I read an article in a British newspaper just the other day in which the author, who had very recently moved to the U.S, was struck by the fact that, while Americans seemed always in pursuit of happiness, when asked, so rarely acknowledged having attained it. I suspect that a mix-up in terms might play some part in this. Perhaps when people refer to happiness, they may actually mean satisfaction. The former is a metaphysical term, while the latter represents a measure of the gulf between our expectations and our reality.
Friends often ask me, for example, whether I’m happy in my current living arrangement. When I consider the question, I remember how I had envisioned the ideal environment when I went shopping for a new assisted living home – a pastoral setting where, isolated from traffic and congestion, I could appreciate nature’s greenery around me in an atmosphere of peaceful solitude. Inside I hoped as well to find compassionate management and a staff willing to provide good care. It was my great good fortune to find all of these things in one place here at Kensington Park. I especially enjoy the view while sitting outside on a pretty day, taking in the campus’s pleasant features, including the Princess Anne architecture of its buildings, whose wide verandas sporting rows of welcoming rocking chairs offer the perfect antidote to daily trials and tribulations. My comfortable routine each day is punctuated by amiable interactions with the staff, a group of uniformly kind and helpful folks who do everything they can to ease my way.
And so, to return to where this all started, and in response to my friends’ queries regarding my present state of mind, I simply tell them I couldn’t be any happier. I often marvel at my good luck at this stage of life, and do a small bit of worrying as well that its end may be right around the next corner. At moments like that I recall the words of the author Willa Cather, who once wrote:
“One cannot divine nor forecast the conditions that will make happiness; one only stumbles upon them by chance, in a lucky hour, at the world’s end somewhere, and holds fast to the days, as to fortune or fame.”