On my drive home from class the other night I listened to a delightful interview on CBC radio. The main idea of the interview centered on a longevity study that put the life of each of its participants under a microscope in the hope to understand what exactly makes a good life.
I caught the beginning of the broadcast as I left Regina and when I arrived home, pulling into my back-alley parking spot, I stayed in my car, turned my car off, the key backwards and listened to the end of the show. I didn’t want to miss one moment.
The Good Life.
George Vaillant, the main researcher these last 50 years, said throughout his work with more than 200 people he found that what really matters in life was happiness. Happiness. When the interviewer asked Vaillant what makes a person happy, Vaillant replied, “Happiness is love full stop and the quality of our relationships.”
Happiness is love full stop.
hee hee hee…
I find this very encouraging.
Here I am sitting in my well worn car (312, 678 kms to its credit), parked outside our home (mine and jess’s) that sits on a lot that is 33 1/3 feet wide. Internship is fast approaching, I’m four and ½ months away from the end of student loans, and if there is no teaching position for me here, the Brown Eyed Girls well have to think about moving…
But all I can think about these days is Jessy Lee, and her happiness and that comment my Mom made a few days ago, teasing me, “Good thing she’s resilient, hey?”
See last Sunday my dad and I drove Jess to basketball camp. No big deal you might say; it’s a sports camp and she’s a sporty kind of kid. But let me give you this Mom’s perspective. She is a soccer super hero; I’ve seen the cape; heck, I’ve laundered it. She’s going to b-ball camp for several reasons. First, she wants to try out for the A-team this year at school and needs the skill training. She has a snazzy soccer tourney coming up in a week and knew she could have gone to soccer camp this week but chose b-ball instead, saying, “Well, you know, skills are transferable and I might learn some new tricks.” Mainly her decision to go to basketball camp happened because one day this past spring she didn’t kiss her grandpa Albert goodbye when he dropped her off at school and she’s not forgotten the look on his face. See, Albert (her first word was Albert, so we all call him Albert) and his heart are not as spry as they once were, and this shows in the lines in his face. Heck, it shows in that he is driving an hour into the city three days a week to go to Heart-Smart exercise classes so he’ll get better. Basketball is his sport. This outdoor ed / science major played and coached every year that I played, loading the station wagon full of kids and hauling us everywhere, and he has the stories to prove it. She is off to b-ball, I know, so he’ll get to see her play. There’s loads of time yet, for that other cape..
This is Jessy Lee.
So, Dad and I drop her off and though she’s super excited about staying in a dorm for the first time, I see a few of the uber competitive b-ball girls look at her, see her as the un-basket-skilled-player who they will meet on the court, chew up and spit out. I drove away terrified for Jess, “Oh, what the heck have I allowed.”
When Dad and I drove to watch skills development the following Tuesday, I had had little sleep for two nights. I was sure we would be bringing a dejected little person home that afternoon. Instead we found a basket making, sweaty, smiling, ball player, excited to share stories of her dorm room adventures and point guard training. Aaahhh, sigh… and so that’s my good life. Everyting else, the pressures of taking classes, planning for internship and all the rest of it slipped away. I feel so scared when she hurts because of the love, the happiness full-stop-love I have for Jess. Absolute. Jess IS happiness Love Full Stop, this love is my good life.
The CBC interviewer asked Vaillant if, in all of the cases he studied over the last 50 years, anyone stood out. Vaillant said yes, one.
Vaillant remembers most a seventh grade teacher. The man was neither rich nor famous. The man, now in his seventies, had wanted to be a writer and when Vaillant asked what happened to the man’s manuscripts, the man answered that they were still in the bottom drawer, but that he had seen two of his students go on to become successful writers. The man was married, had children and grandchildren, and was deeply connected to everyone in his life. Vaillant said the happiness of the man’s personal connections were evident in every aspect of his life, even, even, in the “piles of laundry in his home.” Quality of relationships…
happiness, love, trust, passion… full stop.
Ah, the Good Life…