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15 Life Lectures From Grandpa

15 Life Lectures From Grandpa

My grandfather was born one year and one week after Oreo cookies came into existence, and he lived to celebrate 100 years March 13, 2013, meeting his only great granddaughter, my daughter Meredith Violet, and holding his youngest of four grandchildren, my son Russell Rain. Though he lived in Florida during much of the time I was growing up in New Jersey, he visited about once every year or two. My family drove to Florida to celebrate my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary around 1995 or 1996. I learned most of what would be considered life lectures not from his words but from my Grandpa’s actions.

Life Lectures From Grandpa: show don’t tell

Of the times I talked with my grandfather, I remember more about how he showed me to live than what he said. “Children should be seen and not heard” was a popular phrase for his generation, but he showed us more by listening to us.

1. Eat well

I remember laughing when my grandfather picked flowers and assorted berries from the yard of our suburban New Jersey home in the early ’90s, if not the late ’80s. He put the plant life in a bowl after washing it. I believe we ate violets, but his action inspired me to look to nature for sustainability.

lemonade-stand

    Ellen Eldridge, age 5 or 6, with her brother and grandfather. Grandmother is at the door, checking on supplies for the lemonade

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    2. Be entrepreneurial

    Grandpa encouraged my brother and me to start a lemonade stand as kids. Though the business is a cliche like tea parties and playing princess, I don’t think either of us kids would have thought to start our own business without someone’s lead. We likely sold little, but the actions that day spoke louder than words and I’ve gone on to start more business ideas including a fanzine in high school.

    3. Keep exercising

    My grandfather still mowed his own lawn at age 90 with a push mower. Not the electrical kind either. When visiting him and my grandmother, we grandchildren felt amazed that they not only got into the swimming pool still but also my grandfather dove in from the diving board. Staying active kept my grandparents healthy.

    4. Value your roots and family history

    Grandfather and my father, who was the eldest child of four, took an interest in tracing the family’s lineage and building charts of our ancestors. Valuing your family means taking care of them while they’re young as much as it means never forgetting the ones who’ve come before you.

    5. Do what you say you will do

    The value of following through came by way of life lectures from Grandpa in that he always did what he said he would do. From making salad to waking up early and making the bed, he did what he said he would do.

    6. Earn your way in life

    As much as my brother, sister, cousins and I loved getting coveted quarters from Grandpa, he insisted we earn them by pulling weeds or studying to make good grades. The life lectures from Grandpa of earning money were continued by my father, who insisted we complete chores for an allowance.

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    7. Save money

    Even more important though perhaps a lost lesson, saving money was a life lesson Grandpa and my father tried to instill from a young age. The importance of making conscious purchases and not frivolously wasting money dawned on me toward the end of my twenties rather than at the beginning, but Grandpa tried.

    8. Honor your country

    Many of the people my age and younger have grandparents and parents who served in the military. My Grandpa gave me a large seashell that I believe he told me came from the beach at Normandy. He never spoke much about war, but knowing he served proudly in the Navy encouraged me to later join the Army Reserves.

    9. Treat other people as you would have them treat you

    My Grandfather first taught me the Golden Rule. This was one life lecture he never had to show me. I took his word for it that the kind thing to do is treat people the way you want to be treated.

    10. Don’t stay in a job you don’t like

    My grandpa never ran from responsibility, but he made sure to encourage my father and his other children to follow their hearts. My father became a mechanical engineer. I know as much as I knew to follow through with the lemonade stand idea that doing what you like is the key to never feeling like you’re working.

    11. Always be honest

    By never lying to me or anyone else I’m aware of, my husband’s father, who is now 78, taught my husband to never lie. The strength of doing what you say inspires integrity.

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    12. Don’t judge people based on age

    Not my grandfather, but a nontraditional student over the age of 70 taught me not to judge others based on their age. Universities and colleges allow people over a certain age (62 in Georgia, where I am enrolled) to attend tuition free. The man who has showed up and worked twice as hard as traditional students proved one of life’s most important lessons is to educate yourself.

