Why You Shouldn't Give a Damn |

My grandmother on my mum's side didn't give a damn about anyone – least of all her baby grandson. She hated me from the day I was born because I looked like my father, a German immigrant. Matter of fact, she didn't just hate me; she completely ignored me.

My mum often made the trek from our bayside home in Mt Martha to her house in Brighton. One Christmas, I remember her greeting my sister with open arms and a shiny new bicycle. Me? A tin of condensed milk. That was my Christmas present.

They once sat in her backyard chatting, when I crawled up the ladder against the above-ground pool and fell in, sinking straight to the bottom (probably with a belly full of condensed milk). My grandmother didn't even get out of her deck chair; she just sat there and smiled.

She was an evil woman, and for years, my mother lived in fear; her legs bearing the scars of countless lashings with a studded leather belt.

She drank most of her life, and she was rarely without a Winfield Red pursed between her wrinkled lips. She slept around, she bullied my grandfather and she cared little about anything but her own selfish needs.

By rights, she should have died a protracted and painful death.

But no. She lived a long life, free of ailments, and passed away peacefully in her sleep well into her eighties.

And I honestly believe it was her lack of concern for anyone or anything that allowed her shrivelled body to last that long. So addled was she with alcohol and tar and nicotine, she should have snuffed it decades earlier.

Go Nuts for a Reason

So why am I telling you this?

Am I suggesting you become a heartless arsehole just so you can live a long but antagonistic life? Should you scrub empathy and love from your vocabulary? Of course not.

But I do think there's a lesson here.

Far too many of us worry ourselves into an early grave trying to cope with things in our own personal way. We worry about the past. We obsess over the future. We get nervous about things over which we have no control. And we're always concerned with what others think of us.

Most of it is a waste of time – a waste of life, actually. And what a brief life it is.

Worrying about things they may never happen is a recipe for perpetual madness. If you're going to go crazy, make sure you have a good reason!

Care Without Caring

It takes a special kind of person to be as evil as my grandmother.

Later discussions with family members interstate revealed she was molested as a child, and certainly this would go some way to explaining her behaviour. These things are usually rooted in childhood experiences or a chemical imbalance of some kind. Not an excuse, but perhaps an explanation.

Maybe Trump has his own childhood horror story. Or perhaps he's just an arsehole who gets pleasure from acting like a 9-year-old narcissist. Every species has its anomalies.

Two nights ago, I interviewed my 81-year-old dad for the Midlife Mastery podcast, and he revealed something that goes a long way to explaining why he's had such a remarkably healthy and joyful life. That's him in the photo with my kids, not far from his home in the mountains.

He, too, suffered a terrible childhood – his father a physically and psychologically abusive monster. He grew up with little food in a small village and bore first-hand witness to the horrors of war. Yet, he went on to live (and is still living) a fulfilling and meaningful life.

I big part of that, as I discovered, is a distinct lack of interest in what others think of him. Throughout years of abuse, he learned to shut out the noise and the cruelty, and detach his self-worth from the opinion of his oppressor.

He emigrated to Australia when he was 22, and while others played the game of keeping up appearances, he went about his daily business of building houses for people, putting food on the family table and being an all-'round perfect dad. He was principled in all the right ways.

He's always been an honest man – a hard worker and wonderful provider. He gave me a brilliant childhood filled with glorious memories. He's my best friend of all time.

Even today, living in his modest home in the mountains, he doesn't concern himself with town gossip. He continues to play his own game – living his life, enjoying the great outdoors and creating priceless memories with our family.

Because he has remained true to his core principles and the things that really matter, he has mastered the art of not giving a damn. The only difference is, he's done it the right way – with compassion, integrity and an eye on the bigger picture. What others think of him is none of his business, and that's just the way he likes it.

I expect he'll easily reach the ripe old age of 100. And when his last day finally comes, he'll pass over knowing he lived a good and honest life; that he demonstrated the essence of living well, serving those he loved, appreciating nature's gifts and steadfastly ignoring what everyone else thought of him.


If you're going to go crazy, make sure you have a good reason. Click To Tweet


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Showing 4 comments
  • Lilian Downey

    Hi Pete

    Hope you’re well. I found the story about your grandmother fascinating yet disturbing. In some ways it ran counter to my belief system of happiness derived from a life of serving others. But then remembered the saying “only the good die young”.


    • Peter Fritz

      Hey, Lilian! Nice to hear from you again. 🙂

      I still maintain the belief that true happiness comes from serving others and living authentically. I’m not sure my grandmother – or grandfather on my dad’s side – were ever happy. It seemed they spent their entire lives at odds with the people around them. Such a waste of the one life they each had.

  • MsMidLife

    You are so right, life is too short to worry about all the little things that could go wrong. Wish I had learned that a bit earlier on. Thank you for sharing such personal memories.
    Here’s to not worrying about what others think and following our own hearts.

    • Peter Fritz

      Thank you, MsMidlife. Like you, I really wish I’d learned this principle a few decades ago. It would’ve prevented a lot of frustration and saved me a tonne of money. 🙂

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