Advice from Grandma for Grandchildren: Keep Your Own Troubles — Three Rules to Live By

My Mother had a saying which translates into, “keep your own troubles.”  Every time I would complain about problems in my life, that is what I heard.  I came to understand what my Mother meant, especially considering her companion mantra, “life is hard and then you die.” She was a Holocaust survivor after all, which gave her a unique perspective on life.

When we have troubles, we tend to look outward at other people’s seemingly charmed lives.  We really do not know what goes on behind closed doors.  We really don’t know who is battling illness, financial difficulties, marital difficulties, child related issues.  We know our own troubles well. We’re living our troubles.

My Mother would always talk of the “starving children in Europe” when we were children, when after World War II Europe was in shambles.  She reminded my brother and me how charmed our lives were to be Americans.  If it is not fatal, it is no big deal to a person for whom life and death any moment is a reality.

Just watch CNN or any other media for international news.  Look at the pictures in newspapers, TV, on the Internet.  Just consider being a woman in New Delhi now who is in danger of rape just leaving her house.  Just consider the Syrian fourteen year old girl married off so she is not stolen to be a slave or prostitute.  Just consider the starving children around our country and around our world or those sold or working in modern day sweatshops. These are someone’s grandchildren.  What pain for the grandma!

We and our children and grandchildren live charmed lives in America compared with the rest of the world.  Life interferes with us realizing how lucky we are to be Americans.  Yes, I know my problems may be huge to me at the moment.  But, I know, thanks to my wise Mother, that I am better off keeping and dealing with my own problems.  The grass is not greener.  Everyone’s garden has brown patches.  What a lesson to pass on to our grandchildren!

Perspective and time helps us see that worry is a wasted emotion.  What we worry about may not happen, but we are sure to be blindsided by something we did not consider.  I am sure you have heard the saying, “man plans and God laughs.”  What a lesson to pass on to our grandchildren!

Question markMy mother had three rules to survive life and had me ask myself three questions every day.  I know I ask this of my grandchildren often, but writing this makes me realize I want to incorporate the three questions into a continuing dialogue with my grandchildren.  I don’t think they need to hear my Mother’s “backstory” though until they are much, much older.

1.  Were you happy today? My Mother would say, “you must be happy every day because you do not know what will happen tomorrow or if there will be a tomorrow.”  In my childhood world, it was, “you don’t know if there will be another Hitler to come for us  tomorrow.”  Of, course, I made it my business to relate something happy each day and made appreciating being happy for something every day a priority in my daily life.

2.  Did you help someone today? “Remember Dad and I would not have survived if others did not help us,” was what I heard from my Mother.  “We must always help someone every day.  We don’t know how a simple act of helping someone can make a significant difference in someone’s life.”  Of course, I would think of some act of kindness to relate to my Mother and made helping someone in some way a priority in my daily life.

3.  Did you use every moment of this day and do your best at everything you did today?  This goes back to number one.  But, it even went further.  If I did not come home with an A, I was reminded how privileged I was to go to school.  My mother was thrown out of school and my father thrown out of university and everyone they knew were not allowed to attend school. How could I not pay the closest attention in school when I have the privilege of an education and the opportunity to be what I wanted to be was what I heard.  In school, I was always the nerd in the first row with my hand raised.  Of course, average or just getting by is not in my vocabulary.   How privileged I was to have the opportunity to use every moment of every day and do the best I could every day.  Of course, whatever task I undertook, I always did 110%. I made doing everything to the best of my ability and using every moment of every day a priority in my daily life.

What lessons to pass on to our grandchildren! I still ask myself these questions every day. I have chosen my professional careers to be in the helping arenas.  I thank my Mother for making my life one in which I live each day to the fullest.  I hope that my grandchildren have the privilege of living in an America where they have the opportunity to live life to the fullest as we boomer grandmas have had.  I hope that my grandchildren have the opportunity of living in an America where they can be what they want to be.

I still try to live according to my Mother’s rules.  I also thank a dear long friend of nearly forty years who advised me six years ago that scheduling time to do nothing is still using every moment of the day. Doing nothing was not something I understood but has added an additional dimension to enjoyment of life.  To me, “doing nothing” is defined as playing games on the iPad that my grandchildren or mother-in- law have gotten me hooked on. Wow, I now understand the meaning of “down time.”

So, why did Grandma share Mother’s Rules to Live By?  We all have problems.  We all must deal with problems.  But, in the end, we must also acknowledge that to fully live life we must consciously recognize the daily moments of happiness, the daily moments of kindness we give others and others give us, and the daily moments of success and striving to be the best we can be.  Or,”life is hard and then we die,” without recognizing there is also



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