you in some way anyway. So don’t live your life trying to impress others. Instead live your life impressing yourself. Love yourself enough to never lower your standards for anyone. Read The Last Lecture.
- If you’re looking for a happy ending and can’t seem to find one, maybe it’s time to start looking for a new beginning. Brush yourself off and accept that you have to fail from time to time. That’s how you learn. The strongest people out there – the ones who laugh the hardest with a genuine smile – are the same people who have fought the toughest battles. They’re smiling because they’ve decided that they’re not going to let anything hold them down, they’re moving on to a new beginning.
Afterthoughts & Promises
As I’m wrapping up this short tribute to my grandmother, I’m again reminded of a poem by Christian D. Larson that she used to have hanging on her refrigerator when I was a kid. As soon as I was old enough to understand the poem, my grandmother made a photocopy of it for me, and over 30 years later I still have that same photocopy laminated and hanging on my office bulletin board. Although I’ve already shared this poem in past blog posts over the years, I wanted to re-share it here, as these are words I do my best to live by every single day:
To be so strong that nothing
can disturb your peace of mind.
To talk health, happiness, and prosperity
to every person you meet.
To make all your friends feel
that there is something in them
To look at the sunny side of everything
and make your optimism come true.
To think only the best, to work only for the best,
and to expect only the best.
To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others
as you are about your own.
To forget the mistakes of the past
and press on to the greater achievements of the future.
To wear a cheerful countenance at all times
and give every living creature you meet a smile.
To give so much time to the improvement of yourself
that you have no time to criticize others.
To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear,
and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.
To think well of yourself and to proclaim this fact to the world,
not in loud words but great deeds.
To live in faith that the whole world is on your side
so long as you are true to the best that is in you.”
(Note: Angel and I discuss strategies for living true to these words in the Happiness and Self-Love chapters of our “1,000 Little Things” and “Getting Back to Happy” books.)
If you’re feeling up to it, Angel and I would love to hear from YOU.
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Photo by: Gabriele Fanelli