Now that I have entered middle age (good heavens where have the years gone!) I have been doing a lot more self-reflection. Am I happy? Am I satisfied with who I’ve become? And, where do I go from here?
My peers will know where am coming from. Life is short, as a great book put it “our lives passed as it were in a dream” if we are not careful life passes us by all too quickly and we find life has become hollow and meaningless. We might even become that old codger down the street, keeping balls thrown in our yard by neighborhood kids as a form of punishment for their happiness. Here are some conclusions I’ve arrived at after fifty-three years;
Relationships, not things are what matters. While things bring with them a level of comfort they of themselves do not bring peace. Nothing causes more misery than those whom we love doing things we know will bring them regret. Whether it be a wayward Spouse, Parent or Child more sleepless nights have been had over relationships and behaviors than I thought possible. I’ve been married, twice. You can’t know the sweet without tasting bitter. I’m not suggesting a divorce to appreciate your spouse. I AM saying we can change, let our most loved ones have the freedom to do the same without suspicion, skepticism and sarcasm. We all need grace, me most of all.
Employment can be joyful or drudgery. It really doesn’t matter the field of work you are in or the salary you earn, if you hate the work you are doing, do you and your employer a favor and find other work. I worked in the restaurant business for over thirty years. Dishwasher, Cook, Assistant Manager, Store Manager, District Manager and Owner for twenty-five years. Most of the time it was drudgery. At forty-eight years of age I started a Concrete Raising business and have never been happier. I don’t know if YOU can earn a living doing what you love but you do need to find something fulfilling and meaningful in what you do for a living to live the good life.
As much as I now enjoy my career, as much as I love my beautiful bride Ann-Marie and my children, my life would be hollow without faith and belief in almighty God, it animates who I am. As a child and a young adult my Heavenly Father was a being who demanded perfection, something I was, and still am, woefully unprepared to give. Only as I came to understand my many weakness and shortcomings did I begin to grasp His unconditional love for me. Having children further clarified the understanding of unconditional love and that what God demands is not yet perfection but our hearts and a willing mind. Have I seen Him, have I conversed with Angels? No, but through His grace I have overcome addictions, questions have been answered though prayer and through reading sacred scripture, I have been moved to act because of His inspiration and my weakness have been made strong through His great enabling power and I have found that as I more perfectly follow the path He trod, life is more meaningful and dear to me.
In Many ways I’m becoming as a child; I dream of things I want to do and have the confidence to work to achieve it. I appreciate the beauty of a cloud or smooth water or a newborn baby, I’m not as afraid to show my feelings as I once was, I tell others how I feel, I express love, appreciation and admiration because I understand it isn’t weakness to do so and I’m not as judgmental as I once was. (I’m still as opinionated as ever)
The good life is all of this and so much more. Service, helping the guy on the side of the road, giving an old lady a discount on her concrete raising job, reading to my daughter, helping my son start a business, telling my wife she is the world to me, freely giving the gifts I’ve been given.
I’m still learning how to live the good life, I’m certainly not a perfect father or husband or business owner and I think admitting and acknowledging that are a key to the good life. Trying to live behind the facade of perfection is exhausting.
One of my heroes was known for not only doing things others thought inappropriate for who he was but also freely admitting his faults. So get out and really live life, dream, hope, work, see the beauty in the world around you, yes you will make mistakes so admit it and move forward. In one of the Rocky movies, Rocky famously said “it’s not about how hard you can hit it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward” we all get hit in life the key is to pick ourselves up and keep moving forward.
Ultimately, happiness is a byproduct of doing ones duty well, it isn’t something that can be purchased, though things, places and people can add to a sense of satisfaction or pleasure or ease of themselves only bring fleeting happiness.
As this Christmas season comes and goes let’s work harder to see the beauty in each of our lives and emulate The one we recognize during the Christmas season by giving of ourselves.