10 September 2014

Happiness

The pursuit of happiness is an undeniable right according to the United States Declaration of Independence. I learnt very early in life that happiness only comes with sharing something with another human being. Alone if one is at peace with oneself one can only be content and at peace, but never truly happy.

I am an only child. My mother dictated who I was allowed to play with, as she did not find many children suitable, so very early on I strove to do my own thing. At aged 5 I would run off to play in the woods alone, forgetting to come home even when it got dark. My parents sent out search parties to find me. Then I would get a sound thrashing and be sent to bed without a meal to learn my lesson! But alone again in my room in the dark, it was my bears which comforted my tears and soothed my soul, which is perhaps why I love them so even today. The lesson I learnt was be home before dark to avoid the thrashing. So I have always been a loner, never making firm good friends easily, but content within myself to be alone.

I once told Hanna, I was easy to please and get along with! She smiled inwardly and made no comment, knowing instinctively that I was nothing of the kind. What I had meant though was that you do not have to give me expensive gifts, I am content with something hand made and simple and that if you open your heart to me then I will treat it gently and mine will open too, and you will gain my loyalty and friendship till death us do part. 

An example of this came during our first holiday when we hardly knew each other. We went to Los Christianos in Tenerife and stayed in a 4 star hotel which overlooked the bay and harbour. It was  February 1992. I remember it well because it was exactly 500 years since Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492. It could have been a disaster, for I felt most uncomfortable in the hotel atmosphere. I was used to living in an officer's mess where meals were served. To queue for a table and to go and get my food was a bit too much like queuing in the cook-house when I was a trooper in the 10th Royal Hussars. There though, one knew every body, so it was not that bad. In the hotel it was awful and I discovered I was now the youngest. These old OAPs were not backward in coming forward or in using their elbows at the buffet either. I hated it. 

Hanna, as always on such occasions instinctively understood my dilemma. Her solution which worked for us thereafter, was not to go to meals until 10 minutes before closing. The dining room was now virtually empty. We would find a table and go round the buffet at leisure, getting all we wanted to eat, including starters and puddings and take it back to our table. Yes, much of the buffet was gone, and yes often things were only luke warm, but I found it much more to my liking. Naturally we now became the scourge of all waiters as we would still be sitting there when they were clearing away, but we never let it trouble us.

It was when I showed Hanna that I loved beach combing, that I took simple pleasure in a stone or sea shell in the rock pools that she opened her heart to me. The next day she produced to my utter astonishment a child's bucket and spade when we got to the beach! Now I knew I would find "Geborgenheit" with this woman. There is no real English translation for this word, for to be safe and secure does not fully describe what it means to be "geborgen". 

Now I opened my heart to Hanna too, for unselfconsciously at age 44 I took off over the beach with my bucket and spade and came back hours later to show her my treasures, knowing she would not find me foolish. She had as much delight in sharing them with me. Some of these treasures I still have. A truly happy moment in time, never to be forgotten. And yes it was just like being a child again exploring on my own and then going home to "mummy" where you knew you would be safe and she would enjoy hearing of your adventures.

Last weekend I took off to stay with one of my best friends in the UK. He is the brother I never had and his children are my niece and nephew. We go back a long way to when we were subalterns together. Anyway at the airport I was again made aware that I no longer have that "someone" to explore with or come back to. Hanna and I travelled a great deal and I have always loved exploring the airports. I would deposit Hanna somewhere and go off and explore, coming back to tell what I had seen.  Now there was none of that and I felt a bit lost.

My weekend in darkest Sussex was all I hoped it would be and more. We went on long walks over the downs and had nice long talks too. So I came back having shared some happy times doing simple things with people I love. My "niece" even made me a loom band in the twinkling of an eye, which I will wear till it drops off.

I am in fact the most fortunate of men, for I have many such good friends around the world. I am off to see one in the USA at the end of the month. A couple of others in Malta and Gozo there after. In Germany there are many more. I have them in most corners of the world and these are the people of my chosen family, where my secrets are safe and I know that when the storm comes I can find the "Geborgenheit" I need.