Julius Whitmore was about to meet Henry Morgan for the first time in the common room of Saint Vincent's Retirement Home.
Hello, my name is Julius, Julius Whitmore.
Henry Morgan. Nice to meet you Mr. Whitmore.
Please, call me Julius. So Henry, what is your story? How did you come to live at Saint Vincent's?
I was born in the steel regions outside Pittsburgh, PA. I come from generations of steel workers who picked up the soldering irons of their fathers. But my dreams were to see the world as a commercial airline pilot and build a loving home with my high school sweetheart and our four wonderful children.
Sounds like the perfect life Henry.
In my heart it was Julius, but I never achieved any of it. Fear was the enemy of my dreams. I watched Nicole, the girl I admired since the seventh grade, as a spectator. I never had the nerve to tell her how I felt. Three years out of high school she married, and still today I wonder if things could have been different. At the same time my vocation was grounded. Knowing how much my father wanted me in the steel-making business, I never voiced my desire to become a pilot. I managed a financially stable life, but I never left the confines of the region and spent 40 years alone. Finally, my arthritis forced me into this wheelchair. My only sibling wanted to take me in, but I refused to be a burden, so we decided on Saint Vincent s. And what about you Julius? How have you lived your life?
I grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, determined at an early age to be a success. I bore down with my studies, graduating with honors at all levels. I started with an investment firm on Wall Street and quickly ascended, becoming CEO at a very young age. Along the way, I married and had two children, traveled the world, and amassed a nice fortune. Many would say I had it all.
Julius, you do not appear to share their opinion. Were you not happy?
No Henry, I was not happy. I thought landing a good job and working hard would afford me the comforts of life and all of the happiness that goes along with them. I had many possessions, but my marriage ended in divorce and I have been estranged from my children for many years. With the divorce and the drinking that ensued, soon my possessions were no more. I lost everything. It is nothing short of a miracle that I am at Saint Vincent's today.
These characters and their stories are fictitious, but to some extent, they may not be. At times we step into these roles and our happiness wanes. Julius lived at the expense of his heart, the classic thinker. These are the people whose lives are guided by what they think will make them happy. Normally that means accumulating vast possessions or power without regard to what they truly want for themselves. More often than not they look back on their lives and feel empty.
Henry's character is opposite of Julius. The grand dreamer, Henry's heart is full of hopes and desires that will make him happy. Unfortunately, he is unable to respond to their calling. Fear is the usual culprit. Those that fail to move in the direction of their dreams live with much regret. They continuously ask themselves what if? and their heart remains unsatisfied.
Being happy is not easy. There are so many pressures in life that challenge our ability to enjoy it. Whenever we are lonely, afraid, frustrated, tired, hungry, or unloved, it is difficult to pursue, let alone fulfill our dreams. No individual is happy each and every moment. At best, we can only seek to maximize those moments. In essence, think of happiness not as a destination, but rather a continual journey.
As with any journey, there are many paths that can lead us there. Each of us is unique and responds to diverse stimuli. There are a few that will require actual medication from a doctor, while others will seek the advice of a trained psychologist. Some will turn to family and friends, while others find strength from within. We are all different, but we must find our way.
Regardless of the methods we choose, we need to be aware of two important concepts. First, we need to understand what makes us happy. Here is where we consult our heart. Second, we need to implement that understanding with the resources available to us. Here is where we consult our head. One without the other is like peanut butter without jelly. Sure they are each fine on their own, but what a perfect recipe when they are joined together.
How do we bring about the synergy of heart and head? While we may not know what makes us happy, we are aware of what it feels like to be happy. That feeling begins with our heart. We start by looking back at our past, to the times that brought us joy. It can be recalling our favorites songs, book, hobbies, or social events. Once we understand what stimulates our heart, we engage our head to map out a course of action that includes goals and proper milestones. We also enlist the support of others. In essence, we find ways to bring forth the joyous experiences of our past for a repeat performance.
Julius was caught up in the pursuit of power and possessions, society's allure of success and achievement. His drive was misplaced, blinding him to his true desires. He could have developed financial security with far less of an investment. Weekends could have been devoted to his ignored passion for fishing, accompanied by his son or daughter. Had he taken time away from his busy schedule to consult his heart, he may have realized his true calling. There may have been a few less dollars in his pocket, but quality time with his family would have made him feel like the wealthiest man in the world.
In order to deal with the self-reliance on our minds, we need to begin to appreciate rather than emulate. We need to sort through our experiences, finding those that bring joy, and building a future around them. The best way to do this is to find our comfort zone. It is the conviction of the heart on matters of happiness. It is that feeling we get when you see the guy or girl of our dreams. It is our favorite song on the radio. It is playing the sport we enjoy the most. When we listen to our heart, we no longer need to think about our direction in life; we will feel it.
Henry hid behind his fear. Fear deters us from experiencing the exhilaration of a true love or the thrill of a roller coaster ride. We may never find the job we want or the passion we desire. We are conservative by nature, unwilling to change for our own benefit. But as the old saying goes, Without risk, there is no reward. Henry was in touch with his heart and understood what would make him happy. Unfortunately, he could never take the necessary steps to see them come true. We are all afraid of things in our life, but most of the time our fear is not grounded in reality. It is our perception of what will occur that debilitates us. There comes a point in any situation where we must take action or make a decision. We need to act, and fortunately we always do or unfortunately we always do. By not making a decision, or taking a stand, we are by default making the choice of inaction. So how can we overcome our fears? What good is having a dream if we never see it come true?
Henry was afraid to confront his high school sweetheart. Most likely he was afraid she would say no. What if she said no? I have a theory that many of us have never tried to answer this question in light of our own fears, and if we did, we would have the greatest piece of fiction ever written. In Henry's case, I think the consensus is laughter. He may envision being turned down and millions simultaneously laughing at him. But in reality, that would not happen, and even if it did, so what? Being turned down is not a reflection on him. There may be extenuating circumstances. She may be in the midst of a relationship, or simply does not wish to be in one. At least Henry would know. Experiences, good or bad, are the only way we grow. Once we go through them, they are much easier to handle the second time around.
They say the best way to overcome your fear is to face it head on. This is certainly effective advice, but often it is difficult to achieve. Sometimes you need to take the scenic route. Although we may have a difficult time in one aspect of our life, there are others that can provide us with the confidence we need. Sure you may have problems meeting people, but how are you with amusement rides, or flying in an airplane? If these are things you enjoy, realize that many individuals are scared of such situations. How often have you tried to convince a friend to join you on a frightful ride? We find it difficult to comprehend their fear. How can we face a twenty-story drop or being held upside down, but not a simple no? Everyone has their fears, but if it is something we truly want, we need to face them. Get your head out of the way, because your heart is not afraid.
Happiness takes an effective relationship between heart and head. When it comes to happiness, let your heart be the storyteller, your mind the stage. When you do this, your character will no longer be one-dimensional.
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