If the rumor mill proves accurate, and it has a good track record, many people where I work including myself may be out of a job soon. Supposedly we lost a huge customer worth several million dollars of revenue to our division. The last time this happened there was an across the board layoff of quite a few people.
This bit of gloomy intelligence got me thinking about my sanity, happiness and what it would take to maintain it. I have spent the first 40 years of my life denying myself pleasures to save for the "future". Recently it has become apparent that the future I expected, (financial security, wealth from small investments made early and a relatively frugal lifestyle, comfortable old age and golden years) was not coming. Instead it sent its cousin (financial uncertainty, a possible return to minimum wage employment and golden years much like my early twenties living hand to mouth but without youthful health and energy). This transformation has taken place over the past 2 years. Before that I always had confidence that even though I was not the best and brightest, I was a hard worker with enough will power to avoid the common pitfalls of life. I have never borrowed much money, I have always managed to live within my means which provided a sense of well being and security that I enjoyed. This may have been the result of my childhood which was chaotic and full of uncertainty. There were times through no fault of their own that my parents could not pay for fuel to heat our house, and other hardships I never wanted to encounter again.
I'm taking a bit of a detour, what I really wanted to say is I've been thinking a little about alternative ways to be happy given that my first choice does not appear possible. This last year I started to indulge a little. I started some hobbies with my kids that I really enjoy. They are not inexpensive but I have found real joy in doing them. I think if I could find a way to keep doing them I could deal with giving up other expenses in my life. My wife and I were discussing the big what if yesterday and what our options would be. We both agreed that if necessary we could sell our house and live happily in an apartment like we did years ago. I always envisioned reaching a point in life where I and my family would be financially set. This always drove me, motivated me but now appears very unlikely to ever happen. The probability is I will spend the rest of my days scratching out a living worrying about money like I always have. But if I can have moments of happiness like the time spent recently with my sons doing things I enjoy I think I can be happy.
One of the things that recently happened was I took one of my sons skiing. The third time out we graduated from the rope pull to the chair lift slope. The first two times up he fell getting off the chairlift. The third time he nailed it and skied to the bottom without falling. Its hard to describe the sense of joy and pride and happiness I felt. It made me wonder if there really was a heaven, would the feeling be like this. I remember as a child trying to comprehend the concept of heaven and finding it a little intimidating. Like the song says:
When we've been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We've no less days to sing God's praise,
Than when we first begun.
I don't know of anything that I want to do for 10,000 years especially go to church. Even the moment I described above with my son only works for that brief instant. We are not wired for constant joy. Its the long periods of strife, effort and disappointment that highlight the joy and make it exceptional. 10,000 years of being perpetually joyful would not be a significantly better situation than 10,000 years of depression, in my opinion anyway. Even 10,000 years of life's ups and downs would be hard to take. After the first century or so you would probably run out of new ideas and new experiences. Would you then spend the next 100 centuries repeating everything over and over? In about 10 to 12 years I will be done raising my family (as far as legal obligations go anyway). I could start and raise hundreds of families in 10,000 years, enough times to actually be good at it perhaps. But my sons are unique, they are the only ones I will ever have. I can't imagine feeling the same way after having 1000 children. Life is special because it is finite, it ends. Because it has an end it focuses our attention to the few things that are worth focusing on or it should have that affect at any rate.