I believe that the ultimate measure of a good life, when looking back at it from that inevitable white-lighted, supine position, harps faintly playing in the distance - or, in my case, 80's Madonna - will be if one can say they have lived happily and without regret. As we round the corner into Twenty-Eleven, I am using these twilight hours of our current year to spot check that I am on par with this goal. I mean, I am fairly certain I have plenty of time left in this world, but you never know what life will throw at you. And I will want to be prepared.
When you think about it, living happily is simply about being fulfilled. However, as you and I both know, humans are not simple beings and our cerebral path to living in a fulfilled way is not always very clear. We possess intelligence and are evolved (or at least that's what THEY want us to believe) yet somehow we still ended up being complicated. But if you pay close attention to the very moment you are wonderfully consumed with the transcendent feeling of enlightenment, when the body, mind, and spirit truly come together and, like a universal zeitgeist, the world suddenly makes sense - you know you have achieved the powerful and almighty FULFILLMENT.
You know what I mean? Yeah, neither do I.
A bazillion years ago when I was in architecture school, a very well known and respected instructor gave an assignment to my classmates and me. He challenged us to make a list of the rooms we envisioned in our dream house. Several minutes later with lists complete, we each eagerly read aloud our carefully constructed catalogs of finely decorated parlors and music rooms, exotic plant arboretums, well-appointed chef's kitchens, duplicitous bathrooms and guest quarters, frescoed-ceiling indoor swimming pools - all the vast and luxurious amenities that a budding architect would deem worthy of "dream house" by definition.
Our instructor's list, in contrast, was much more simple. He read his short list to us: A place to sleep, a place to cook, a place to entertain, and a place to read. (Note: some fact-checking might prove this list to tweak slightly, but you get the picture.) There was silence in the room as each of us students cowered our heads in shame for requiring so much over-achieving opulence.
In my year-end spot checking, using my former instructor's spare thinking, I have created an abbreviated list of things that have given me fulfillment this past year. When I boil it down, it really is quite short:
finding artistic inspiration
having space to paint and draw
a healthy family
a full rack o' wine
Call me less evolved if you must (Sticks and Stones....), but this simple list is the root of my happiness. Air in my lungs is a necessity too, but I'll put that on next year's list.
In closing, my wish for you this coming new year is for a happy and healthy Twenty-Eleven, lived without regrets and replete with enough wine and creative fulfillment to really shake things up.