Best Advice

by Amy Bloom
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The best advice I ever read was from King Solomon in Proverbs. Both of us should have followed them more closely.

The best advice I ever heard and unfortunately didn't listen to was, giving away your heart can hurt, having a broken heart can be life threatening, even to the strongest people. But, receiving one is the greatest gift. I was also told by someone who has since died that the world will always be awful, but it never seems that way unless you are facing it alone. Ironic words to me now. Lastly, that you have to be awake to have hope. If you succumb to the dark, you may never find your way out.

A Buddhist lay minister once offered this sterling advice: "You can't have it both ways." I was in love with two people at the time. She was right! I had to choose. Since then the advice has worked again and again for I often find myself wanting two things at once, like freedom and money; company and solitude; yummy food and a svelte bod!

An older woman whom I had looked up to for years was always exasperated by my over-explanations, which she said made me look vulnerable and lacking in confidence. Very gently she told me, "Don't complain--don't explain."

Omit needless words (E. B. White).

The best advice I received is from a talk I heard by Isabel Allende: "Never miss an opportunity to be generous."

My mother told us: Never turn your back on the ocean.

The best advice I've ever received was also the most upsetting. My father told me (about working), "No one is irreplaceable."

The best advice I ever got was disguised in the form of a question. When I was a teenager in the early 1960’s, my father, who didn’t live at home with us anymore, phoned me nearly every afternoon and posed this: “And what have you contributed to society today?” As the coddled, country-club child of comfortable middle class parents in an era when girls weren’t required to do much of anything but marry well, I never had an answer. But the question stuck with me. I always wanted to respond with a list of accomplishments that would please him. And so, as I grew into adulthood, I began to conduct my life so that I would. Were he alive today, nearly a half-century later, to pose the advice disguised as a question, my answer would make him proud.

Once I complained that my eldest teenage daughter couldn't keep her room picked up and, generally, that she celebrated her adolescent angst through unmitigated mess and unprovoked conflict. I constantly corrected her bad behavior. She called it nagging. A seasoned parent of older children wisely asked me, "Do you prefer war or peace?" . . . He asked what I wanted -- a resentful, obedient daughter or one with whom I might someday have a meaningful relationship after the temper-driven winds of independence carved out a real person. "Bite your tongue and close her bedroom door to the mess," he advised. I've had more peace ever since.

The best advice I ever got was from a crusty old Coast Guard Master Chief after I slapped him and delivered an angry lecture about how I shouldn't have to explain to every drunk sailor that I wasn't a whore just because I served on ships at sea. "Baby," he guffawed, "don't blame a guy for trying! But don't waste your breath hoping to convince everyone about who you aren't. People are going to think what they think no matter what. Just do your job. Sooner or later the good ones will respect you for who you are and to hell with everyone else." The next day he apologized for his behavior. True to his word, he covered my back as long as we served together.

I was told to live. Really live. And taste it to really know it. And then go and tell it. And finally, when you've done all that? Show it by really sharing it.

This guy I work with told me, "You're sixteen years old girl, you don't know a thing about love." It wasn't worth correcting him on my age, because either way he is right.

Writing is a craft; publishing is a business.

The single most memorable advice came from my high school English teacher. I use his advice professionally, but it applies pretty well to personal matters too: All criticism should be in plus values.

"You can try and make another person wrong, or you can be happy. "

The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears, or the sea. --Isak Dinesen

My English professor, referring to a poem that was obscure and muddled, emphasized to the class the need for clarity and intent by saying, "Never assume that people love you so much that they'll be willing to work really hard to figure you out."

My mom used to say to me in times of real stress, "Expect the worse, hope for the best, and trust in God." But then, in moments of youthful and young adult terror (usually romance related) when I begged for consul, she would say, "My advice... is no advice."

I don't know a single thing about anything, but a lot of people are going to believe the contrary. They'll expect me to live up to their beliefs, and I'll pretend to comply. Pretending makes life easier for everyone--though many teachers have tried to convince me that this act of pretending is confidence. Pretending isn't confidence. Confidence is acting as if my pretended world is absolutely real and laughing on the inside that some crazy part of me believes myself.

After a long conversation about self-expectations, my friend Connie said, "In the end God only asks how well did you love?"

The best advice that I received was from my dad. He always told me to pick my battles very carefully. If it won't matter in a week, a month, a year, or in five years, let it go. Life is too short to worry about the small things.

