If there is one aspect of the human condition I find more prevalent than its tendency to sweet leisure and lethargy, it is a predisposition to self-doubt. Almost every person I have ever met, including myself, wallows in the muck and mire of anticipating an unpleasant task or being afraid to fulfill an aspiration. In this all-too-natural process we end up selling ourselves short, yet some of us manage to come across as totally uninhibited.
Take my grandmother, Jo Manis, my mom’s mom. From riding Yamaha motorcycles into her 60s to operating firearms, branding cattle with Papa (my mom’s dad), and working during the week at Dora Consolidated Schools’ cafeteria while waking up at 3 a.m. to walk five miles every day, we just cannot seem to get Jo to chill out.
When it came time to move here from Lubbock a few weeks ago, Jo and Papa came to my aid, bringing Papa’s pickup and a couple of cargo straps to get the job done. Seeing two people in their early 70s best me in lifting, carrying, loading and cleaning in 97-degree heat over a four-hour period would have surprised me if I had not known these two beforehand.
Before we drove off, we stacked furniture and belongings in the bed of the pickup until the pile reached well above the roof of the cab. Stacking the awkwardly shaped items resembled a game of upside-down Tetris, and took a few re-arrangements, but we finished the job. When people saw us on the road, they probably thought we were headed to California, either because we had just struck oil or were trying to find work in the orange groves.
Of course, my grandparents were Depression-era babies, so it was appropriate that we would forego the U-Haul van and movers, do it ourselves, save a few dollars and probably do a better job in the first place. This is why I think my grandparents, on both sides of my family, are the way they are. Tough times they encountered long before my birth taught them to save money, which they have been doing for years now. Now they can reap the benefits, although they are still virtuously conscious of their investments.
Their experiences way back when probably refined their perspectives on life, as well. Whereas my generation often seems obsessed with conforming to prescribed standards of fashionability and prosperity, my folks were busy working hard and pursuing interests that brought them personal fulfillment and a little fanfare (you should see Jo’s doll house).
So when I face upcoming tasks, self-imposed or otherwise, I think of Jo, Papa, Fred and Laveta (75 percent of my grandparents managed to avoid grandparent names) and how they defined and attained success in their lives. Suddenly anxiousness subsides.