My Recent Unexpected Findings on Happiness

Sometimes the things that you plan for are interrupted by the unexpected, unwanted things.  Often, we have misguided expectations of things, but sometimes that can turn out to be the best situation when the expectations change and you end up having fun anyway.I dropped my son off at college last week so he could get a jump on the upcoming football season.

I had planned a fairly aggressive schedule. My son, daughter, and I left before dawn Saturday for the 13-hour drive. We allotted two days to move him into his room at the frat, do a bunch of shopping, and maybe grab a few meals together. On Monday, I’d head back to make the 13-hour drive in hopes of arriving home late Monday night.

Do you know what they say about the best laid plans? Well, these plans quickly went awry.

Upon our arrival, we found a room that looked like the “big one” had dropped on it. To say that the previous inhabitants were in a hurry to leave would be putting things mildly. Rather than focusing our efforts on moving my son’s belongings into his room so he could be organized and comfortable that evening, we shifted into disaster recovery mode, throwing out remnants of an obviously fun year of classes (?) had by all who had lived there.

This took hours, including rearranging furniture and thoroughly cleaning the place from head to toe. Needless to say, we weren’t exactly on schedule by this point in time.

As a result, the next 36 hours were spent scurrying about from store to store and from car to room with bundles of necessities. We did catch some meals together, but not as I had imagined – they were almost exclusively fast food, except for a sit-down dinner my last evening in town.

But do you know what? Although we didn’t have any “down time”, we still had a great time together. I laughed more in those few days than I have in recent memory.

How could this have happened, I wondered? For many years I had gone to extensive lengths (and at considerable expense) to plan the “perfect” vacation or long weekend for me and my family. Somehow these trips didn’t seem to measure up to my expectations.

What was different about this trip? I didn’t have any misguided expectations. We were all there for one common reason – to get my son moved in and comfortable. We didn’t expect to spend wonderful, uninterrupted, quality time with one another – not the kind where we would have set aside all worldly concerns and focused on leisure and having a good time together at the exclusion of everyone and anything else, anyway.

We simply had time together. We each gave of ourselves to help the other. We hadn’t formulated grandiose ideas of nirvana in our heads. We were simply together. That was enough.

That’s the lesson I learned on that trip, and I received the reminder to always plan for contingencies.

My finding are confirmed in this Times Online article.

Thanks to Anja Merret for including me in her Observations on Life.

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