Live a Little

Photo by  Hanson Lu  on  Unsplash

Photo by Hanson Lu on Unsplash

I hate when people tell me to be more adventurous. 

No, skydiving does not sound fun to me, Karen. 

Actually, I prefer wide open spaces to cave-diving, Jimmy, thanks. 

And what money should I use to fly to Europe, Suzanne?

People who call themselves adventurous often sound pompous, as if they’re a better human than us mere feeble mortals for having the oh so clever idea of risking their lives and/or the contents of their wallet. As if my brand of everyday adventures—like applying for jobs, messaging someone on OKCupid, or buying clothing from Amazon (without having a chance to try it on!) — isn’t noble enough.

But there’s one person whose nagging case for bravery I miss dearly: my grandma’s.

Grandma Shirley was a woman who loved poker, American Idol, dying her hair red, and telling me to “live a little.” 

Yes, a woman who lived in a South Florida retirement community and feared steep staircases, would chide me for having a mild case of scaredy catness. 

Her main target was food. See, I was (ok, I am) a picky eater. 

Anytime Grandma Shirley would spot me picking tomatoes out of a salad, refusing her offers of black licorice, or making involuntary gagging sounds as she ate an anchovy-topped pizza (yes, she really did order that), she’d clutch my arms, look at me with the wisdom of the world, and whisper “you’ve got to live a little, Jod.”

I hated it at the time(s). 

As a girl, I went to sleepaway camp 11 hours away from my parents, competed in dance competitions, and even tried the pointless “sport” of frisbee golf. As a young adult, I went to college out of state, lived in Israel on my own for five months, and endured the pain of eyebrow waxing.

Point is, I did fun things. I made bold decisions. I LIVED. Did my refusal to try pomegranate dressing or turkey bacon really disqualify me from earning a stamp of “she lived!” approval?

Before Grandma Shirley passed away in the summer of 2013, it didn’t seem like it should. I like the foods that I like, I’d argue. They fill me up perfectly fine, both figuratively and literally, thank you very much. I didn't see the need to stretch my food tastes just for, errrr what? The heck of it?

But in recent months, I’ve found myself frequently hearing “C’mon Jodi, live a little.”

When I’m not sure if I should give a guy a chance for a second date, I hear it.

When I’m afraid of applying for a job, expecting rejection, I hear it.

When I’m questioning whether I should admit something rather vulnerable through writing, I hear it.

The voice is always part naggy, part motivational, and has Grandma Shirley’s combo Yiddish/Long Island accent. It can’t be easily ignored.

So, I’ve applied for more jobs. I’ve written more openly. I’ve taken the plunge of granting date #2s. (Except for the dudes who barely talk, invite me to “party” with their bro friends on a Tuesday afternoon, or brag about having met Heidi Klum — all of which have happened and all of which don’t impress me much.)

Because she (the loud spirited Ghost of Grandma Past) isn’t asking for too much. She’s not telling me to go climb Mt. Everest, walk on hot coals, or date a Trump supporter. 

She’s just telling me to live a LITTLE. 

I’ve interpreted this not as a judgment call on how I’m already living, but as encouragement to live a little more.

Adventure doesn’t have to be a wild outdoor sport, a death-defying action, or a trip abroad. It doesn’t have to be something Instagrammable or brag-worthy. It can be as simple as stretching behind my comfort zone, beyond my first inclination, beyond my typical tastes.

Adventure can be found in the mundane.

Grandma, I tried veggie cream cheese today. That was for you. Your other catchphrase — “grandmas are always right” — has proven true once again.

Me & My Personal Adventure Guru (circa 1993)

Me & My Personal Adventure Guru (circa 1993)

P.S. You’ll never sell me on black licorice though. That stuff is evil incarnate, more of a threat to humankind than climate change.