New research is starting to explore how gratitude works to improve our mental health…. many studies over the past decade have found that people who consciously count their blessings tend to be happier and less depressed.
I was just reviewing old bookmarks, and ran across the last blog entry of a writer friend who is no longer with us. If you want to read it, you can find it here. Marsha was a fine writer and teacher, and a good person to have in your life. She brought the pleasures of poetry and literature into the minds and hearts of thousands of students. A pretty darned good legacy, when you think about it.
Reading her poignant post got me to thinking about the idea of a “life well-lived.” Who decides about that? I am agnostic, so I don’t look forward to some Great Beyond. As far as I know, this is it — the whole show, not a dress rehearsal. (Although I generally hate being wrong, I wouldn’t mind being mistaken about that; however, logic prevails.) That being the case, the only life I expect to have beyond the grave is in the memories of people, slowly to fade until the wisps are carried away by the winds of time; a tiny part of the whole, but unnoticed down the years by those to come.
So, unless I want to indulge in magical thinking I have to accept that the sum of my life is my legacy as well, and I have to ask myself whether I’ve lived that life so as to leave something worthwhile behind, however ephemeral.
My desire to take a hard look at that question has varied over the years. I stopped drinking and drugging in 1989 and thought I was sober. As it turned out, I really wasn’t. (Think unaddressed process addiction that far preceded the chemicals.) Only in the past few years, after another “rock bottom,” have I started to deal effectively with that one.
Overall, though, I think my total progress and some of the things I’ve accomplished are probably not to be ashamed of. Whether others share that opinion is none of my business. I’ve slowly come to understand, at least intellectually, that I live in my reality, and what’s going on in someone else’s is not my concern.
However, I think it behooves us all to occasionally look back, think of our lives to date, and decide if they’re something we can be satisfied with. If we feel as though we’re on the right track, maybe we can attend to the details a bit more closely. If it seems as though we are a bit short, then we might sit back and consider how we can re-map our journey. Perhaps our criterion should be something like, “Have I helped others as much as they’ve helped me.”
I don’t know. What do you think?
For several reasons I make it a point not to review books or accept ads, “infographics,“ and guest posts on this blog, except in extremely rare situations. When I tried it the first one led to more, and to requests that didn’t meet my standards (never easy to refuse for a codependent like me), plus other complications, like conflicts of interest, etc. I don’t like hassles, and promoting business in whatever fashion is not the purpose of this site. However, it’s my blog, and I occasionally make exceptions for myself when I think it’s important enough. This is one of those times.
My long-time readers will probably have noticed the blurb in the sidebar for Joe C’s book, Beyond Belief, Agnostic Musings For 12-Step Life. No doubt the word “agnostic” turned some of them off. I’d like to comment on that, and explain why the ad, recommendation, or whatever you want to call it is there.
Education is what you get when you read the fine print;
experience is what you get when you don’t.
~ Pete Seeger
Pete Seeger is one of the Grand Old Masters of folk, along with Woodie Guthrie, Buffy St Marie, Bob Dylan in his early days, Joan Baez, Peter Yarrow, Paul Stookey and Mary Travers, Odetta, Leo Solieau, The Carter Family, Fiddlin’ John Carson, Harry Belafonte, Dave van Ronk, and a host of others–not forgetting the Folk who carried many of the tunes in their oral traditions and sang them over the centuries before recording technology. They’ve all contributed more to our culture than we may realize.
Seeger has always sorta been a hero of mine. In addition to the obvious effect he has had on generations of music aficionados, he influenced major figures in the Civil Rights movement and other movements toward Liberty as did many of his contemporaries. He had a way of expressing himself that was at once deceptively simple and, at the same time, pretty damn deep. The quote above is a prime example. When I ran across it recently I was immediately struck by the subtle way in which it relates to my recovery, and maybe yours, too. Continue reading “Fine Print”
Our brains evolved (or were designed, if you must) to be judgmental, to assess situations at a glance and classify them as good or bad, dangerous or advantageous — just as you are doing with regard to the first part of this sentence. The ability to do this quickly and form opinions rapidly helped keep our ancestors alive in an uncertain world and assisted them in evaluating the relatively simple issues of their lives and the lives of those around them. They passed these abilities on to us. These inherent skills serve us well in many instances, but we have to be careful. Life is more complicated now.
There are three questions that we must answer for ourselves.
There are three essential questions that we must answer for ourselves in order to live emotionally healthy lives. Others may try to influence us with their answers, but we – – as separate beings – – must find our own.
These essential questions are
- Who am I?
- Why am I?
- Who are they?
Ponder them well.
Turn it upside-down: if late, practice patience; if put upon, understanding; if hurt, forgiveness. Seek always to learn what virtue can be applied so as to turn a problem into an opportunity to grow.