For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted more, a bigger house, a faster car, more money, I wanted it all.
It wasn’t just “keeping up with the Joneses,” because I didn’t care what others did or didn’t have. It was inside me. No matter what I had, I always felt incomplete. If I could have just a little bit more, I thought, I’d finally be “me.”
Guess what? I worked and slaved my butt off and got that little bit more, but it didn’t help. I still felt empty inside, like I wasn’t enough, like I’d never be enough.
“What are you doing out here? It’s freezing.”
I looked up. My wife Beth came out onto the front porch.
“Oh, I didn’t realize it was getting late. Just doing something on my iPad.”
“Well, come on in. You can’t work all the time. The kids want to know if you’d like to play a game with them. It’s been a long time.”
She puts her arms around me from behind as I’m sitting in the wicker chair and I angle the tablet to make sure she can’t see what I’ve been writing.
“Just finishing up here. Give me a few minutes.”
“You always say that.” She kisses me on the cheek. “A few minutes. If you’re still out here after that, I’m sending the horde after you.”
“I promise.” I look up and she gives me another kiss, this time on the lips, and it lasts longer.
“Okay,” she whispers.
She’s better than I deserve. Any other woman would have left me by now. Well, maybe not. A lot of women would stay because they like the money, the house, the cars, the lifestyle my being the CEO of a Fortune 100 company affords.
But that’s not who she is. I know I’ve ignored her, ignored the children, been a lousy family man. I’m terrific at business. The Board of Directors and stockholders love me. Profit increases for five years running now and no end in sight.
But I’ve been reading something that tells me I’ve been doing it all wrong. My Mom was Jewish. I kind of ignored that, the religious part anyway. Didn’t seem relevant to real life. Then I started going through her books after she died, talked to her Rabbi. He showed me something written a long time ago:
Who is rich? One who is satisfied with his lot.
I look through the front window and can see into the living room. The kids are setting up a board game on the coffee table. They’re sneaking peeks at me and giggling. They still have hope for me even after all the missed soccer games, school concerts, and family reunions.
Who is rich? He who is satisfied. Time to turn off this machine, the cell phone, everything. My wife and children love me. If that’s not enough, nothing ever will be.
There are all kinds of longings and desires, but one of the more basic ones is the desire for more. A lot of people think they don’t have enough, even when they have plenty. Having enough, beyond being able to afford basic needs, is a matter of attitude. People are satisfied when they decide to be, not because of some external, materialistic standard.
Oh, the phrase I used comes from a larger body of work called “Pirkei Avot” or Ethics of the Fathers which predates Christ.
I know my little family scene is pretty boring compared to some of the other stuff I write, but it’s the sort of quiet drama that a lot of American households go through every day.