Sunday, April 19, 2015

A Good Life

Most of us live in a time and place where living well is an option. We are not among the unfortunate souls who exist in war-torn places, or among those who are the victims of abuse and neglect or famine and war. For those of us fortunate to live in peace, with plenty of food and shelter, surrounded by those we love and who love us in return, we have good lives. Sometimes it's not readily apparent to us that our lives are good until our lives are not.  We inhabit this earth for only a short time.  If we live a full life, we fall ill and die in just a relatively short length of time - 60, 70, 80 years or so. Most of us want to make a difference, want to be special, want to make our mark.

Before each of us succumb to our inevitable demise, how can we live a "good life."  Most of us are not rich, or beautiful or brilliant. We have neither the intellect of Stephen Hawkings nor the beauty of Charlize Theron. We are not rich like Warren Buffett, nor powerful like President Obama. We do not command large armies, nor oversee mammoth corporations. When we die, only our loved ones will weep, and once they end, so will the memory of our existence also end. 

Yet, we have the capacity for living as joyous, satisfying and fulfilling lives as anyone. These are some of the ways I have found to appreciate the lives we live:

1.  Be grateful for what you have.  Remember that horrifyingly painful abscess in your tooth when the pain radiated so intensely your aching jaw felt on fire?  Remember the relief of the Novocaine?  Remember after your baby emerged and you held him or her and the all-encompassing contractions stopped?  Remember after you graduated from school and your friends and family celebrated?  Your wedding, your first kiss, the embrace of a parent?  These are things for which we should be grateful. 

2.  Understand what it means to make a difference in the world.  When we give to another, we make a difference. We all want to make a difference, or leave our mark. When you love someone else, a sibling, a friend, a child or a lover, I believe you make your mark. We are not all Abraham Lincolns. But, if you  have made at least one person happy, even for a little while, you have made the world a better place. 

3.  Experience life.  Experiences are more satisfying than acquiring possessions.  do you remember your honeymoon, the family trip to the lake, the time you climbed that tree?  Do you remember how your grandmother sounded, the way your spouse's clothes smell with his or her sent, the way that wonderful birthday steak tasted?  Did the pleasure of acquiring a new television or car last as long? After the raise, did you relish in the additional money, or take it in stride and hope for more?

4.  Forgive others. Hatred and revenge tear up your soul.  We all suffer injustices, slights and ill treatment. We all need to remove ourselves from these situations. Once removed, it be hooves us to let the anger, hatred and desire for revenge go. It is only when we free ourselves of our anger, can we live fulfilling lives. Spite is poison. Seeking revenge erodes your soul. Someone, I don't know who, explained it this way, "Seeking revenge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die."  

5.  Love yourself. accept yourself for who you are. You need not be beautiful or rich or the most popular person. You are who you are, with warts and faults and all. Forgive yourself when you make a mistake. Admit your mistakes. Apologize for the wrongs against others you commit.  But, do not change who you are simply to be liked. You are enough. 

6.  Love others.  To truly love another person or people, you must be willing to give without expecting anything in return. It is the act of giving, unconditionally, that sets you free. Give to others anonymously. Feel the joy of giving without expecting anything. 
7.  Empathize with others.  The world would be a better place if we just tried to understand other people's points of view. We all are products of our experiences. If we understand the pressures or fears of others, we can be patient, kind or at least understanding. The world is not black and white. If we want to feel understood and valued, we must try to understand and value others. 

I hope that all of you reading this figure out, in your own ways, to have a good life. 


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