All I wanted was a little peace and quiet. A moment alone. I longed for the kind of happiness that a little self-imposed solitude might bring. And I had it all set up just as I had envisioned it: A cup of tea in my hands. A novel (enthusiastically recommended by a friend) sitting temptingly on the coffee table just beside me. The pillows on the couch supporting my back just so. And music cued up on the stereo. Something soft and dreamy with a sweet vocal accompaniment that sung of hope and light.
I settled myself in. Just right. It was just as I had imagined a happy moment might be. I was totally prepared to be happy. It was just one deep exhale away.
And then. BANG! The front door slammed open, sprang back from its own force and slammed shut twice as loudly. “MOM!” four small voices exclaimed at once. Immediately my brows knit together and my shoulders flew up towards my ears. “Mom, look what we found!” Our children came tearing into the living room – a laughing, foot stamping, mud trampling crew, eyes ablaze with some new discovery.
I held up my hand at arm’s length, palm out, like a vigilant crossing guard. I frowned. The happy moment I had long envisioned was crumbling like so many dried mud clods. “Your shoes,” I admonished them, “Look at your shoes.” They looked down at their feet, shrugged, kicked off their shoes, and quickly moved toward me once again, smiling hopefully. I shook my head and rubbed the two lines that were forming between my brows. I strained to hear the lovely music playing on the stereo, but could barely detect it over the sound of my temples throbbing. “Please put your shoes by the door before you take another step. Do you know how long it took me to clean this room up?” They looked at one another, picked up their shoes and lumbered back toward the door. But instead of placing their shoes down and tiptoeing back to me (as proper respect would demand), they sadly put their shoes back on and began to walk back out the door.
Now I was at the edge of fury. Not only had my peace and happiness been utterly destroyed by this interruption, now they were going to walk out without even telling me what they had come in to tell me in the first place. Could this get worse? “What?!” I asked, “What is it that is so important that you can’t even take the time to put your shoes by the door? And is it that much to ask for a moment of peace?”
“Never mind,” said the youngest as he gingerly shut the door beside him.
I took a deep breath, trying to restore my calm. But the moment had passed. My nerves were frayed and the moment of calm, peaceful happiness I had envisioned had passed. Oh, well – I thought dejectedly – I might as well get some reading in. And as I reached for the novel on the coffee table, I saw it. The first flower of spring. A daffodil. A bright yellow flower, as hopeful as a child’s smile, sitting on the coffee table next to some fresh muddy fingerprints.
Happiness had come careening into my life like a wild and fresh spring rainstorm and I had shooed it away because of some stale, airless notion of happiness that I thought would shelter me from that very life-giving force.
How often does this happen to us? Our idea of happiness blinds us to the real happiness that is holding out a flower to us?
We must take great care in our lives, that in pursuing the elusive butterfly of happiness, we do not trample the garden of happiness that is right under our feet.