older I get and the more I watch the world around me, the more I realize
that - good health allowing - eventually we all seem to sort ourselves
into one of two groups. We decide to be happy or we don’t.
We all know people who appear to have come into this world with an hourglass in their hearts. It’s as though they know from the moment they’re born that time is running out. And they live lives to reflect that. They connect with the world in a unique way. They are present in each moment. They deliberately see the world in soft focus, smoothing the rough edges, the disappointments and inevitable letdowns. They count their blessings. They give back as much, if not more than they get.
Some charge into every day, seeking adventure or love - sometimes adventure and love. They make us laugh. They inspire us. They make us want that kind of happiness.
Some are easily contented. It is enough to simply be here at all. They get their pleasure from the quiet pursuits; a job that fulfills them and keeps food on the table, a home that is safe and warm, not necessisarily grand or fancy, just shelter from the storm. The love of family and a partner. They meet life with a soft smile and make their way through the world staying just outside the limelight.
Life, they will tell you, is fleeting. It is a gift. It should be appreciated. It should be shared. They forgive and forget and move on. They humble us.
But then there are the others. Those who, to see them slog through each day, you have to think must believe they are going to live forever. That they have all the time in the world to hold tightly to old grudges and every new injustice. They fume. They sulk. They withhold love and ration kindness. They wake each morning oblivious to the sunrise - a gift in itself - and move through the day under a dark cloud, ticking off a long list of complaints measuring their pleasure or success or reward against that of another. Happiness, when they stumble onto it, is fleeting. Quickly replaced by some new disappointment.
What a terrible waste of the precious hours we’re allotted.
All too often circumstances remind us that every life, even a long, successful and well-lived life, is short. And it’s a one-shot deal. We don’t get a second chance on the stage.
Tragedies like the devastation in Haiti rob undeserving men, women and children of the option to do anything but merely survive. Mental illness overtakes the innocent. War, famine and man’s cruelty to man harm so many.
How then, in light of so much suffering, can any of us who are so safe and comfortable, cocooned in lives of so much abundance, fail to appreciate - and celebrate - what we have?
the sad truth is, we do. And life flies by. One precious day at a time.
Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance columnist for The Spokesman-Review. She is the author of Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons,” and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org