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Matsuri, February 2007
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Satisfaction, by Richard Hartwell

An essay about how satisfaction can come out of our most dire moments. Fiction Editor

Satisfaction, by Richard Hartwell

I believe we do best with these daily transformations. On one most memorable day this past summer, my daughter informed me that it was supposed to be 103 degrees in Riverside later that day. She then went on to inquire if it was going to be even hotter in our own city nearby. I responded that yes, it probably would be. It had not been so very long previously that we had wanted the gray goblins of June driven from the gate and knew with certainty that we would feel much better with a touch of ultraviolet to reinvigorate our veins and stir the juices of our brains. It had not been so very long since it was cold, drab and overcast and we had been searching for the sun. For my daughter, her “yesterday” had been hot, but not oppressively so. For my daughter, her “today” was likely to be that hot and more as well. With that, my mood then became fiery and I became short-tempered, and then we all became lethargic.

Most of us have had experiences when something happens to us that initially appears difficult or even catastrophic, but eventually leads to a positive or even a life altering change. Such ultimate outcomes, however unexpected, provide that clichéd “spice of life” that is so memorable. In my own case the situation of being laid off by Hughes Aircraft after nearly six years and then four years later by Toshiba was distressing in the extreme: psychologically, emotionally, and financially. Yet, in the long run, it created a setting in which I returned to school, cleared my lapsed teaching credential, and returned to teaching, a first love, which I had left nearly twenty years previously. I needed this transformation, traumatic though is was.

It seems easy to say now that this life change was fortuitous or, from a different perspective, that I salvaged a life from out of the proverbial gaping jaws of adversity. What is most intriguing about this series of events is the recognition that the flow of life is always in a state of flux or impermanence and, like reactions to the weather, those involved seem to appreciate the change more so than the stasis of even the most beautiful day. It seems that our lives are driven more by change than by attainment or satisfaction.

We seem to be such creatures of mood and mood swing. I think we need it -- the change that is -- just in order to validate our presence and our participation in this process called life. Personally, I know I love especially those blustery days of great cumulous clouds billowing ever higher to where the blue thins out to space and the threat of rain or storm descends torrentially. But even those wonder days can become all too stale and static without juxtaposition against other days of calm and bland assurance.

I think what we need – certainly what I need -- is not any specific environment, but the change itself, the revolution from one barometric swing to another. Within our fragile human limitations, we are creatures of great adaptability and we constantly strive to exercise an internal adjustment in order to balance change. I look forward to the sun and heat today, but I look forward even more to its change on some gradual or sudden tomorrow. Then I will be satisfied . . . until the next day.


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