EUDAEMONIA: Post #50

FullSizeRender (3)Oh it was swank, it really was! In one fluid motion the black jacketed waiter lofted the glass from his tray and set it down decisively before me. A tall, elegant flute, full of tiny bubbles cavorting in endless games of tag, a drinkable lava lamp, The Lawrence Welk Show in a glass, my very first Kir Royale.

The bubbles exploded on my tongue with a cool sizzle, the taste an intoxicating and lingering blend of memory and possibility…

***

I am reading, my eyes bobbing through the paragraphs like a motorboat nipping over the waves when the word fairly leaps out at me and plants itself in front of me, hands on hips. chin jutting out, stomping it’s foot for my attention. Eudaemonia. Eudaemonia? I stop and pronounce it once slowly and then over and over again, instantly loving the roll of the syllables over my tongue. It is an effervescent word, at once joyous and musical and I find myself embracing it like a long lost friend, wrapping my whole self around it even before I know what it means. For a little while, I just leave it that way. Then finally, I look it up.

Eudaemonia. From the ancient Greek. A complete and flourishing life. I pause for a moment. But of course.

I sit on the edge of my chair on the cusp of a miracle. A small miracle maybe, but a miracle nonetheless. Two years, a hundred weeks, every other Tuesday without fail, my fiftieth post. I’m pleased, I’m proud, I’m astonished, to tell you the truth. But let’s face it, this moment is merely a flourish. A quick little “ta da” and let’s move on.   Because, of course, it’s the continuity that enraptures me and the continuity that really counts.   Flourishing, not the flourish. Flourishing takes time. Flourishing takes a lifetime.

If you think of living as a constant succession of flourishes it’s nice I suppose to occasionally gather all the blooms and arrange them in a carefully constructed display. But to truly flourish, it’s important to leave some blooms to grow, even if they need to be left to the vagaries of the wind and the rain and sometimes the far too hot sun, am I right?   There is always renewal. Why else to call them perennials?

For all of us human flowers to flourish I think our personal gardens need to be seeded with connection and kindness, watered with contemplation and memory. It’s why I”m writing. Perhaps too heavy handed a metaphor? Forgive me. But I mean it. My intentions are good here. Here’s a prime opportunity for you: Be kind to me on this one.

In my romance of the word Eudaemonia (oh, how I love to say this word!) I am finding that one part of this short definition is catching me a bit off balance. A complete and flourishing life.

How can any life be considered complete? There are always mistakes we make, connections dropped, opportunities squandered no matter how exemplary some of us may be. All life, each one magnificently messy, cannot be tied up in a nice neat package and considered “complete.” And if one of the key elements to a good life is connection, as I am certain that it is, there isn’t completion but continuity. It’s our attempt that matters, our links with others that form an ongoing chain from the past to us to the future.

“However,” said the great gourmet and writer Brillat-Savarin in The Physiology of Taste, “I have lived long enough to know that each generation says the same thing and is inevitably laughed at by the next one.”

Hmm.   Some generational connections are a bit difficult then, but I maintain they are connections nonetheless. We continue to play the game.

And so to return to my Kir Royale. A new glass, filled to the brim, is placed before me. I still love the bubbles swirling through space! It’s as if each tiny sphere is set to burst with thrilling possibility!

I raise the glass high in a toast to all of us, a small flourish in our quests for flourishing lives.

 

 

 

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HAPPINESS

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A throwaway question. A perfunctory answer. “So how are you?” he asked. Unthinking, the answer tumbled from my lips, “I’m great.”

There was a pause before he replied gently. “But you never say that.” And he was right. I never do. Except that I just did. That’s when it hit me.

I was happy. So happy that I hadn’t even noticed.

Well good grief, how did this happen? And how was it that I didn’t see it coming didn’t prepare, didn’t revel? That longed for sensibility, that sweetly elusive quest that launched a thousand well-thumbed self-help books, the favored subject of so much yapping from so many smug and silly daytime talk show hosts. Happiness. It was mine?

I had to cry a little. Not because I was happy. But because I hadn’t realized how long I’d been unhappy.

Had I bull headedly been unwilling to admit how unhappy I had been? Or had I simply been rutted for so long that I hadn’t noticed? Or worse, not cared?

The marvelous Mary Oliver speaks of “a seizure of happiness.” That can certainly be so. But this lovely, pervasive longed for thing snuck up on me. Caught me by surprise and held me.

The thing is, for those who are aware there are always, even in terrible times, moments of happiness, of beauty, of joy.  We snatch greedily at these happy things, grab them and hold on tight. Most of us swing from joyous moment to joyous moment, all the time lurching over the abyss of fear and unhappiness.

But this feeling was something else entirely, pervasive and calm and real. It arrived without fear.

How did it happen? On the surface, it all seems the same. The weird and wonderful cascade of daily life continues. The comfortable old house is still basically held together with duct tape. I’m haunted by sisyphean piles of laundry. My untamable flyaway hair perseveres in having a wayward mind of it’s own. I try to be where the people I love can reach me. I remain small and quiet, often unnoticed and most comfortable in a corner.

And yet there is a difference. I am doing exactly the work I want to be doing in just the way I want to do it. That small thing is everything to me.

Could it be that happiness was there all along, waiting for me to stop searching for it so it could simply suffuse me?

All these thoughts raced through my head before I continued the conversation. I took a deep breath, “And how are you?” I asked. I thought and I hoped, “please be great too.”