The Continued Pursuit of Happiness
A couple of weeks ago I spent the weekend shopping with a friend. Before that, if anyone had asked, I would have said there was zero chance of finding this man in a store unless it was a tackle shop or Home Depot, and I certainly never would have pictured me along for the ride. However, the man needed one of life’s necessities, at least one of a middle-aged man’s necessities: The Recliner. Yes we were shopping for a new recliner and flannel sheets. I believe I gave the man sheet-envy talking about my new flannel sheets (see earlier BLOG post “Comfort and Joy” http://freethetwins.wordpress.com/2011/12/03/comfort-joy/).
I have known almost since the first day we met that this is a man with very simple needs. All this particular man seems to need to be happy is a comfortable chair, a comfortable bed, a big screen TV and enough hot water to provide him with a long, warm shower after work each night. Just four simple things are all that is needed to make him perfectly content with life.
I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this since our shopping trip. My list of what it takes to make me happy and content in life is quite a bit longer. I keep wondering if the key to my own happiness lies somewhere in this simple tale.
Most middle -aged men I meet seem to be content whether they have a woman in their life or not. They have their jobs, their hobbies, add a strong cup of coffee in the morning and they’re good to go. For instance, nothing would change in this particular man’s life if he didn’t know me. He would sit in his same comfy chair, watch his same television programs, go to his same job, and sleep comfortably and content in his new flannel sheets.
Women, on the other hand, are searching for someone to share life with. For the women I know, myself included, it’s about who you’re with not so much what you’re doing. Perhaps it’s because women are raised to be nurturers and spend a great deal of their adult lives taking care of others and making other people’s lives – children, spouses, parents — more comfortable. Even if we’re not married a large portion of our self-identity is often derived from who we choose to nurture.
Most of us have been used to taking care of the kids and the shopping and the house cleaning and the dry cleaner and the laundry and had little time left for developing hobbies. When we had free time we spent it catching up with a good friend over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, sharing experiences and learning from each other. For instance, my friend’s joy was derived from his new chair, while mine came from sharing time with him.
Now that the kids are grown and many of us live alone again perhaps we should take this opportunity to learn from men how to relax and be content alone. Maybe we should learn to put ourselves first, find a hobby that brings us joy, and stop being concerned about how the rest of the world is doing. We may find it makes us happier, but will it make the world a better place?