Tomorrow is my special day and I am beyond fortunate that many people will wish me a “Happy Birthday.” I will relish every greeting. I love birthdays. Especially mine. I mostly love that I’m still here and in pretty good health.
But what exactly constitutes a happy birthday? Or a happy any-other-day for that matter? Who actually wakes up in the morning or checks in at lunchtime or nods off at night thinking “Golly, am I ever happy?”
My bet is not many of us. We are all too busy chasing the next thing that we think will bring us happiness or commiserating over all the things that do not bring us happiness. My guess is very few of us celebrate in full cognizance our daily gladness.
This is probably because we are all very similar to Dr. Faustus (based on the German legend Faust), a man so unsatisfied he makes a pact with the devil. He can have anything and everything his heart desires on this earth but the moment he is truly, undeniably, ridiculously happy … well, the devil wins his soul.
Guess what? It never happens. Because that is the nature of “man”. We always want more.
Which leads me to Hyman Judah Schactel (must be another German and what can I tell you, these are my people). He wrote: “Happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you have.”
Pretty brilliant, right? Also virtually impossible to live.
When my son was young he always wanted something. There was always one big thing at the top of his list that he just had to have. A new skateboard. A Pokemon card. A new phone. A guitar. The thing is, once he got that prize, it brought him joy for mere moments before guess what? He wanted something else.
Thankfully he has outgrown this phase (except for guitars) but it illustrates my point perfectly. We are never content. We always want more.
When I was younger … you know those ‘misspent youth’ years … I was a bit of a thrill seeker. I don’t mean skydiving or swimming with sharks (although I did drive a Formula 2000 race-car at Cayuga once). More like emotional thrill seeking. Romantic risk-taking. I didn’t marry my son’s father until I was 34 so I had lots of time. Plus I was on the road in bands for most of my 20s so I’m sure you can imagine. Adventure and stimulation made me happy. Or so I thought.
And now? Well now I have come to the realization that contentment makes me happy. The roller coaster has lost its appeal. I’m more of a carousel girl these days. Where once I excitedly drove a Formula 2000 race-car, now I blissfully walk my dog in the ravine. Don’t get me wrong – given the opportunity to drive that race-car again, damn, yes I would! But I don’t need it. Nor do I crave it.
My son and I went to see John Mayer in concert this past summer. We are both huge JM fans and it truly was a mother-son musical bonding experience. We had excellent seats and the show was fantastic. And as we were leaving I said “Do you know what my next concert will be? Yours!” My son is a musician and I would gladly drive to Vancouver to see him perform. But geez, I hated being stuck there with all those people!
Yes, I’ve become a pussy. But a contented pussy, happy to purr in my kitchen or my trailer or the ravine or another country; wherever I go that contentment (with maybe a smidgen of excitement) is promised. And that is the funny thing. In my younger days contentment was to be avoided at all cost. Yet in these sweetly halcyon days of my (soon-to-be) twilight years, contentment is becoming the gold standard. Don’t get me wrong, Fireworks and Turbulence still at times jockey for position. But I know those dudes. Hell, I was best friends with those dudes for decades. They show up at the party, drink all your booze, kiss all the girls (and half the guys) and leave you passed out in the bathroom wondering what the hell happened.
No. I do not think they are my friends anymore. My new best friends are Serenity and Contentment.
This is a hard admission for me to publicize. I don’t want anyone thinking I’ve lost my edge, my romance or my inner rock star.
Who am I kidding? I could probably Keith-Richards it until my grave. At the very least Barry-Manilow it. I could continue my never-ending quest for thrills and spills and stimulation and frenzy.
I choose not to.
I choose to choose wanting what I have and therefore … having what I want.
Happy Birthday to me.