I have a thing for sayings that exude some elemental truth or moral. Recently, my wife was watching TV and I heard something to the effect of
“When happiness calls, pull out a comfortable chair and ask it to stay a while.”
That is probably not the precise wording but it captures the idea. Unfortunately, it sort of slipped in one ear and then spun around the rings of Saturn for a while, and then flew off and landed in the dim light beside the ebbing fire of my conscience. Where did it come from? I have no idea. My wife thinks it may have been from her soap opera, but she is not sure either. So there it is, a lovely quote, and I don’t know to whom I should give credit.
“When happiness calls, pull out a comfortable chair and ask it to stay a while.” I have not always done this. In fact I have seldom applied this bit of pith to my personal life.
An odd thing happened to me in the immediate aftermath of September 11, 2001. I slept very well each night for about six weeks after the tragedy. For the first time since I had turned 40, I slept the night through with no late night wakings, worries, or fitful dreams. At the time, I found this puzzling and frankly somewhat frightening. Why in the world would this harrowing act of terror promote sound sleeping? I took no comfort in the horrific events of 9-11. The world is falling apart and I am getting a good night’s sleep! What the hell is wrong with me? Something truly terrible occurred. Many people died, many people lost loved ones, and many people would be scarred for life from the trauma or grief of the day. I felt the range of emotions that the day engendered…fear, horror, anger, grief, a tremendous sense of loss, and even pride in the heroism of the emergency responders and certainly the passengers of flight 93.
I found it troubling, with all of these truly dreadful events, why am I sleeping better? Then it occurred to me, I am sleeping better because 9-11 put the world in perspective for me. For a brief period, the importance of my personal world of “critical paths, customer need dates, equipment failures, billings, personal career development goals, dock dates, audits, software incompatibilities, quality control infractions, and tuition payments” got blown out of the water by something huge and frightening, and something that was beyond my control. My Soul was giving thanks for having made it relatively unscathed through a day in which so many had died, and so many would grieve. However, as so often in life, my taking stock lasted for about six weeks and then the mundane worries gradually seeped back into my awareness.
So it occurs to me now, that happiness has been sitting on my couch, comfortable but bored while I live my life of self induced distraughts, epic corporate inspired “the sky is falling” crises of the moment, and an endless litany of injustices of so little importance that it is laughable…junk mail, red lights, speed traps, office gossip, aches and pains, lousy weather and the impending grave. Mean while happiness is sitting twiddling its thumbs hoping that maybe I will notice the blessings…adequate income, roof over my head, marriage to a wonderful and kind woman, and food in my belly. It is sad to think that it takes something horrific like 9-11, to make me see old happiness sitting off on the side of the room playing solitaire and hoping for a brief moment of recognition and communion.
The grave is out there waiting for all of us. Rich or poor, beautiful or ugly, famous or unknown our fate is the same: take a ride in a fancy black Cadillac station wagon, have some words mumbled over us, be lowered into a six foot hole, and eventually be forgotten. There is nothing you can do about it. But you can decide to make the most of what remains, so when happiness calls…choose wisely.