My grandpa once told me I hadn’t really lived unless I earned one new scratch by the end of the day. He also used to do handstands off diving boards, swim across inland Michigan lakes and write letters to newspapers explaining why he thought the seatbelt law was ‘an unjust load of crap’. Needless to say, he lived his life a bit differently than most.
When I think of a life that was, for the most part, well rounded mentally, physically and emotionally my grandpa’s life is the first thing that comes to mind. His philosophy was a rather simple one—treat each day as if it’s a whole new adventure and drown it in positive energy. My grandpa’s way of living, I believe, helped him maintain a healthy body, mind, and soul well into his late years.
One thing I admired most about my grandpa while growing up was that no matter how busy he was, he always made time for priorities he deemed important—family, friends, long walks, staying physically fit, yard work, gardening, people in general, church, and of course, the Detroit Tigers. Even while juggling being a social worker, a member of the church board and choir, a weekly bowling and ping pong player and staying happily married with 3 daughters and a bunch of grandkids, he made time for the little things. He was never too busy for a game of catch, to make it home for dinner, or to take the whole family out to cut down a Christmas tree.
The older I get, the more I see how hard it must’ve been to juggle all those balls up in the air while keeping his seemingly effortless smile. I mean, I’m not even 30 yet and I can’t force myself to go around smiling every day and starting up friendly small talk with all the strangers at the grocery store. Eh, maybe it’s a generational thing?
Anyway, I also see how nowadays there are a hell of a lot of different theories out there trying to tell us the right way to live. I’ve even tried out a few in my adolescent search for ‘well-rounded happiness’, and along the way probably read one-to-many Pinterest articles titled, ‘start here to become your best self!’ and ‘find inner peace with this one easy trick!’… I’ll give you the spoiler, there’s no super-secret answer that’ll solve all your problems waiting in any of those articles…
I’ll admit throughout my search for unabridged happiness I’ve lost my way in this world from time to time, and I, like so many others, have fallen victim to the tunnel vision grind of trying to get ahead in that good old rat race. I’ve questioned my life’s purpose, tried to outrun, hide from, and shoo away my problems (both literally and figuratively), and at especially low points believed I would never amount to anything. I’ve lost my joy a time or two and become a negative person with a mindset that was a one-way street to downer-ville, to say the least.
It took some deep reflection, a few heart to hearts, and finally taking off my blinders awhile back to realize my mindset needed some serious adjusting (It’s a constant work in progress).
To this day I admire the way my grandpa could always find joy in the little everyday moments. I realize now, that by mastering that ability, he ultimately controlled his own happiness. It’s as if all those years ago he already knew the answer to the question so many of us nowadays ask ourselves: What will make me happy? For my grandpa, it was as if without worrying about being happy, happiness ultimately found him.
I’ve got a few resolutions for 2019, and one of them is to be more present in the moment and have a lot more faith while I chase these big dreams of mine. I’d like someday to live a life like my gramps by finding joy in the little things, believing every day truly is an adventure, and by not being afraid to get a few new scrapes while I’m out in this world really living.
I believe we all know what an easy thing it is to do to let our lives pass us by. To not be fully present in the moment, to say we don’t have the time, to scowl instead of smile, and to lose faith in humanity by all that negative news and political talk floating around out there. Been there done that and came out realizing I wasn’t going to let life beat me down that easy.
It’s a new year with new adventures and possibilities just waiting to be discovered, and being that I’m Wendell Wood’s granddaughter, I’d better do him proud and get started on exploring them.
After all, another thing my Grandpa always taught me was this: ‘If you’re not enjoying your life, then your not doing it right’!