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Charles Schulz
& Happiness Is...

by Archie Wortham

"Happiness is being in the other room." -Linus

Are you happy? Do you miss someone who is important to you? Have you told them? Many times fathers fail to ask their children these questions, or later in life, their children fail to ask them. Its a question far more important than what do you want to be when you grow up, but how often have you been asked are you happy by someone you loved, cared about, or wanted to be with?

Depression is one of the top illnesses in America. People don't talk about it. Many think if they ignore it long enough, the blues will disappear. Much of this depression occurs in relationships that might otherwise have been resplendent with happiness if the couple had just talked about what's important. Too often, it's not until it's too late. The lawyers, social workers and judges are involved before friends, doctors, or counselors. By no stretch of the imagination all people deal with depression, whether they ignore it, drown it in substance abuse, or abuse their families by being functionally absent. This absenteeism is a crime. It's as criminal as any premeditated act of violence, but many of us ignore it, as truly as we ignore the lovely things we encounter each day, right in front of our faces.

In their book "Fighting for your Marriage," Markman, Stanley and Blumberg specifically addressed how many marriages dissolve simply because couples don't learn how to deal with their disagreements. In "Abilene Paradox," Dr. Jerry Harvey says we don't know how to handle our agreements. We marry the person our parents want us to marry. We see movies our friends insist we see. We cook dinners we think our spouse wants, or buy cars others think best suit our needs instead of asking for a time out! Sometimes it takes backing off, realizing we don't even know what room we are in, to understand how to reassess our circumstances, and still come out all right. We need to learn to agree on what room we want to be in, and who wants into that room!

I've recently been trying to find out: what is the meaning of life. In the process, I realize that sometimes all I need is a new perspective. Sometimes this happens when someone who has become a part of my life dies. Sometimes it's just a phone call or an e-mail that suddenly causes me to understand life is not as complicated as I might make it. If I would just talk about it, things might get better. But talking is such a risk. Especially with those we love.

The quote at the beginning of this column was by Linus, as Linus realizes that sometimes, meaning simply comes from taking a different perspective. Unfortunately, we somehow fail to realize how important we are to others, until it's too late. During the celebration of Schulz's life, his wife indicated how little he knew he had touched people. It wasn't until hed been diagnosed with colon cancer, and had decided to stop writing. Only then did people choose to let him know how important he'd been to them.

Are we just trying to tell our friends they are important? Is that why we ask our friends their opinion of what school we should send our kids to, what car we should buy, which neighborhood we should live in? We're telling them they are important to us. Is that it? Then why is it, when conflicts arise in our home life, that we men in particular choose to internalize until the cows come home? Statistically, as 50% of today's marriages end in divorce, a lot of milk has been spilled. We could have salvaged much of this spilled milk if we'd just realized we dont have to have all the answers all the time. However, if we want the answers, really want them, we can find them!

We've all lost someone important in our lives, but life goes on, unless we choose to let it stop. The same is true in our relationships with our wives, our children and our parents. Do you realize that we, the baby boomers, are among the first generation who will join many of our parents on social security? Talk about being in the same room! But how we handle many of our issues are distinctly different from the way our parents handled them, and that's because we were raised differently than they. But a solution to some of the messages we received, particularly during the "Me" generational period, might require us to close the door, and grow up.

I'm not sure what your plans are for spring break. If it's not too late, you might want to deal with your agreements. Understand that no one really wants to be unhappy, and speaking about that might be a good thing. Find time to spend alone with your spouse. Find time to spend alone with each of your children. Find time to talk, reflect, and maybe cry on a good friend's shoulder if you need to. Our tears, I sometimes feel, are priority messages to God. Last but not least, if there is someone who is extremely important to you, that you have neglected, ostracized, or just been rude to, call them, ask them to forgive you. Forgiveness is much better, once it starts with the person who needs it most. And in many cases, we dads need to let up, let go, and talk. You might not be as far from those you love as you think. But you will never know, unless you tell them what room you are in. Choose to be in the family, not apart from it!

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