Nine Pearls of Wisdom for Every Southern Girl Posted by: Hedi Hemenway | 11 Comments
A few years ago, my dear friend’s daughter was about to have her first birthday. Because she is wise, she knew full-well first birthday parties are about parents, not children. They kept a baby alive for a year, for crying out loud. That’s cause for celebration.
She decided to make this particular celebration one that her daughter would be able to remember. She gave her daughter her first pearls, something every Southern girl must have. Then she asked each of us to write down our “Pearls of Wisdom” to share. Friends and relatives from age 20 to “none of your business” (all wearing our best pearls) came together for a ladies’ brunch with the best version of sage advice we could muster. We told her what we wished we’d known growing up, what we learned the hard way and what we have come to believe: pray for your enemies, laugh with your whole belly, moisturize, and get credit in your own name.
I am rarely called upon for wisdom (with good reason), but I gave it my best shot. Nine Pearls of Wisdom for every Southern girl:
1. Laugh: Laughter will cure almost all of what hurts in your heart. It will keep you sane. It will smooth over the rough places in your life. Laugh loud, long, often and from your belly. Laugh.
2. Pray: On the day of your baptism, your parents promised God and you they would raise you as a woman of faith. We also promised as part of your community to help show you God. Pray. Learn about God through study, nature, service, and most of all prayer. Pray when your heart hurts; pray when your spirit is full; pray when there are no words; pray when your soul is filled with song. Remember the prayer of our friend, who says every morning, “God, make me a better wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend.” Every night she prays, “Well God, there’s always tomorrow.” Pray.
3. Believe: There are bonds that connect us all in our humanity. You are a person through other people. You are because of them. This is “Ubuntu.” Because we can’t always see those ties that bind us together, it’s easy to forget they are there. You must believe in what you can’t see. Believe in faith, hope and love. Believe in peace. Believe in the kindness of strangers and the goodness in everyone. Believe.
4. Rest: This life has a way of getting more and more complicated. Too many things start to pull on you for your time, your energy, your resources. Most of them will be really good things: school, work, family, volunteering, church… The first thing you will sacrifice will be sleep. I urge you to resist this temptation. Sleep will start to feel like a luxury. I assure you, it is not. It’s the only way to be the slightest bit useful to any of the people or causes you have committed. No great cause was ever helped by a cranky, sleep-deprived, wild-eyed, caffeinated woman. Rest.
5. Get Up: In this life, you will fail. You will mess up. You will make mistakes. Sometimes, you will be run over by the MACK truck of circumstances. Occasionally, the rain will flood or the earth will quake. A tree could fall on your house. At one point or another, you will get knocked down. Get up. That’s the process. The only way to move forward is in lurches, stumbles and crashes. You will not come to the end of the path without bruised knees, bandages or even crutches. Some people will decide to lie on the ground like road kill, but you must get up. Keep going. Say you’re sorry when you’re wrong. Take a hand to help you when you need it. Get Up.
6. Smart is Sexy: There are no shortage of people in this life who will try to make you feel small because they are small and don’t want to be alone. They will tell you that you are ugly, dumb and not funny. They will tell you to hide your spark so no one will ever be intimidated by you. Do not ever, even for one second, believe them. Smart is sexy. Truly amazing men are not interested in dumb girls with no gumption. Real friends love a gal pal who challenges them. Look at your parents: your dad would never have been interested in your mom if she weren’t interesting. Sass is attractive. Intelligence is a magnet for amazing people. The greatest part: it’s also a huge repulsion for the ignorant, uninformed, hateful fools. Read, learn, ask questions and challenge assumptions.
7. Get Your Pretty On: One of the inescapable truths in life is that you are born into a body. Every body is beautiful. Take pride in your appearance. Do your nails and hair, wear make up and clothes that compliment your figure. Stand up straight. Hold your head high. Meet the world head on. Don’t do it for other people. Do it for yourself. It’s easier to feel confident about yourself when you feel you look good. A great pair of shoes can do wonders for the sass in your step. But never mistake eyeliner for inner beauty. If your insides are ugly, no amount of cosmetics will cover it up. Before you can be truly pretty, you must be kind, honest and generous. Once you’ve got those working, the lip gloss is just icing.
8. Be Kind to Your Siblings: When I was young and my sister and I would fight, my father would tell me, “Be nice to your sister; she’s all you’ve got.” I figured this was a pretty sorry state of affairs if she was all I had. Now I understand, a sibling is a blessing like no other. You are the only ones who will know what’s it’s like to grow up in your family. You’ll call and they will know precisely why your daddy is making you laugh or your mama is driving you to drink bourbon from the dog bowl. And one day, your parents will be gone, but you will not be alone because you’ll have each other. Be kind to your siblings. They’re what you’ve got. And that’s everything.
9. Pick the Bracelet: At her 50th Anniversary party, my husband’s aunt told me a great story. She said, years before, the oven was about to go out in her kitchen. Christmas was coming up and she’d set her sights on a diamond tennis bracelet. Her husband asked her if she wanted the bracelet or a new oven. She said she picked the bracelet because she figured he’d eventually get hungry enough to buy her the new oven too. She leaned in very close and said to me, “Honey, in this life, when you get the choice, ALWAYS pick the bracelet.” That’s good advice. Sometimes in life you have to do the hard thing. Sometimes, there are no good options available and you have to pick the least bad. But sometimes, you get to decide to do something nice for yourself and too often, you’ll be tempted not to. Trust her: get the massage; eat the cookie, spend 20 minutes alone with a good book. Pick the bracelet.
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