My Aunt Marian was full of advice. “Move the car slow and the wheel fast,” she would say while teaching my sisters and me to drive. “He may not always be right, but he’s always your boss” or “Don’t ever close the door behind you” were her words of wisdom when we complained about a job. My favorite was the one she dished out when one of us whined about something we didn’t have in life: “Wish in one hand, shit in the other and see which one gets filled first.”
As my kids get older, I find myself becoming Aunt Marian. I spout ridiculous words of wisdom at the drop of a hat. “Take the high road,” I tell my daughter when she argues with a friend. “What goes around, comes around,” I advise my son when he is bullied on the bus. “Rain before seven, sun before eleven,” I remind my husband when the Big Guy wonders about the weather.
They listen to me about as well as my sisters and I listened to Marian. The kids roll their eyes and move on, but The Big Guy likes to rebut with folksy sayings of his own. “Your mouth runs like a whippoorwill’s ass,” he’ll tell me.
In recent years, I have had to learn to swallow my own advice. Let me be perfectly honest: It tastes awful. It sucks. I don’t want to “take the high road” or “give them enough rope to hang themselves” or even “be the bigger person”. I want to go toe-to-toe with some of the people in my life and scream right back at them. I want to create drama and revel in the bad feelings while self-righteously blaming my opponent. I want to “give as good as I get.”
But where would it get me?
Could I get back jobs that were lost because of lies? Would any amount of ranting restore the sense of community where I live, the feeling of family that was lost when my group of friends was torn apart by our local scandal? The answer, of course, is no.
Would any amount of arguing in my own defense ever restore my relationship with the person whose approval once meant more to me than anything?
The worst part of growing up has been listening to my own advice on that one: “Take the high road.” That has meant walking away. Saying good-bye to a relationship that never really was, accepting that I will never reach the standards set by a person who can never, ever love me as I am. Understanding that quitting isn’t failure on my part, and that walking away isn’t the same thing as holding a grudge.
Realizing that I can love a person enough to let her go without a fight.
There were times in life when even Aunt Marian ran out of advice, and all she could do was hold us and let us cry. She would pat a back or smooth tangled hair away from a tear-streaked face, and she’d murmur, “This too shall pass, Honey. This too shall pass. Just hang on.”
Thanks for the advice, Marian. There are days when I’m hanging on by my fingertips, but I’m hanging on.