Sunday is ticking away and it feels more like summer than spring. But I learned an important lesson today – fulfillment is more important than happiness. Seems to me all really good things happen on a Sunday.
What’s the difference, you might ask? Well, most of us are seeking a giddy sort of happiness and it’s a known fact that society makes us feel insufficient if we don’t maintain that standard of happiness 24 hours a day. You and I both know that’s unrealistic but we paste on a fake smile and face the world as if we had somehow acquired an immunity to anxiety and depression.
Sometimes we get sad and we hide it from our friends and family as if natural human emotion is a defect of character. “Keep a stiff upper lip” and all that, but sometimes it is perfectly fine not to be happy. My friend Caroline (yes the lucky girl married to the late Robert Harrell for going on 60 years) explained her theory of moving through grief and sadness as quickly but as thoroughly as possible.
“Go ahead and force yourself to feel all the loneliness and anger and everything else that comes with a devastating loss,” advised Caroline. I don’t think she would mind me sharing. “Maybe we just need to sit with sadness and confusion for a little while and feel them until we’re ready to feel okay again.”
Instead of happiness which is not sustainable for the long haul, fulfillment is the feeling that things will be okay even if we’re going through the biggest rough patch of our lives. Caroline found the bedrock of her faith and her family were sufficient to get her across the barren terrain of her sadness and begin to live again.
What about you? What fills that big void in your heart. Is it a new sports car? A $30 million dollar house in the Keys? Or a good laugh with a friend or sharing a million-calorie dessert with someone you love.
I know the answer but we all have to find out for ourselves and sometimes it takes 67 (or is it 68, I forget?) years to discover happiness and true fulfillment don’t ride on the coat-tails of material things. This weekend the West Point High School Class of ‘65 will hold its 50th reunion. Some of us have been wildly successful and others of us (including yours truly) have been mediocre at best. But we all did the best we could with what we had. That makes for a fulfilling look back at our lives in the rear view mirror.
Memories will be hauled out by the buckets full (like we did at the 45th above with half the class facing the wrong direction). I’m betting happiness and fulfillment will be served on the same platter to the kids who raised each other during double features at the Ritz Theatre, burgers and bebop at Teen Town and lazy summer afternoons at Officers’ Lake.