Some tell themselves a story.
This is how the story begins:
“I’ll be happy when . . .”
“I won’t be happy unless . . .”
These are inauspicious beginnings.
“I won’t be happy unless I’m a moviestar . . . I won’t be happy unless I’m rich . . . I won’t be happy unless I have a love affair like in my favorite romance . . .”
Others choose more modest requirements.
I once dated a lovely girl who hoped to be a fashion model. She appeared in a few advertisements, and then confessed to me that “her true dream”—she used those words—was to be a teacher, but “even if she never became a teacher, she’d be happy just to have a family.”
It seems that a girl with that attitude will be happy someday, and yet . . . I’m reminded of what happened in Two Years Before the Mast, by Richard Henry Dana, Jr.
Two Years Before the Mast tells the true story of the author, a college educated man who becomes a sailor for two years, from Boston ‘round the Cape of Good Hope to frontier California.
For much of the voyage, he anticipates returning to Boston.
“I’ll be happy when I’m home,” he tells himself repeatedly.
And yet, when Dana arrives home he writes:
“A year before, the assurance that in a twelvemonth we should see Boston made me half wild; but now that I was actually there, and in sight of home, the emotions which I had so long anticipated feeling I did not find, and in their place was a state of very nearly entire apathy.”
Many are driven by unhappiness toward goals that, once achieved, mean nothing very much, so accustomed are they to resisting the nearby happiness of the everyday.
What is this nearby happiness of the everyday?
It’s a happiness with its root in gratitude. It’s the surprising happiness that you might find when contemplating—a traffic light.
Much happiness can be obtained by contemplating the glowing red of a traffic light.
How beautiful that red is! And how happy to be alive to see it!
* Orlando Bartro is the author of Toward Two Words, a comical & surreal novel about a man who finds yet another woman he never knew, available at Amazon.