Moments of Bliss

Examining what my real idea of success is

How do you measure success? For most of my pre-50 life I measured success by money, or so I thought. I was wrong. I kidded myself. If I had sincerely measured success by money, I’d be rich. I am not.

We own a dog again. When you own a dog, you walk the dog. When I walk the dog, I think about stuff. Success is what I thought about during the first week of dog walking. Soon I found myself shouting at the wind, “Why am I such a loser?”

All because I failed at making bundles of money. So I did a self talk. If I continue to insist that money is success, the rest of my life will be spent shouting at the wind. I must argue down the critic.

One year into marriage I applied to seminary, but never attended because I accepted a promotion. My thinking for a long time was that I accepted the promotion for money. Now I think I worked the wrong paradigm. Money ranked far down on the list of attractions.

The attractions were connections, adventure and creativity. Seminary could have provided this, too, but ultimately I think the deciding factor was that the promotion involved less risk. The promotion presented the devil I knew, people I liked. People who were promoting me for a job well done.

By the second week of walking the dog, I had stopped shouting at the wind, I reflected on how different this past 60 “Fitzwilliam Bob” is. Here, I have embraced the monastical for support. Our home is a place I have been able to successfully retreat with self. When analyzing possible failures, this more monastical life feels worthwhile.

My old way of connecting frequented a party-style of community. I have replaced this default with dozens of one-on-one lunches. Conversations are seldom of politics, sports or business, but rather we discuss issues of the cosmos.

Our marriage talk has evolved into similar conversations with a dose of the eros. We work at our commonalities even as we celebrate our differences. We read books like “Passionate Marriage” and “A Religion of One’s Own,” books not so much about community as self. As self grows stronger, communal one-on-ones have strengthened, including our own.

The other day I ran into a neighbor at the post office that I hadn’t seen in years. He suggested we go to the Fitzwilliam Inn with spouses. Neither of us seemed in a hurry to do so, but we reopened doors.

Soon after my post office conversation, Susan and I decided to have an Inn night out. Minutes after being seated by owner Chelley Tighe, we met Kelly and Adam Duff. They run the Inn’s “Lemming Pub,” a restaurant within a restaurant. Kelly and Adam have built a wood oven for pizza making, which can be enjoyed in the pub or the larger dining room.

To be somewhat weight conscious, I ordered a pizza with minimal toppings and it proved one of the best pizzas I have ever eaten. We have been back twice since for pizza, caesar salad and prime rib. All are excellent.

On each visit, Chelley greeted us warmly. We saw neighbors long absent from our mainstream lives. The bartender let me try out draft beer selections. Our life in Fitzwilliam has expanded. I find it bliss.

Bob Ritchie is pastor of Bennington Congregational Church and a regular contributor.

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