In January, my grandmother passed away. She was 88 years old and one of the most wonderful women I have ever know (and could ever hope to know).
Her life was inspiring: full of spirit and love and independence and strength, of beautiful memories and funny stories, classy anecdotes, and the best baking. Ever.
Of all the things she taught me - which included life essentials like the proper fork-pattern for peanut butter cookies; how to knit one, purl two; why Fred Astaire was truly a gentleman - she taught me what it meant to be happy with what we have. To know that whatever we have right now is enough. To embrace it and make do and find the joy with what (and who) is around us. I will never know just where she drew all of her reserves of love from: she seemed to have an endless amount of it to share with everyone in her life, helping and giving and healing without asking for thanks or repayment in any way. Despite - or perhaps because of - the struggles she endured in childhood and adulthood, she exuded a profound appreciation for the small things: she cultivated her happiness with much intention and allowed herself to focus on the positive aspects of her world rather than the negative. It brought her that independence, that strength, that real ability to overcome and thrive, even in the face of hardship.
One of my favourite stories of this was how she explained why she didn't take sugar in her tea: she began drinking tea as a child, just before the Great Depression. Because sugar was rationed, her family couldn't justify having it in tea, so she learned to love the drink on its own (and was able to appreciate even more the baking she and her mother could do with a little extra sugar instead). Rearranging your expectations can sometimes lead to happiness in other areas, no? Loving black tea for what it is = happiness. Having a more special treat to look forward to = happiness. Double win... as long as you allow yourself to see it that way. Nice job, Grandma. :)
Her example should be a lesson for all of us: happiness is something we must actively choose to see in our world. Instead of focusing on deprivation or sadness or negativity, we must choose to frame the present in a way we can appreciate and work through with positive intention and purpose. This is how I am framing our family's loss right now: while we will all miss her very much, it is a relief to know that Grandma has found a classier place to be (perfect: she was always such a classy lady). Instead of dwelling on the loss, I am choosing to find motivation to continue to make her proud: loving and living fully, as I know she always did.
Mind your happiness. :)