     

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      13. Family first

      I interviewed briefly a woman who had just turned 100. She reminded me of my grandfather, as he had just died a few months before his 101 birthday. I asked the woman what her favorite memories were and she just said family meant everything to her. It made me happy to know I decided to travel more than four hours with a screaming 3-month-old son and moody 2-year-old daughter so they could meet their great grandfather on his 100th birthday.

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      14. Plan but don’t spend all your time planning

      One of my Grandpa’s and now one of my favorite quotes is “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

      Planning and making strategic choices are crucial to learning from mistakes, but with great risk comes great reward. Live a little and enjoy spontaneity when possible and appropriate.

      15. Rely on no one but yourself and love everyone

      My Grandfather taught me and everyone in our family by example. He stayed active and supported my Grandmother until she passed away around age 92. After she was gone, my Grandpa remained in his own home until the end of his life, at age 100. While he had a caretaker who came to the house, my Grandpa took care of himself until the very last few years. I know he accepted a ride to the store once a week to buy food, and he cooked for himself well into his nineties. His self-reliance kept him independent, but he remained loving and welcoming to everyone who came to visit. I believe the love and family surrounding him at his 100th birthday gave him the satisfaction and courage to move into the next lesson, the afterlife.

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      Last Updated on October 23, 2018

      Why Negative Emotions Aren’t That Bad (And How to Handle Them)

      Why Negative Emotions Aren’t That Bad (And How to Handle Them)

      I have always had an adverse reaction to negative emotions. I never liked feeling sad, mad or scared. I prefer things to be positive and cheerful – some would say rainbows and sunshine. A lot of this has to do with my upbringing; I grew up in a family who focused on being positive, encouraging and optimistic.

      When I was upset, I looked at the bright side. When I was scared, I pushed through it. When I was sad, I got over it. It’s not that I’ve had an easy life, devoid of heartbreak, grief and challenges. I’ve had plenty of those. It’s just that I never decided to focus on that side of things. I thought it was all good. Until it wasn’t.

      Several years ago, I found myself facing anxiety for the first time. And not just a little anxiety. We’re talking paralyzing, full-on panic that I had no control over. At one point, I didn’t want my husband to leave for work in the morning. If you’ve ever suffered from anxiety, you know how hard this can be. As someone who has always been adventurous, rarely felt the full force of fear and wired for positivity, this was NOT me and I had no idea what to do.

      What I learned (that I have always known, but maybe never fully understood) as I worked through that anxiety, was that it was a symptom. A symptom that something wasn’t working in my life. It was nature’s way of telling me I was off track. There was too much on my plate, I wasn’t taking great care of myself and I needed to slow down.

      I may not have slowed down if I wasn’t hit by this spiritual 2×4 of negative emotion. I may have been able to push through many of the ‘negative’ emotions in my life, but some of them were really just pushed down.

      I’ve come to learn that negative emotions are neither good nor bad. They are not actually negative; they just feel that way. They are part of life, of being human.

      We need to provide space to allow that life is going to be difficult, challenging and incredibly hard sometimes, which leads to uncomfortable or negative emotions. We need to learn to acknowledge, embrace and understand what those emotions are trying to tell us. We need to learn the power and value of these emotions.

      Before we dive into this further, I want to make sure you know I am not a therapist or psychologist. These are my experiences of negative emotions for myself, hundreds of people I’ve worked with, and from research and learnings I’ve had over the years. I want to honor and not underestimate the complexity of human emotions. They have been studied by philosophers, psychologists and scientists for thousands of years – each with their own and often competing theories.

      With that said, let’s take a look some negative emotions, why they aren’t so negative after all and how to embrace them to live a more fulfilled life.

      What Are Negative Emotions?

      Negative emotions are any emotions that cause you to feel badly in one way or another. Anger, fear, sadness, despair, frustration, guilt, shame, disgust, disappointment…You name it. We all feel these emotions. Whether you acknowledge them or not, they are there.

      In the 1970’s, psychologist Paul Eckman (best known for studying facial expressions and how they relate to emotions) identified six basic emotions: happiness, sadness, disgust, fear, surprise and anger. Interesting that four out of six of these fall into the ‘negative’ category.

