In life, you need a little bit of luck. You need a spark, something that just goes right, or someone that brings goodness your way. Yesterday, I received some heartbreaking news about the person that has brought me luck all my life. Although, I write this prematurely awaiting the outcome, I am hoping that she still has a little bit of luck on her side. In the meantime, I want to share the mindset of my great-grandmother, "Mammo". She has inspired and driven my strength all of my life.
The backbone, the anchor, of my family has always been Mammo. She has pulled everyone in the family out of the fire at some point, and truly worked her finger to the bone to provide for not just her own fourteen children, but for every child and every adult who needed her. Self-sacrifice has never been more illustrated than by the dedication and loyalty Mammo put into being a WOMAN of all trades: mother, grandparent, sister, aunt, friend, bread-winner- name any role a woman can play in her lifetime, and I guarantee she's played the part. Not only did she play them, she has been the Meryl Streep, the leading lady and standout act, in all the many stages of her life.
Not many people can accept hardships and mistreatment with the type of even-temperment Mammo has. When I was younger, she and I would walk to the grocery store to buy groceries when she couldn't find a ride. Even though we were walking anywhere from a half of a mile to a mile, she'd always put herself together. She had pride and integrity about what she stood for and representing her family. We'd come out of the grocery store with bags of groceries as if we had a car waiting outside. Twenty plastic bags in hand, we'd split them and head back home. On those trips to the grocery store,I never once heard her complain; never once saw her breakdown; she didn't miss a beat. All to ensure that her family had food on the table.
I learned so much about people on those walks to the store. About the people that would pass us, wave, but never stop to offer a ride; about the people that had the time to take her to the store, but never came through. Despite it all, she waved at all the passerby's and she still tolerated the relationships and presence of the ones that never came through.
I learned something very valuable from my experiences of those walks. I learned that there are many kinds of people in this world, and very few like Mammo. The quality that I internalized from watching her on those days was her gracefulness in the face of humility. She never let on that she felt any kind of pain or dissatisfaction by the things she couldn't control. She couldn't control the actions of others, so she moved forward; she didn't pout, give-up, or strain herself with worry over those variables. She found a way to "get it done"; whatever it was that needed to be taken care of she did it. And never once did she wrinkle her dress stumping through life's muddy water.
Perseverance is defined as the steadfast way of doing something despite difficulty or delays in achieving success. Mammo has preservered through things in her life that would fold the average person in a day. She taught me that life is sometimes hard, but no matter what walls you face you have to find a way to leap over them. She taught me to care about the things I can control and not to concern myself with the things I couldn't. She taught me to be graceful even when grace didn't warrant the people or circumstances in my life. She taught me that sacrifice is a part of perseverance; that whatever I stand for, whatever is at the forefront of who I am, be proud of it and to be persistent in my pursuits even in the face of delays.
One day, she was having a conversation with someone about some things not going her way that day, and she said, "I'm down on my luck." After her conversation, I asked her what she meant by that. She said, "Today is just not my luckiest day, but it'll [my luck] be back up soon." It was the best thing I'd even heard anyone say about their approach to a bad day. Something so simply stated, but so powerfully inspiring.
Two years ago, I published my first book dedicated to Mammo. I dedicated Can't Cry to her because it's a story about gritty experiences of the reality of people, circumstances, and sacrifice. The underlining theme is that life can rock your boat at the snap of a finger but how you respond to it ultimately will determine how you live.
Despite what happens to Mammo in the days to come, I know that she's invested in inventing opportunities in her life. She's LIVED with a sense of urgency for the people she loves. Her pursuit of happiness has always been to persevere through all the roles of her life.
To my Mammo: Thank you for teaching me about people and the world, and most of all thank you for being the lucky charm in my life.