I wish everyone a Happy New Year. I have noticed, however, how many of my non-virtual friends are not as positive as I would like to see them. Over the last month, I have observed a general feeling of discontent everywhere I travel.
Last week, I agreed to accompany my wife and daughter on a shopping spree for the holidays. For me, shopping is not as much fun as passing a kidney stone, but they had Christmas spirit, so they dragged me along.
After entering the first store, I patiently wandered through the maze of holiday shoppers for nearly 5 minutes when I decided to head toward the pier to view the ships pulling into the harbor. I sat on a bench overlooking the inlet for almost two hours, and took the opportunity to reflect on my life and the world around me.
In the ordinary course of life, I usually just keep moving forward, but this holiday season, it appeared to me that the people around me were digging in for a year of negativity. I started to analyze why this was so, and the result of my reflections supplied me with the fuel to move forward for another great year.
This time of solitary contemplation was prompted by our failure to get anyone we know to make plans for celebrating the New Year. My wife and I are definitely not being shunned by the people we love. The problem is that everyone we wanted to celebrate with was just negative about life. I wondered why.
Before we left home that morning, I flipped on the TV, which is an activity I avoid as much as possible. In 15 minutes, I saw 4 mesothelioma commercials, 3 lawyer referral ads, 2 Super Beta Prostate offers, and an ad for Funeral Advantage insurance. The Partridge in the Pear Tree died after the second commercial. I never watched a show.
Pumped up and ready for 2013, we began calling our list of friends whose company we have enjoyed regularly for years. Carol and I made dinner reservations for New Year’s Eve and wanted to share our experience with those closest to us. Two of them had colds. Three were tired. One decided to stay home and reflect on the recent Connecticut tragedy. Several complained about the economy and gracefully declined. Several of our friends parted company due to conflicts over political ideologies surrounding the 2012 election and were afraid they would bump into their former close pals.
Another group of potentials decided to stay home to avoid the drunks on the road. That was understandable. Two couples did not want to miss the Ball dropping in Times Square at midnight. We planned to go straight home after dinner, but they didn’t want to take the chance.
Now if I were paranoid, I would think they didn’t like my wife. But I’m not. In fact, most of our friends called us on New Year’s Day and most of them invited us over to their homes. These are terrific people. Nevertheless, last month we were all at a post Halloween party and most of them spent the night discussing whether they should get “Shingles shots,” because they saw several TV commercials suggesting that if they had ever contracted Chicken Pox as a child (like almost 7 billion people on the planet), their bodies already contained the Shingles virus. Carol and I left the party early scratching, our heads that is, because we can’t figure out why almost everyone around us is just plain negative about life.
As I sat there by the harbor, I had the chance to speak with several people. Two young men had docked their 47 foot sailboat in St. Augustine and were on their way to a wedding in the Bahamas. In a ten minute conversation, they never strayed from their fears that they would run aground once they entered Bahamian waters. They even spoke of selling the craft when they returned, replacing it with a couple of fancy sports cars, but were fearful of the temptation to drive too quickly, which could result in a catastrophe.
I met a homeless woman. She appeared quite intelligent and well-spoken. She wanted to know if she could lie down on one of the harbor benches. My reply was simple enough. She did not need permission from me. However, she proceeded to tell me that all the benches in the town were uncomfortable. She never asked for anything, but complained from the minute she struck up the conversation until she left in search of a grassy spot down the road.
I thought about it a while. It really doesn’t seem to matter whether you travel the world on a $2 million dollar ship or sail into your own world on a bench in the park. If you are determined to be miserable, Nature herself can’t stop you.
Finally, I did what I have over the years conditioned myself never to do. I looked back at my own life. Did I do all the right things? That didn’t take long. No. Did I do the best I could raising my kids? Yes. Did I intentionally hurt people even if I didn’t know them? No. Were there any things I would do differently given a second chance? Absolutely.
So what did two hours of contemplation get me? I walked away very satisfied that despite all the human errors I committed during my lifetime, I am a pretty happy guy. I have a terrific wife, family, and friends. My wife and I carved a path for ourselves as we journey through life, upon which we are content with what we have, and we will continue to walk it throughout 2013, even if those closest to us remain hell-bent on misery and self-pity. We still love pitiful, miserable people, and we’re in luck because they seem to be plentiful.
In my view, being discontented with the world is a choice. As they used to say in New Hampshire, “God willing and the creeks don’t rise,” I plan to enjoy a fantastic upcoming year. Life is not always easy, and we were not given guarantees. Problems will arise, and awful situations will confront us. However, the happiest people are those who don’t stick their heads in the sand like ostriches. The lions out there don’t seem to care. We either deal with unpleasantness and circumstances beyond our control, or we don’t. Either way, there are a lot of holes out there filled with nothing but ostrich heads.