Once, someone asked me what single quality I most wanted to pass on to my children. Without hesitation I replied, "Joie de vivre." Love of life. That sense of waking up in the morning and thinking that there may be good things ready to happen.
That fantastic feeling is easily lost in a frightening tide of bad tidings. Once, people drifted into unexamined marriages with illusions about a lifetime of romance, or torrid sex, or two hearts that beat as one. Today people plan weddings dogged by divorce and adultery statistics, hearing ubiquitous warnings that marriage is hard work and they might want to try couples counseling even before the ceremony. While once everything was unspoken, now it seems that everything is out there.
Or everything but this: that lots of marriages are happy or at least contented, and pulling in harness can be more satisfying than going it alone. That amid the guys who try to pin you down at a party, it is not so unusual to find one who lights you up and makes you laugh. That sometimes people do stupid things and take stupid chances and get away with it without ruining their lives. A life of unremitting caution, without the carefree--or even, occasionally, the careless--may turn out to be half a life, like the Bible with the Ten Commandments but no Song of Solomon or Sermon on the Mount.
So this is a plea for parents to remember to have That Talk with their kids. No, not the one about smoking cigarettes or driving under the influence. That's the one they will certainly get. What they need to hear occasionally is about the pleasures, not just the perils. Even when we talk about September 11, we can tell a tale of human goodness as well as evil, a tale of those who saved strangers as well as those who murdered them. For all the sleazebags who will try to lure a kid into a car, there are many Good Samaritans who are just concerned when they see a 12-year-old trudging along the road in the rain. I suppose we live at a time when we can't afford to let them accept the Samaritan's ride. But we also can't afford to have them think that Samaritans no longer exist. All these lectures, lessons and cautionary tales can't be to preserve a lifetime of looking over one shoulder. As Oscar Wilde wrote, "We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars."
-From the brilliant Anna Quindlen (full post here). I miss her writing.
This is what I still (perhaps naively) live by -- I'd say it's been worth it.