Virtue is such an unsexy topic.
The word virtue brings to mind images of Mother Theresa, Joan of Arc and, for some inexplicable reason, the Salem Witch Trials. Not one of these images evokes any sparkling, dizzying idea of happiness.
I wish that it were as fun to talk about contentment, virtue, happiness as it is to gossip about more salaciously stimulating topics. Facing our shortfalls against an ideal is definitely not exciting, although it can be salacious at times.
And yet I will argue that virtue, or at least, the pursuit of virtue, is what can move us forward most forcefully the Contentment Continuum.
After almost four years of steadily chipping away at how I want virtue to look in my own life, and even more importantly, how I want my children to remember me, I think I can say that pursuing virtue has made my life more contented.
The Funeral Singer
I go to a lot of funerals. I am not a mortician or a pastor, but funerals are my side gig. I’ll sing anything you want me to: from Mozart to the Beatles. It happened by accident and has turned into being a two-to-ten gigs a month side job.
The first time my boys were old enough to ask where I was going all dressed up, death wasn’t on their radar yet. It happened that I was singing that day at the funeral of a woman I knew rather well named Suzanne. I told the boys that I was going to a party to celebrate Suzanne’s life.
Suzanne never married, never had children. Yet hundreds of people were at her goodbye party. Suzanne was the most abruptly honest, most generous, most stylish woman I had the pleasure of knowing. I will never forget the endless line of people with anecdotes about What Suzanne had meant to them.
That day, as I sat in my car weeping about how Suzanne had encouraged me through a tough time in my professional life, I started to think about what I would want said at my own funeral. Specifically, what I wanted those scalawags to say.
I definitely wanted to be remembered like Suzanne. I wanted there not to be enough minutes in the day for people to recount anecdotes of how I made their lives better. The more I thought about Suzanne, the more I realized that she epitomized the virtues that I was lacking so fiercely.
Suzanne was generous and faithfully so, brutally honest yet loving, organized but flexible, wise with a sharp wit, lucid about her looks and knew how to dress so that she always looked amazing.
Making it real
This put the fire in me to start pursuing the virtues the indulgent husband and I had laid out in earnest. It felt urgent. I needed to start becoming more virtuous now so that my boys would start having anecdotes to tell at my funeral!
The husband had made cards, back when we had literally nothing better to do with our time, with each of the sixty some-odd virtues printed on them. I took them out from where we had been hiding them from the scalawags, who liked to play with them as one plays Sixty-Some-Odd-Pick-Up.
I set about trying to make virtue sexy.