“May you have all the happiness you can stand with just a touch of sorrow so you know the difference”.
My father wrote those words in my high school yearbook in 1959. I was 16 years old.
Pretty heavy stuff coming from a common laborer with an 8th grade education. My father had solved the mystery of life.
He knew what was important and what was not. It would be decades until I saw the wisdom in his words.
So what defines you?
If you had to pick one characteristic that is the essential you, what would it be?
Tens of millions are fathers, mothers, sons, daughters. Married. Happily or not. Divorced. Single. Widowed. Love our work. Hate our work. Ambivalent about work. Take the money and go home. Empathetic. Couldn’t care less. Generous. Selfish. Things mean everything. Things mean nothing. Religious. Spiritual. Atheist.
These are demographics.
The characteristic which is most important to me, and which I most value, is that I know what is important to me and what is not.
I no longer let “little things” bother me. I am therefore content in my life.
My life has proceeded in sections. A period of very happy years with little responsibility. A decade of sorrow that seemed endless but did in fact end. Another period of happiness albeit with major responsibility. Then the end of my married life after 40 years – at the time our responsibilities were done and we were preparing to do all the things we wanted to do together but for which we never had the time or the money.
I have lived the extremes of joy and sorrow. There can be no greater youthful joy than marrying your girl six months after the high school prom over the frantic objections of our parents and spending forty years together. There is no greater sorrow than burying two of your four children. Then burying your girl.
That puts it all in perspective.
I have learned that in most ways I have lived a very rich life and that each of those joys and sorrows comes to an end.
My father knew that.
Nothing lasts forever. Not pain. Not happiness.
I have learned to enjoy in the moment.
What is important?
Health. Love. Family. Friends. Honor. Life.
These things will make one content. It doesn’t take all that much money to live a happy life – if you have these.
The most important virtue is knowing what is important to you. Looking in the mirror and knowing you are loved and respected. That you can live alone and not be lonely. That you never spend a holiday uninvited. That your daughters call you each and everyday – because they want to.
And stay young. Don’t become an old crank. Learn or do something new.
The secrets of happiness and contentment are not copyrighted.
Feel free to use as you see fit.