      In 1980, Psychologist Robert Plutchik identified eight basic emotions: joy, sadness, trust, disgust, fear, anger, anticipation and surprise. Again, four of these eight might be considered negative.

      They both went on to expand the range of emotions to include many others. Dr. Plutchik expanded his findings through the wheel of emotions (below) to illustrate the spectrum, degrees and relationships among these emotions.

        If you Google it, you could find a list of the top 10, top 20 and more emotions, but for the sake of our sanity, we can start with these.

        Why Negative Emotions Aren’t All That Negative

        While negative emotions may feel bad, they’re not so bad for us after all. Here are seven reasons why negative emotions aren’t all that bad.

          1. They’re normal.

          We are going to start here, because, somewhere along the way, experiencing negative emotions became a bad thing. In a world where we are encouraged to be present, grateful and happy (which I agree with as well), perhaps we are doing ourselves a disservice by not talking about the fact that negative emotions are a natural and unavoidable part of life.

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          This leads us to feel even worse when we do feel them. Experiencing different ‘moods’ is all part of being human.[1]

          It’s time to re-assess the role of bad moods in our lives. We should recognize they are a normal and even useful and adaptive part of being human; they help us cope with many everyday situations and challenges.

          2. They serve a purpose and have a positive intention.

          If you research the underlying purpose behind negative emotions, they all have one thing in common:

          They have served an evolutionary purpose for our survival, health or well-being.

          For example, fear is our signal that something is wrong and protects us from danger and allows us to survive. Sadness enhances feelings of connection and empathy and builds community. Disgust provides an adverse reaction and steers us away from things that could cause harm or be contagious. Shame and guilt urge us to do the right thing and correct our wrongs. Anger is a protection mechanism that inspires action and causes us to do something to change a situation.[2]

            Surely, without these emotions, we would not be where we are as a species. All these emotions are things we need to feel attuned to help us survive and grow. While they may feel negative, they all have an underlying, positive intention, a reason for being. We need to seek to identify what that positive intention is.

            In addition, our negative emotions prompt us to grow. To be better partners, better friends. To grow, progress. They make us better people and drive change in our lives.

            3. They’re a warning signal.

            They identify something that’s going on — our true self, our inner nature and natural state is one of peace, calm and connection.

            However, when we’re out of alignment with our natural and best way, we experience negative emotions as signals that we’re off track. They are telling us, “Hey, listen up, somethings not right here, you’re going off track”.

            ‘Milder’ negative emotions such as frustration, apprehension or annoyance can be early warning signals that something’s not working for you. Leave those alone long enough and they’ll start to get louder. Perhaps you’ll start to feel anger, resentment or fear. Leave those alone too long and they’re out of control – you may experience rage, loathing, anxiety, depression.

            I always liken this to a toddler who needs your attention. They’ll tug on your leg quietly seeking your attention. If you ignore them or don’t pay attention, they start to whine. Ignore them further, or push their needs to the side, you’ll start to get screaming, crying and eventually a full-on temper tantrum.

            The fear and anxiety I experienced was a (late) warning signal that the path I was on was unsustainable, even if my conscious mind thought I was all ‘all good’. I was way off track and needed to slow down.

            Some negative emotions aren’t signs we are off track or out of alignment, but signs we are doing the wrong thing. Think about when you feel shame or guilt. These are signals that you’re doing the ‘wrong thing’ or something out of integrity. A few weeks ago, my 7-year-old daughter came home saying she felt ashamed of something. That was a strong word to use and my first reaction was to comfort her to remove that awful feeling.

            But then I asked her why. As she explained what happened, I realized that what she was feeling was quite healthy. The guilt was telling her she was doing the wrong thing – in this case, it was a self-correcting mechanism. Our discussion became less about absolving the bad feeling and more about learning from her mistakes and doing the ‘right thing’ next time.

            4. They inspire action.

            They are a catalyst for change and movement. What happens when you get really mad? You take action.

