I wonder sometimes how many people in the world think they deserve to be happy. How many think that this is an issue and how many think mere survival is sufficient. Was this a creation of the baby-boomers with their idealized suburban paradise? Yet another unearned privilege of white folks? Did I get this notion from seeing too many Leave It to Beaver episodes?
Whatever the source, the fact is that my day is often planned and evaluated on the basis of my own personal happiness. What makes me happy may have changed over the years and the weight of what my happiness means in the face of the world’s trials and tribulations may also go up or down on the scale, but the indisputable fact remains that I believe happiness is important and am constantly thinking about what creates and sustains it.
I have the luxury to think about this because I’ve arrived wholly at something called summer vacation in a cottage (well, more of a house) on a lake that has defined a certain kind of paradise for over 40 years. Wife Karen, daughter Talia, granddaughter Zadie and I arrived yesterday at the shores of Lake Michigan and already have been baptized anew in its cool but bearable waters and felt the embrace of sun, sand and sky. We’re enjoying the luxury of being away from the “pulling and hauling” and noise of the city and hubbub of work and schedules, with time to sit and read and walk and breathe and settle wholly into the arms of a long summer’s day.
And after a difficult month of sickness and constant change and motion and commotion (each with their own type of happiness), I’m finally able to exhale fully and inhale (without coughing!) the promise of nature’s bounty, to restore this body with exercise, meditation, controlled diet, solitude, company and time to just be. And without demanding that any of this makes me happy, it just does.
Happiness for its own sake or at the expense of others or bought by denying grief and sorrow is less and less interesting to me. But to lay down one’s constant nagging self-doubts, to savor the healthy body, to enjoy the thoughtful mind, to open the armored heart, to embrace the water like a long-forgotten womb and watch the sun settle into the horizon and re-kindle some lost child self watching a 5-year old playing alone at the water’s edge for hours in her imaginary and real world, this is the kind of happiness that makes me…well, happy.
I wish us all at least some moments like this. May it be so.