Have you ever read Anna Quindlen’s book, A Short Guide To A Happy Life?
It is a wonderful little book, a book which has sold a gazillion copies. And why wouldn’t it? Everyone wants a short guide to a happy life!
In this slim book, Quindlen writes, “Consider the lilies of the field. Look at the fuzz on a baby’s ear. Read in the backyard with the sun on your face. Learn to be happy.
“And think of life as a terminal illness, because, if you do, you will live it with joy and passion, as it ought to be lived.”
Blessed lives. She acknowledges that all in all, we are living blessed lives. We have an embarrassment of riches in this country. Life is good.
“I don’t mean in any cosmic way,” Quindlen writes.
“I never think of my life, or my world, in any big cosmic way. I think of it in all its small component parts: the snowdrops, the daffodils; the feeling of one of my kids sitting close beside me on the couch; the way my husband looks when he reads with the lamp behind him; fettuccine Alfredo; fudge; Gone with the Wind, Pride and Prejudice.
“Life is made up of moments, small pieces of glittering mica in a long stretch of gray cement. It would be wonderful if they came to us unsummoned, but particularly in lives as busy as the ones most of us lead now, that won’t happen.
“We have to teach ourselves how to make room for them, to love them, and to live, really live.”
An angry world. We bump through this life, busy, frazzled, overwhelmed, overworked.
I have seen the frustration on thousands of faces, and the anger is almost palpable. What are we so angry about?
I talked with a man the other day who travels in to Cleveland from his wooded farm an hour south of that city to do construction work.
He said, “I am reminded every single day how happy I really am, and how lucky I am, by all the angry people who make rude comments and angry gestures at me throughout the day. I just wave and smile.”
He has grown to appreciate more than ever going hunting in the woods surrounding his home, taking his young children with him.
“I have everything I want right there,” he said.
The trouble with the world. That’s the trouble with the world today. So few people can say that.
They are too busy pushing for the next promotion or the next house or the bigger boat. Or pushing for something they cannot even begin to identify.
They just know they don’t have it. Yet.
When Anna Quindlen was only 19, she lost her beloved mother to cancer. The saddest thing that can happen in a life could have made her bitter. Instead, it changed her perception of life.
My own father lost his mother when he was just 14, in a simple tonsillectomy gone horribly wrong, and the sorrow never left his soul.
But I have realized that it made him a better person, a wonderful parent, an empathetic soul.
They don’t go away. We all have watched heartache touch those around us – some become bitter and angry and decide to make others pay for their losses. Others find a way to turn loss in to wisdom and strength and compassion.
Anna Quindlen’s guide doesn’t tell us how to make all of our problems go away. She doesn’t tell us how to turn the tide on our crumbling world, or how to make milk and crop prices go back up for hard-working farmers, or how to get along with neighbors who are filled with rage and hatred and bitterness.
She doesn’t tell us how to accept unfairness and inequities, why some are sick and some are well.
But she instructs us to enjoy what we have been given – the little things and the large things. It is our duty and our pleasure to figure it all out, to embrace the gifts that have blessed our lives.
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