Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Pursuit

I started thinking about Thomas Jefferson on the Declaration of Independence and the part about our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And I remember thinking how did he know to put the pursuit part in there?
             -- Christopher Gardner, The Pursuit of Happyness
It's interesting how, when you're given a topic, the fates conspire to send you messages based on that topic.  One of those messages arrived from a fellow scout leader last night...

I was talking to one of my closest friends at scouts about what's going on with Johne.  Another leader, overhearing the conversation, said unto me "You know, Doug, you bring this on yourself.  It wouldn't hurt you to say no once in a while!"  I was taken by surprise.  She was serious, and I didn't have a clue how to explain the simple fact to her:

yes!  it would!

15 years ago, I was a peaceful person.  I was a single guy who didn't hang out at bars or do rowdy night clubs or any such thing.  I'd go to work in the morning, come home, eat dinner, watch a movie and chill ... whatever.  It was a very simple, very peaceful existence.  If you woud have asked me, I'd have said I was happy.

Soon, though, an ex-girlfriend got involved in my life again.  She brought with her a failing marriage and 4 young boys that I quickly fell in love with.  They eventually became my step-sons after her marriage fell apart.  Those 6 people (yes, her ex-husband included) would change my life forever.  The day I proposed to Christina and she accepted I was happy!

In December of 1998, my daughter was born.  Again, my life changed.  Her, and later her brother and sisters, brought a whole new kind of happiness to my life.  Those four young lives, that are a part of me, that I held within seconds of their birth ... they've changed my love in ways that I had no inkling of in my past experience.  If you had asked me, Proud Daddy, walking out of the hospital with my newborn any of those times, I'd have explained to you that I was happy!

In February of 2010, we made the decision to foster Topher.  It was, and is, an difficult and ongoing decision.  It's brought pain and joy, troubles and smiles into our family in ways we never could have expected.  Watching this young man literally turn his life around away from the suicidal depression he was wallowing in before he came to us has been incredibly rewarding.  Knowing we had even a small part in that has brought out emotions I didn't even know I had!  If you'd have asked me 3 weeks ago I'd have told you I was happy!

2 weeks ago, Johne reached out to me having seen the change in Topher.  We reached back as a family, and got burned for it.  It's a mild burn, but it smarts.  We could see how much it could have been worse.  It scared us, much as touching a fireplace and blistering a finger scares a toddler.  Would we do it again ... yes ... perhaps with a bit more care next time, but yes.  Am I happy I did it?  YES.

I've come to the conclusion that, at least for me, happiness is in the doing.  I look back on the bachelor staying home and think "He was happy, but I could never go back to being him ... I'd be miserable".  Each change, be it minor or catastrophic, success or failure has led to a new happiness.

If that bachelor had refused to take his ex-girlfriend's calls, had kept at work and kept his life in order, he'd have truly believed he was happy.  I know ... I have friends who have done it.  I just couldn't be that person.  I wouldn't be happy with who I was, and that would be the worst sorrow of all.

So ... back to the top ... yes, it would hurt me to say "no".

I would and could never be happy with the decision.
This part of my life... this part right here?
This is called "happyness."
             -- Christopher Gardner, The Pursuit of Happyness
Life is not tried it is merely survived
If you're standing outside the fire
             -- Garth Brooks, Standing Outside the Fire

        aka: goofdad


Eric said...

About 2 weeks ago, I found an unread email that was sent to me from my mother last may. It was in an old account I gave up on because of spam.

In it my mom was telling that she was not excited about my wife being pregnant again. It would have been the third time in as many years. He reasons were that we would not give the kids equal time and our oldest would be left out.

I've tossed it around if I should respond to get her current feelings. But it won't change anything how I feel about my kids.

Yes, I have five kids, four of which are 4 and younger. No, we do not get invited places probably because of that fact. Do I get upset not being invited? Yes. But my kids are my world. Even the one that was born 4 months ago.

Family evolves. Even if you could, you can't give a kids back and expect it to be the same as it was before the kid was there. You've already changed. You've already had them imprinted in your heart and soul and life.

Keep doing what you're doing Doug. It's easy to be a sideline parent when they're not your kids or your problems.

Amber said...

Oh my goodness. You have made me cry tears of pure joy. When I read about a father's love, it makes me happy.

I am second in a family of ten. My father loved every. single. one. of his kids. He was excited with EVERY pregnancy. It was something I hoped to share with my future husband.

I am lucky because that wish came true.

My husband and I both want a large family. We hesitate to define "large" because we don't know what the future holds. AS of now, we have 2 kids under two. Many people look at us like we are crazy. But, they don't see the absolute happiness we have. Daily.

As you expressed in here.

Thank you.

(Here through Momalom and will be back.)

S. K. said...

It's so hard to pace yourself though; those who need help are Legion. Please watch your own spirit because when the oxygen mask comes down, you can't save anyone if you don't save yourself first. I would put your wife as you, first, too.
Good luck with that; tell me how it's coming along. We can start a group.Your kids are SO lucky to have you.

Privilege of Parenting said...

It sounds like you have the blessing in being able to be happy with what just is, and that you have also seemed to discover that the more you leap and give, the happier you seem to grow.

I fear that I simply lack the physical stamina to be so giving, but I admire you for it.

Melissa said...

You're so right! Every experience, every child changes you. You can't ever go back to who you were before, and why would you eant to? I'm amazed at the new lessons we leaen and the new ways we grow with every life change--and especially with every child! Great post. :)

postmommy said...

I read your post yesterday but I didn't have time to respond then. Since I read it, though, I keep having the phrase, "happiness is in the doing" running through my head. It is so very, very true. Happiness shows up inside of those moments; it is an active, growing thing that we carry us every time we choose to do something that creates it. Great post. Thanks again for sharing.

Jen said...

Yes. Even if you were happy "then," you cannot go back. And you may not be happy now in the same circumstances. I like the idea that happiness is in the doing. Some have written today that it is a choice. That seems useful, too. Most important to me is that I feel I am making the best decisions for me and my family and our happiness, together and individually. It sounds like that is a strength of yours. Thanks for joining us, Doug.