I am no expert on what it takes for a person to lead a satisfying life, but I have some idea of what it does not take. Life satisfaction does not come from isolated goals, such as wealth, fame or beauty. Sure, when someone does not have enough money to pay the bills, money helps. The same goes for fame and beauty, but these pursuits alone are generally lacking in furthering a goal of life fulfillment.
It seems to me, that the best way to achieve happiness, or fulfillment, has little to do with superficial achievements. At the end of the day, or at the end of one's life, I think the question should be, do I have regrets? Since we all make mistakes, and I can tell you I have made a boatload of mistakes in my life, hopefully these mistakes do not end up as being regrets, that we learn lessons from our mistakes. I am not an expert in psychology and I do not profess to be better than others, but after much consideration, I think the guidelines below are a good start to a life well lived.
These are what I think are the building blocks of a satisfying life:
1. Take calculated risks - This is really hard. It is hard getting out of one's comfort zone. To some people, that may be riding that roller coaster (literally, not the figurative roller coaster of existence that many of us have.) I do not like the feel of falling, I mean really falling, down many feet at rapidly increasing speeds. If you do, go for it. If you want to sky dive, do it. Those things are not my cup of tea. I prefer calculated risks such as going to trial for a person and cause in which I believe. I respect those who stand up against bullying or protest against a law or practice about which they feels is unjust. Speaking up is a risk. You have to be willing to suffer the consequences of a bad result. Robbing a bank is a risk, but I do not consider it a wise risk, nor an objectively calculated risk. The downside is prison or death by shooting. Robbing a bank has negative moral implications. I can honestly say, for most people, robbing a bank does not lead to self-fulfillment. Each of us needs to honestly assess what we are afraid of doing, and if it is something that makes you feel more confident or better about yourself, do it. Of course, if you are a sociopath or serial killer, please ignore this advice.
2. Deal with personal demons - no one comes through childhood, or adulthood, unscathed. We all have demons. Some of us have terrifying demons, being victims of sexual or child abuse, living with people who deride us, being bullied in childhood. Ignoring demons is bad. People who are oppressed oftentimes grow up to be oppressors. It is not easy seeking counseling, being honest about our faults, admitting our imperfections. A really wise man I know says, "If you can't talk about it, it's out of control." I believe that statement to be profound.
3. Forgiving others - Many people believe that forgiving others who have hurt them somehow lets the other person off the hook. That is the wrong way to look at transgressions. When we hold grudges and refuse to forgive others, we hurt ourselves. Forgiveness is for us, no really for the people who hurt us. There is a saying that I believe, "Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die from it." Being filled with rage, hatred and anger, damages us, not the target of the scorn. To end of up feeling satisfied from life, it is necessary to forgive. Anger tears up the psyche of the angry. Forgiveness can be hard, but it is oh so satisfying.
4. Love ourselves - It has taken me a long time to accept who I am . I have gray hair, excess weight, a smart-alecky mouth and I gossip at times. I love myself anyway. The only way to feel truly accepted in life is through self-acceptance. The only way to gain true self acceptance, for me, is by following rules 1-3 above. Once you love yourself, or, in other words, develop a thick skin, it is hard to be vulnerable to attacks from others. If you are not seeking validation from that boss, that co-worker, that boss, that lover, you can concentrate on others. Only when you love yourself, can you forget about yourself and do the things that are satisfying, such as working at a job you love, being a good parent, being a good neighbor, being a good spouse. When we love ourselves, we can forget to think about perceived problems. Only then do we feel contentment, in being a person focused on people and issues outside ourselves and free of self-doubt and self-criticism.
5. Do what you love - You may love your job. You probably love your children and your mate, if you have one. You may love doing volunteer work. Do something outside of yourself that brings you fulfillment. Volunteer to help someone in need. Give your children encouragement. Help your partner or your parents. Bake cookies and give it to someone. If you can afford it, send flowers to someone who does not expect it.
