Continuing on from the previous excerpt from my work-in-progress book (unedited) - THE WISE OLD MAN & THE KID, A Guide to Living a Positive Life – the theme of lasting happiness is further explored.
The book is about an elderly, successful author, Davey, and his regular encounters with a 15 year-old kid, Noah, as they meet nearly every day over the long summer vacation at a jetty where they go fishing.
Much of Davey’s life consists of a succession of painful consequences resulting from poor choices and decisions. He has been asked by his publisher to write his autobiography in order to assist readers (especially Young Adults) make better life decisions through learning from his mistakes. As he writes about his life and what lessons he’s learned, Davey uses Noah, an attentive and inquisitive listener, as his sounding board.
Davey is about to describe a ‘break-through’ moment in his search for happiness.
“So, after your second marriage broke up and you experienced that wake-up call and turning point, was that when you became happy?” asked Noah.
“Ha! Ha! I wish!” laughed Davey. “No, it happened ever so gradually over many years in baby steps and falls, and lots of stops and starts. The process of changing one’s entrenched attitudes – at least for me – was a lengthy and difficult process. My ego resistance to believing I was deserving of happiness was so firmly embedded, it took another 20 years of working on myself before there was even a reluctant acceptance of the fact that I not only deserved happiness, happiness was, in fact, my and everyone else’s entitlement.”
“Gee, that’s a long time.” said Noah.
“I suppose so. But remember I had lots of silk knots to untie. However, I remember very clearly a break-through moment that opened the door to genuine and lasting happiness.”
“Why, what happened?”
“About five years ago my wife, Laura, befriended a lonely lady who lived next door. She was a widow, who had never recovered from the loss of her husband. Her health was very fragile and she’d recently completed many months of grueling therapy for cancer.
“Although I was concerned about what she was going through, I’m ashamed to say I didn’t warm to her very much. She was constantly complaining and never seemed to have a good thing to say about anyone or anything. She was entirely self-centered, never thinking about anyone else except herself. Maybe her gloomy outlook reminded me too much of me! Or perhaps I was even a little jealous of the attention my wife was giving her.
“Kate’s children either lived overseas or interstate, therefore she largely had to fend for herself. Laura was willing to look beyond her annoying idiosyncrasies and saw a spark of light in her not of this world. The light of spirit, or of God that is in everyone, if we’re open-minded enough to look for it. She looked beyond Kate’s imperfections and behavior and saw her purity and perfection. I couldn’t, or wouldn’t. She was very kind, patient and generous to Kate and spent a lot of time supporting her in all sorts of ways.
“When Kate’s last chemotherapy treatment was completed and its after-effects were wearing off, Laura persuaded her to take a day trip with us to Lorne on the Great Ocean Road south-west of Melbourne. It’s a good two hours-plus drive and I wasn’t overly delighted with the prospects of spending so much time in the car with Kate, compelled to listen to her complaints and grievances. I shared my selfish concerns with Laura. “Don’t worry, things will be fine if you ask God to help you see things differently,” she said. “Besides, Kate needs some positive influences in her life and a trip to the ocean with you and me might be just what the doctor ordered, so to speak.”
My meditation sessions the night before our trip and the next morning focused on forgiving Kate – being accepting of her, being kind, gentle, patient and understanding. My prayers specifically requested God’s help in this regard.”
“Were your prayers answered?”
“You betcha! The trip to Lorne was initially a little difficult with Laura trying, without much success, to jolly Kate up a bit. It took over an hour before Kate’s self-pitying attitude began to wane slightly and there were signs beginning to show that maybe, just maybe, she was ready to relax and enjoy the outing. All along I kept praying for help and was surprised that Kate’s pessimistic attitude wasn’t irritating me at all.
“Without belaboring the story, we all had a wonderful day at Lorne filled with laughter. It started off with a nice lunch overlooking the ocean; long beach walks and a visit to Lorne Pier where we saw a baby seal frolicking around at the end of the pier entertaining the onlookers; supper afterwards at a local pub with a blazing open fireplace to keep us warm as we indulged ourselves with sticky date puddings; and then the long drive back to Melbourne as Kate and Laura peacefully dozed off.
“All of us had a wonderful day. Kate’s complaints lessened in intensity as the day unfolded, and, even when she regressed from time to time, her negative attitude didn’t upset or offend me. Throughout the day, an astonishing number of acts of kindness, care and consideration flowed from me to Kate and Laura, always putting their needs ahead of my own. This was a radical turnaround in my attitude and behavior. As a result, for me, the day was one of deep and sustained peace of mind and happiness. A happiness I knew existed in me but had, hitherto, resisted allowing it to surface, probably because of my residual feelings of unworthiness, borne of guilt.
“That day had a profound favorable effect on the three of us and ten days later we did it again and enjoyed another great experience. As a result, I know that deep within me is a reservoir of happiness bursting to be let out. All I need to do is put other people’s interests ahead of my own and genuinely give out good and kindness.
“I’m pleased to say, my resistance to the emergence of happiness from within has declined substantially and I now have access to happiness that is always available in my mind, regardless of what is happening to me on the outside.
“Concurrently, my bouts of depression lessened in frequency and intensity. This must have been a blessing for long-suffering Laura.”
“So, from your direct experience,” said Noah, “of being altruistic, giving out good and being kind, delivered a double whammy?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, being altruistic released that pent-up happiness imprisoned in your mind. And additionally, what you gave out presumably came back to you in some form sometime, as well?”
“Wow, that’s another brilliant deduction! Do you mind if I include it in my book?” asked Davey, happily.