What Matters Most

A life lesson in a video.

Yesterday was my birthday. It was a bittersweet day for me — a year ago on my birthday was the day my husband called and told me he wanted a divorce.

What kind of sick bastard asks his wife for a divorce on her birthday? After living with her for 29 years? The kind of bastard I was stupid enough to marry.

Anyway, my bank — yes, my bank — emailed me a birthday message with a link to a video. The message said:

Just a friendly little birthday wish from us to you. We can’t send you a double-tiered chocolate cake (it won’t fit through the mail slot — we tried), but hopefully this little video will help brighten your big day.

Have an awesome b-day filled with fun, happiness and, of course, saving.

Enjoy many more, Saver.

Normally, I’d trash it as spam, thinking it was some kind of marketing ploy. If so, it would be pretty tacky. But INGDirect (now CapitalOne 360) is not your average bank. So I clicked the link.

Here’s the video:

I cried when I watched it, of course. I already understood the message — what happiness is really all about. In fact, I blogged about it earlier this month. What made me cry is that it clearly showed the difference in philosophy between me and my ex-husband.

You see, I understand that happiness is making life what you want it to be so you can look around yourself and be happy about what you see. I do work I like to do in a place I like to do it. I have what I need and not much more. I’m not interested in impressing anyone with showy possessions. I’d rather spend time and money and energy seeing and learning new things to make me a more rounded person than to piss it away on crap. I save for my future and avoid unnecessary debt. This enables me to keep my time flexible and to really enjoy life. That’s what it’s all about.

My ex-husband, however, apparently believes that happiness is about keeping up with the Joneses, working at an unfulfilling job to pay for an empty lifestyle that revolves around eating out with the same four or five people, watching television, and buying showy things like a costly second home, airplane he never flies, and Mercedes to show off to friends. He made his obsession with financial wealth pretty clear to me when he went after my business assets and money in the divorce, refusing to settle unless I gave him my half of our our paid-for house plus $50,000 in cash and paid off his debt in the home equity line of credit. His greed would have left me nothing to reboot my life and keep my business afloat — but he didn’t seem to give a damn about that. He forced me to spend tens of thousands of dollars on legal fees to defend what was rightfully mine. (We’ll see how that worked out for him soon.)

I cried mostly because he wasn’t always that way — at least I didn’t think he was — and I pitied him, as I so often do these days, for wasting his life away. For missing the point.

My friends have been telling me lately how glad they are to see me so happy after such a difficult time. I’m glad, too. I’m happy and will stay happy — because I know what matters most: spending your time doing things you like to do with the people you like to be with.

What do you think?