It was a wonderful week and even a better weekend. On Thursday, unbeknownst to me, my middle granddaughter’s boyfriend asked my son-in-law for her hand in marriage. He then called my office to ask if he could come by. Fortunately, I had a 30-minute opening, so he rushed over and asked for my blessing and support, as well. I felt truly honored by his behavior and impressed by his display of loving emotions. Needless to say, my wife and I really like this guy.
The next day (Friday) was the second anniversary of the day they met. He said he planned to take her to dinner, surprise her with a proposal of marriage and then have our family and his convene at the restaurant to celebrate. It was a very meaningful event, thoroughly enjoyed by everyone there.
On Saturday, my wife and I had a dinner party for some friends, which lasted until late in the night. Sunday afternoon, all of our family was scheduled to gather together for i-fly, a simulated sky-diving experience. Harriet and I actually had sky-dived some years before, and we were looking forward to the other members of our family experiencing the sensation without the risk. However, Sunday morning, we received a call from the parents of our future grandson-in-law, inviting us to a baby naming for their granddaughter, stating that since you’re now extended family, we would love to have you attend.
We couldn’t refuse that kind of invitation, so we broke our Sunday tradition of staying in bed, reading the paper and watching “Meet The Press” and instead, went to the baby naming. We arrived sufficiently early enough for me to have the opportunity to talk to the father of my new grandson-in-law to be. It was the first time we had an extended period of time to discuss the world’s problems, politics and the blending of our families. He was overwhelmed with emotions about the baby naming and ecstatic over the engagement.
All of the latter is a prelude to explain where the idea for this article came from.
During the course of our conversation, he said to me, “You should write an article about the stages of life, because I’m going through them. At one time I thought that if only I could graduate from school, get out into the world, earn a living, complete graduate school, open an office, find the right woman, buy the right car and the right house, I’d be happy. In every stage of my life I thought if only I had this one item or reached this specific goal, I’d be content. But, at the engagement dinner the other night, I looked at our families melding together, watched my son and your granddaughter openly sharing so much love, and now you’re all here at my granddaughter baby naming and I’m totally at peace. Emotionally, it gives me a sense of joy and happiness beyond anything I’ve experienced before. It made me realize that this is what it’s all about.
I listened to his words, and I entirely could relate. I thought back to my youth when I knew for certain that if only one day, I could own a Mercury Convertible, I would be happy the rest of my life. In another stage of life, I said, “G-d, if only I can make $100 a week, I’ll be on top of the world (that dates me, doesn’t it?). Later, I progressed to thinking, if only I can get out of school, start my own practice, have a successful career, find the right woman, have healthy kids, or write one book. It didn’t stop there. Years later, I found myself saying, “If I can only write a fifth book and it becomes a best-seller; then and on and on and on.”
Later that day, after the i-fly experience, our family gathered at a restaurant, where I took the time to look from one end of the table to the other. I saw my wife, my daughter, my son-in-law, my grandchildren, and their partners, and for a moment I lost my appetite. The food wasn’t important, the people and my feelings were. I thought, if only I can be around for a lot longer and share the happiness I feel at this moment with each of these individuals, then G-d would have heard my prayers and I wouldn’t ask for anything more because this really is what it’s about.
I didn’t stop there, though, I thought of all the patients I see on a daily basis and promised myself to ask each one, “What will make you happy?” and I realized that just by asking that question I was implying that they weren’t, which in part is true because they’re all seeing me and seeking help. What is sad, though, is that I know most of them would answer, “If only my spouse, my parents, my teachers, my friends, etc., would behave differently, I’d feel better.” Why is it sad? Because what I would hope they would say is, “I’d like to be able to avail myself of and appreciate what I am inside and what I already have. It’s then that I’ll have a sturdy enough foundation to build on and become what I want to be.
So, what I’d like to suggest is that each of you reading this take the time to ask, not what will make me happy, but what do I already have that I can be happy about. Believe it or not, there is in each of your lives goodness, worth and possibilities. For many of you, there also are people who will help and support you if you only make yourself receptive to them and pull them towards you instead of pushing them away.
Let me repeat what I’m sure your mother or grandmother once said to you, “You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.” Your retort to that might be, “Who wants to catch flies?” My response is: If you didn’t want a fly, why did you date or marry one? Even more, why are you angry that he or she doesn’t love, talk or pay attention to you?” What I am strongly suggesting is that you already have in your life many more things that can provide the happiness you long for than you realize, are aware of, or able to appreciate.
To learn more about Dr. Reitman, to read more of his articles or to obtain copies for family or friends, visit his website, dredreitman.com.