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Grandma’s Lessons No. 3

November 18, 2011

As I thought this last week about my Grandmother and the things I have learned from her over the years, I realized there was one lesson that she tried to teach me many, many years ago that I’m just now beginning to really understand (hey … I may know a lot of random things, but I’ll admit I’m not always the brightest student): It’s not enough to know what you don’t want in life. You have to know — and be willing to say — what you do want.

Again, I don’t really remember what led to this lesson. I clearly said that I didn’t really care about something she had asked me about — maybe it was what I wanted for lunch. I just knew that I didn’t want to have/do/see whatever it was that I didn’t like at the moment. Grandma immediately stopped me and said, “You need to know what you want. If you don’t know what you want, you’ll never get it.”

She went on to tell me the story of the time my Grandfather decided he wanted to buy her a Jeep. She didn’t really want a Jeep, but he was determined to get her one anyway. He just wanted her to decide what color it should be. She said she didn’t care. He asked her again. And again. Finally, she said, “I don’t care as long as it’s not yellow.” On those final words, my Grandfather headed to town.

When he returned, he was driving a brand new Jeep, bought just for my Grandmother. It was bright yellow.

At the time, I really didn’t understand what any of it meant. I didn’t get the story or her passion for it. My big takeaway was that my Grandfather just wasn’t a good listener (see? I told you I wasn’t always all that bright. Granted, I was probably only 6 or 7 when she told me this story, but still …).

When this memory popped into my head this past week, I couldn’t help but chuckle. I realized that my Grandmother tried to teach me so many years ago a lesson that I am still trying to learn today. In the past couple of years, I have realized that I am far more attuned to what I don’t like or want than what I do. I’m not completely sure of the root of this issue, but I believe a lot of it has to do with being a woman. When I was growing up, girls were often told that we would be considered too demanding or difficult if we had a strong opinion about what we wanted. We were expected to go along. To be nice.

Being strong was OK. Having strong opinions was not.

There tends to be good and bad to this. On the good side, I don’t fight every battle and I rarely feel a sense of entitlement. Also, my “bucket list” is very, very short. When you don’t know what you want, you don’t know what you’re missing.

On the bad side, I am far more likely to fight for someone else’s rights and desires than my own. After all, you must have a path to know your desires — or, rather, you have to know your desires to have a path. And it means that I am constantly headed away from what I don’t want instead of toward what I do. It might seem like a subtle distinction, but it’s an important one.

If I’d really learned the lesson my Grandmother tried to teach me all those many years ago, maybe I’d know where I was headed and what I ultimately wanted from life.

One of these days, I might just figure it out. And then I can pass the lessons on to others.

From → Balance

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