Too Much, Not Enough, Just Right

This world is crazy. This morning my son said, "I wish we were rich." I started to launch into starving, abandoned children from Haiti and then I stopped. He came to it himself when he said, "But you don't have to put me up for adoption 'cuz we have food." True dat, is what we like to say. But here is the constant crux of life-being more than content but happy with what you have. One of the latest reads in my book group was called "Stumbling On To Happiness" and it attempts to make scientific the idea of happiness and the main conclusion is that really, we all have some sort of set-point. Barring major catasrophies and even then, people seem to just re-calibrate themselves to the point at which they naturally are. They asked people who had become paralyzed or quadraplegic to rate their happiness, and especially if they knew no different, they weren't any less happy than people with fully functioning bodies. How weird, right? So this makes that quest for...whatever...that longing or whining for something different just seem so...silly. And this makes me even more committed to just encouraging not just my kids, but everyone to do what makes them happy. Why would we spend our time doing anything but? Of course,there is that money thing and here is where our culture in particular gets it wrong in a big way. We need money to live, but how much? Really- how much do we need? Yeah, I can hear the groans from the peanut gallery since I am the spouse of a physician. But it's no secret that most of our doctors would be much happier and more effective if they worked less. If I rate my life between my twenties and now I will admit to being happier, but much of it comes from learning lessons in the school of hard knocks and finally having the courage to just listen to myself. I am paying attention and this is what makes me happy--hearing my kids laugh, listening to their reasonings about the ways of the world (recent advice from Ben: when you feel or see something coming toward your face, scrunch up your head skin), cookbooks, the book store in which I work, living in a community where I daily run in to people I know, reading, connecting with old friends, making new friends, planning a party, helping someone, listening to storytellers, preserving food with a group of friends, and walks in the sunshine either alone or with friends. Perhaps I am just a slow learner- how could I reach 41 and just start to realize that the best way to live is to seek and find those things which bring you joy? Some would say life gets in the way. But I am going to argue that perhaps we have it backwards- we are getting in the way of our life by denying ourselves the experiences that bring us the most joy. Who knows? I am not a philospopher, but I am feeling that what I have is just right.

1 comment:

  1. I just read this post again because I've done a lot of this musing over the past many years, trying to find that balance. Sometimes I have to make a conscious effort to remind myself of how good things are right now and how much worse they could be. I've been on a very different path to 41 years that included a very difficult last two years of graduate school and first several years on the job as a professor. And then I had the traumatic brain injury in 2005 during which I lost six weeks of my life. Then I dealt with other complications, including major vision problems, depression, and PTSD. I'm not too proud to say that it has been a very difficult recovery and I've done a lot of soul searching. I saw what could have been in the hospital and rehab center with people who I knew would never recover as well as I have - not even close. And when I read encouraging words like yours it reminds me that I am a survivor of a horrible event. And it reminds me that I should read and focus on encouraging things daily. And it reminds me that we all should encourage others who have traumatic events or ongoing situations in their lives. Unfortunately our memories are short. I hope to nurture a habit of reminding myself of things every day. For the first several months after my accident I was pretty continuously in a state of gratitude that I was alive and could walk, speak, and even do my job. Yet I also knew that feeling was going to wear off over time. And it did. And this brings me back to the little daily reminders that are necessary to oneself back to that balance. I had so many wonderful friends and family who helped me through the most difficult time in my life. And then I had the blessing of meeting Heather who has been Reason #1 that I have made so much over the last couple years. And I am reminded of a quote from one of my favorite movies of all time, Shawshank Redemption, in which Morgan Freeman says something like we have to choices, "Get busy living, or get busy dying." The wisdom I find in this quote is that a person can get into a rut and spend spend so much time floundering through life and living in the past that one isn't really living. Those are my thoughts for the day. I look forward to reading more from your blog and making some comments myself.

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