Happily Ever After…Every Now and Then
I watched as my dog rotated from sitting on her stomach, paws forward, to shifting 90 degrees to lie on her side, all four legs poking out naturally. Two languid blinks, one last loving glimpse up at me, and she was asleep.
It got me to thinking.
Comparatively, a dog's life, admittedly shorter, is also much simpler than ours. A dog that is loved, fed and regularly exercised has little to complain about. And those brief naps, splayed on the deck in a ribbon of sunshine or shade, depending on the season, must be little slices of dog heaven.
The relentless pursuit of fun, an integral part of the human existence, is not unlike those dog naps in their sporadic nature. Sure, the idea of 24/7 fun is a nice scoop of mental vanilla ice cream on a hot day as you're lolling in the hammock, but once past that elusive concept of perpetual gaiety, reality rears its ugly head.
The almost unyielding amount of flotsam and jetsam disguised as responsibilities that wash upon the shore of the average human makes the pursuit of fun anything but relentless. Truncated is more like it. With each year, with each child, with each mortgage, fun becomes more and more loosely defined as that vague thing you hope sprouts out of the little earthquake cracks that wind their way between the more mundane tasks of life. The leisure life is there to be had. It simply becomes harder and harder to hold on to. Slippery as fishing by hand, carving out time for fun involves opportunity, carpe diem, and sometimes just forcing the issue.
It's easy to be cynical when assessing how much fun is actually available to us. There is always the pernicious aspect of guilt, the universal anti-fun sentiment, which often digs its stronghold in the outskirts of the mind, tugging gently at the enjoyment gene, cooing about the more important "should" related tasks you could be doing.
There are probably a few who never have to worry about anything BUT having fun. Mazel tov to them. The rest of us, however, are relegated to ferreting out opportunities, to moving the chess pieces of our lives about the board into a configuration that reveals those earthquake cracks. Then, of course, we need to have the willingness to leap into them. It's not as easy as it sounds. We battle against the instinct for fun on multiple levels, from the puritan work ethic sinisterly shaking its head in disappointment, to the discouragement from the buzz kills, both human and otherwise, that are too numerous to count.
I have a catch phrase chosen more for its simplicity than sophistication or intellectuality. 'Have fun'. I use it with regularity. I acknowledge that it probably is ignored or glossed over, much like "How are you?", and "How have you been?" are seen as throw-away questions not actually seeking an answer. I use 'Have fun' because it isn't a question, but a declaration, an exhortation even. It puts no responsibility on the recipient to choose whether or not to reply with the universally unrevealing, "Fine". I toss it out there to be absorbed and hopefully embraced. Not requiring a response creates a momentary mental vacuum, whereby I like to think the concept of those two words gets at least a moment of contemplation, maybe even sparking an inner question of their own, like "Why not?"
Pursuing fun in bits and pieces, snatching at the good stuff floating by only when it is within reach, is basically settling. It's a compromise, a frowning nod to reality and the day-to-day drudgery of life that practically insists on your attention. The compromise should not, in and of itself, result in applying the breaks to the pursuit of leisure and good times. Making fun a goal, while also acknowledging the multiple hurdles over which one must leap to get there, is a pretty damn realistic way to define life.
There is a fence, unseen yet sturdy as hell, in my life. On one side is the laborious, unrelenting daily existence that most of us find daunting. On the other side of the fence, it is green. Only green. Always green. When it comes to fun in my life, the grass IS always greener on the other side. I get there whenever I can.
Green is a good color to represent fun. Golf courses, baseball fields, the Irish, paper money, the olive in my martini. Hopping over that fence is a constant, fluid goal of mine. I know I can live on both sides of the fence, because I have. The variable is simply how much time do I allow myself on the green side.
"The best laid plans of Mice and Men often go awry". A slight paraphrase, but the Scottish Poet Robert Burns, a famous misanthropist, penned the phrase that has stood the test of time, and been incorporated in many a personal philosophy. I don't live in denial of tomorrow, I've simply grown not to rely on it or take it for granted.
Hard to argue that. In fact, I employ it as a premise for having fun, as a philosophical whiteout painting over any festering feelings of guilt. Living for today, when tomorrow is clearly not promised you, makes sense. I could even argue how nonsensical it would be to live any other way.
Puritanism will always hover over American life, the wind generated by its evil wings blowing through most lives like a dark typhoon of guilt. Moralism invites hypocrisy. It is a swirling maelstrom of conflicting human emotions that can paralyze the strongest of individuals.
Me? I'll take that leap to greener pastures every chance I get. What do you want to bet it's a golf course full of napping Irish Setters, dreaming about counting their money while sipping martinis?