Up until this point, what has made your life good?
There may have been highlights, such as a wedding, birth or some other special event that really left a positive impression. But what about the bigger picture?
If you could look back at your life on your 100th birthday, what would you tell others are the secrets to a good life?
Perhaps you haven’t thought that far ahead. So what if you could get the secrets from someone who had actually done it. Their wisdom could help you also lead a happy and healthy life.
August 13th 2015 was a big day for Joyce Cox, my Grandmother. On that day, Joyce turned 100.
When she became a centenarian, Grandma was still living in her own home and although certain senses and physical strength were weakening, she would always greet you with a smile.
Grandma was the sort of person who took a genuine interest in what you were doing. She would often recall the smallest details of my life that even I had forgotten about!
Her memory was amazing. She would remember intricate details from her past with incredible accuracy. Political leaders from many decades gone were recalled without a second thought and Grandma always had an opinion on current political issues.
Grandma’s 100th birthday was held at her home. In the afternoon after the cake was cut, the champagne was sipped (even Grandma had some) and a letter from the Queen was read, the birthday girl went back to her bedroom for a little rest.
When it came time to leave, my husband and I went in to see her. The above image is Grandma and I on her 100th. After a big day of celebrations we were both ready for a nap!
“You’ll have to tell us your secret,” my husband said. “How’d you do it?” I echoed.
Grandma giggled in her usual way. She knew she’d reached an incredible milestone and in her own words, had enjoyed “good life.”
Then she told us her three secrets to living a good life. But not just a good life. At 100 years old, it was also a long life.
The words of wisdom from Joyce Cox are something we can all learn from.
1. “Eat plain food”
While Grandma’s thinking about political issues was quite complex, her food philosophy was simple. Just eat real food.
Her meals were always homemade and she never owned a microwave, let alone a juicer.
Growing up, I never recalled seeing much packaged food in Grandma’s house. Aside from the box of teabags, biscuits for frequent visitors and a few other essentials, she kept food relatively plain and simple.
Grandma didn’t fall into any particular dietary group and never spoke of diets. Her food choices weren’t ‘perfect’ by some people’s standards (I’m not sure if kale or chia seeds ever passed her lips) but it got her to a mentally-fit 100 years of age and most importantly, it worked for her.
2. “Wake up every day with a smile”
Grandma had gratitude for every day and even though some days were better than others, she saw each one as gift. Growing up during the Great Depression, widowed 48 years earlier, Grandma never remarried and understood just how precious life was and how easily it could be taken away.
Having survived bowel cancer many years earlier, there were ‘grey spots’ peppering her past – But still she saw the colour in every day.
This ingrained optimism and ability to see the positives in negatives was, I believe, one of her greatest qualities.
3. “Don’t go for fast women and slow racehorses”
We broke into laughter when she said this and I’ve interpreted it two ways. Firstly, always have a sense of humour. On her hundredth birthday, Grandma was losing her sight and her hearing but nothing could take her mischievous sense of humour.
Secondly, never lose sight of your moral compass. Stay true to yourself and your values.
Grandma’s secrets were simple and honest. They were how she’d spent the greater part of her last 100 years and my husband and I were grateful to hear her insights, in person.
At Grandma’s funeral, six months later, I heard the same thing said many times. “She had a good life,” repeated grieving family and friends. And she did.
Grandma’s life was not good because of accumulated wealth, accumulated Pinterest followers or accumulated labels in her wardrobe.
Like all of us, she had bad days but when she could, Joyce Cox chose happiness.
As per her food philosophy, it was as simple as that.
This was also published here on The Huffington Post.