Not long ago, I ran into an old acquaintance of mine. I hadn’t seen Charlie in a few years, in fact, not since his former company “went south,” as the expression goes. He had been a faithful employee of the manufacturing company for several years, but despite his best efforts, the company could not make it. He received his “pink slip,” and a bit of severance and they said good-bye. He and his wife moved to Ohio to be nearer to their in-laws.
I was also aware that during that time period one of his three children (he was the father of triplets), developed a severe viral infection that the pediatricians could not solve. It was looking grim as the child was getting progressively weaker.
Pessimist by Nature
At first, I was a bit apprehensive about saying much more than “Hello,” to Charlie. However, he broke the ice by telling me that he had been quite busy as vice president of a company that was involved in producing truck parts. He said that the business was doing quite nicely, and they appreciated his work, but that he was a pessimist by nature.
At some point in the evening, he was joined by his wife and three beautiful young women who were nearly identical. They stayed for just a minute and then they were off on an errand.
“Your family is beautiful,” I said. Then I added, “The last time I saw you, one of your daughters was quite ill.”
“Oh yes, that was Annie,” he said. “She’s doing very well, and we’re all hoping that there will never be a recurrence of the problem.”
His voice was hollow, rather than hopeful, as though he was waiting for another shoe to fall that would wipe away her health and her future.
As we parted company, I had an uneasy feeling about my conversation with Charlie that would not leave me for days. It wasn’t a constant sensation of course, but it did come up every so often when I thought of my encounter with him. I concluded at some point that for Charlie, happiness was always fleeting.
I wish I could tell you that Charlie was an “odd bird,” a chronic pessimist different from anyone I have ever known on a social basis or met when I have given my keynote speeches. In fact, Charlie is not so odd a bird, but he belongs to a growing flock who often choose unpleasantness over blessings and pessimism over peace. It is an epidemic.
Charlie was fortunate enough to have landed a great new job with a better job title and substantial benefits. His daughter, who was seriously ill, has returned to health. From what I could see, he has a good marriage and presumably, friends. Why does he always see the bad side of things?
I have confidence in my educated “guess” that many people I know, are nurtured more by social media rather than by spirituality. As such, they are always comparing themselves to others who seem happier, richer and more fulfilled.
I also feel that by dwelling on constant over-analysis along with unrealistic expectations, that far too many people have come to believe in themselves as the centers of the universe rather than believing there may be a higher power.
I am not necessarily talking about religion here but of the simple joy of giving ourselves over to this beautiful world and accepting the good and not the bad. I like to call it “Faith.”
My hope for Charlie is that his job will be the perfect job. For now, for right in the moment, it seems as though it is a wonderful job. He should be happy he can be productive, that he has good benefits, a great salary and fun co-workers. Of the future, who can say? But who is to say he can’t be more successful?
Of his daughter, she apparently has the best of care, a physician who has successfully treated her condition and that her precious life gives everyone around her joy and contentment. Who can say about her health in the future? We can’t control it, but we can have faith that her health will continue to improve. Any over analysis beyond that point will lead to more pessimism.
Happiness vs. Joy
We must all find happiness wherever we can find it, and it can be found in small victories of the heart and soul. We must also remind ourselves daily that happiness is a journey, not a destination. Happiness is like rising bubbles. They are enjoyable, but unsurprisingly momentary. Inversely, joy is oxygen. It is ever-present. Happiness can claim your attention for a few seconds, like a sip on good wine, or it can stay with you for a week. But happiness can’t hold the same space as negative emotions for very long. Happiness is transient, so love it when it comes. Joy is permanent, and the love that lasts no matter what. Choose joy!