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A Perfect Day

November 27, 2017

The Declaration of Independence codifies “the pursuit of happiness” as a right of all Americans, yet many of us don’t even know if we’re happy. Can we be happy and not know it? Is happiness something we have or lack? Does it drop on us like Newton’s apple or is it something that must be worked at, achieved?


There are many reasons we struggle with happiness. I think people are much too passive about it. I believe happiness needs to be worked at, acknowledged. I’m thinking about this because I recently experienced a rarity—a perfect day. It put me in a happy mood that needed to be savored.


When Mrs. Chatterbox and I were raising our little boy, we were too busy to be happy. We were both building careers and working hard trying to provide a good home for our son. We were sleep deprived and overworked. When we had a moment to catch our breath we worked at building a fantasy, one that went something like this:


We live in a comfortable home of our own. It’s raining outside (We love rain and fantasize about moving to Oregon where it rains often.) A cozy fire is burning in the fireplace and our dog is chasing rabbits in her sleep on the hearth. Our boy is a few blocks away having a playdate with other children. A pot of French onion soup is on the stove and a great old movie is on TV. We have no desire to go anywhere.


For the longest time this was the fantasy, the secret place where Mrs. C. and I took comfort whenever our careers were problematic. For years this combination of circumstances remained a figment of our imaginations.


Eventually, we moved to Oregon where it rains a lot. Our boy grew up, graduated from college and began life as an adult. Careers for both of us came and went, and Mrs. Chatterbox and I settled into a comfortable retirement. But it was only the other day that I asked myself if Iwas happy.


I looked around my comfortable home. Our boy was safe and sound in a nearby town (presumably in the arms of his bride). My wife was in the kitchen stirring a pot of something that smelled delicious. A fire was crackling in the fireplace and Casablanca was on TV as rain pounded against our windows. We were both retired, with careers no longer tugging at us. With the single exception of not having a dog, here was our perfect fantasy staring us in the face.


It seemed important to acknowledge the moment, to drink it up like intoxicating wine. This fantasy had eluded us for years, yet here it was, a matter of luck more than anything we’d done to bring it about. As I basked in the warmth of the moment, I acknowledged that others were far more deserving of it, yet I was nevertheless filled with a strange feeling—the realization that my fantasy had come true. I was overwhelmed with happiness. If I could, I would have stopped time to wallow in the moment, but of course such an act was beyond my abilities.


The rain eventually stopped, and the fire in our hearth sputtered out. Rick arranged for Elsa and Victor to leave Casablanca aboard that plane. The French Soup was eaten and the kitchen cleaned. All too briefly, the fantasy ended, but its power remains.


It’s important to pause and absorb the blissful moments of our lives, to not let them pass unacknowledged. It would be a shame to be happy and not realize it, but I think far too many of us wait for happiness to find us instead of working at it, acknowledging it when it arrives, if ever so briefly.


What about you? Are you happy? Can a person be happy without knowing it?


As for me, I’m eagerly anticipating another magical moment when my universe comes together to transport me into my fantasy. The only thing missing the last time was a dog. Need to be thinking about that….






