January 24 – Tranquility and Occupation

“It is neither wealth nor splendor but tranquility and occupation, which give happiness.” (Thomas Jefferson)

Tranquility and occupation – being at peace and having something to do – that is what this quote says will help me find happiness. I have never been one to pursue wealth and splendor as a driver of happiness in my life. A larger house, fancier cars, better clothes and the like have never been important to me. But, the drive to be at peace and have something meaningful to do certainly has been.

There are few things more upsetting in my life than to see people around me in conflict. And, if that conflict is with me, it makes me even crazier. The disruption of tranquility upsets me like nothing else. This has not always been the case for me. There was a time when I would languish in unresolved conflict with a stubborn head and a hard heart.

I remember when I was in college. During my Sophomore year I shared a ride to school with a friend. He was a year younger than I, and we had met because I went to grade school with his cousin. We had a lot of fun on our rides to and from the campus. Cracking jokes, listening to music, and discussing our classes made the rides go quickly. One day we had some kind of an argument. The reason for the argument is lost to time, but I am certain it was something petty and small. We went for 6 or 8 months without speaking to one another. When we would pass each other on campus, we exchanged icy stares. Finally, just before the end of the school year he came to my house. I remember that the two of us just stood there in my driveway looking at each other for what seemed like a long time. Then he finally just blurted out “what are we doing? Why is this happening?” We sat on the front step and talked for an hour, not about the conflict, but catching up on all that had happened.

That summer and the following school year our paths diverged, and we long since have lost touch with each other. But, I think sometimes about that lesson. As it turns out, I didn’t learn the lesson well. Two more times in my adult life I went a year or more without talking to someone because of a conflict between us. In both cases we eventually cleared the air, and have been friends since.

But, it took me three times before I finally got my head around the idea that holding a grudge with someone took way too much energy, and sapped far too much happiness from my life.

I love being around people, and I am a true extrovert. I can be at a party for hours, and when I leave I am as energetic as when I arrived. I used to think that I couldn’t be really enjoying myself if I wasn’t surrounded by others.

In recent years I have come to learn and appreciate the power of having a quiet day with something to do. In the fall when I am working on Calendars, I will have days where I am home alone, working in my office for eight or nine hours. The house is quiet, I don’t even put on music. I am at peace, and I have something meaningful and fun to do. Those days go by in the blink of an eye, and I know that I have spent them well.

I am a true believer in the concept of tranquility and occupation being a source of happiness.

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