If old adages are to be believed, then “cures” come by the pound. Problems, as we all know, have an unpleasant tendency to come by the bucket or the truckload, and it would be safe to measure them by the ton.
Life seems to be made up of a variety of both cures and problems, leaving us to run from one and toward the other with an unintentional focus that frequently eclipses everything else in our lives. This is because these things clamor for our attention; if we are sick, then we definitely need a cure as soon as possible, and problems are called problems because unlike a minor inconvenience, they have to be fixed or resolved.
So where does that leave us on the road of life? Are we all just burning fuel like an overloaded 18-wheeler charging down the highway, too far behind on our deadlines to even pull into a rest area or pause at a truck stop for a much-needed cup of coffee?
It can seem like that, because life is an insistent creature with no patience for slow drivers in the fast lane. And far too often we have yet to make the current “delivery” before the old “radio” of need drops yet another delivery on our “to do” load list. When this happens most of us simply shrug tiredly and wish we had thought to fill our thermos at the last stop.
The problem (one, at least) with the busy lives we lead is that they tend to weigh us down like that overloaded semi-truck with its straining axles. Much of that life and the problems or simply needs that go with it is made up of things we have chosen, and this is perfectly normal. Even the perfect job implies that at some point work will have to be done. We may have worked and saved for years to buy a home, and finally getting that home is an amazing combination of satisfaction and relief; but that home will still need to be maintained, and of course (for most of us, anyway) there will be a monthly mortgage payment attached.
Bills, jobs, repairs, and a host of other things go along with the American Dream of a white picket fence and two and a half kids. And while we all scratch our heads over that “.5” child, everything else seems to pile up and slowly bury us under an ever-growing mound of need we can’t escape.
The weight of it all seems soul crushing at times and leaves us wondering how we got there when all we wanted was our own version of “the good life.” At the end of the work week, what most of us truly want isn’t $200 sneakers or a new car every year. No, even though we all like “stuff,” what most of us really want is just to be happy. And it would be much easier to be happy if someone could tell us where to find it; we’re on the road already, so if we knew where to get it, we’d just swing by and pick up some.
The truth is, happy has always been there, right under our noses; but true to human nature, it is often in the last place we think to look, if we look at all. But it is there, even if as in my case it is under not only my nose but a moustache and a mouth that can’t quite seem to stay shut. The reason we have so much trouble finding it is that happiness doesn’t have the “weight” of your common, garden variety need or problem.
Happiness isn’t weighed by the pound or the bucket, or even by the ounce. No, happiness — if it has any true weight at all — is like a feather. And if we aren’t paying attention or refuse to look for it, it can get lost in the necessities of life. Think about it — an entire pillowcase filled with “feathers” can go unnoticed in a pickup truck weighed down by need.
But the amazing thing about feathers (just like the ubiquitous energy drink) is that they can give you wings. The true “weight” of happiness is the fact that it not only has no real weight of its own, but if we pay attention to all those individual feathers and bring them together, it can also lighten the weight of everything else. Just like feathers or helium in a balloon (without the funny voice), happy can raise us up from the low points in our lives and also keep those lows from sinking us too deep. But we have to look for it. Happiness isn’t delivered every month like bills and it doesn’t show up in your bank account on a certain day like direct deposit.
We may think that happiness is a new car, and in some cases it can be, but it’s more likely that it is no longer needing to worry about breaking down on the highway. Happiness could be (especially in my case) bacon, but it is more likely the gratitude and relief that neither you nor your family is going hungry. Happiness most certainly isn’t cleaning up after a pet, but rather the companionship they give you when they aren’t chewing up those $200 sneakers. And I know for certain it isn’t moving that gravel pile I mentioned before in another column – but filled holes and flower boxes are worth at least a feather or two. Maybe even three.
The truth is that though it might not carry enough weight to demand our attention most days, happiness is worth focusing on. We need to gather up all those feathers if for no other reason than to remind ourselves that life is more than simply something we trade off to continue existing. Necessities are just that — things which have to be dealt with, and that isn’t always (or even usually) a bad thing. But it would be a tragedy if, with all the feathers in our lives, we never learned to fly.