Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Happiness (Reconsidered)

by Judith Viorst

Is a clean bill of health from the doctor,
And the kids shouldn't move back home for
more than a year,
And not being audited, overdrawn, in Wilkes-Barre,
in a lawsuit or in traction.

Is falling asleep without Valium,
And having two breasts to put in my brassiere,
And not (yet) needing to get my blood pressure lowered,
my eyelids raised or a second opinion.

And on Saturday nights
When my husband and I have rented
Something with Fred Astaire for the VCR,
And we're sitting around in our robes discussing,
The state of the world, back exercises, our Keoghs,
And whether to fix the transmission or buy a new car,
And we're eating a pint of rum-raisin ice cream
on the grounds that
Tomorrow we're starting a diet of fish, fruit and grain,
And my dad's in Miami dating a very nice widow,
And no one we love is in serious trouble or pain,
And our bringing-up-baby days are far behind us,
But our senior-citizen days have not begun,
It's not what I called happiness
When I was twenty-one,
But it's turning out to be
What happiness is.
We didn't need another reason to love Judith Viorst, but here's one anyways. Priorities, perspectives and definitions shift and change as we age and, hopefully, mature. The first sentence resonates like a giant brass gong. Would anyone in their 20s, or even 30s have put a clean bill of health first on the list? Now I can't imagine anything else. I think happiness may be the absence of strife, trauma, etc., and the ability to appreciate that absence. I know it's a lot simpler that most folks realize. What do you think happiness is?

(Good insights at The Happiness Project; see cool sites at right.)


tim's wife said...

WOW!!!That poem says it all and yes, in my 20's and 30's I would have put
"a clean bill of health" as numero uno but that was because I had
already found out the hard way what happens to your life when you don't have that. I'm sure
most folks would have something material in that spot, like a BMW or something. Too often, we are
"too late smart."

Sandy said...

Happiness is, for me, knowing that I am healthy enough to be able to cheer up someone else, to offer to help and to have time and energy to share things with my best friend - and happiness is managing my anxieties so they don't overtake the joy I do have.

Margaret said...

Until now I had never considered how my concept of happiness has changed over the years. Interesting...
In my 20s and early 30s, no, it would not have been a clean bill of health since I was, er, healthy back then. It probably would have been linked to the desire of finding love and a job that I enjoyed. (I have since found both, lucky lucky me.)
Now (at age 48) that I have smoldering myeloma, happiness for me is enjoying everything, even and perhaps especially the small things in life...my cats playing or lying purring on my lap, a beautiful sunset or a sweet message from a blog reader. In other words, happiness for me is not tied to a (possible) future event but to the enjoyment of TODAY. And in many ways, as strange as this is may sound, I am happier now than I was back then...
Of course, if I were told that my myeloma markers had disappeared...ah well, that would definitely be numero uno on my happiness list!...as it would be for all of us!

La Cootina said...

What lovely words from all of you.

I should add...I believe that happiness is a choice. Any thoughts?

Susie Hemingway said...

Perhaps happiness is us all being on the same page taking about what happiness is? Yes different things as you get older but mostly just wanting the ones you love to be safe and healthy becomes the most important thing of all. Everything else just seems to fade. All the little things I worried about when young seem silly now but at the time!! Funny how we change.Funny how we all chat like this. Funny old life but it's still happy if we let it be. My best wishes to you all x