I think we are all born with a life contract of sorts, replete with all the things that could happen to us in a lifetime. From the length of our lifespan to our quality of health, our disposition to our empathy for others all wrapped up in triplicate. But, like all contracts, in the fine print is the addendum, stipulations and clauses.
When we are young, we only glance at the contract. All we see are the platitudes like “life liberty and the pursuit of happiness” and other such quotes. We rush through everyday life with a selfish and single minded purpose, the mindset of immaturity governs the day. We fail to understand the complexities of our deal, the interactions that our daily decisions make on the totality of our existence. We don’t see the results of our actions on our lives and those we care about, sometimes until it’s too late. Such is the folly of youth.
As we mature we start to see the effect of our decisions on our lives and those around us. We start to realize how we neglected some of the most important people in our lives due to our blind trust in our ability to comprehend the impact we have on others. As we reread the contract we start to understand more of what it means to be an upstanding person, how foolish we were to think we had it all figured out. Hopefully we discover our mistakes before it’s to late. Sometimes, we fail miserably.
I am one of those miserable failures. I neglected my relationship with my father until it was too late, now I have to live with it. I think I could have recovered the lost time if I had put more effort into closing the rift between us, if I had been more of an adult than I was. Yes, I was struggling with my addictions, but that’s no excuse for my pushing him away when he wanted to improve our relationship. I shut the door on a time we could have both used the support only family can give, and I will die with that guilt.
Because I’m no quitter, I must accept my mistakes and move on. As I read my contract I see the “Happiness Clause” in the fine print. It says for me to find happiness I must understand what in my life is the most fulfilling, what brings me the most joy. I feel most people think happiness will be found in retirement after working their entire lives to build some sort of nest egg. They may see a home paid for, vacations overseas, golfing in the tropical sun and other such pursuits.
I will never have any retirement savings, no home or land, no nest egg. I can cry and bemoan my situation, or I can stop and realize I’m still better off than many, I still have enough time to make amends and achieve some sort of balance between the mistakes of my past and the time I have left. I have the opportunity to fill the remainder of my time on this earth with the happiness I feel when out in nature.
The majesty of a brilliant sunrise, the feel of a cool breeze on my skin. The gental sway of the tide as it imposes it’s will on the meager tether of my future sailboat anchored in a secluded bay. The simple understanding and friendship between a man and his dog as they while away the afternoon in the shade of a tree. The feel of a moment captured in a photograph, forever caught and brought back to life with each viewing.
My Happiness Clause can be appeased by accepting what has happened and focusing my will on what will be the best use of my remaining time. Only through diligence and persistence can one achieve a fulfilling life, understanding that it’s the simple things that can bring the most pleasure, the most reward. I hope that when we die, all the bad memories of our lives stay here, only the good ones go with us. Many people believe there is another life after this one, and if that’s true I hope I’m right. If I am, my father will wake up with all the joy and happiness he felt in this life, nothing of the hardships and pain he suffered, and I can think of nothing in this world I want more.