Happiness. What does that word mean to me? I’ve been thinking on this question of late. So far, I’ve decided that what happiness is for me is mostly what writing is not. Smiles, fun, good times shared with good people, feeling excited and grateful about life, looking forward to a new day, new adventures.
No, for me, writing, a solitary mentally taxing activity, is not much of any of these things.
Which tempts the obvious question, why do I choose to write if it doesn’t make me happy?
Because some things are simply work worth doing. Some things, like weeding a garden on a hot summer day, may not be pleasant or “happy” in the moment, but the results of the effort bring satisfaction later, sometimes days and weeks later, when the harvest finally comes in. Of course, you must like gardens to appreciate the value of weeding. I confess to liking stories and storytelling, which propels me to write in hopes of creating a good story someday.
Others have labelled such late returns as “delayed gratification.” I’m not sure it’s something to be proud of, but over the course of my life, I’ve become something of an expert in this area. As self-satisfying as this distinction has been at times, I’m now wondering why the hell I put off being “happy” so many times in hopes that my disciplined, focused, often martyr like work would later produce gratifying results. Such efforts included relationships that would have been more wisely abandoned in a matter of days instead of years.
This brings me to another “h” word that has shaped my life-
yes, along with being a disciple of the “delayed gratification” mantra, I’ve also ben prone to the “hope for better” syndrome. the irrational belief that if I worked harder, longer, better at whatever, the clouds would part, the sun would shine, and life would be beyond wonderful.
Someone once told me, “there is no hope.” Please, let’s not get into a pedantic diatribe about this four letter word, perhaps we can agree that “Hope” means whatever you or I or anyone else wants it to mean. I think the afore mentioned person’s take on “hope” was that one just can’t sit on a rock “hoping” that it will start raining gold, life reality is that “hope” can inspire us but “Work” is what makes dreams happen. As usual, this is a rather simplistic statement, at least in my experience.
I’d “hoped” to be an Olympic volleyball player and I “worked” for years to achieve this goal. However, there was a fundamental flaw in my hoped for vision. I did not have the physical attributes required to be a world class volleyball player. For those not familiar with the sport, one of volleyball’s defining features is an eight foot net which divides the two opposing teams. In order to be successful at this sport, you must be able to jump high above this eight foot obstacle. As I barely stand over five and one half feet tall, I was at a distinct disadvantage compared to players towering over six feet. Sure, there are short guys who can nearly jump over tall buildings but I was not one of them. Hence, This life choice was not well grounded in reality.
Did this limit my happiness playing volleyball? Ultimately, yes, because I wanted to win as that seemed to be the measure of success and my lack of height often prevented me from winning. Still, and this is a further reflection on my tendency to hang on too long to things that aren’t working, I played for many years “hoping” to somehow defy reality and reach my goal. A wiser man described such acts of futility as insanity.
Which, finally, brings me to the ultimate subject of this post, which mountain to climb?
I’ve come to believe that if I can face a life challenge each day and create happiness in the process of working to achieve that goal, it’s a mountain worth climbing. Blindness has made such choices much simpler as I’ve had to accept that many things I used to do are not practical anymore. I don’t climb real mountains, sail oceans, or play any sort of sports involving balls which i cannot see. This void was depressing for awhile but eventually I followed my wife’s lead and began to simply enjoy the delights of our daily walks, the pleasure of biting into a tuna fish sandwich on toasted wheat bread, the enjoyment of conversation with neighbors. Then, there’s still writing and storytelling, work I do that is not often fun but eventually rewarding.
All said and done, this blind writer is finding his life path sprinkled more and more with bursts of happiness because I’m making smarter choices on which mountains to climb, and, most important, I’m simply enjoying climbing.