Saturday, March 10, 2007

Happy Is as Happy Does

I recently wrote of the importance of dreaming, of believing for positive things in your life and being proactive as far as attaining your goals. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been reflecting on my life and where it stands right now as far as my happiness is concerned. How happy am I, really? Am I anywhere near where I wanted to be at this point in my life? And if I do have dreams, am I sure of what they really are…and do I really believe that I can attain them? What if I did reach my goals…would that be the point in my life where I say, “I’ve gotten what I’ve always dreamed of, and now I’m totally happy”? Then what…where do I go from there? My list of questions can go on and on…and on and on. I’m getting tired of asking them.

We recently had some small work done in our home—nothing major, just trying to make some storage space where there was none. We added a linen closet in the hall and a small pantry in the kitchen (imagine living without those for 10 years), and a storage bench in the portico with wainscoting around the walls. I must admit; the latter has made me very happy. Although we’re not completely cleaned up from this chaotic activity, my bench has turned a somewhat boring entrance into a cozy, country foyer. It has “welcome” subliminally written all over it! There are hooks to hang your coat and hat upon entry and some shelf molding to hold a few sentimental knick-knacks. I realized after my husband put the last stroke of polyurethane on the seat that my home was becoming my dream for the future…and I haven’t even moved yet.

This revelation brought on comforting, if not confusing, feelings. I thought that I was only supposed to enjoy my country home when I eventually moved and had a home that was actually in the country. A home that was a hop, skip and a jump from a small main street that looked like it was out of a Normal Rockwell painting. A home that had views and wildlife aplenty. But here it was…my dream, only a little smaller than I imagined and in an area that was just a little less rural.

When I thought about it, however, I realized that my town is pretty countrified for my location. Our main street has old Victorians and Arts and Crafts period homes scattered throughout its tree-lined path. Right down the block we have two lakes in a nature preserve that are home to a various array of wildlife, not to mention some amazing four-season views. I am actually walking distance from anything I could ever want: restaurants of every persuasion, pizza parlors, ice cream shops, a country gift store and a country furnishings store, just to name a few points of interest. We even have a “5&10” that sells everything from a Snickers bar to a towel bar! And let’s not forget the local McDonald’s and 7-11—two great destinations for teenage boys who love to eat, and both a few short pedals of a bike away.

Of course, I do need to mention that we are also walking distance from the Long Island Railroad, which of course means that there are smelly buses going up and down our charming main street as well. The street empties into a three-lane highway with such unattractive locations as car dealerships, car washes and oversized self-service gas stations with their own quick-marts. And there’s not a mountain in sight. But there is Jones Beach, which is a lovely place to visit when there’s not twenty million people there on a hot, summer day. You get the point.

I was on my way home from work the other day (also within walking distance, I might add), and I drove over the small bridge that divides the two lakes. I peered over to my left and saw our two town swans locked in a loving gaze floating on the half-frozen water. There were Canadian geese and mallard ducks diving for mysterious underwater snacks. The seagulls floated through the air across the lake, their stark whiteness in high contrast to the dark brown sticks of the winter trees. If I took a picture of this, I thought to myself, no one would ever believe that it was on Long Island. I began to wonder why I haven’t hiked in the preserve for over three years, when its beauty was at my disposal. I also wondered why I only walked to work once last summer, especially since I so enjoyed the early morning activities of nature—the countless varieties of birds singing their unique songs, the fresh breeze rustling the leaves in the trees. I soon began to realize that sometimes our own happiness is right in front of our faces, but we can’t see it because it’s too close. Imagine placing your hand directly in front of your eyes and opening them; would you be seeing a hand, or a big blob of darkness? However, as you pulled the hand slowly away from your eyes, it would eventually take on the image of what it actually is: a hand. I think that’s what happened to me that day. I no longer saw a blob of a life; I took a step back and saw someone who was pretty darn happy. That someone was me.

As we lay in bed that night, my husband turned to me, leaned over and set his head upon my chest as he pulled me closer with his arm. I stroked his hair, watching the scattered grays dance upon the thick, black mass of waves. I felt an immense calm come over me and, almost as if he knew what I was thinking, my husband whispered, “I love you so much.” I realized in that instant that I was one of the luckiest women I knew. I thought of the thousands of people who would probably give all of their worldly possessions away if it meant that they would be able to have a partner who truly loved them for who they were. I thought of how fortunate I was that I had a man who never made me feel guilty if the house was a mess, because he honestly understood that I only have so many hours in my day. I appreciated that he always made me feel desired, even on the days when I wasn’t, well, so desirable. I realized that this was as good as it gets and it was pretty darn wonderful, to say the least.

As I reflect on my life, I realize that many of the dreams that I had for my future never materialized. At 44 years of age, I’ve seen my share of failures; I’ve also seen successes I never thought possible. I know that I will continue to reach for goals until the end of my life, for “a man without vision shall perish.” However, if I never move to my home in the mountains; if I never become wealthy and have anything and everything I want at my disposal; if I never realize even one of my dreams…I can say with confidence and clarity that at this moment in time, I am truly a happy woman. I finally “get it.” We’re not guaranteed tomorrow; it’s so very important to appreciate what you have today. And I thank God I’m one of the lucky ones that do.