Muse-Follow up to a Home in Every City

So I was telling my Aunt Rania about my Teta Alexa story, and she told me a similar story that my Great-Grandmother Rose used to tell. It is a tale about a villager who advised his little boy to. Yup, you guessed it – the little boy was confused by this guidance (just as I was confused by my Teta Alexa’s advice), as his father was dirt poor and his own prospects were no better. So he asked the father to explain (clearly this boy was smarter than me because I tried to figure out my grandmother’s life lessons on my own). The father replied, “Don’t eat unless you are hungry, and then whatever you eat will taste like the finest food in the world. Don’t sleep until you are exhausted, and then any bed, even a dirt floor, will feel like a bed of silk.”

teta rose
Great-Grandmother Rose on far left. My mom is the young girl in the center her oldest brother is the kid with just his head showing

I think there are two lessons in my Great-Grandmother Rose’s story:

  1. Be appreciative of what we have, and never take for granted even the most basic things (e.g., food to sustain us, a pillow to lay our heads on in a warm home, etc.).
  2. Be conscious of how we choose to spend our time. (e.g., Am I truly tired and need my rest in order to be my best self tomorrow? Or should I rally and read another couple of chapters in that book I need to finish?)

Eating only when you are hungry…

On a related note, one of my good friends, Abhijit, always says when he is asking for something from someone who is skeptical of his intentions, “I am needy, not greedy”, by which he means he is seeking what he needs, rather than what he wants out of greed. I have started to apply that concept to my own life too and found it to be very liberating. Focusing on the things that I really need (rather than merely want) has decluttered my life both figuratively and literally. I give away what I don’t need, in the hope that others will be able to make use of it. I try not to buy things just because I want to own them. I also seek professional opportunities that enrich and challenge me as well as giving me the means to do other things in life that make it more interesting.

Sleeping only when you are tired…

It’s critical to know what is important enough to expend energy on, and what is not. This applies both in the middle of the afternoon as well as when you are considering burning the midnight oil on a project. Working hard and staying busy, but not accomplishing something of value, is pointless to me. I often ask myself if what I am doing is important and/or provides value to me, or is it merely the easiest thing for me to do. Sometimes staying up a little late to watch another episode of Norsemen has value because it allows me some sorely needed downtime. Other times, I choose to go to bed because I know that study after study has shown that 8 hours of continuous sleep are required regardless of your age, gender, and vocation,). Some evenings I’ll sit down to work on my next blog posting. Other nights, I’ll decide that the most valuable use of my time is drafting another email to NetFlix to convince them to buy the second season of Norsemen (Netflix finally released season 2, so my efforts were not in vain). The point is that I am actively assessing how to invest my time, and more often than not I end up choosing something that provides my life with more value.

Ask yourself questions (and listen to the answers)

With a nod to both Great-Grandmother Rose and Abhijit, I think it is this willingness to ask these questions of oneself that carries the real lesson, as well as the potential for the greatest rewards;

“Is this the best thing for me to invest my time on? Should I do something else that gives me more value instead? Or should I just go to bed and get my 8 hrs of sleep?”

“Is this something I need or want? If it is something I want, is there something I am willing to sacrifice in its staid?”

I am grateful that Teta Alexa and Great-Grandmother Rose’s wisdom has been preserved in my family’s stories.

Do you have any good family lessons that have stayed with you?

Also Check out: The Most Influential Book You Never Heard Of


4 thoughts on “Muse-Follow up to a Home in Every City

  1. No one ever gave this advice, but I guess I absorbed it from my parents who grew up in the depression. When thinking about buying something, ask yourself, “Do I really need to buy this today?”. You’d be surprised how often the answer is no. This is similar to your need vs want question but puts a time frame on it.


  2. As Miles pointed out, my mom also grew up during the Depression and lived through WWII in Europe, after which she relocated twice before landing in US. Growing up with deprivation, she never got rid of a thing. When my grandma died and when they sold our mountain cabin, a lot of the stuff that both of my parents should have gotten rid of at the time ended up on their large Santa Rosa property with its many out buildings for storage.
    Needless to say, when it was time for her to downscale, the Herculean task of going through all of this stuff fell to my sister and myself. We both vowed never to do to our own kids what she did to us!


  3. Kristina – you bring up a very good point. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. I have heard similar stories from others whose parents went through the great depression or WWII. I sometimes forget that what I am describing is a modern/first world problem. I can only imagine what they must have gone through and how they viewed the world. Their experience can teach us a lot and sometimes that includes teaching us what not to do.
    Purging can go too far though. I just remembered that once in college, my roommate decided to clean up his (atrociously) messy room before his parents came to visit. When they left he realized he had thrown out his computer keyboard and mouse so he had to buy new ones.


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