I remember a time in my life when I was privileged to live next door to my grandmother and be the family-designated caregiver before she needed a full-time health attendant many years ago now.
She did this very thing—she focused on happiness. In fact, she had a habit of going to bed at 6:00p (!) every day because it was the only way she could avoid the deep pain of missing my grandfather and their quiet evenings together.
After a life of much hustle and bustle (my grandfather was a physician at Alta Bates Hospital in Berkeley and Grandmother was very active in the hospital auxiliary), they retired to the Napa Valley before it was the exclusive place it is now. They thrived in the beauty of the place, and I remember how they used to wait until they had several reasons to go into town (St. Helena) before they would leave their little corner of heaven.
My grandfather passed away suddenly and it was a daily struggle for my grandmother to carry on without his presence in her life, even though she was a very assertive and accomplished woman in her own right. After a life of so much meaningfulness, her constant challenge became staving off depression and loneliness—a tectonic shift.
I am not close to my seventies yet, but I am of an age that I have experienced several unforeseen and difficult shifts in my life. After each of these changes, it seems a path back to happiness and meaningfulness must be cleared again (sometimes with two machetes!) in order to carry on.
The author of this article writes about life-long relationships. I wonder if that is becoming a relic of the past? I look back on my life and see specific chapters “written” in different settings and lived with different casts of characters. I do not have the same kinds of relationships that my mother, for instance, has. She meets monthly with friends she has known all her life. I belong to a Facebook group of the kids who were in the same fifth and sixth grades. Not the same at all.
Looking ahead, I am just starting to understand how it is for my 80-something Mom to get up each morning to face the day. Just as tough on her as it was on my grandmother to face the day in her Shangri-la without the love of her life... And yet, while the world shuts off the opportunities for her to feel meaningful, happiness continues to be the goal, no matter how difficult or compromised things get...