            Maybe you get passed up for the latest promotion. You’re mad. You felt you deserved it and you’re angry you didn’t get it. That anger prompts you to talk to your boss (in a courteous and professional way, of course) about your skills, accomplishments, successes so she can see your point of view and doesn’t pass you by next time.

            Perhaps you wouldn’t have spoken up so clearly if you weren’t angry?

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            Anger has been used throughout history as a positive catalyst for change. Many great leaders have harnessed their anger to stand up for what they believe in and to demand justice and change. Martin Luther King Jr. said,

            “The supreme task is to organize and unite people so that their anger becomes a transforming force.”

            Our anger can be a transforming force for good on a small, person scale (as in the case above) and a much more widespread scale (such as Dr. King). When someone treats you or others unfairly, and you feel angry, you can harness that anger to stand up and correct the situation.

            Negative emotions create fire in your belly – they motivate you to be productive, solve problems, stand up for what you believe in, gain back your personal power and make changes that propel you – or maybe even society – in a different direction.

            I love this quote from Arun Gandhi (grandson of Mahatma Gandhi):

            “Use your anger for good. Anger to people is like gas to the automobile – it fuels you to move forward and get to a better place. Without it, we would not be motivated to rise to a challenge. It is an energy that compels us to define what is just and unjust.”

            5. They allow you to live wholeheartedly.

            Many of the world’s ancient wisdom traditions, philosophers and psychologists have valued and been intrigued by the light-dark, negative-positive, shadow aspects of our selves.

            Think about the concept of yin and yang in Chinese philosophy:[3]

            “It describes how seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they may give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another.”

            You know the movie Inside Out? I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I’ll share it anyway. When the movie first came out, I didn’t want my kids to see it. Why? Because I didn’t want any emphasis placed on ‘negative’ emotions: fear, anger and sadness. Why couldn’t they just make a movie about JOY? Joy is awesome. Add in happy, grateful and excited and now we have a movie I want to take my kids to see.

            Then I watched Brene Brown’s TED talk on vulnerability, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. Maybe it wasn’t until then that I fully realized how important it is to feel all of our emotions. In her talk, she shares that to live wholeheartedly, we must feel the full range of emotions. The positive: joy, gratitude, happiness. And the not so positive: grief, fear, shame, disappointment.

            You can’t selectively feel emotion. So, for us to live as wholehearted human beings, we need to feel and express our full range of emotions. After all, how can you really appreciate the joy of happiness if you haven’t suffered the pain of sadness?

            And as my daughter reminded me, in the movie Inside Out, guess who saves the day? Sadness. Yes, it’s sadness who saves the day.[4]

              6. They provide release.

              “What the mind conceals, the body reveals”.

              When we conceal or try to hide or ignore emotions, they don’t just go away. They go deep within us. They eat at us. They cause ulcers, back pain, sickness. That ‘sudden’ heart attack, ‘unexplained’ high blood pressure or ‘unexpected’ anxiety may not be so inexplicable after all.

              Feeling our emotions allows us to release the feeling and move forward. My chiropractor, Dr. Ruth Ziemba once said,[5]

              “Feel them, but don’t let them become you.”

              This has served me well. I think we have all feared those painful emotions of guilt, anger, grief, hopelessness would mean we would fall into a never-ending pit of despair from which may never emerge.

              I have worried I would go too far down the rabbit hole and never make it back to see the light of day. But in order to move on, we must feel and release them. Once we ‘expose’ them, they have much less control over us.

                Rich Roskopf,[6] a bodyworker , trainer, massage and movement specialist, shared something that resonated deeply with me. He was studying the meditation work of Guy Armstrong, author of “Emptiness” and the philosophy that everything needs to arise, persist and pass.

                The same is true for our emotions. When we allow the feelings to arise and persist, they will pass. Grasping, clinging and pushing them down will always lead to unhappiness.

                Even a good cry can help. We have three different types of tears and the ones produced when we cry can make you feel better. Tears cried in sadness contain a chemical that is toxic to our body.[7]

                “Emotional crying is the body’s way of ridding itself of these toxins and waste products.”

