“In the end, only three things matter – how much you loved, how gently you lived and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.” -Buddha
This quote has always reminded me of Babciu, my maternal grandmother. Widowed at 40, when her youngest–my aunt Joan–was just two years old, she single-handedly raised my mother and her five siblings. An immigrant from Poland, she had an 8th-grade education and worked in the mills of Fall River, MA. She prized education, and when she married and had her children, her focus was on their education.
At 4’11”, this statuesque woman served as a role model in our family. My aunt Joan gave her a Father’s Day card every year.
We spent our summers in Rhode Island, where we had the opportunity of living three doors down from her. My siblings and I were at her home incessantly.
Babciu’s home was always warm and cozy, featuring the smell of her delicious Polish cooking. She invented the “Polish hamburger,” stretching one pound of ground beef to feed the 20+ guests who unexpectedly stayed for dinner. Featuring peppers, onions and breadcrumbs, they were delicious! She would host summer “dance parties” for me and my cousins. She had a passion for swimming in the moonlight and would take us for midnight swims after we watched The Lawrence Welk Show and The Honeymooners! She made cleaning and chores fun. She raked the beach every day trying to rid it of seaweed, a Sisyphean task. And we loved helping her! Babciu appreciated life and her family.
I offer a few of my favorite pieces of advice she graciously shared with us, which seemed so “simple” at the time.
These are YOUR Happy Days
Whether we approached her with a broken heart, skinned knees, a disagreement with a friend or anger at a sibling, she would pull us into her soft, cozy arms, rocking us as she sang these words: “These are your happy days.” She smelled like wild sweet pea flowers and saltwater. After what she had been through, she was committed to enjoying every minute of life with her family and dear friends.
Bless and Release
Regarding relationships, do your best to avoid people who drain your energy. They are, quite simply, the last thing you need in your life. It will affect your productivity, energy level, confidence and spirit. She had a deep faith and was committed to seeing the best in people. She did not judge, but would not waste time with negativity or laziness.
Just start. Sit down for 20 minutes with your summer reading or project. Give yourself a break, then sit again. You’ll feel accomplished and motivated when it’s done. Unless you begin, you won’t be ready for what’s next.
Life is too short to make the bed
Don’t worry about the dishes in your sink, unfolded laundry and an unmade bed. There will be days you just can’t get everything done so don’t get trapped in the minutiae. Live YOUR Life! Collect seashells.
When you throw something out, you will need it! This has proven true in the workplace. As soon as I toss something, I am looking for it or a co-worker inquires, “Do you still have that brochure from 1995?”
There is no “better”
There will always be people who are smarter, better looking and more affluent than you–yet no one is “better” than anyone else. Do what you can, with what you have, offering your best. Enough said.
While Babciu was not aware of the quote by Buddha, she would have certainly embraced it. Her life experience offered her great wisdom and she was not easily intimidated. She mastered the art of wearing support hose with flip-flops (while raking the beach!) as she confidently executed her own sense of style.
Bless and release! These are YOUR happy days! Na zdrowie! (Cheers and God bless you in Polish.)
Gail Lowney Alofsin an author, keynote speaker, adjunct professor and humanitarian. She has worked for Newport Harbor Corporation for over three decades and currently serves as the Director of Corporate Partnerships and Community Relations. Gail’s book, Your Someday is NOW – What are YOU Waiting For? has raised over $42,500 for non-profit organizations.
Gail travels from Newport, Rhode Island to present at your company or conference. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org