Is it OK to just be satisfied, even happy?
As the sun began its descent on Monday — the eve of Election Day — I sat down to write this column and my thoughts turned to happiness and satisfaction.
I thought about being in a place, a state of mind, where one can look at one’s life, both into the past and into the future, and perhaps break into a small grin and say something like, “Somehow, surprisingly, I’ve managed to create a pretty good thing, a life and a family I never imagined for myself. I’m happy.”
As a young man, I would have retched at such an admission. I spent years thinking the pursuit of happiness meant settling for some kind of bourgeoisie, materialistic lifestyle instead of raging and trying to change the world. I’ve learned perhaps, that trying to change the world is fine, but there’s more to life than that.
Like all of you — perhaps more than most because of my profession — I’ve been immersed in politics for the last several months. And a lot of it has focused on hate, distrust, lies and negative attacks. We’ve heard from aggrieved, angry old white men — my demographic — that may very well have given Donald Trump another term in the Oval Office by the time this edition hits the streets. We’ve heard from angry young people who hate Trump, but dislike Biden a little less, so will hold their nose and vote for him. It seems like more than ever, there has been anger and hate from candidates all up and down the ballot as people choose sides and start tossing bombs at the opposition.
So here before Election Day, I was trying to assess what state of mind I’ll be in when this is all over, regardless of who wins. I mean, politics is very important, but when did it become the defining characteristic in so many people’s lives? What about relationships, family, friends, good conversation, careers, travel, ideas, books, music, and such?
Matthew, my nephew, and his fiancé came up for a visit this weekend. He’s a young man I’ve always enjoyed being around. He makes it a point to stay in touch with relatives and it’s obvious keeping those connections is important to him. While they were in town, my daughter Hannah and her boyfriend joined us for dinners and outings. Hannah, too, places great importance in spending time with family. We spent a fun couple of days visiting with other family in Asheville, talking, hiking, cooking, biking and playing games while catching up on each other’s lives.
For my wife Lori and me, it was a couple of satisfying and fun days with our daughter and nephew and other young people who are bright, funny, creative and forging their unique paths in this world. None of this seems that special, I know, but somehow it affected me, made me think about my state of mind and emotional well-being. These are things I don’t usually dwell on.
Our oldest daughter, Megan, got married in August. That was a momentous, emotional occasion that brought two families together in an intimate, small ceremony due to the pandemic. We now have a fantastic son-in-law, Sam, who makes our daughter extremely happy. Thoughts of their life together and all that’s in store for them brings a smile to my face. My son, Liam, will graduate from college in a couple of months, and his infectious, outgoing personality lights me up when he’s around.
This has been a year many of us want to forget, and for good reason. So far COVID-19 has killed at least 231,000 Americans, and the surge many predicted and feared as winter approaches is indeed happening. The pandemic’s economic impact has been horrible, and millions are out of work and many businesses will never reopen or will never get back to their pre-pandemic numbers. One of my co-workers keeps making comments about wanting to turn the page on 2020.
So, I’ll offer my prayers for those who have suffered from this pandemic; as for this election, let the purveyors of hate and divisiveness be damned.
That said, I won’t forfeit what I get from my wife, my children, my extended family, friends, my job, co-workers, this place I call home, and everything that’s important in my life. At 60 years old, I’m in a good place, which I’m not sure I ever expected.