A boomer comes to realize, No whining on the yacht

We baby boomers are sometimes described as the luckiest generation. Luckier than our parents, and maybe, sadly, luckier than our kids. That’s what we like about this essay by BoomerCafé contributor Larry Checco, a communications specialists from Silver Spring, Maryland. He has come to appreciate that doesn’t have everything, but he has enough. Which is why he calls the piece, No Whining On The Yacht.

Famed American author Kurt Vonnegut liked to tell a “true story, word of honor” about when he and another famed American author, Joseph Heller, were at a party given by a billionaire on Shelter Island, New York.

“Joe, how does it make you feel to know that our host only yesterday may have made more money than your novel Catch-22 has earned in its entire history?”

Scene from the film, Catch -22, based on Heller’s book of the same name.

Catch-22 for many boomers, including me, is a beloved classic about the inanity of war, one that helped start me thinking out of the box.

Heller replied, “I’ve got something he can never have.”

“What on earth could that be, Joe?” asked Vonnegut.

“The knowledge that I’ve got enough,” replied Heller.

Joseph Heller (left) with Kurt Vonnegut and spouses.

Such a great story that underscores the point that when it comes to “having enough,” well, let’s just say it’s an arbitrary and personal judgment.

For me, decades went by when I felt I wasn’t smart enough, or good enough, attractive enough, athletic enough, talented enough, financially secure enough. You name it. “Enough” for me translated into an unattainable goal — as well as a frustrated state of being.

But fortunately with age often come epiphanies, magical moments of insight and clarity.

One morning, I was rinsing my coffee cup while listening to a story on the radio about how billions of people around the world somehow essentially exist without readily available potable water, some having to walk miles simply to fill an earthen jar to meet their families’ entire day’s need for clean drinking water.

As I blithely watched a steady stream of hot water leave my coffee cup and run down the drain, it struck me deeply. All my life I’ve been sailing on the proverbial yacht of plenty. I’ve got everything I need— food, clothing, and shelter in abundance, a loving family and friends, enough money to sustain a decent lifestyle, my health.

Larry Checco

It dawned on me that for decades I was making the classic mistake of looking up, instead of down, wanting what those who I felt were above me had, rather than thoroughly appreciating and enjoying what I already have.

Let’s face it, none of us goes through life unscathed. We all run into what often seem to be insurmountable issues, whether they be work-related issues, financial issues, health issues, issues related to relationships, marriage, raising kids, or what have you. It’s inevitable.

But we can always find something we can be thankful for, even if it’s as simple as a soothing hot shower or being able to wash a coffee cup out in the sink.

So, whenever I lapse into feeling I don’t have enough, I revert to my mantra: no whining on the yacht! It helps put things in perspective.

Thanks for reaffirming that for me, Joe.

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16 Comments

  1. I am going through a very trying time. 64 and having a struggle finding work. This was the best thing to read this morning. For many of us going through the ageism issue, it is very real. I have enough. Thank you

    1. I’m 70, Jackie, and have felt the effects of ageism on my career and profession as well. You’re a bit younger, but we’re both in that age cohort where we should be making every day count. I spend a lot of my time identifying and appreciating what I call SMOJs–or spontaneous moments of joy. They can be as simple as taking in my first breadth of fresh air in the morning, or watching the sky change color at sunset. SMOJs help distract from all the craziness and struggles that seem to constantly surround us.

    1. Thanks, Marty. I just looked it up on the web and it’s actually spelled “lagom”.

      Here’s what I found: “Sweden is ranked in the top three of the world’s happiest places to live, and lagom, which means ‘not too much and not too little—just right,’ is the Swedish philosophy for enjoying balance in every aspect of life—from work and leisure to family and food, and everything in between.

      Never been to Sweden, but it’s now on my bucket list. Thanks for the heads up.

    1. Thanks, Karl. Felt the same way about your letter to the editor in today’s Post.

      Let’s keep writing!

  2. Hi Larry,
    I am so glad to read this post of yours today. I have felt like this for a long time. I may not have as much as I once envisioned for myself, but I consider myself very lucky to have as much as I do have. The looking down instead of up is a beautiful concept. As Americans we are blessed to live in this wonderful country. I couldn’t have said it better.

    1. Despite all of our flaws, foibles and political dysfunction I couldn’t agree with you more, Chela, about living in America. We’ve got a long way to go to “create a more perfect union” and to ensure economic and social justice for all, but it beats a lot of what’s out there. It’s worth preserving.

  3. I have to agree, I’ve had my share of life altering and challenging events but have survived them all intact. I’m fortunate to have a family who love me, I’m in excellent health and have everything I need and most of what I want. I’m rich in what’s important in life!

  4. Thanks, Denver. The game of life–and our “attitude” about it–is played between the ears. We’re our own refs and the umps. And sometimes we make bad calls.

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