My daughter and I were having ice cream at our local scoop shop when we ran into some acquaintances–her old first grade teacher and husband, both charming and engaging people. We had a short and lovely conversation. Somehow I said, laughingly, that I wanted to be a poet that makes a million dollars. It was a silly thing to say, really, mostly because that’s not what I really want at all. Not that I don’t believe in dreaming big! But my biggest dreams have little to do with money and more with rich experience.
Later I thought back on that remark. It’s the million dollar thing. It’s like the gold standard of true success. If you’ve made a million dollars than you have decidedly made it. Or not. Because of course we all know, in that pop psychology kind of way, that money doesn’t buy happiness. Which means that while you may have made it if you are a millionaire, you won’t necessarily be happy, or even more important, be leading a meaningful life. But I think it’s funny, the things that pop out of our mouths! Sometimes it’s best to play close attention to them, put them under the microscope, so to speak.
Right now, as I write this, my daughter is taking harp lessons. I’m sitting on her teacher’s porch surrounded by flowers and little titmice taking baths in a flurry of wings and water. When they fly their wings are wet and heavy but they are clearly enjoying themselves. The harp sings through the open door, and a summer breeze whispers through the treetops. Thunder rumbles far off.
Right now, as I write this, I am not a millionaire. But I’ve already made it, and so have you. Because we are alive in a beautiful world. Whatever success we may achieve, and however we may measure it, the greatest thrill can come from something as simple as taking a splashy bath, or listening to your daughter play harp, or hearing thunder far off, or even up close! The greatest success is a life well-lived, a life of appreciation for the beauty that surrounds each of us, whenever we open the eyes of our hearts.
That brilliant creamy pink peony over there, with magenta swirls? A million bucks. That cascading harp song plucked by my own daughter? A million bucks. That thunder, that breezy whisper, that intake of breath? A million bucks. Hands down, success. Cultivate wonder, friends, and your life will be overflowing with riches. And congratulate yourself! You made it!