The Happiness Clause

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.

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16 thoughts on “The Happiness Clause

  1. As you said accepting what has happened and focusing my will on what will be the best use of my remaining time is the best tribute to your father. Not regretting being a ‘bad’ son. Every family has its own hardships and relationship failures. If we spend our time looking backward, we make no forward progress. And you got a gift, if you will, in that you got to say goodbye to your dad (even if he wasn’t able to respond)..you’ve done that by visiting him during his lucid periods and being there as he passed away. My mother passed on a little over 11 years ago. I wasn’t there. I expected to see her again so our last encounter was ended with a ‘see ya’ and a refusal to give her a hug. Regret? I’ve lived with that for all this time and the knowledge that closure is key for the person who remains. Else we end up in a cycle of self recrimination and guilt. Accepting what happened and moving on, putting it in the past (without forgetting it) making it a memory is the best use of the time we have left. You honor your dad with your dedication to a goal to live your life WELL. He did a good job raising you, even as you see the flaws in yourself. Live well my friend. And when you go maybe you’ll get to say ‘hello’ to him again. My personal belief in how those things work.

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  2. I’m at a loss of words.. You have a way of writing straight from the heart and it makes so much sense and it’s so true and right..As strange as this sounds… my husband and you are one of the same!

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  3. Find the purpose in the way things are. Not my original words but given to me by a wise friend some years ago when I was beating myself up and trying desperately to climb sheer and slippery walls out of despair. Since then, I have done just that. And in many situations it takes a lot of soul-searching, meditating (I don’t go in for the omm-ommm navel gazing cross-legged type … I walk and I hike and I let my jumbled thoughts disperse and I find some enlightenment that way), and forgive yourself. Look deep into Vinny’s eyes … he will guide you as The Bean guides me and yes, I am sure people reading are now branding me as a total whacko but I promise they hold wisdom and I promise they want to impart it. Lastly, I am not really sure if I know what happiness is. I know what people tell me it is. But I gave up on wanting and seeking happiness a long time ago. These days I am happy (stet) to settle for content. I wish you content, my friend.

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      1. By the way, your wisdom and advice really hit home to me today. You are no quitter and I must remind myself that neither am I and that all I need to do is get out and look and feel the gifts that are all around me and cost nothing. IN short I need to practice what I preach and I thank you for unknowingly being exactly the sage I needed today as I sit in my blue funk.

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