Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Secret of Life

Some of my earliest memories of my dad include me "helping him" wash the car. He remains a frequent car washer. My mom mentioned recently that he washed their new Buick twice in the same day. So I have very vivid memories, probably owing to the frequent repetition of the event, of sitting alongside the family car while my dad used a bucket and sponge to clean it. There was a second old, dirtier sponge for the wheels. When I got a little older that was my job.

1998 Mitsubishi Eclipse and a girl.
It never mattered what kind of car we had, Dad lavished the same attention on it. From the Plymouth Horizon of my early childhood to the flashy, much coveted Mitsubishi Eclipse of my late teens, each was meticulously maintained. And I never thought much about it except that Dad likes a clean car.

I had the opportunity recently to read a book about happiness. "It's never too late to be what you might have been," it said and I was excited to read it because who knows what I might have been? Who knows what I might become? I'm only 33. It's not too late. Think what it might tell me!

The book was filled with interviews. Happy people that made major changes late in life. People that persisted until they achieved goals that made them happy. People that gave up the world's prescribed recipe for satisfaction to create their own happiness.

And though the cover indicated that the pages within would help me "get the life I love," it served only as further reassurance that I already have it. "It's not getting what you want, it's wanting what you've got," my husband* often says. That's a lesson I first learned at my dad's side with 1/4 of a dingy sponge deemed too used up for general car washing as I swiped road grime from the crevices of steel wheels. We were satisfied with a Ford Tempo, thrilled with it even, at that moment in time when all life had for us was a Ford Tempo. We took care of our things, respecting them as much as something bigger, shinier, or more expensive. Our family was content and somehow inherently able to balance our desires for a better future with an appreciation for all that we had at that moment. 

So I grew up doubting very much that a certain car or house or person or job would make me happy. And I let it all come to me in the sort of halting way life does with success followed promptly by disaster. There have been ups and downs to be sure, but I wake up every morning loving my life. 

I'm not unlike you or the people in this book. We all possess the ability to reinvent ourselves over and over again. If something isn't working, fix it or change it or throw it away and start all over again. Take inspiration from those that have found their happy endings in life, but don't expect them to tell you where you will find yours. You must make your own happiness. BJ Gallagher lays out some guidelines, but I'm sure Dad would agree, a clean car really isn't a bad place to start!

*Google attributes this quote to Sheryl Crow, but I'm almost sure Tim was saying it first.

This post was inspired by It’s Never Too Late to Be What You Might Have Been: A Guide to Getting the Life You Love by BJ Gallagher. From the publisher: Whether you are a brand-new college graduate going out into the big, wide world, a business executive escaping burnout, or a forty-something mom looking for a "second life," this book is a wonderful combination of great advice, step-by-step guidelines, and pure inspiration to listen to and honor your inner voice and seize not just the day, but the rest of your life!

BJ Gallagher is a dynamic workshop leader and charismatic keynote speaker, as well as a much-published author. She conducts seminars for women's groups, professional organizations and corporations. A media maven, she has appeared several times on The Today Show and in the pages of magazines and newspapers from the Los Angeles Times to the The New York Times. She lives in Los Angeles.

Book Cover: It's Never Too Late to be What You Might Have Been by BJ Gallagher
This copy of It’s Never Too Late to Be What You Might Have Been:
A Guide to Getting the Life You Love
by BJ Gallagher has packed its
bags and is ready for the next stop on the "Live the life you love" blog tour!