The sunset was just turning to dusk when I pulled into the driveway this evening; both Liqa and Pam were sitting on our back porch, enjoying the cool of a summer’s evening. Angelique, as is her custom, was thinking about food. She was thinking about Heluva Good French Onion Dip, and about how perfect it would be to be eating some “right now”. Thinking about eating dip made her smile; but thinking about driving down to Shaw’s to buy some made her frown.
She was in the midst of giving her mother a detailed elaboration of the existential difficulties she was encountering — wanting very much to shop; while, at the same time, wanting very much to keep enjoying the view from our deck.
“I can’t see that driving to the grocery store should be all that difficult,” I opined, taking a spot next to my daughter on our all-weather sofa.
You won’t be surprised to discover I was soon heading back to the car, having been dispatched to the supermarket for a purchase.
“Since you’re going there anyway,” Liqa reasoned, handing me a grocery list, “you might as well pick up a few things.”
This is how it is to be the father and husband in my family. This is how it’s always been — and in that ‘always’ there’s a great sweetness. We were all in character, doing what we’ve done forever, and cancer was unable to prevent Angelique from being Angelique, to prevent me from being me, and — blessedly — it was entirely powerless to prevent Pam from chuckling at the antics of her child and her spouse. For a moment, at least, the miracle of ‘ordinariness’ had overshadowed tragedy.
I wandered the aisles of our neighborhood grocery store, riding the crest of a cheerfulness so conspicuous that another shopper, whose path crossed mine on several occasions, stopped to ask me what my “secret” was.
“How can you be so happy?” she wanted to know.
I didn’t have a ready answer, but I pondered the question while I hauled my treasure trove of food back to our condo.
I think that my secret, my method for being happy, is that I’ve learned how to stop making myself unhappy. I’ve stopped wrestling with the fates and I’m resolved to accept life as it comes. I don’t know exactly when it happened, but somewhere along the line I decided I simply couldn’t find time for regret or resentment. I’m no longer trying to “improve” myself. I’m as much of a dumb ass as I ever was, but now I’m ‘good’ with it.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve decided to expect the best out of others, and when they fail to meet expectations, I simply forgive them. It’s gotten to the point where the habits of mind that are exhibited by most “normal” people seem downright paranoid to me.
Turns out that happiness doesn’t depend on the good health of the people you love, or the amount of money in your bank account, or the disposition of the knucklehead who insists on sounding his horn if you don’t hit the accelerator as soon as the light turns green.
As it happens, Abe Lincoln was right. Most folks really are as happy as they make up their minds to be. Like everyone else, I’m stuck. I’m stuck with my life, stuck with my shortcomings, stuck with my appointed set of woes, stuck with myself. There’s no way I can get “unstuck”. And, strangely, there’s a great sweetness in that as well. I’m stuck and I’m happy to be that way.
P.S. Pam is racing with the clock, trying to get her “anniversary review” finished by Thursday. I’m betting she makes it!