“Suppose you can get what you want…” – Fortune Cookie
A cold February night in New England, with a frigid wind cutting through the air. The restaurant provided a safe haven from the elements. The company and conversation provided the requisite warmth.
A simple dinner with family and friends. The theme for the evening was happiness, and nothing could change the mood. Not the wait – even though we had reservations. Not the crowd at the bar – it just made us stand closer to each other. The waiter was overly apologetic when he forgot the appetizers, but we were so impressed with the dishes in front of us, it didn’t matter. We did appreciate the free bottle of wine he gave the table.
We talked about the past, the present and the future. From new jobs to upcoming weddings to decisions made 42 years ago. Our paths and plans had turned out differently than what we expected. Instead of regrets, there were celebrations of new paths and new opportunities. As a group, we were all happy with where we were – that evening, and in our lives.
The good feeling carried through the next day, and then the next. I saw no reason to stop being happy.
Think about the last time you were happy. It may have been something substantial – a new job, a new home, or achieving an important goal after months, even years, of hard work. It may have been something small – a phone call from an old friend, a romantic moment with the one you love, or just a beautiful day with the sun shining and the birds singing.
How long did you allow the feeling to last? Did you second-guess your decisions? Did you fall into the trap of imagining how the situation could have turned out better?
Accepting happiness is a simple, yet elusive, practice. Realizing when things are good – and that “good” is “good enough” – is a conscious mindset. We must choose to be satisfied with our current situation. Easy to say, but not always easy to accept in a society that promotes excess – whether in physical rewards or intangible compensation in the forms of “clicks”, “likes” or “retweets”.
Yes, we should strive to achieve worthy goals. Yes, we should work hard to improve ourselves. Yes, we should have high expectations for our personal performance.
Just as often, we should recognize the wonderfulness of the world around us – and accept happiness.
Postscript: A couple of nights after I wrote this, I was dining alone. The staff at the Marriott had directed me to a neighborhood Brooklyn restaurant – The Queen Marie Italian Restaurant (think of a cross between The Godfather and Moonstruck). A place where you hung up your coat in an open closet near the entrance.
The food was amazing, the wine fantastic, the ambience impeccable. As I sipped my glass of wine, I thought about the different people in my life I’d want sitting across from me. The trap was waiting to be sprung.
I looked around. The couple at the bar sharing secrets. The young family enjoying a special night out. The gentleman next to me who would be cast as a hitman by Coppola or Scorsese. The perfect cut of veal waiting to be consumed.
It was enough. It was perfect.
I was happy.