Now I am in the final stage of editing the story of my life before I begin to submit it for publication. This process provides me with the material for extensive reflection on it, and the opportunity to find the truth in what I thought was happening, examined from a distant perspective.
It is the chance for a wiser person to say to my younger self, “No, what you thought was happening wasn’t what really happened, it was this.” I realized that If I never publish the story, if I discard it or shelve it, I would still be better for having written it. This insight came as I worked through a passage from eight years go, written when I had just begun caring for Diane full time. This is the passage I was editing:
Around that time, I posted to Facebook that I was changing my goal from satisfaction to happiness.
For many years, my goal was satisfaction. Satisfying my own wants and others’ expectations. At last, satisfaction wasn’t enough. I satisfied many of my life goals, but that alone didn’t bring happiness. I did many tasks fast and aggressively to satisfy wants or needs—like moving, shopping, and driving—and that actively interfered with happiness. It got things done. It satisfied my need to check off things on my list. But it induced a state of tension and stress that made relaxation nearly impossible. Striving to attain those things made their attainment unsatisfying, creating a paradox. Satisfying my desire didn’t satisfy myself.
I believe the movie “The Way” spoke to that issue. The central character is a man who is accustomed to achieving and satisfying his goals. But during his pilgrimage, undertaken spontaneously, he began to realize this about himself: that achieving things was not fulfilling him. At first he believed his son’s death was a senseless act of nature, but it acquired meaning through his transformation of his own awareness.
Now I see the parallel. Diane’s illness was likewise bad luck, a random combination of heredity and environmental factors, but it forced me to confront what was left of my life and to ask myself what was important. What brings happiness? What is happiness when goals like intellectual prowess and achievement become irrelevant?