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Good post- very thoughtful and yes I am happy and thank you for reminding us not to take these happy days for granted. Even with the health challenges in our family I am happy and content because of where we live, the freedoms we have and the friends and family we have. Not everyone is so blessed and not everyone recognizes and appreciates what they have, Thanks Stephen!
By: Kathe W. on November 27, 2017
I think most of the time we are too tired to be happy or even wonder if we're happy. I think it's those small moments that matter most with happiness. I may not be happy all of the time, but I always have peace, and sometimes that's enough.
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on November 27, 2017
A person can't be happy and not know it. That's just my opinion. I think all it takes to be happy are two things: 1) Know that you are a priority in someone else's life and 2) Be present in the moment whenever you are with that person. By present, I mean actively controlling your thoughts so that you don't wander to the future or to the past, but appreciate the moment to moment that you have with that person who has made you a priority in their life. All these other things that we call happiness, getting gifts, etc. are just dopamine and serotonin release offered by a reward system in our brain. It isn't happy.
By: Michael Offutt on November 27, 2017
It's hard to be happy in the moment for long because we're always thinking ahead.
By: PT Dilloway on November 27, 2017
Yes we definitely need to be aware and enjoy those perfect moments that come along in our lives. You are right, all too often they happen and we don't even notice. That's the whole principle behind Mindfullness. Being more aware of ourselves rather than living on auto pilot.
By: LL Cool Joe on November 27, 2017
I am happy a lot of the time. Maybe it's just something we tend to be or not be. Or maybe I'm just lucky. I don't know. I do know it doesn't take much to keep me happy, so maybe that helps - simple food, a warm house, a caring spouse, a good book. If I wanted to do a lot of travelling or have adventures or have a mansion and five hundred dollar purses - those would be a problem. I'm grateful to like the little things.
By: jenny_o on November 27, 2017
It's definitely time to adopt a dog. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on November 27, 2017
You do need to get that dog. Callie, my dog, often makes me smile and that is when I know I am happy. A beautiful sunset or rise, a friends or family member's good fortune,these bring the smile and yes--happiness. Ok, I may be easy.
By: Arkansas Patti on November 27, 2017
My life can be very difficult, but there is an underlying joy that i sense every day.
By: messymimi on November 27, 2017
Happiness requires effort. At least it does in my life. My dogs help by reminding me that living in the moment is a key aspect to being happy. We all have a need to be wanted and loved. We also need to feel safe and have a sense of purpose.... oh and vitamin C too :)
By: Daniel LaFrance on November 27, 2017
Happiness is brief and elusive. I am more for thankfulness. Thinking about what is happening at that moment in that day that gives me peace and satisfaction. Happiness is too short and intermittent for me. I will settle for thankfulness.
By: Tabor on November 27, 2017
A wonderful and uplifting post, Stephen. Thank you for opening an important line of thought. I think your readers could sense your gratitude and feel that wonderful glow. Wise women and men as teachers, counselors, writers, philosophers and clerics stress the value of practicing mindfulness. You just provided us all a field trip into that very thing as you relished a moment of crescendo that life can provide, when we are paying attention. It all goes so quickly, each moment is a jewel. Happiness is a place and it is an aspiration.
By: Tom Cochrun on November 27, 2017
The question reminds me of the tree falling in the forest. My response to that seeming paradox is that you can look at sound in the physical sense of air vibrations (which of course it makes), or in the subjective sense of inner awareness. There is no paradox. As soon as you choose a perspective to refine the question the answer becomes obvious. When it comes to something like happiness, I think you're describing an inherently inner state of mind, and it needs to be acknowledged in order to be experienced. I think self-reflection and awareness is a vital part of happiness.
By: Botanist on November 27, 2017
Getting there is the happy part. If we like doing what we do along the way we are happy. Retirement puts us in another place where we can like doing what we do only the choice is much things.
By: red kline on November 27, 2017
BTW - so glad you had the awareness to realize what a perfect day you were having!
By: Botanist on November 27, 2017
Sounds wonderful, but I don't want to wait until I'm retired! I find the perfect moment ~ a great batch of cookies we enjoy, or winning a challenging racquetball game, Thanksgiving with the family ~ are savored and reminisced later on those rainy days that lead us to reflection.
By: It\'s A Crazy World on November 27, 2017
Wonderful holiday-time sentiment. There is no "happily ever after." We experience happiness in moments like you described, when we take the time to savor them.
By: Robyn Engel on November 27, 2017
I like to complain a lot, and I miss my boys since they moved to college, but overall, I AM happy. I think about it every night as I lay back in my OPC (Old People Chair) and contemplate what I have to do the next day. Oh, wait. That's ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!
By: Val on November 27, 2017
I'm not sure if I can be happy and not know it but I have this overpowering urge to clap my hands.
By: Mitchell is Moving on November 28, 2017
perhaps real happiness is a fleeting emotion by nature, a feeling of elation that cannot be sustained. I think the more enduring emotions by which to judge your life are contentment and satisfaction.
By: Ellen Abbott on November 28, 2017
I'm a realist. Yes, of course I have some days that are just perfect, but some days I'm more like the bug than the windshield. One of my good ones was last Saturday. By evening I was tired, so I turned on the TV to a great football game, opened the window right beside my chair and felt a nice, cool breeze, and had some football food (nachos). It all just felt right. :)
By: scott park on November 28, 2017
Excellent post Stephen, I love that you recognized the fantasy you have always strived for when it finally made it's presence known, I believe that we are happy even though our fantasy is still being dreamed, but being happy in your present place is important too and that is where we are.
By: Jimmy on November 28, 2017
Nice post if a bit wistful, Stephen. Here's to many more perfect days.
By: Catalyst on November 28, 2017
If you take the time and look all around you can always find something to make you, I'm too lazy to look all around.
By: cranky on November 28, 2017
I've actually given this a lot of thought. When I around and see all the good things in my life, I realize that it's been a gift. I'm not always happy. The current political landscape is on my mind a great deal, but for the most part, I"m living a dream. R
By: Rick Watson on November 28, 2017
I lost "happy" in a dumb accident in the spring. The pleasure of being happy only recently occurred to me. I searched hard, and think I may be finding it again.
By: Joanne Noragon on November 28, 2017
I believe happiness is a skill - the skill to recognize that you "have it good." Clearly this is what happened to you that day. Many people "have it good" in life, but are miserable. One of my co-workers always makes it a point of asking job interviewees if he or she is a happy person. Which is funny, because in the part of the job interview where they ask, "...and tell me a bit about yourself" I always mention that I'm basically a very happy person. Which sort of points to the fact that I've had four job interviews in the last 10 years, and five job offers.
By: Pixel Peeper on November 30, 2017

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