A memory from years back came to me today.
It was the day after Thanksgiving in the mid-1990’s and I was seated at a window table in the coffee shop of Borders Books on University Avenue. That place was my hangout. Some went to bars or worked out at gyms. I liked the large coffee mugs, newspapers, and unlimited books of my haunt. That day I was reading Rising In The West by Dan Morgan, a story of an Okie family making the long migration west. The book revolved around one of those topics which intrigued mom as much as me. From the pages I had marked passages which were so descriptive and well-phrased I would read them aloud to her on a trip back home while seated in the kitchen.
Sitting at the window that November day I recall the gray skies and large wet snowflakes which landed on the cars parked outside along the sidewalk. Not enough snow to prevent anyone from traveling about or shopping, but for me the perfect accessory to the holiday weekend.
That recollection came to mind as today the clear blue skies with not a cloud to be found produced a 60-degree reading at our home. Yesterday James brought out the chairs which fit onto our ‘coffin porch’ and it was there we sat today and read for several hours. With two mugs on the small table between our chairs–well, actually three as I had a steaming cup of coffee in one and his homemade hot chocolate in the other– I turned to him and with a wave of my hand over the beverages asked why in the world would anyone use drugs when they could do this.
At about 1 P.M. the winds that had been blowing all morning creating soft white caps on the lake ebbed so only rounded constant waves glittered and shimmered. The sun beat warmer and I tilted my face up and let it take hold. It was then I thought back on a conversation from about 30 years ago shortly after coming to work and live in Madison.
I was dating for a time a UW-student who was taking courses in philosophy. He worked as a page for the state assembly and we at times had long talks over truly decadent desserts at a small place in the Hotel Washington. It was there he spoke of not trying to find happiness but instead allowing it to find you. At one level I understood what he meant, but I was not yet at a place in my life to be able to allow for such thinking to take hold.
I could not have really described my definition of happiness in my twenties. I am sure had it been able to actually be viewed the image would have been unrecognizable. I was in a hurry to get to the next level of my career. It sounds awful but there was a time when at gatherings of colleagues and those who had some degree of power I would scan a room while talking to someone with the intent of making a better conversational connection. I was not so unlike many others my age and with the same desires. I wanted a better position and place in the arena.
But in the mid-90’s I knew there had to be more to life. And it was then I started to search for a better way to live my life. It takes time and life experiences to allow for inner peace and contentment. It takes lots of alone time and soul-searching. And then it comes.
So as the sun was striking my face this afternoon and my eyes squinted shut I thought back to that conversation many years ago. While the malls are packed and the frantic nature of what is supposed to make people happy takes control of them, I am reminded of the thought from that college guy who sat on the other side of a small rounded table on the isthmus.
Instead of trying to seek happiness let it instead find you. If we can find that calm center within and let it rise and flourish the end result is certain.