What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
That it is ok to walk away from my narcissist mother. I don’t owe her a relationship because she birthed me. Instead, I focus my energy on people who value me. (Whew. It took a lot of self-work and therapy to be able to say that.)
OK, at the time I heard this I wasn't thinking of it as "the best" advice, but for sure the "most anecdote worthy." I was living in London at the time, with my British then-fiancé. My grandmother came to visit. She was 85 and she traveled alone, but there she was! In London with me and my guy! One day, out of (I thought) nowhere, she said: "You know what the secret to a good marriage is? It's not sex. You can have sex with anybody. It's to respect the other person, and keep a sweet mouth." (What she meant by the last bit, the sweet mouth, was that you should never speak ill of or to your spouse.) She and my grandfather (who had died by then) had a long and successful marriage; they adored each other to the very end. I didn't think a lot about what that meant for me at the time; I was going to marry my British guy! I had "won" our long relationship that entailed him pulling away and me hanging on; he'd finally capitulated and realized I was the one. (yes, this is real.) After that was over, and after I returned to New York, and after I righted my emotional ship, I met my husband. And THEN it all made perfect sense, her advice. Long long ago, a friend of mine briefly met and chatted with my grandmother and said, "listen to her. She is wise." She was!
Probably "don't let perfect be the enemy of good." I keep going back to that one. I have perfectionist tendencies that I have to keep in check. A truly "perfect" life would be boring, I have to remind myself ☺️
When I gave birth to my second son, as a research fellow, my lab mentor came to see me in the hospital. He had recently gone through a painful separation and divorce, from which he kept their daughter, who was only a few years old, while his wife moved to the other coast. I knew from our conversations that he was a devoted dad, being both mother and father. Sitting on the edge of my bed, he encouraged me to take needed time off and then come back to the lab and continue my career. He reassured me that it was do-able. His advice was: Do your best in everything you decide to do, say no to the things you don't want to do and which will lead you away from your goals, and keep your head down. Avoid gossip and politics in the workplace; they get you nowhere.
Never drink whiskey through a straw.
Besides that rather, um, focused advice. The best advice I go is to take care of yourself first. And that means to radically put yourself before all others when you need to. Sometimes that is the only way to make certain you stay around.
"Maybe you should do that over the sink?" - my mother in law ;)
"They grow up big and strong no matter what you do." - a fellow preschool mom who also had teenagers. It referred specifically to the typical fretting about my toddler's very limited diet, but is applicable to so many things about raising kids. They are so hard-wired to be who they are. My impact on him is was less than I thought, and (almost) any parenting done with thought, intention and love is good parenting.
I remember in my 20's being nervous before a job interview once, fretting and worrying, and hoping to get the position. I was nervous. I called my Dad, wishing for words of wisdom, and he said, "Be yourself." I realize now that he said that to me often over the years, before a presentation, or a college tour. But I never paid attention to it. I was always thinking, "yeah, you have to say that." But now I see it as his way of saying, "You are enough." And, "I love you, and other people will, too." Back in the 80's there was not a lot of touchy-feely parenting happening in my house, but to hear that often, and from your dad, stuck with me. I think he saw my weird, and loved all of me. And, now I say a version of this to my daughters: "how amazing are you??" :)
"Be selfish." From a former boss during a career coaching meeting. The company was about to undergo a reorganization, and she told me to advocate for the job I wanted, even if it didn't exist. "Write your own job description," she said. Her guidance made me realize I didn't have to gratefully accept someone else's idea of what job I should have, but that I had value and power as a skilled and experienced individual. I think of this advice many years later as I'm reinventing myself from corporate cog to creative writer. Be selfish. Follow your light.
Small minds talk about people, average minds talk about things, Great minds talk about ideas. This keeps my choice of thinking pure and on target. I have lived all of your wisdoms shared here! Thank you!
The first therapist I ever went to told me "what other people think about you is none of your business." As a person who grew up religious and was SO VERY CONCERNED about what god thought of me, I learned to be a people pleaser - to never make anyone angry or upset, always to make my life about managing other peoples feelings and thoughts about me. It took me several years to unpack that, but now I can even believe that about my own husband and children. Of course I CARE what they think, and I self reflect if I've done some thing that hurt them, but they don't have to like or approve of everything I do.
To just "smile and wave" at my mother-in-law. Given to me by my therapist. My mother-in-law is from a different culture - a culture where mothers-in-law hold a role of power in the family. I am from the 80s middle class American culture of "nobody puts Baby in a corner." As you can imagine, when I had children, I ground my teeth to nubs when she tried to take over my family and home. Now, I just smile and wave at her and continue on as mother and wife as if she's a garble-voiced adult in a Peanuts cartoon. Highly recommend.
As a writer, you have to be willing to bleed onto the page.