The Secret of Life

About forty years ago (can that be right?) I was on a business trip with a few coworkers. We were a team of government auditors and we had a circuit of places we had to visit once every two years. Most of these places were one-horse towns —  county seats with almost nothing to do in our few hours of nightly down time other than find a spot where we could get a few cold beers and maybe a hamburger.  College towns had a bigger selection of places to sit and relax and on this one occasion we were sitting in a cavernous beer hall frequented by the local college crowd. The place was much bigger than the number of people that came through the door and it almost seemed like a converted airplane hangar. There were four of us sitting and talking and having a few beers. The conversation turned quite serious for twenty-somethings and before long we were debating the merits of all sorts of life choices. We were all substantially educated but had a diverse background and perspective: one Ivy-leaguer, one woman, one African-American, two married, two single. The discussions went long into the night and when we were through we were certain that we had discovered the secret of life. We went home with the happy knowledge that we had figured it out.

The next day we couldn’t remember — or couldn’t agree on what the secret was and how we got there. There were four versions…mostly similar but with some unfamiliar twists.   My version had several broad steps or stages. First, we should invest our life energy in being happy — doing whatever makes us happy. Second, that includes being geographically in a place where you can be happy and including people in your life who make you happy.  If you are happy, chances are that those you care for will be happy. And third, if you can make other people happy in the process of achieving number one, above, than you should make every effort to do so.  A few years later I realized that there were a few other things to consider like raising kids and career advancement and college tuition and mortgages but those things didn’t change my basic view. Those things were essentially temporary but the permanent part was most important. They say that people sometimes have a life view where they always see their  glass half full or half empty.   The half full folks seem happier.  The half empty folks maybe need a smaller glass. I think my glass was always at least half full, or more, and I’m thankful for that.

Now here I am more than halfway through my seventh decade. I’m in reasonably good health, I live where and how I choose and I do pretty much what I want. I’ve been widowed for eight years and have come to terms with that in my own way.  My daughter is an independent sort and we get along very well. My life has simplified considerably from just ten to twenty years ago and I have no real complaints. I don’t know how long I can keep this going but I hope for the best. That old secret of life thing comes into play once you reach this stage.

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