Monday, March 5, 2007

The Golden Mean

Happy, happy birthday. As a career my husband makes little 30 second movies with great plots, acting, photography and some subtle product placement. You might have fast-forwarded past a couple of them to get back to Oprah.

This morning he blew my mind with my birthday present – a two minute piece made of quick shots of one woman against a white background. First, she is glamorous, coiffed, Frappucino sipping. Showing off her ring, then seen serene in a white gown. Pointing to her belly, then seen in profile, growing, growing. Her face is joyous until the profile shot of her, huge, distressed, in the hospital gown. The baby, big smiles. Now she grows messier, wears glasses and red eyes, a wan look. The baby becomes a boy, in superhero costume. The mom holds him, then a pile of dishes, then dry cleaning. The second baby. A full garbage bag, Halloween costumes, a turkey. Her face alternates fatigue, quiet joy being handed a flower, pride showing a drawing of “Mommy.” Blowing bubbles, being struck with a helicopter toy, finally, holding a birthday cake with a look of satisfied survival.

All in two minutes. By the end, I’m sobbing and Randy is crying too. “That’s my life!” I say. “You so get it.” We watch it over and over.

Alexandra Stoddard writes lots of books and sells lots of books. Just reading the titles of some of her books, Celebrate Your Life Everyday, Choosing Happiness, Fifty Ways to Live the Good Life, makes me smile. I heard her speak this week. Her bubbly energy was lovely and funny but something felt off in her advice to spend as little time with unhappy people as possible. I raised my hand to ask where compassion, the taking on of others’ burdens, comes in. Her perhaps evasive response: when you are happy, you spread happiness to others. Happiness is healthy. Okay, that’s fine.

Aristotle says happiness is the final end. It is not the means to anything else; it simply is the ultimate goal of all endeavor. It is the golden mean, neither too much nor too little of anything. Yes? Even if that happiness is created by or built on the unhappiness of others?

I did love Alexandra’s idea to narrow down what makes you happy to ten words. Randy, a willing prisoner to years of his dad’s Sunday sermons, dismisses this as “values clarification.” I think of it as a quick way to transport yourself back to a good place.

Yesterday, I asked Mia what makes her happy.

“Candy. Chocolate chip cookies. Buying new toys. Even buying Nora new toys.”
“What people make you happy?”
“Mommy! Daddy! Norea." (Our nickname for Nora.) "Jessica. And Chloe!” (Cousins.)

And for Mommy? Randy, Mia, Nora. Sunshine, garden, book, laughing, sing. Friends. And today, Naps.

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