If you are like me, you derive some simple pleasures from everyday experiences. I am not wealthy, so I can't wait around to go on expensive vacations, or expect to receive a new car from my wife for Fathers Day (ha!).
Cathy and I love to travel but it just isn't something we have the time or wherewithal to do at this point in our lives. No, we need to find simple pleasures closer to home. In fact, we have discovered many of those mood enhancing experiences right in our own backyard.
Recently, we rescued a puppy. We are dog lovers and it had been several years since we had a companion around the house. Our children are on their own now, and since we are both still working, and we wanted to stay grounded, we decided it was time to adopt a new 'baby'.
Abby is our almost two-year-old female GoofyDoodle runaway. It has been almost a year now since she was found with a tattered leash wrapped around a tree. She had either ran away or been abandoned at about one-years-old. After an extensive search for her owner, we took her in. At first, she was a Tasmanian Devil, and we wondered if we had made a fatal mistake, thinking we could cope with unlimited energy, separation anxiety, and destructiveness. But even during her maturation process, her vitality, enthusiasm, affection and joy were infectious.
I walk her every day, and I enjoy watching her sniff out all of the pheromones along the trail. She gets excited meeting other dogs and shows incredible curiosity about babies in strollers, and birds running across lawns. She is easily entertained by squirrels, lizards, rabbits, and especially horseback riders.
My point is simple: there are a lot of things in life we can choose to enjoy. We can decide to be thrilled by simple pleasures or we can hold out for more complex, more extreme measures to make us happy. We can settle for the micro, or hold out for the macro. Either way, finding happiness is a choice we make.
We Americans have so many choices, whether it is shopping for groceries, clothes or simply finding pleasure in reading a book, bird watching or walking a dog. We enjoy the most prosperity and comfort of any culture in the history of mankind. It is easy to become jaded by our comfort levels. To get picky and spoiled. To grow isolated and indifferent to how the other half lives.
As I walk along the bridal trail, watching how lightly Abby steps, how she tugs me so she can challenge a lizard scooting across the dirt trail, how she leaps at moths and butterflies, I get vicarious thrills from her excitement and how easily she is pleasured by doggy distractions.
Then I think about our current society, and how anxious people are about their lives. How so many people are unhappy, or at least uncomfortable with their jobs, neighbors, politics, and the state of world affairs. How many people shelter themselves by watching TV, playing video games, or fiddling with social media. Or they fool themselves into thinking they feel good with medications.
I am a news junkie, so I dwell in the world of reality. I try not to let bad news ruin my life, because I am, after all, very fortunate to be an American, which by default makes me one of the luckiest people ever born.
I try to keep abreast of civilizations struggles to cope with conflict, with mankind's attempts to improve lives with technology, to feed the poor, to protect the helpless. I am aware that many humans are selfish and self-centered and practice predatory lifestyles, damaging or even destroying other lives without guilt. But I have a corner of existence to which I am given domaine. I am obligated to myself and my family to make the best of it. I feather my own nest, and try to teach my offspring to fly. Don't we all?
I can only wonder why do some people choose to be so angry and unhappy? I know some people experience much worse living conditions than me, and are dealt a bad hand. No question about that, and I have tons of empathy for them. But most of my fellow Americans cannot make that case. Too many of them simply cannot find a way to make themselves comfortable in our world. In fact, I would argue they often make themselves uncomfortable, just so they can complain about it.
And their anger makes them 'happier', which leaves me dumbfounded.
For example, how can anyone with a straight face suggest that what has happened in America over the past year has been bad for Americans? A stable and growing economy, a reduction in taxes, more jobs than at any time in the past fifty years! We are no longer watching a nightly parade of beheadings and public massacres on international TV, and we can feel reasonably safe to travel again. The new home construction business has risen from the dead, and Americans are building equity in home ownership again. America is more energy independent than at any time this century, and women are gaining ground in education, jobs and business ownership. We can say 'Merry Christmas' again, and our service men and women are getting a raise and enjoying better healthcare. Many companies are returning to our country, bringing back their retained earnings and manufacturing jobs. Take away the incredibly bifurcated press and the mutinous Deep State, and we would be enjoying a renaissance similar to the post WWII boom.
OK, if you didn't vote for DJT you can choose to be bitter, or, you can participate and benefit from a resurging American lifestyle that has come out of hibernation. This is how it works in America, we hold elections so the people can have a say in which direction our country is going to go in. The pendulum swings back and forth, and over time, everyone gets their way. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, but we have never before been so obsessed with destroying the opposition. Since when did American pluralism devolve into fascism?
So which is it? Can we find some simple pleasures along the trail of life or are we going to commit ourselves to constant conflict and unhappiness? Is medicating ourselves with mind-numbing drugs and political instability preferable to rediscovering some simple daily pleasures, most of which can be had for free and with no nasty side effects?
I love my family, the extended version of which is my country. I don't get along perfectly with everyone of my family members, but when push comes to shove, they come before anyone else. I want all of my family to be happy and healthy. I just wish some members would recognize the sincerity of Americans who chose Trump to lead us and stop perfecting their own misery. I cannot and would not impose my hopes and wishes on them, but, honestly, what have they got to lose other than their anger?