Happy enough?

I watched the movie Waitress last night, which incidentally is a very well-written movie, poignant on many levels. One scene was particularly powerful, between the main character (Jenna) and her boss (Cal).

Jenna: Cal, are you happy? I mean, when you call yourself a happy man, do you really mean it?
Cal: You ask a serious question, I’ll give you a serious answer: Happy enough. I don’t expect much. I don’t get much, I don’t give much. I generally enjoy whatever comes along. That’s my answer for you, summed up for your feminine consideration. I’m happy enough.

I’ve been running that scene around in my head since the movie ended. Is there such thing as happy enough? To me it seems that once you consider yourself happy enough, you become complacent and stop growing, learning and experiencing new things. Happy enough strikes me as stagnation. But at the same time if you’re never happy enough, do you continually feel unfulfilled?

I don’t think I’d ever settle for happy enough.

An unexpected flashback

We’ve been lucky this year to have a robin build a nest right on our deck railing outside our living room window, nestled among the curling vines of a sweetautumn clematis. For the past few weeks we’ve anticipated the arrival of the chicks. On Saturday morning, they arrived.

It’s been a great experience to watch the wonder of new life and the dedication of the parents, but the most amazing thing happened this evening. My wife was peering out the window from our sofa, watching the babies stretch their tiny heads up for food. As I looked up, I saw something I’ve never seen before — my wife as a six-year old girl, full of wonder and excitement — the budding inquisitive scientist — a precursor to the woman I now know and love. For this alone, I’ll forever be indebted to the mother robin that chose our deck railing to start her new family.

Postcript: As I sat here writing this, a large hawk landed on the deck rail, looking for an evening snack. Thanks to the quick action of my wife, the chicks are still pleasantly snuggled in their nest.

Emotional symbiosis

I’ve been doing regular mental calisthenics of late trying to clarify some of the big questions that have intrigued me throughout life. Recently burning my synapses is this question: Why does my general outlook and attitude seemingly correlate with the amount of time I spend surrounded by my closest friends?

Now I’m not talking about friends of the Facebook variety. Rather the friends whose presence can have such profound effect on my emotional state are those with whom I’ve spent endless hours in poignant conversation; those with whom I’ve shared intense life-defining experiences; those around whom I’ve let down my social defense and shared something of what comprises me.

It makes some sense to me that that act of sharing me, and receiving something of them in return creates a sort of symbiotic relationship. It is as if a part of me lives (physically? metaphysically?) in them — lying safe, but dormant, until our paths cross again. To me, this would explain that feeling of instability when I’ve been disconnected from friends for too long; perhaps the me in me is wondering where the rest of me went?

The birth of trust

We all start out behind our curtain of control, whether it’s cynicism, bravado, or another of the multitude of protective facades that we use to mask our vulnerabilities. What causes us to draw back the curtain and let someone peer at — or even take a seat behind — the controls? What releases us to trust — to fundamentally give of ourselves in confidence that our gift will be treated with respect and care?

Trust seems innate in some relationships. In others, it takes years — if ever — for the seed of trust to slowly crack through our thick emotional skins. But in all cases, it takes the first step, the first peek from behind the wizard’s curtain, to let trust emerge. That trust may be broken. It may wither and die from undernourishment. But, slowly, ever so slowly, it may grow into something extraordinary. And, so we step out from behind the curtain and welcome a new soul into our life’s adventure.

That’s my boy

The kid’s here catching an old Tom and Jerry with breakfast. There was a scene where one of the characters pulls a gun out of a closet. He turns to me, and says “Who would keep a gun in a house?” Crucify me all you want for letting him watch non-politically correct brain drivel before going to school, but I do feel a slight bit of parental validation in his ability to question the illogical.

(I’m expected a posthumous Charlton Heston message any time now.)


After a string of mediocre springs, we’ve been presented this year with a nearly picture-perfect display of new life in Central Illinois. Warm days and cool nights — coupled with just the right amount of rain — have made for a brilliant, lasting display of flowering trees and shrubs supported by a foundation of tulips, daffodils and other flowering bulbs. The flowering crabapples perhaps have been the most impressive– forming dense, fragrant canopies of white, pink and red.

It is striking to me that we’re being treated to such a spectacle of nature, simultaneous to my own personal search for rebirth and belief. Lest you think I’m heading to the nearest revival, I assure you that my rebirth won’t be anything of a traditional religious reawakening. Rather, I’m searching for a more concrete something to hang my spiritual hat on. And I suspect the juxtaposition of efficiency and intricacy found in these spring blooms — in fact, in all of nature — might lead more to my awakening than any communion of humanity can offer.