When I was 13, our house was next door to my maternal grandmother and great-grandmother. I thought they were the smartest women in the whole world.
Later, I was surprised to learn that neither of them had a college education. They insisted that I attain higher education.Yet I find the more knowledge I attain, the more I depend on their sayings and adages for guidance to get me through life, instead of my formal education.
Here are some things they taught me that I use in my practice every day:
1. God Don't Like Ugly. If I was being disobedient, my mother would say, "Vicki, God don’t like ugly." And in the amen corner, my grandmother and great-grandmother would say, "And he's not too fond of pretty either."
At this point, I was thinking, "Well what in the world am I supposed to do? I can't be ugly and I can't be pretty, HELP ME! "
I realized they were admonishing me to always do the right thing, and that many people will have a great outer appearance to cover up emotional inner turmoil and even bad character.
2. If it ain't bed bugs, it's piss ants. I know the word is supposed to be spelled "pissants." Please allow me to say this one like my grandmother would: If it ain't bed bugs, it's piss ants. In other words, as soon as you get one area under control, something else happens -- like job stress today and relationship challenges tomorrow. Next week, it's a difficult situation with your children, and financial struggles the next month. In other words, it is normal for life to be filled with stressful, challenging situations.
3. A man will do everything but quit if you let him. Interestingly, I received relationship advice long before I was in a relationship. I would hear discussions about the relationship problems of adult family members and friends. I wasn't allowed to join the discussion but only to listen and laugh to myself. Suddenly, my mother would turn to me and say, "Vicki, a man will do everything but quit if you let him."
I find this advice very applicable to my clinical practice. My mother was telling me not to let a man take advantage of you. However, we know this can happen to a man or a woman because I see many people who allowed their spouses or partners take serious advantage of them for years until they decide to change the situation.
4. If you give a dance, you've got to pay the band. Conversations about your actions and consequences for your actions were always hot topics in our home. I laugh now when I think that my mother or grandmothers could be having a conversation with someone else and call me in the room just in time to get the main lesson: "Remember, Vicki, if you give a dance, you've got to pay the band."
They meant that everything you do has a consequence that you might not be able to handle. A good 60 percent of the letters I receive are about actions and unwanted consequences: how cheating damaged a relationship, how one mistake ended someone's career etc.
When I was a teenager surrounded by these women and their life lessons, I thought they were the smartest women in the world. Now that I'm grown and using their wisdom in my practice every day, I know I was right.