I saw a sign in front of a church that said, “The chase for happiness is endless,” or words to that effect.
My initial reaction: well, that seems a little defeatist. What about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? What about all the beer commercials that promise we’ll be happy if we just drink the right beer? And they don’t call them Happy Meals for nothing, now do they?
I didn’t think about it much at first, mainly because driving around here in the spring involves constant vigilance to avoid potholes that vary in size from “Now there’s a real tire-shredder” to “Is that a motorcycle down there?”
Once I reached home safe and relatively sound, the thought came back to me. Could that be true? Maybe. But I’m happier now than I’ve been in a long, long time… possibly ever. So what’s up with that?
Let’s review. Looking back, there is no doubt that I was terrible at relationships. The problem was that in order for the relationship to work, and for me to be, therefore, happy, the other person had to change to fit what I wanted. Seriously. Also, to make any of the changes I wanted, the person had to be able to read my mind because I wouldn’t talk about it.
I guess it would be fair to say I was emotionally broken, which might actually be an understatement. I read that until you love yourself, you couldn’t love someone else. I figured they meant other people. I just needed people to change.
If you had asked me what I wanted to be when I was a kid in Scotland, I didn’t really know. My dad had worked for a short time driving a double-decker bus and that seemed like as good a thing to do as any. When we came to this country, the only job I wanted was as a rock and roll disc jockey. AM radio was king and I loved it. Cousin Brucie, Murray the K, Wolfman Jack … yeah, baby. My Scottish accent was a drawback at the time, so I ditched it and got a job at a 1,000-watt radio station in the Fingerlakes region of New York.
I was fired from the radio station for a remark I made at the company Christmas party that, looking back on it, probably could have gone unsaid for all time. It was funny, though. Even the people who subsequently fired me laughed.
After that, I really just worked at jobs that made me happy and went on to something else when they didn’t. I guess I had a career in newspapers, because I kept going back to them after trying something different. I really loved newspaper work, and I was good at it. But it always seemed that there had to be something more. Being emotionally broken isn’t for weenies, my friends.
As for money, I can honestly say that it just didn’t matter that much. Right now it matters because of my illness. I have to take some really expensive medications and, though we have pretty good insurance, it, too, is costly. We know we’ll be all right, we just don’t know how yet. Not much point in worrying about it.
“The chase for happiness is endless?” My own chase for it has hurt people because I thought my happiness was worth hurting people for. At one time, I was a human do-ing, rather than a human be-ing. Any success was dismissed quickly because it didn’t bring me what I was looking for. I had to keep do-ing because, well, there had to be something better. Right?
In the end, the solution was simple. Once I quit the chase, happiness found me. Corny, I know, but I think that’s what the sign was referring to. It was by no means instantaneous, nor was it always easy. Simple and easy aren’t synonyms after all. The biggest thing was becoming less self-centered and more honest with myself, especially about myself. It also meant discovering that I am responsible for my own happiness; no one else.
So, I choose to be happy. I have an incurable, but treatable, rare type of cancer. I have an incurable and even rarer, genetic disorder. I’m facing a stem-cell transplant my doctors tell me will be arduous. But all that will be true whether I’m happy or miserable. And in my experience, you meet much nicer people when you’re happy.
Note: Our daughters, Jennifer, Alison and Kristie, have established a site through Go Fund Me to allow people to make donations to help Sheri and I with the costs of fighting my cancer. If you would like to see photos of us and our family — and maybe even make a donation _ visit www.gofundme.com, and enter my name or Finding the Pony in the search box.
Jim Arnold is a former copy editor for the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel. To read more about his journey through cancer, visit his blog, findingthepony.blogspot.com.