We all have moments when we feel helpless. Sometimes we allow these moments to mount into years. That is unfortunate, because giving ourselves permission to wallow in such a state only compounds the bleakness.
A while back I read a quote that was simple, yet empowering.
“Life is what we make it — always has been, always will be.”
The quote was attributed to Grandma Moses. I laughed when I read who had said it, because I had not thought about Grandma Moses since I was a small child sitting with my own grandma.
My grandma and I had been looking at the walls and ceiling of their bungalow’s bedroom that my grandpa had covered with the front pages of Life or Time magazine. The images of celebrities, famous and not so famous (but interesting) people stared at us from every direction. A bit eccentric perhaps, but it stirred a lot of curiosity. I asked my grandma for names and had been amused that the name of the old woman I saw on one square was actually called Grandma Moses.
Decades later when I read the inspirational quote by Grandma Moses I began to think about the actual woman and decided to do a little research. All I really knew about her was that she had begun painting at a late age and had become famous for it.
I found that Grandma Moses took up a paint brush in her seventies when she could no longer make her much admired works of embroidered art because arthritis had made it too painful to stitch. So heeding her sister’s suggestion, she tried painting. An art collector who happened by the small town came across her paintings in a drug store window and purchased them. It wasn’t long after that when her paintings were being displayed in NYC.
Anna Mary Robertson Moses (Grandma Moses) did not let bitterness take hold when she could no longer do something she loved. She simply traded her needle and thread for a brush and paints and went on. I found more insight from Grandma Moses, given just before her 100th birthday, in a 1960 Life magazine article.
Grandma Moses reflected a bit on her younger years and all the manual work she had done, from cooking, to laundering and ironing and working in the garden. She commented…
“These are better days. Everything’s a lot easier now. People don’t have to work as hard – but people worry a lot more, and sometimes I think we were all a lot happier when things were harder.”
Grandma Moses had a point about people worrying too much, and that was 1960. I wonder what she would think now about all the technology that makes things “easier” and gives us all more time to worry, especially with the 24-7 news cycle!
Getting back to the wise, soon to be centenarian.
“It’s really nothin’ to get to 100,” she said with a twinkle. “You just tell a lot of bad stories and laugh and laugh and you’ll get there yourself — easy as that.” Then she said she didn’t have time to think about all the birthday fuss because she had to get back to finishing some paintings she was working on. She added “Painting is not important. The important thing is keeping busy.”
I think she was onto something there… Life is what we make it, always has been, always will be.
Diana Erbio is a freelance writer and author of “Coming to America: A Girl Struggles to Find her Way in a New World”. Read her blog series “Statues: The People They Salute” and visit the Facebook Page.