Put It In Your Back Pocket and Other Lessons I Learned from My Grandmother

Put It In Your Back Pocket and Other Lessons I Learned from My Grandmother

My favorite throwback photo with my favorite lady, circa 1987. 

My favorite throwback photo with my favorite lady, circa 1987. 

Last summer, my beloved grandmother, Joyce, lost her short but very heartbreaking battle with brain cancer. She was my best friend, and to say that I miss her every day in an understatement; I’d give anything in the entire world to hear her voice or see her smile again. But the lessons I learned from her are what keep me moving forward on the days when all I want to do is fall apart.  

Here are a just few of my favorites:

Make time for your girlfriends.

Once a month, my grandma met her girlfriends for breakfast. She would get so excited about it, planning exactly what she was going to wear to “go out with the girls!” They were like a second family to her. I had the pleasure of meeting each one of them at her visitation and couldn’t help but smile as they shared memories from their “Breakfast Club” outings with me.

Hearing their heartfelt stories really put into perspective how special the gift of friendship is and how crucial it is to nurture the relationships we have with our girlfriends. As women, we often get so caught up in what we need to accomplish in a day that we forget how therapeutic it is to just say “fuck it!” and go to happy hour with our friends instead. Thanks to my grandma, I’m making “girl time” more of a priority.

Schedule regular phone dates.

Until I was 18 years old, I lived five minutes away from my grandparents, which meant I could see them whenever my heart desired. But as an adult, I didn’t have that luxury, so I started doing the unthinkable: I called them on an old-fashioned device called the telephone (okay, technically it’s a cell phone, but you get the point).

Whether it was once a week or once a month, I picked up the phone and dialed the numbers I had so expertly memorized over the years. Often, I would talk to my grandpa for a few minutes, then he’d hand the phone to my grandma, where we would proceed to spend at least an hour (sometimes more; Joyce was a talker!) chatting about anything and everything.

I never realized how much I would miss those phone dates until now. If you’re lucky enough to still have your grandparents in your life, call them. Like yesterday. Call them even when you don’t feel like it. Even when you’re stressed about work, have a hundred things to cross off your to-do list and are recovering from one too many cocktails consumed the night before. Call them. Listen to them. Absorb every single thing you can from them. Let their wisdom guide you through this messy, unpredictable journey known as your 20s.

If you’ve experienced the unfortunate loss of your grandparents, the same lesson can be applied to your other family members or friends. Call them, even if it’s just for a quick catch-up session. In today’s fast-paced world of Facebook chats and text messages, a phone call still speaks volumes (pun intended!).

See the good in everyone.

My grandma was a Betty White look-alike, but aside from being adorable, she also had the biggest heart and sweetest demeanor. She believed that everyone had a little “good” in them and that’s what she chose to see. She accepted others for who they were, and she never tried to change them. She gave people second chances, even when they didn’t deserve them. She didn’t believe in holding grudges and chose to keep hate out of her heart.

Luckily, I inherited many of these traits, and I only hope that I can continue to live my life as gracefully and wholeheartedly as she did.

Love unconditionally.

The bond between a grandmother and a granddaughter is almost identical to the relationship between a mother and a daughter. Both are built on the same foundation: unconditional love.

My grandma was my second mother. The one who had all the answers. Who never missed a dance recital or school musical performance. Who celebrated every accomplishment. Who wiped away my tears and helped me pick up the pieces after every heartbreak. Who believed I could write a book. And run a marathon. The one who thought I was beautiful, even during my awkward adolescent years (she was a saint). And most of all, the one who believed that I deserve to be loved.  

When you lose someone you deeply care about, it feels like you’ll never be able to love anyone else the way you loved them. But over the course of the last few months, I’ve realized that it’s quite the opposite. While she was here, my grandma was teaching me how to love my future husband. And children. And grandchildren. And to pass along the lessons she taught me, along with a few of my own. And to love them the same way she loved me: unconditionally.

Put it in your back pocket.

The ultimate lesson in love and life. Here’s how it originated:

Many moons ago, I was lamenting about a guy I was head-over-heels for in high school (and most of my early 20s, but that’s another story for another post). He had hurt me several times, yet I was still having the hardest time getting over him. I remember her response like it was yesterday: “Put it in your back pocket.”

“What do you mean?” I managed to muster between sobs.

“I mean let the relationship go. Put it in your back pocket. If he’s meant to be in your life, he’ll come back. They always do,” she replied so matter-of-factly. She did have a few more years of experience than me, after all.

Since hearing those six magic words, I’ve learned how to put all kinds of people, places and things in my “back pocket.”  Ex-boyfriends. Previous jobs. Former BFFs.

I could go on and on, but my point is this: when you start putting the shit that doesn’t really matter in your proverbial “back pocket”, you make room for the things that really do matter. Like your dream job, your dream man, your dream life, which are most likely things you’re seeking in the first year (or years, let’s be honest) after college.

So, let that shit go. Put it in your back pocket. And instead, spend time with your girlfriends. Call your grandparents. See the good in everyone (yes, even that guy who “ghosted” you). And love unconditionally. Because there’s a little Joyce inside all of us. And life is too short not to embrace it. 

Nobody Told Me

Nobody Told Me

Get Out of Your Own Way

Get Out of Your Own Way