A few months ago I went to visit my Nonna. She’s 92. She’s in an old folks home that she’s tried to break out of over a dozen times, twice successfully.
My memories of my Nonna, a woman born in Italy who raised my Mom while the Second World War was making its way through that wonderful country, are of a woman who worked and smiled. When she came to visit my folks where I grew up just outside of Vancouver she’d spend the entire day in the garden, weeding and planting. (Read This: Find Happiness In Work. Not Work In Happiness)
When I visited her at her home in Trail, BC, she’d be doing the same.
She danced as often as she could, laughed and always had a tidbit of wisdom to throw my way in a deep Italian accent.
Live it up because you no know tomorrow.
You have to laugh, Chad.
She’s the antithesis of what our modern society is.
She didn’t broadcast her feelings unless they were joyous. She didn’t complain, ever. She didn’t need inspiration to get up and work because working is why she was put here.
What she’s been through in her wonderful life is far more than I’ll ever have to endure. She’s been betrayed multiple times by those she loves and yet her love for them didn’t waver, nor did her trust. She’s been poor, very poor, but poverty never made her less generous, with either her time or her money.
She is a great women, a truly great woman.
Her circumstances in life weren’t unjust to her, they simply were. The War, the betrayal, the responsibility of having to raise 6 kids with a less-than-stellar husband, losing a child before her time, a husband before his, were all simply a part of life, an aspect of the experience. (Read This: The Event Doesn’t Matter. Your Reaction to It Does)
Most people are bound by how they view the world. They’re confined and crushed by things that happen to them. She isn’t.
Of all the people I’ve met in my life, be they strong spiritually, incredibly wealthy and successful, world travelers, fighters, soldiers, mothers, fathers, liberals, conservatives, she is the most free.
Life is tough, often brutal. There is no way around this brutality. You can’t remove it with laws, they usually only inhibit our freedoms. You can’t destroy it with kindness; evil doesn’t care if you’re nice to it. You can’t eradicate bad. It is. It exists. It’s everywhere. Some have it worse than others, and that’s just how things are.
My Nonna had it worse than most, probably most people reading this.
She had things in her life happen that she in no way deserved, but if you’re fortunate enough to meet her you would never get the slightest sense of a woman who’s had a tough life. You’d never get an inkling that she has had an unjust life because she doesn’t see it as such.
She’s used each and every moment of tribulation in her life to acquire greater toughness and grit, and someone a greater sense of happiness.
There is nothing that she cannot handle. She’s been through it all. She took an unjust event and chose to smile through it, to laugh even though most would have crumbled and quit because of it.
She’s in a home now because she’s old. Her memory is slipping a bit. When you’re with her, though, you’re happy. You’re sad because you see this happy and proud woman confined to a single space when all she wants to do is walk and explore, but you’re happy because she is. You’re smiling because she is.
Within every unjust and evil event we face in our lives, we’re given an opportunity and a choice.
That vast majority of people will see no choice. They’ll see the event and feel sorrow, shame, or they’ll feel that life is simply unfair, and often it is.
What my Nonna saw was that her mood, how she sees the world, how she reacts to pain and strife is her choice.
Whether she’s happy or sad is her choice, an event, no matter how unjust, cannot take this choice away from her unless she gives it that power.
Within each obstacle we face in life is that choice. We may not want to see it. We may feel better to feel sorry for ourselves, to shun the power that we have over our attitude, but that choice is there whether we accept it or not.
The strong will accept responsibility over their lives, even their mood. Whatever is thrown at them is of little concern for they know that they hold the key to who they are and the life they choose to live. (Read This: The Code of Manhood)
I haven’t met a someone who’s trudged through pain as she has, who’s enacted so much control over their lives as she had. I’ve met people that are stronger physically, more successful financially, but I have never met someone I’d consider stronger than my Nonna, and I don’t think that will ever change.
True power is control, and she took every obstacle she faced and was able to free herself from the despair that grabs most people.
Freedom can exist only where you allow it to. Free men and women are free even if they’re imprisoned. They’re free even if they’re poor. Free people aren’t dependent on circumstances, their freedom is internal and it’s unbreakable.
Whether you are free and strong, happy or sad is completely under your control. You decide the life you will live and the person you’ll live it as. No event nor other human can enact that control over your life unless you allow them to.
About The Author
Chad Howse: Chad’s mission is to get you in the arena, ‘marred by the dust and sweat and blood’, to help you set and achieve audacious goals in the face of fear, and not only build your ideal body, but the life you were meant to live. He’s a former 9-5er turned entrepreneur, a former scrawny amateur boxer turned muscular published fitness author. He’ll give you the kick in the ass needed to help you live a big, ambitious life.
You can contact him at –