For the next month, I will be doing a series on my blog titled, “The Secret of Life.”
Life is a vastly complicated series of events. Often, people do not really know how to fully experience life. In fact, some people feel they cannot handle life and think of ways to get out of it. These people contemplate suicide because they feel that’s the only way out. This is especially true for people that are bullied. Well, it’s no secret: Everyone gets bullied. The next time you feel alone in the world, and you feel as if you want to take your own life, remember one thing: Everyone gets bullied. That means there are billions of other people out there that know exactly how you feel. TALK to these people. Do not give up on life. Life is worth living. Life may bring you down, but billions of people in generations before you did not let that bring them down. You can do this. If your ancestors could survive being brutally beaten to death and whipped because of the color of their skin and they survived, you can live. If your ancestors were thrown into concentration camps and survived, you can outwit a bully. If your ancestors helped build the Great Pyramids of Giza, you can handle living your life. If your ancestors survived the plague, numerous wars and still, STILL survived…..
You would be slapping them in the face if you did not try to outlive and outsmart a bully. They are easily slain, all you have to do is prove to them their opinion doesn’t matter.
Life is a teacher. Life is an experience. You want the first secret:
Enjoy the little moments, especially when they are experience with people much older. It will show you that you’re not alone, and how to love yourself as well as others.
Part One: Road Trips with Grandparents
For four days at the end of 2012, I traveled with my grandparents from Pennsylvania to Florida. It took us three days to complete the trip because we got caught in a massive nor’easter. Twelve inches of snow fell to the ground in our home state. We traveled six hours and only made it to Winchester, Virginia. That trip would take about three or four in normal driving conditions, at least that’s what they told me.
This trip was characterized by many memorable quotes and many annoyances, but nonetheless, it was a learning experience.
I went on this trip simply to help my grandparents. My grandfather is dying; I came to terms with that months ago. He is in renal failure, a diabetic and his heart is only pumping at roughly 15-20% on a good day. Add the neuropathy in his legs, which causes him to not be able to walk long distances, plus the fact that he is retaining massive amounts of fluid in his body, and you have a ticking time bomb. He is going to be 79 next week. My grandma is forgetful; dementia ran in her family and I think it’s safe to say she is showing signs that she will carry on that trend. Sometimes she forgets my name. She misplaces her credit cards in her over-sized Steelers winter coat. She can’t remember where she placed my grandpa’s diabetic needles in the luggage that is shoved into the trunk of her 2012 Ford Taurus. She is very little and frail and cannot lift my grandpa in and out of the car, nor if he falls onto the ground because of a misstep.
That is where I came in. I offered my help to my grandparents for a few days, the only thing I asked is that they would pay for my trip home because I was in a tight budget from the money I spent on Christmas. They happily obliged and on December 26, 2012, we began our journey.
I quickly learned, much to my dismay, that it would have been absolutely improbable for them to make the trip on their own. Even though my stubbornly independent, 78-year-old grandma would not let me drive her car, I did have to help her navigate it through the blizzard that ensued on the first day of the trip. We had to stop frequently to force my grandpa to walk around so that his legs would not retain further fluid. That was a task with the massive amounts of snow on the ground. He cannot move quickly, and given the slippery conditions, his shoes and his cane would not cooperate with his pace. My grandma frequently could not remember what road to take, and despite my pleas to take certain routes because they were faster, they were determined to go the route they always go because, “That’s what we have always done.” So that became a task when my grandpa would fall asleep because I could not actually help her. Getting in and out of the car itself was difficult because my grandpa was in pain. I had to sometimes maneuver his legs in awkward positions. And my grandma was in pain because she has various problems. This led to the ultimate annoyance: the cranky attitude of my grandpa.
I know pain makes you considerably cranky. That is why I tried to be understanding to the complaints. My grandma however was less compliant to his cranky ways. Though, after 57 years of marriage, she’s earned her right to say how she feels, especially if my grandpa is being downright nasty. They purchased separate hotel rooms, one for me and one for them. The rooms adjoined and my grandma would call me if she needed me to help her. After a couple of beers and a basketball game, and my grandpa being cranky, I decided to go to bed. And despite the crankiness of my grandpa, the two of them spent literally all night laying in bed talking. I don’t know what they talked about, but I know every time I woke up in the middle of the night, they were talking to each other.
The next two days consisted of the same things. But the further south we drove, the more their spirits rose. Until we finally reached their home in Florida. My grandma spent most of the day rearranging various things in their new home. My grandpa spent most of the day sleeping and relaxing. Finally the day came where I had to go back home. My grandma was very sad to see me leave because she knew that she would not only have to figure out how to do everything on her own, but I wouldn’t be there to take the brunt of his crankiness. Despite it all, the trip was very enlightening and it showed me a lot about life.
Marriage is a compromise. Marriage is something you have to try at every day. Even after that person is slightly mean to you all day, you still stay up late at night and talk to them. So the secret of life I give you today is to not be afraid to fall in love, but know that love is more about the other person than it is about you. My grandparents have spent 57 married years together. They have been by each other’s sides when the other goes into the hospital. They have an argument and five minutes later have reconciled. When you, my reader, fall in love, I want you to love like they do. It’s like the Bible passage in Chapter 13 of First Corinthians, courtesy of BibleGateway.com:
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part,10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love
If you spend every day keeping track of everything your partner has done wrong that is minor, you won’t ever be happy with them. If you spend your life doubting yourself, your partner won’t be happy. Your partner will love you, but if you can’t love yourself, it makes you far less desirable. Love yourself first, and it’s easier for you to love someone else. Realize you’re worthy of being loved, and the right person will love you. Don’t go looking avidly for love, it will find you in unexpected ways.
I’m thankful for the road trip I took with my grandparents. It showed me more about how to love another person, without losing myself. It showed what it’s like to grow old with a person and still love them. It showed me that while growing old is scary, it’s helpful and easier if you have someone there along for the ride.
Lesson number one: We are only as alone as we make ourselves to be. If you don’t want to be alone, then realize you’re not. And realize you don’t have to be.