For my Grandfather,
Hopefully, I still carry the torch.
I was recently asked what I would title a book about my life. In a moment of hubris and dreams, I answered what I would hope the title would be: The Life Well Lived. After a day or so to think about this, I’m not sure it means what it meant to me at the time I said it. A life well lived is not without tears nor is it one without hardship. For me a life well lived isn’t just one where I make a boatload of money. A life well lived should be one where… Heck, you can’t really think I had the meaning of life to hand out for a casual reader. I’m still looking for the answer to what is “A life well lived.”
It’s a question I think about every year around December 31st as I try to decide what I have liked most in the past year. As it stands now, my hope is that I can live a life such that when I’m old and grey, I will be able to look back with joy at fond memories of all those whose lives have intertwined with mine. I guess I look back more often now because my wife and I have a new little life in our home. As we foster a child we hope to adopt, I start to think about what we can hope to pass on to her. A long healthy happy life would be the normal thing most parents wish for, but as my wife and I entered into fostering sick children, I had to change that a little bit because I’m not sure that I want to measure our success or failure with her by how long and healthy her life is. Instead, I’d wish that she had a life well lived for as long as it may be.
To get back to the question in a round way about what a life well lived is, I think it all comes down to strategy and occasional tactics. I still remember my Grandfather teaching me to play chess and the difference between strategy and tactics. After teaching me how to play with each peace on the board, I remember him telling me the importance of having a good strategy to win the game. It was right about then that he beat me a few times in a row with the four move checkmate. For playing against a slow to learn 10 year old, this was a good strategy. However, I soon identified this as a good strategy, and I tried it myself. After losing my most important peace a few times, I finally began to grasp the importance of tactics when the best-laid plans fall apart.
I learned a lot of things playing chess against my Grandfather, and honestly, some of what I learned from playing him in chess is still the way I live. There are basic rules for when you don’t have a good detailed plan which can still work to put you in decent position for your tactics to carry the day. Move a strong peace to on of the center four squares when you can and support it. Does this usually win the game for you? Well I’m not good enough for it to win me many games outright. However, it’s a tried and true strategy that usually allows one enough power to take advantage of the openings on the board. Then it’s all about tactics.
The hard part is finding the tried and true strategy for life. I can’t say I found the strategy that seems to work best for me in any of the normal places or in the timeliest of fashions. Most people seem to find it in church or from parents or from schools. For me it was a combination of those things, but it was also talking with my Grandfather. At age 17, I was talking to him about a hard time I was having with a girlfriend at the time. I know I never told him how bad it was, and to this day I have no idea if he knew how bad it was. Still to this day, his words ring true as the best strategy I have come across: “You can’t control how other people act. In time, you may not even remember what they did to you. Regardless, you will have to answer for what you do, so control what you can, your actions. Why worry about what you can not change?” From the soccer field to professional life to life with my family, I can’t even count the number of times I wished I had heeded that advice. Seems most of the things I am least proud of after the fact start with the logic of “Well, he/she did this horrible thing so I…”
I have no illusions that our daughter will think in the same way I do. The whole bit about strategy and tactics is probably a bit much for a 10 month old. Still, childhood is the time where we start to pick up on the values of our close family. It’s when we see the joy simple things bring like a mommy making kissing sounds on the baby’s cheek and the smile it brings to all around. It’s also the time where we start trying to imitate that which we see around us. Towards that end, I come back to how I would wish for a book about my life to be titled: A Life Well Lived.
Ah well, that’s all I have time for today.