Press play and stick it on repeat like a gentleman. Close the blinds, turn down the lights, and grab a seat. I’m drinking some coffee, want some? I know its late. But its a warm night and I’m feeling introspectively awake.
I think about death a lot since becoming a 26 year old home owner and father.
Heavy, I know. But bear with me.
You don’t think about death? You don’t visit your parents now and hug Dad just a little longer and realize he got another year older this year and that isn’t something that can keep happening forever? You don’t look at your wife, girlfriend, or loved one and wonder what they’ll look like when and if they’re 60, 70, – God willing – 80? Will they get those wrinkles in the corners of their eyes? Will their head shake ever so slightly like grandma’s did? When your kids talk to them will they trail off mid sentence, smile, and turn around with no warning? What will the hospital be like the first time they stay longer than a day?
I just want to be happy. Some days I wonder what I really want though.
Some days I want more time. Then I have more time and I waste it on the internet doing something pointless. Or do some version of a dazed tail chase trying to find something substantial but eventually getting bored with everything.
Some days I want more money. Then I get money and it seems like there’s never enough. I remember the day I drove down the wrong street in the super ghetto urban part of Toledo, Ohio. It was the part of town where the front porches are filled with trash bags and old lay-z-boys and rusty grills. Holes in the walls were patched up with pressboard. I teared up a bit that evening over a plate of grilled chicken, avocados, and brocolii like a scared 22 year old learning to provide for himself and realizing for the first time that privilege is relative.
I want a lot. I want to be happy.
I want to have a sendoff at my retirement where people get up and say if it wasn’t for me their life would be completely different. I want to meet someone I haven’t seen in 20 years and them look me in the eyes with tears on their cheek and say I made a difference.
I want to be 60 and surrounded by the men I’ve raised, my own flesh and blood, and the women they love, and the children they are loving the way Dad loved them.
I want to lay on a bed next to my wife at 80 and watch the sun set on our lives and feel that our hearts are full and fruitfully expended.
I want to go to my death having faithfully prayed every day, walking with the Lord and romancing Him through every minute of it. I want heaven to feel like the meeting of old friends.
But I fight myself every day that I wake up and work towards these happy things. I’m chained to competing desires and wills and appetites. My perspective can’t seem to stay broad and consider anything more than today. I do what I dispise. I do not do what I want to do.
And pain. Physical scars heal but there are pains that resurface, emotionally disrupting mundane tasks. Memories or insecurities or failures of nerve or mistakes made. My heart is tired of pain.
I create my own religion again and again each day. Worshiping who I want. Creating rituals, sacrafices, and devotions out of objects of obsession and anxious thoughts and fear of pain. Medicating and numbing. I desperately read the Gospels looking for the real Jesus, so who I’m imagining isn’t just a caricture of me. I see the sins coming like a train on the track and somehow always find myself getting hit.
I’m not free.
I just want to be happy.
I think I really just want to be free.
“I said do you wanna, do you wanna be happy,
I said do you wanna, do you wanna be, free?
Free from pain, free from scars
Free to sing, free from bars
Free my dawgs, you’re free to go
Block gets shot, the streets is cold
Free to love, to each his own
Free from bills, free from pills
You roll it loud, the speakers blow
Life get hard, you eat your soul
It clears your mind, learn to fly
Then reach the stars, you take your time
And look behind and said, “Look where I came
Look how far I done came”
They say that dreams come true
And when they do, that there’s a beautiful thing
Do you wanna, do you wanna be happy?
I said do you wanna, do you wanna be free
I said do you wanna, do you wanna be”
– J. Cole