Today is the 16th day that I have lived in "real life" again. I have been doing allot of thinking lately! I guess going straight into the “Holiday Season”, after spending 16 days living on the streets will do that to a guy! Anyways, I have been thinking a lot about happiness. And not really “happiness” in the form of a shallow emotion that comes and goes. When I speak about “happiness” in this context I am talking about a deeper, more ongoing “reality” that an individual lives, or doesn’t live, in. I look around and see so many unhappy people. It really saddens me! I wonder if they realize that we are only given one life? And every day that they walk around with that disgruntled look on their face, looking at and treating others with disgust, is a precious day gone by…wasted.
One thing I have realized is that being “happy” comes easier, and more naturally, for some than it does for others. Some people really struggle being happy! It is a true battle for them. On the other hand, I look at myself, and I am not trying to brag, but I find it very easy to be happy and content on a day to day basis. I can actually enjoy the seemingly smallest of tasks, or things that others may not find excitement in because of my outlook; I seek out “happiness” in every situation. It might sound arrogant to speak about myself in this way but it is nothing that I can take credit for! We are all products of our upbringing and environment. I am no different. And I can see where this “outlook” started for me…with my family.
There are many people that had an influence on molding me, and my outlook on life; from my mother who continuously sent the message that “life is not always fair” to my great uncle who told me “adversity is what you will remember and learn the most from”, I can see how my little head and heart was being filled with positively, but a grounding sense of reality, from a young age. But there are two people who played an enormous role in my “outlook”. Two people who lived out “happiness” on an uncompromising, regular and consistent basis! Those two people are my grandparents on my mother’s side, Grandmom and Papa.
There is so much that we take for granted as young people. As we get older we start to look back at those things, take stock, and are able to give them the true value they deserve. I look back at the “things” that Grandmom and Papa gave me, the things that they instilled in me, both directly and indirectly, advertently and inadvertently, and I am so thankful for them and the role they have played in loving and shaping me! Though I know much of their “life lessons” were intentional, they may never know the things I picked up from them, merely by observing, and being in their presence, watching them love life with all their hearts and love each other with more than that.
You see, happiness is a choice, and no one has it perfect all the time, and I know that my grandparents had their own struggles for happiness at one point in their lives, but in my life time they made it seem effortless. They have a way of finding joy in the most mundane situation, and appreciating the most “ordinary” of things. Whether it was a long road trip stuck in a car, with Grandmom deliriously singing songs to keep us entertained, or a meal where Papa told us, “Now, we are not in a rush…”, as he savored every second of dinner conversation and every bite of his food. They both have an amazing passion for life, people, culture and traveling that is most definitely contagious!
We have traveled far and wide with them! And every trip was like a treasure hunt, squeezing every last drop of culture, fun and excitement that a destination had to offer; an even balance of doing the “touristy” things but also experiencing “life of the locals”…sometimes as the locals. Life lessons were never scarce on these trips! And maybe without even knowing it, or even appreciating it at the time, I took it all in!! Every drop of it! I soaked it up! And I learned so many things, but most importantly was the importance of enjoying life. Not merely living to “get by”, but finding beauty, humor and joy in every situation. Seeking out culture, life lessons, and wisdom in every person I come across. Looking for history, art, and magnificence in every place that I visit.
That is what Grandmom and Papa do every day, whether they are at home or traveling in some far off land! They have a standard, and that standard is love; love for each other, love for others, love for life…Grandmom used to always say that “LUUUUUUV” (said with her thick southern accent) is the “password”. So if we were on vacation and we went out of the place we were staying and she stayed behind, on our return, when we knocked at the door, she would come to the other side and ask for the password, knowing exactly who was on the other side. We would respond by saying “love”. And she would open the door and greet us with hugs, kisses and smiles. Now I realize that love is the password! It is not some silly thing that Grandmom used to do! Love is the key to happiness. It is the password!
So many people fight their whole lives to achieve “happiness”, and they are miserable the entire journey. They overlook opportunity after opportunity to love…life, themselves and others. They cannot find joy in the journey because they are too focused on where they are trying to get to. Others base their “happiness” on what, or how much, they have… their things. Never realizing that without a sense of true gratefulness and contentment with life, those “things” will only make the void bigger; because there will always be newer and better “things” out there. My grandparents taught me that it is important to dream and wish for bigger and better things for myself, but it is even more valuable to enjoy the “ride” on the way to achieving those things, savoring every second of the journey. They taught me the importance of finding the good, and “fun”, in every situation, no matter how dreary or “ordinary” that situation may be.
My grandparents taught me the importance of love. I do not know a couple that love each other more than they do! I equally do not know individuals that love life, and the people that are in their lives, more than they do. A perfect example was when they called me on Christmas Eve. I was talking to my grandmother and she said (like a true Southern Bell), “Oh wait, hold on a second Ryan (short pause)…Ok, I just had to wave at the UPS man. He just walked by. His name is…”. I actually don’t remember what she said his name was, but what I do know is she knows it. She made a point to know it, just like she made a point to wave and smile at him when he walked by! And that is one tiny example of spreading love and happiness that I learned from Grandmom; another example that she is not even aware that I even took note of. There are thousands, if not millions, of other examples in “happiness” I have learned from Grandmom and Papa!
I now know that if you put value in the right “things” in life (people, experience, culture, life itself…), happiness and contentment is inevitable! It is important to find humor in every situation; it is extremely important to laugh regularly! It is important to “eat slow” and savor every bit of the experience. It is just as important to find excitement and fun in the “journey” as it is at the “destination”; and really, on earth, no destination is “final”. It is important to soak up every single morsel that life has to offer. It is important to seek out lessons in life; they are all around us, but we are not always listening and learning! It is important to bring a smile and a hug into most situations. It is important to find value in the simplest of things. It is important to fight for happiness. But most importantly, it is important to love. Love is the password to happiness.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!