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