“If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things.” – Albert Einstein
I’ve never really connected with this quote. It seems like such a pessimistic point of view. Like the way to be happy is to create distance from our people and favorite things and attach to achievement. Goodbye, whiskers on kittens.
Today, I ran into it again and it took on a whole different flavor. It made sense. Either I’ve become more Einstein-like (very likely), or perhaps I’ve evolved emotionally another notch (I’ll take this option as well). You might be thinking that I’ve barricaded myself away from my family and have donated my favorite pillow to a good cause, but I’ve done neither. I’m actually living quite happily surrounded by both.
The past month has been a bit funky. Not George Clinton, good funky, but funky in a disturbing way. My roof surrendered to the rain. My garbage disposal quit, and my pipes clogged. Water rerouted to all the wrong places. A passing ruffian removed my super-cute, berry-colored Kate Spade purse gifted to me by my family from my possession. He took it from my car through the passenger side door and made a run for it. I happened to be sitting in the driver’s seat at the time. One of my children, who shall remain unnamed, created a bit of drama. Nothing major, but enough to make waves in the household for a couple of days. There is a chance my husband and I had different ideas about how to manage this disruption. Funky. Funky, but fine.
But guess what? All is well. Great, even. We have a shiny new roof on the way. I’ll be sure to have friends over for a glass of wine and some roof viewing when it’s ready. What fun! The water is all running appropriately now. I’ve pulled an oldie but goodie of a bag out of retirement. It’s dotted with memories. A formerly beautiful leather tote spattered with spit-up, spills, and wear to boast a fine patina. A kind woman discovered my pink purse in the bushes and returned it to me, noting that we ladies need to stick together. She filled me with soul-felt appreciation. It was drenched with rainwater, but also contained my keychain from my first day at Barnard College and some photos that miraculously survived the water.
My anonymous child created an opportunity for renewed communication in the family. “How was your day?” “Good.” “Fine.” “Okay.” was momentarily replaced with talk about expectations, love, emotions, and the stuff of self-help books. We, too, became shiny for a while. I’m pretty sure we’ve upgraded and are all a bit closer now, too.
So, Einstein, I see your point. My most important goal is to appreciate the good in life, to keep happy memories close to my heart, and roll with the adventures we face with grace and to learn the lessons they hurl our way. Possessions are ruined, stolen, and lost. People make mistakes and may disappoint. Life’s funky foibles can serve to expose what really matters and wash away the cluttering debris. Beneath the stained, aged, and sometimes battered exterior of our lives lies an intricately woven web of memories, connections, feelings, and growth. My take on this quote? Stockpile in your memory those experiences that have set your soul aglow, love deeply, ride out the bumps, and you will develop a fine patina of happiness.