Preparations for Happiness

What do you need when you go on a vacation trip? I loved my dear mother but she would take everything, and I mean everything, on a vacation trip. Our trunk could barely close, in fact several of us would sit on top of the trunk while our father would attempt to close it so that we heard the latch click. I remember thinking, “what if we buy stuff on this trip, where will it go?” Mom kept everything, took everything, and at the last, just before we left the house, she would inevitably get into a fit of rage trying to control everything, plan everything, while the rest of us watched helplessly. Then we would get in the car, somewhat in shock and afraid to upset her, and she would turn to the backseat and shout, “We’re having fun here, for heaven’s sake look like you are having fun!”

My wife wonders why I find these preparations so stressful. My spouse is the exact opposite of my dear mother, my wife waits till the last minute, usually forgets all sorts of things (that we then need to buy when we get to our destination) and then relaxes and can’t understand why I am annoyed that my pestering about “remember to bring…” was unheeded. The temptation to say “I told you so” is too much for me.

I am no fun to travel with. I plan, plan, plan, get everything ready days in advance, make lists, and take as little as possible. My belongings are few and I take only what I will need. And then I let everyone have it with “I told you so.” Charming aren’t I?

And so at this advanced age I have come to a place where I need to understand that my own behaviour has to be taken into account if I am going to relax and have a good vacation trip. I now realize that it was not my Mom, my wife, anyone else, who would taint the trip, it was my own attitude, my own behaviour that determined my own experience of these trips. So now I quickly pack, put things by the door, and offer to assist others in my house with their preparations. If we end up with more than we need, if we end up having to buy stuff we have at home, I now understand this is built into the vacation experience, like putting a raincoat on when you know it is going to rain. You prepare but you know you are going to get wet. What you hope is in the rain you feel the fresh breeze of the morning and see the other magnificent things going on in and around the pouring rain.

On this trip what I am most looking forward to is not “having a great time”, I am not lifting expectations so high I will be disappointed when reality sets in. Instead what I am doing is focusing on those little moments that I know I will remember on bad days, those moments on good days when I will savour and cherish, those moments that make one truly happy. In the morning, at our beach front cottage, my wife will use a French press to make me a dark/bold cup of coffee and I will walk my dog along the rough, rocky, shoreline. I am not normally a person who needs to see the ocean or waterfronts of some kind but I do so love the sound of the water crashing against the rocks, rushing to the beachfront. That sound, the freshness of the air, the walking, my happy dog, bold/dark coffee, all of it is what I cannot plan for. But I know that if I am present to those moments they will come. My Creator wants me to be happy and within this fragile existence and my own shortcomings and failings there are hints of what happiness looks like. I aim to find them.