6. Give without expecting anything in return - When you give to someone without expecting anything in return, it is truly satisfying. The act of giving to someone else is reward enough, even if not appreciated by others. We don't have children so that there is someone to take care of us when we get old, or at least, that is not a good reason to have children. Donate anonymously. Think of others. The act of giving is reward enough. True love is about giving, not getting.
Well, off the top of my head, these are the six things that I can think of that leads to a satisfying life. None of us knows what the future holds. We have to work on the now. I am sure others have more, better thought out, ideas on how to lead a satisfying life. But the six guidelines above are certainly a good start.
Sunday, October 26, 2014
Sunday, October 19, 2014
I do not know who is going to win the World Series, but I sure hope it's the Royals. This Royals team is different, and not just because they are winning. I am no baseball expert, but I have followed the Royals since the team's inception in 1969, when I was 16 years old. Those early years seemed like they were easy years. Sure, they won a lot and we expected them to win a lot. When I was younger, the Kansas City team was the Athletics, which left for Oakland. My mother used to take my brother, sister and I to old Municipal Stadium to watch the A's, which had a pretty lousy record. I loved going to the games, nevertheless. I remember stepping through the dark gate and into the bright lights of the colorful and beautifully kept field. The brilliant greens of the field, along the the kelly green and gold uniforms were so visually spectacular. Of course, the famous George Toma was the groundskeeper and he was the person associated with the A's that gave Kansas City the most pride.
Fast forward to the early Royals. Everyone in this city loved Ewing Kauffman and his devotion to Kansas City and to baseball. I loved and love the blue of the Royals. The early Kauffman Stadium, before it was named the K, had ugly orangish, reddish seats which were replaced with the more spectacular blues of the present incarnation of the stadium. My husband and I, then teenagers and dating, went to games all of the time. The seats in the bleachers in left field were a cheap date and my husband loved baseball, and I loved it, too. I remember the time I tried to convince my then boyfriend to leave because of the boring pitchers' duel we were watching from way out in left field. He insisted we stay and I reluctantly watched what turned out to be Nolan Ryan's first no-hitter. Back then, though, we expected to have great teams, with George Brett and Frank White and Amos Otis and Freddie Patek. Then, Mr. K died and the Royals went to hell. I used to laugh, because for the last 28 years, we have had "rebuilding" years.
This is why I like the Royals now even better than then. The players are young, exuberant and fun. Lorenzo Cain grabs flies that look impossible to catch, as if he is a super-human. The team members seem to enjoy each other and love to play the game. They love playing baseball, they play harder than humanly possible. They love the fans. They are young and exuberant, instead of jaded and arrogant. They are not the super millionaires of most other teams. They are not involved in doping scandals. These Royals play the game as the fans hope players will play, with enthusiasm and youthful exuberance. That is why the country loves the Royals as much as the fact we have had such a bad team for so long.
And that is also why I am oh so slightly jealous, of that youthful exuberance. The contest is still new and fresh for these players. They are not jaded or overwhelmed by greed or ego. They are young and innocent, and I am not. I wonder if this wonderful fielding and diving to catch fly balls will be part of their existence in ten years. I wonder what salary negotiations will be like for these players in the future. I wonder if personal gain and fame will overcome their love of team, fans, and the game. I wonder if they will become jaded in the quest to win their games as I have been disenchanted and jaded in my world. I have "practiced" law for 31 years, longer than most Royals players have been on this earth. I want their exuberance. I want their enthusiasm. I still can see remnants of my youth. But the "game" of law is not so much fun as it used to be. Of course, law is not supposed to be a game. It is supposed to be a quest for justice. I just wish I could get some of my innocence back. Oh to be Lorenzo Cain. May he never feel jaded. Right now, I want to have a little of the Lorenzo Cain mojo. At least I colored my nails blue and I will use the blue chalk in my white hair during the series. Maybe the Royals can be an inspiration to us all.