                In Japan, they even have ‘crying rooms’ and ‘crying events’ which serve to help participants ease stress levels and release emotion.

                  7. They build resilience.

                  The more you experience the full range of emotions, the more resilient you become to facing and dealing with them.

                  Jessie Dudley, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Program Manager at the Mental Health Center of Denver, had this to say.

                  “By allowing yourself to feel everything you need to feel, you learn how to cope and build your toolbox of coping strategies. Then, next time you feel that same feeling, you know what to do and what works for you. You realize the feeling won’t kill you. It doesn’t’ make the sensation any less, but it makes you more aware of how to respond to it.

                  If you don’t build coping skills, when you feel those emotions, you want to push them away. Emotional avoidance is effective to an extent. Really, everybody tries to avoid feeling badly. But the more you avoid, the less coping skills you’re developing. The less you are able to cope, the more afraid you become of the emotions, which leads to a vicious cycle of pushing them down. In many cases, people may turn to other unhealthy ways to cope, including addictions and substance abuse.

                  Remember this: we are constantly evolving. Your coping skills will evolve and grow too.”

                  As Jessie shared, When you face negative emotions and learn effective coping skills, you feel stronger and more capable to deal with them in the future.

                  As a mother, this is particularly relevant. I once read that our job as parents is not to protect our kids from disappointment, it’s to be there for them when disappointment happens. If our kids don’t learn healthy ways to cope with negative emotions, they will struggle throughout life to manage them.

                  How to Embrace Negative Emotions and Turn Them into Positive Motivation

                  Here’s a process you can use. Let’s call it the ACDC Method.

                  A – Acknowledge and honor the emotion

                  Feel it but don’t let it become you. Let it arise, persist and pass. Sit with it. Your instinct will be to push it away. (Seriously, who wants to feel like crap?)

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                  But once you acknowledge it, you can move forward. If you feel uncomfortable or unsafe feeling what’s coming up, you may want to reach out to a therapist or someone who can create a safe space to experience your emotions.

                    C – Consider the positive intention of the emotion

                    Is it showing up as an early warning signal (or a late one), a catalyst for positive change, a protection or survival mechanism?

                    Identify the positive intention behind the emotion.

                    D – Double check your story

                    Sometimes our negative emotions are warranted, but sometimes they are misplaced. Make sure to check them out.

                    If you’re feeling worried, is there really something to worry about or has worrying become a bad habit? If you’re feeling angry at someone, do you have all the facts? Perhaps it’s a miscommunication or misunderstanding. If you’re feeling sad or defeated, is there a story you keep telling yourself that is not true? Before you dive in, make sure to double check the depth of the water.

                    C – Choose your action

                    Once you acknowledge, understand and double-check the emotion, think about what action you can take.

                    Maybe you thank the fear for keeping you safe. Perhaps you harness your anger and stop putting up with something that is impacting your life or health. Maybe you use your frustration to move forward in a new direction. Or, employ your guilt to right a wrong.

                    In some cases, your action may be to do nothing at all other than feel you’re feeling. That’s okay, too.

                    When Negative Emotions Become Bad…

                    It would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the varying levels of negative emotions that can occur.

                    Too much guilt can be paralyzing. Too much sadness is depression. Too much anger can lead to rage. Too much fear can lead to anxiety.

                    Experiencing some level of these negative emotions is normal. Experiencing ongoing and excessive levels of these emotions can be a signal that something much deeper needs to be addressed.

                    If you’re feeling persistent negative emotions or your emotions are significantly interfering with your life, please reach out to your doctor, therapist or specialist for help and support.

                    Conclusion

                    To experience all of these emotions is what makes us human.

                    What if we could take off the label of negative emotions? What if they weren’t bad? What if they were all just emotions? Negative. Positive. Neutral. We have all sorts of different emotions.

                    Let’s just feel them. Listen to them. Acknowledge, honor, accept them. Seek to understand what they are trying to tell us, so we can harness them to live our best lives.

                    Featured photo credit: Riccardo Mion via unsplash.com

                    Reference

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