The basic ingredients of a happy life are simple. They include friends and neighbors; relatives; some work you like; perhaps some pets; a club, or a church, or a team; maybe a garden or other passionate pastime or hobby; maybe a good book or a movie; and some hopes and memories, too. To relish the full pleasure of these connections, we have to delve deeply into them and make the most of them. We have to nourish them so they become as strong as they possibly can be.
But how? It is one thing to say it, another to do it. I often stop and wonder if I am doing it right in my own life. For example, as a parent, I give my kids a lot of my time, but someday I probably will wish I had given more. Who can ever give their kids all the time they wish they could? There isn’t that much time available, even to the idle rich (which I am not) because childhood is brief. And after our children’s childhoods are over, who doesn’t wish for one more day–one more sunny afternoon in the park–when our kids were young?
Anna Quindlen wrote that the biggest mistake she made as a parent:
Is the one most parents make. I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of the three of them sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4, and 1. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little bit more and the getting it done a little less.
I want to urge you–and me–to learn from Anna Quindlen’s words. I want to urge us not to simply nod wistfully in agreement, but to take action, be inspired to deepen our lives, using what we’ve already got, not waiting until we have the mythical more money, more time, or more freedom.
What we’ve already got is with us now, aching to be noticed and delved into. We need to take care of our most heartfelt connections–persistently, deliberately, lovingly–before they disappear.
We need to make time for all the people and places and projects where our hearts have set a significant mooring. To do this, we have to get rid of the insignificant ones. We have to get rid of what hurts us or wastes our precious time, if we possibly can, so we can involve ourselves fully in what and whom we love. I think this is the secret to a happy life.
Our loving connections beget meaningful moments, like a magical plant that blossoms all year-round. The flowers of these healthy connections are what I call “human moments.” They grow before our eyes in a million different ways, and they blossom day by day.
The human moment is my term for those moments when we feel most connected to someone or something outside ourselves, and most in the presence of what we’re living for.
Reprinted from Dr. Hallowell’s book, Connect: The Power of Human Connections.