You are Perfect, Exactly the Way You Are: 7 Transformative Lessons From My Sexy Grandma

It was some kind of magical paradise. Glitter on the ceilings, hot pink carpet, full-length mirrors everywhere and a (tastefully) nude woman, back arched seductively, painted on the bathroom wall. It was Grandma’s house. And magic was in the air. Mixed with utter restfulness and a dash of food-induced lethargy. As we travelled from California each year to visit my grandparents in the small Mormon town of Ogden, Utah I marveled at how differently I felt here. Whether I was 4 years or 30, somehow I was always more beautiful. My skin was brighter, my curly locks manageable and the figure reflected in all those mirrors was just cuter.  And maybe other people felt the same because Grandma’s house was different in other ways too. It was like we were all Princes and Princesses, loving one another, serving one another… and everyone who walked in the door was family. Oh, and beware when inspecting the little figurines littering the window ledges and tables. When you turn them over they might have genitalia on the bottom.

So, these are the sacred and sometimes hysterical lessons from the most transformative figure of my life. My basketball-loving, barefoot in the winter, chocolate martini drinking, fish-catching Danish Grandma… complete with rock-star shades and a blonde beehive she called Mirn.

Grandma in dressLesson #1: Be Sexy

I think this was the lesson when I opened a gift from my grandma on my 16th birthday. The tiny red-hot lingerie that spilled out nearly traumatized my Step Mom for life and I quietly exchanged it for something a tad more tasteful.  But I got the message. I was a woman now and I had the right to feel and be sexy. And Grandma modeled this. In a land where many God-fearing folks wear special, chaste, underwear, my Grandma ran around in slinky pink nighties with mirrors on her bedroom ceiling.

Lesson #2: Don’t be Perfect. Don’t be Good. 
Be Your Self.

Grandma wasn’t Good in any sense that I ever knew that word to mean. She snuck treats to the dog. She had a TV in every room. She managed to balance her Type 1 Diabetes with diet soda and a couple of chocolate martinis a day. And she had a mischievous side. When she said those cookies were homemade, you might find the box laying around later.

But she was so much better than Good. She was heaven. Sneaking you presents, cranking up the heat in the winter-time and running around the house barefoot with hot pink short-shorts, challenging my 14 year old brother to a headstand contest (he won only because, 20 minutes later, a bobby pin from her beehive was lodged into her scalp). She had fake nails with jewels on them… but taught my brothers how to bait their hooks with live fish. She watched the Jazz play ball religiously and cried when we came to visit and again when we left. My Grandma taught me what all children know instinctively—Love is better than Good.

Muriel-headstandLesson #3: Be Love

Everyone secretly thought that grandma loved them best. She was lazor-focused on one thing and one thing only… Love.  I never heard her say a bad word about anyone. She never missed birthdays. When she was visiting she wanted to make my lunches, and left little love-notes inside my lunch-bag. Her carpet and couch were never more important than our feelings. She painted my nails when I was little and took me shopping when I was older. She was all Love all the time.

Lesson #4: Take What You Get and Make it Love

Grandma wasn’t given an easy life.  She survived a lot of tragedies… a failed marriage by the time she was 18, the death of her first child, an abusive second husband who later committed suicide. She wasn’t actually my Grandma by blood. In fact, even one of her two daughters was actually her sister’s child biologically. Our family “blended” with hers but it was the closest part of our family by love, if not by blood. When we were in Utah, all of her best friends—including her hair dresser and cleaning lady– were a member of our family and treated with the same measure of Extreme Love.

Lesson #5: Be a Little Messy

To the casual visitor, Grandma’s house was spotless. But what the family knew was that the drawers and cabinets were like a scene from Alice in Wonderland… curiouser and curiouser! The medicine could be found in with the chips, the paper towels, the nail polish kit and the cookbooks. And who knew what was in the far, far back? When I cleaned out the house after grandma’s passing, I found my grandpa’s funeral papers, a Danish ebelskiver pan and a giant coloring book under her side of the bed. I can’t put my finger on it but there is something very sane… even joyful… about a little messiness.

Lesson #6: Find the Love of Your Life (And Treat Him/Her Like a King)

When my Grandpa started courting my Grandma, they already had their children and each had lost a spouse. But this was Love. My grandpa always teased “that blonde” and they were often seen playing footsie under the dinner table. Whatever request one had, the answer was always yes. They danced together into old age and I found more than one love note hidden around the house after they passed on.

Lesson #6: Meditate

My Grandma called it “hypnotizing herself.” She learned the technique to birth two children via C-section since the Diabetes prevented her from taking pain medication.  When she was feeling overwhelmed or emotional she would seek out a quiet place, close her eyes and picture herself on a warm beach somewhere, peaceful, safe. When as an adult I asked her how she managed to be so consistently kind and love-centered, she credited this practice.

Lesson #7: You are Perfect. Exactly the Way You Are

My grandma never said this, exactly; it just permeated from every pore. But this is the single most transformative lesson she passed on to me. Be yourself. You are perfect and you are the only you. You were made to be you. So be that with wild abandon… and most importantly, Love.

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