“Who wants to be down in the dumps all the time? I’d rather laugh and goof around!” Words of wisdom from my mother-in-law, Bea.
The joy of free beer, Vegas energy and all-night slot machines gave her more sparkle than usual. “The purpose of life is to be HAPPY and the time is NOW! That’s how I lived this long!” She was 90 years old and set Vegas on fire – this is a picture from her last Vegas trip. A few years later in 2020 she was in hospice care, and I was interviewing her to write down her stories. Dementia was creeping in plus the terminal cancer was making her feel unwell.
She was giddy like a schoolgirl and said she felt like a celebrity as I typed quickly on my laptop while she chatted away. She would spin some amazing tales that I sometimes wondered if they were true. She had been born in the Great Depression, married a divorced man when she was in her late thirties, had one child when she was 38, and with only an 8th grade education she worked in a factory her entire life. Her husband died when their son was 9 years old, and she raised him by herself. She had seen and survived more hard times than anyone I know. She had a sunny disposition that was annoying and almost comical. I asked her once “how do you stay so positive?” Her answer: “because who wants to be down in the dumps all the time? I’d rather laugh and goof around.” Yep. That’s how Bea rolled.
I asked her “what do you think is your life purpose?” She was dumbfounded, and looked at me like I was crazy. She thought for awhile and laid down her epic wisdom – “the purpose of life is to be happy and the time is now. Don’t wait for tomorrow because it might not come.”
What she said hit a chord for me. I was trying to “find” my life purpose and realized in that moment that it was never lost. I had felt like something was missing in my life and thought that if I found my purpose (maybe it falls from the sky or something?) then all would be revealed. The wild and twisty adventure that was my life so far would all make sense.
The purpose of life is to BE HAPPY
When I took some time to think this through it came together. I realized that I had not been exactly happy. I had a wonderful family and achieved a lot of great things in my life. I knew then that I needed to figure out how to be happy with my current circumstances AND learn what other things bring me happiness and joy – and ADD more of that to my life. I know now that life purpose is what you declare it to be.
The reason I had been having the lukewarm blah’s was because I had spent too much time doing what was expected of me instead of what made me happy. I knew I wanted to revamp my lifestyle to have more time for things I cared about. I wanted to work less than 60 hours a week, be able to sleep when I was tired, get back to doing yoga, read a book a week, attend all my son’s marching band performances, go on stress-free vacations, take better care of myself and write every day. One fine day I finally had the courage to make some changes to align my life to what I wanted. After I made time for the things I loved, happiness found me.
The time is NOW
“Don’t wait for tomorrow because it might not come.” It's a true statement that busy people can easily forget until something tragic happens. Bea knew this all too well, and had loved and lost so many in her lifetime. She lost her husband, all her siblings, her step-son and daughter-in-law, a grandson, a niece, and all but one of her “lunch ladies” from her retiree social circle.
Life is precious and an amazing ride and she NEVER took a back seat. Bea didn’t realize it, but she was a master at practicing mindfulness. Her first sip of a cold beer she would exhale a loud “AAhhhhhh!” She held you in a bearhug awkwardly long with overtight arms. She would ask “how was your day” and listen intently with her bright smiling baby blue eyes hanging onto every word that you said as if it was the most interesting words ever spoken. She loved sunny days with her shades wide open and would search the clouds for shapes of angels. She lived for today and enjoyed every last moment, and she inspired me to do the same.
I miss her immensely – but she isn’t gone. I hear her voice and hearty laughter in my memories, when a song comes on, when I am cooking dinner, when I see the clouds in the sky outside my office window. I am forever grateful for her example and I’m embracing life with gusto to make this new year the best one yet.
Some questions to ponder:
Are you living the life you dreamed of? If not, what else do you want for yourself?
What makes you happy and brings you joy? How can you build MORE of these things into your life?
Are you mindful of your thoughts, attitudes, and actions? How can you cherish the small things and everyday blessings?
Are you recognizing all the goodness in your life?
Could you laugh and goof around and have more fun in your life?
Best of luck to you for the best year yet!