Grit, Glow & Grace: Lolita Bryan
I'm starting a new series on the blog that I'm SUPER excited about. It's called Grit, Glow and Grace. In each edition, you'll hear interviews from amazing women, who, you guessed it, have an incredible amount of the 3 G's, who have touched my world. I can't wait to share the stories of these inspiring, entertaining and beautiful souls with you!
Lolita Bryan is a dear friend and a special addition to our family. We met her when we were looking for some extra care for our youngest son.
Loli is loving and kind, and all of those Mary-Poppins-like-qualities you look for in a caretaker. But what stands out to me about Loli is her worldview.
So often, we see women around us aging with a sadness in their hearts, and a sense of loss for what once was. But Loli has a childlike twinkle in her eye, a sense of humor, wonder and awe about the world. "I've never met a person I didn't like," she said recently while speaking with her. "I always see the good side of a person."
Loli is an incredible model of what it means to age gracefully as a woman. Read on to see what she has to say...
Can you speak about your childhood?
I was raised in Madrid, Spain. People in Madrid are beautiful people. If you ask a person for directions, they will not only give you directions, but they will take you there themselves. When I was younger I had 7 brothers and sisters. So, I was raised mostly by my eldest sister because my mom was too busy. In my family, we were not allowed to argue with our brothers and sisters. My father would not have it. One time, my sister and I closed the bathroom door so we could have a disagreement. My father came knocking at the door and said "This is the last argument we will have in our house. In our family, we take care of each other." And so we did. To this day, I don't know how to have an argument with my family. It just never happened. I talk to my sisters in Spain and Italy every day, even now.
What does spirituality mean to you?
I was a good Catholic. I went to church every Sunday. But my father never made us do anything more for the church. He believed the church was there to control people and he didn't like other people trying to control us. So I didn't feel forced to do it. Even today, I only go to church once in a while. I go to the church down the street sometimes. One time I went to a funeral there and the priest was jovial and laughing and I thought to myself: "This is a funeral. You should not be laughing." I decided I wouldn't go back until that priest left. Some of these young priests don't know what they're doing.
How did you connect to your purpose? Did you always know you wanted to care for children?
To see a baby born from a mother's body is the most beautiful gift in the world. After I had my two boys and they started to grow older, I realized I wanted to enjoy the beauty of a child more and more. And so I started to care for children in different families. I have met the most beautiful families. I've never met a person I didn't like. I enjoy it. And I am still friends with all of the families and all of the children I've nannied for in 35 years. Some write me letters, others take me to breakfast, but I always love hearing what beautiful people they become. To be with a child is a gift. I show them I respect them first, and they then show me respect. I feel so lucky.
What is the most difficult decision you've had to make to fulfill your destiny?
When I was 20 and living in Madrid with my family, I had many pen-pals all over the world. I wanted to learn about different cultures. One was a man from Washington. I did not speak English, so I had to pay to have someone translate what his letter said, and then translate what I wrote back to him. He told me he wanted to come and visit. And so he did. When he came, he told me he would not leave Madrid without marrying me. I was certain I wanted to marry him and go to the US. But my mother was skeptical. Who was this foreign man who did not speak my language? You cannot leave your family and hometown for someone you hardly know!? But I felt safe with him and so I went. In some ways it was difficult. I could not speak the language when I came, and I often woke up in the middle of the night crying for my family. But in other ways it was the best decision I ever made. He was a kind man and I have met so many beautiful people since living here. My times of sadness gave me the strength to realize how lucky I am. But sometimes, when I go back to Madrid, and when I go to the village where my father grew up, I realize how much I miss it. I don't really want to leave when I am there.
How have you maintained your health and such a positive outlook throughout your life, Loli?
Because I LOVE myself. I really love myself. People care so much about what everyone around them thinks of them. But I don't think like that. I don't care what other people think of me. I have to love myself before I can love you. I love myself in the way I eat, how I go to the gym and how I think about myself. I drink vegetable juice, I do cleanses, I don't eat much meat, sometimes an egg and not too much sugar, I go to the gym for many hours per week. I just really love myself.
What inspires you?
Many things. Sunshine. My sister. My granddaughter. The love I have for others. Children. The way my father raised us.
One inspiring story about my father comes from The Spanish Civil War. In the late 1930s in Spain, the government sent soldiers into villages to take small children and send them off to Russia where they thought they would be safer outside of Spain until after the war. My father knew about this and thought it was wrong. So in the middle of the night, he would drive from Madrid out to the smaller villages and gather the children himself to keep them away from the soldiers so the kids could stay with their families.
Authorities caught word of this and they captured and arrested him. The children were freed, but he was sent to jail and had to stay for 6 months.
Now, when I go back to Spain and into some of these small villages, they treat me like a queen because they know of my father as a hero. The locals have tried to build a monument to commemorate him. But he didn't want this kind of thing in his lifetime. When I go back though, everyone knows who I am. They say my father saved their villages. It's very inspiring.
Thank you, sweet Loli, for sharing your wisdom. May we all experience the world with such grace throughout our lives...