Some days, I have to kick myself for failing to adequately appreciate how incredibly fortunate I am. Today is not one of those days. Today, for reasons too convoluted to go into in a short blog post, the breadth and scope of my good fortune are too obvious not to acknowledge and appreciate.
I am fortunate that I was able to retire at age 58. I am by no means wealthy and may well decide to (or be forced to) get a job or to start another business again, but I am able to get by in reasonable comfort. When I feel distressed that I cannot comfortably afford a luxury of some sort…a car or a vacation or an electronic gadget, for example…I need only to look at the fact that I’ve had the good fortune to choose early retirement over excess disposable income.
I’m fortunate to be loved by a woman who deserves better, but who chooses to spend her retirement with me rather than look for someone with fewer faults and more innate goodness. In just a few days, we’ll celebrate 34 years of marriage; it’s not an accomplishment that we’ve been together for so long, but that we’ve grown closer with every passing year. So many things could have broken those bonds; but they didn’t get broken. That is a testament to good fortune and commitment.
It surprises me sometimes to realize how fortunate I am that I don’t have more money. That is good fortune, I think, because people sometimes tend to allow money to define happiness for them. It’s the “stuff” that money can buy that takes on meaning, rather than the experience of living with the challenges of making do. I’m fortunate to have enough for comfort, but not enough to make me lazy or complacent about it; my wife and I have to be frugal and carefully manage our money in the hope we’ll have just enough to last as long as we do. That financial tension helps me appreciate what I do have. Too much money can make a person arrogant; it can allow a person to feel an undeserved sense of entitlement.
The choices available to me…where to live, what to eat, how to dress, how to spend my time…are evidence of good fortune. I don’t have unlimited choices, but I have more than many people ever will. Sometimes I have to wonder why I got so lucky; how is it that I am so fortunate in so many ways? Part of it is that I worked for it. But having worked hard does not explain it. Many people work hard, harder than I ever did, and don’t have the good fortune I’ve had. I have been in the right place at the right time and sometimes have made the right choices…or simply stumbled into them…that have led to good fortune. My good fortune is “not my fault;” I’m just lucky. The same circumstances I’ve encountered throughout my life have led to entirely different outcomes for other people. I’m just lucky. And I appreciate that, though I feel more than a little guilty for having more good fortune than my efforts in life might justify.
I hope my good fortune continues. I will endeavor to appreciate it consciously and with more frequency than I have thus far. I wish good fortune for more people.