The best advice I ever received was from my uncle who said "Just write. Forget about grammar, forget about spelling, forget about selling your words. Just write what you feel, when you feel it. You can always go back and edit."

I think sometimes I get caught up in everything around the writing and forget it's the writing itself that's important.

A good therapist/friend/teacher told me, "If you think you're lonely, ask yourself what it is you want to share." When you have something to share, someone will arrive to receive. Loneliness is just kidding yourself. Another best advice is, you can afford anything you really, really want. Anything? Yes, anything. My father told me to enjoy life; my father-in-law always admonished us to be kind to one another.

A children's book editor told me, "Study poetry."

My husband told me, "When you think you are doing so much for so many, stop and ask yourself whether you are giving them what they want or just giving them what you think they need." When I'm ready to curse him, my parents or my children for using and abusing me, I ask myself whether my baby son wants me to do his laundry or would he prefer a good tickle.

The best advice I ever had was from an elderly Indian woman: "Clean each rice bowl one at a time."

I received, and still do, a lot of good advice. One piece of advice that echos around in my brain, especially the older I get, came from my very wise father. He said, "Never go to Hell on someone else's sins. If you're going to commit it, at least let it be your own."

Laurens Van der Post wrote, "We live not only our own life but the life of our time."

The best advice I received was from my Dad: "You don't have a problem until you have a problem."

When I was 28 and already married for four years, I received advice on finding the right mate from my employer, Francis Ford Coppola: If you're thinking of marrying someone, don't. Take a trip with that person instead, preferably for a duration of at least six weeks and to a country where neither of you speaks the language. If the two of you can weather that kind of ordeal, you might have a shot at a marriage that endures. When I heard this advice, I thought of a trip my husband and I had taken in the first year of our relationship. It was a long journey around the U.S. in a VW bug and included parts of the country where it seemed that we did not speak the native tongue. When we began the trip, we were on the verge of breaking up. On our return home, we decided to move in together. A week ago, we celebrated our 30th anniversary.

I agree. I need to work on the "be happy" part and forget about those whom I feel have wronged me. But it's hard.

Plato got it right: Be kind, for every person you meet is fighting a hard battle.

My grandmother, Edna McNally Perry, born in Brooklyn, New York in 1912, baptized Elizabeth but called Edna after her brother Edward who died of scarlet fever (the second son to die), met Jack Perry when they were both fourteen, went to work at fifteen after her father’s death, put her sister through school, married, raised three children, worked at the hospital, the school, and the Carmelite cloister, cared for her elderly mother, lost her husband of fifty years two days before Christmas, died after six years of widowhood, at home, holding tight to a vial of Lourdes water, liked to say, “Always eat dessert.”

Oh, how I wish I'd read this two years ago. My girl will be leaving this summer for college and parts unknown and I sure wish I'd nagged her less, pardoned her more, and just let her be.

"Discretion is the better part of valor" - Falstaff, but more importantly, my mother. She was trying to teach me to think hard about jumping into an argument (just because you can win and it feels good in the moment doesn't mean it's worth the cost). As a recovering lawyer and mother reconnecting with my brain, I still find myself tempted sometimes. The last word. Or worse, the words you want to stuff back in your mouth when you see the look on your dear husband's face. I suppose I also think of that song "The Gambler" (know when to hold 'em, etc.). Country Western or Falstaff? It's all about the pause to reconsider. Thanks to all for sharing your thoughts. I truly enjoyed every one tonight.

The best advice was from my father, who said, "Make a a decision. You can always change your mind."

The best advice I ever got was from my father and I passed it on to my children: "Consider the source. ALWAYS consider the source."

From my dad when referring to a life well lived: "I have yet to meet the guy selling tickets for the second time around."

The best advice I got before embarking on the '60s came from the fellow who dropped in occasionally to dry out, and one day said, "My boy, the thing to know about 'everything in moderation' is that the key word is not 'moderation,' it is 'everything.' "

Edward Albee told me, "Make sure your theatre is cold and make sure your stage is well lit; people can't hear a play when they are hot, and they can't hear a play when they can't see it."

The best advice I ever received: "Be willing to lose the argument to find the truth." Winning the argument means exactly squat if I'm still in the dark.

The best advice I ever had came from two dying men. First, my father: On his dying bed, he pulled me toward him and said he had two pieces of advice to give me about life: "People expect too much from one another," and "Share a bag of apples with the one you love." The other conversation was on the telephone, a former lover, calling me to tell me he was dying and that he was not afraid. His advice to me, "Read more books." These pieces of advice stay with me still.