I visited my brother and his wife in Hawaii in 2011 and enjoyed several days of ideal weather, snorkeling, sailing, and eating. In Oahu, where I was staying, whale season is from December to early May, and my greatest, and only, goal for my time in Hawaii was to see whales. My brother booked us into a whale watching cruise on a catamaran, and we immediately began looking for whales to pursue for a close-up look.
A young boy, maybe 8 years old, almost immediately said he had seen a plume. Under intense questioning, he maintained that there were whales in the direction he had pointed out, and the captain dutifully turned the catamaran, and its 50 or so passengers, in that direction. As a half hour passed, and then an hour, I became increasingly annoyed. It had been obvious to me that in the child’s excited state, he had simply mistaken a whitecap in the somewhat choppy water for signs of whale passing.
As I grew more and more frustrated, making comments under my breath to my brother, I realized he seemed relaxed.
Of course, he would be, I thought. He had seen whales during his time on the island. He wasn’t working to a deadline enforced by a departing plane ticket. But as we sailed along, we took up position in the catamaran’s net, which was strung between the twin hulls, the wind became enjoyable, the rocking of the boat lulling, and the alcoholic drinks, of which there were plenty, increasingly appeasing.
By the time we returned to dock, I had enjoyed the experience on the boat far more than the rest of our experience. Even with a brief moment when I had finally gotten to see a humpback’s fin, having followed directions at last from other tours which had spotted some.
I learned something on that three-hour tour (a three-hour tour...); I learned that I loved sailing on a catamaran more than almost anything else I had done before. And I learned that when we are distracted by something we think we want, we most often fail to enjoy what we have.
Searching for happiness is the difference between looking for whales and enjoying the ocean.
You may think there is something else that will make you more content, more complete than you are now. But you are, essentially, only the cells in your body, your mind, and your breath. What is around you at any moment can be seen as either “good” or as “not good enough.” As Hamlet said, only thinking makes it so.