I’ve struggled for decades to be happy. It’s a character flaw, and while sometimes I believe this makes me a better writer, I think at the end of the day, at the end of a lifetime, it means I’ve missed much, moments of contentment when I could simply be. I’ve been poor, and raged against the poverty, and let chances slip away. I’ve been fairly well off, and then there was always something else… the desire to have children, the yearning for recognition and success at another level. Always living with the feeling I’m missing some vital piece, which if I could obtain, would make me whole at last, make me smile down deep in my soul.
Maybe with the recognition of it, I can change on a fundamental level, but this flaw runs deep. I am blessed with wonderful children, and when I walked home alone from the bus stop a few minutes ago, the sun bright and the air cool, missing my boys already, I began to reflect on this thing within me. How it will feel in the not so distant future to be me.
When the swing set is silent and rusted and I am grey, when the patter of little feet no longer graces my life and the light in my eyes grows dim and I have those memories and pictures, what is it I will recall? How will I feel on those mornings, drinking a cup of coffee at my desk and staring at a computer screen and bleeding onto the page, remembering the things I should have paid better attention to in those fleeting moments, the things that matter. Trying to get the memory right.
My five year old coming to me with a Bernstein Bears book for his bed time story, happy and shining with pure love for me, a love I can never deserve because it is so true. Holding my baby, his head in the palm of my had because he is no longer than my forearm, dancing around the living room at three o’clock in the morning with him to sooth him back to sleep while Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons plays on the radio, and I am sleep deprived and worried about getting to work on time the next morning, but still dancing, still infused with a sense of wonder at this life I hold in my hands. My boys, the oldest ten now, decked out in army gear, complete with helmets, load bearing vests, holsters and assault rifles, running around the house shooting the attacking Russian zombie horde. In a year or two, he’ll be too old for that, and I miss it already.
Walking through the woods as a family, a tiny hand in mine, questions about the trees and wildlife, and the sunlight filtering through the canopy of Live Oaks and Spanish Moss and the air fresh and cool and golden. Such joy, such fleeting perfection.
Christmas morning, together with grandparents, all still with us now, the excitement electric in the air to see what Santa brought, toys and paper flying all over the floor beneath the tree, laughter sweet music. But was exhausted, stressed about money, tired of long days working in the cold and the rain, and I did not let that music in me the way I should have, not in a way that fills the soul. Looking back on it, it fills me and brings tears to my eyes, but when it was happening, I did not appreciate it enough.
There will always be another thing. A better job, a nicer car, keeping the lights on, selling more books, writing a masterpiece, drama with jerks, stormy weather, and bad traffic. Somewhere along the way, even the joy of writing itself has been dampened by the need to promote, to sell, to succeed. I resolve to do my part, but I am sure I can’t do it alone.
I’ve got a God-shaped hole, and the only way to find true, lasting happiness is to fill that with Him. Unless I do that, the world will forever be bereft of its proper color, faded and less vibrant.
When I look back years from now, I want to remember things as they were, not as I wish they had been. I’ve still got a chance at happiness, and it’s time I start living.