You've got to love that guy, Anonymous, don't you? What a clever fellow he was! If you Google "sayings by anonymous" there're quite a few, really. If you're a fan of irony, as I am, you'll love this one, attributed to him: write a wise saying and your name will live forever.
Mr. Ashbury and I got quite a chuckle out of that one.
My personal favorite saying/quote/maxim of all time from anonymous is one I heard about twenty years ago and have repeated to myself periodically ever since: life is 5% what happens to me and 95% how I deal with it.
I guess this quote is my favorite because I am a great believer in personal responsibilityin standing up and taking the reins of my life in my own hands. For those who may be reading this essay who aren't, I give you the following testimonial. I am 58 years old and I have often been wrong, or made mistakes. I've said, "I'm sorry, I was wrong," and, "I'm sorry, I screwed up," and even, "I have no excuse. I just messed up." And guess what? It didn't kill me, or hurt me (well except in my pride but I generally need a good swift kick there every once in a while anyway). I suffered no ill effects from saying, basically, "it's my fault, I did it."
I've discovered that honesty and apologies cost me nothing whatsoever, and even have the side benefits of not only making me feel better inside, but garnering me some invaluable goodwill from others.
Unfortunately, owning up and making amends is a dying art, apparently.
Can we please get back to that place where everyone's taking responsibility for themselves and their actions was the norm? Can we get back to using common sense, and to helping others just because we can and because it's the right thing to do? And can we please put a lid on our bitching about how hard everything is, and open instead the box marked "Innovations and solutions found here"?
Can we accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative, just as that old song suggested?
Life is hard. I happen to believe it is meant to be hard. That's how we grow, that's how we learn the lessons we're meant to learn. There is work to be done, and in the process, we're going to get tired, we're going to ache, and we're going to suffer frustration.
Those are the real facts of life.
But we don't need to let those harsher aspects of living define us. We certainly don't need to let them limit our possibilities.
I loved my mother. She wasn't at all what you'd call a nurturing kind of woman. She had difficulty expressing her emotionsI can count on the fingers of both hands the number of times she hugged me. She put the lion's share of her energy into her jobshe was a registered nursebut she did that because her husbandour fatherhad died and she felt keenly her responsibility to provide for us. She was a widow who, for the rest of her time on earth, before she joined my fatherjust 13 yearsmourned her husband deeply and unceasingly.
She had many very fine qualities. I learned from those. I also learned from the one or two aspects of her personality that weren't quite so stellar.
My mother suffered from severe osteoarthritis. Hers was so bad in her knees that her legs became somewhat deformed. In the last couple of years of her lifeshe died very young, just two months shy of her 57th birthdayshe underwent surgery to correct this condition.
Prior to that, she was in a tremendous amount of pain, and I can recall vividly listening to her moaning and/or crying in the evening. I would be upstairs in my bed, and she downstairs at the kitchen table. I can recall her saying, many times, "this sure isn't much of a life".
I understood it wasn't just the physical pain that made her say things like that. To be a teenager bearing witness to this broke my heart. I wished, with all that was in me, that I could have helped her in some way. I even remember praying and asking God to take her pain from her and give it to me. Of course, I never really expected to be in a similar position, suffering from the same affliction and dealing with unremitting pain, so many years later.
But I am, and I understand her and what she went through a bit better now, but my attitude is different. Because I've discovered that focusing on the pain doesn't relieve it; it exacerbates it. And I've discovered, too, that I could say to myself, "this isn't much of a life". Or I can choose not to. Of course, there are moments, especially if I'm tired, when my resolve falters, and it all seems a bit too much to take. But those are only moments, and I keep them to myself.
It's okay to sit on the pity pot for a few minutes every once in a while, as long as I flush when I am done.
Because my life really is 5 per cent of what happens to me, and 95 per cent how I choose to deal with it. And I choose, whenever anyone asks me how I am to say, "I'm terrific!"
And I mean it, too.
You've heard it said, I am sure, that people come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. My problem is I can't tell the difference. I am constantly, even eagerly, slotting folks into that last category. I'm like an excited little puppy all wound up having someoneor several someone'snew in my lifea puppy who gets all frisky and happy and bounces back and forth as if saying, "Wanna play? Wanna play?" Then when things happenthings that seem inexplicable to me, things that leave me wondering what I could possibly have done wrong, I'm left broken hearted because those people turn and walk away with no backward glance whatsoever and I am left feeling totally and completely bereft.
I'm beginning to suspect that the only thing I keep doing wrong is slating people into the "lifetime" category who never should have been there in the first place. I've only begun to realize this flaw in my previous behavior because the ones I have now in that "lifetime" slot were the ones meant to be there all along.
I know I can't be the only person this has happened to. Life has taught me that very, very few of us ever experience something that no one else ever has. I've had a number of traumatic and tragic things happen in my lifetime. I know that probably most of you have, too. At some point, maybe twenty years ago or so, I came to the decision that if life really was only 5 percent what happened to me and 95 percent how I dealt with it, then I'd better see if I could deal with things in a way that would be beneficial to others, and therefore beneficial to myself.
Yes, that's another variation of making lemonade out of lemons.
Because I am, down to my soul, a writer, then dealing with things in a beneficial way meant I had to write about them. Those who can look beyond the wink-wink-nudge-nudge of my novels will discover that I deal with a lot of issues that many of us struggle with in life. What I don't deal with that way, I manage to tackle within the pages of these essays, every week.
Life is a journey and like any long trip, not all of it is made over smooth roads. Sometimes we have to travel the gravel side roads, and sometimes we find ourselves on deeply rutted dirt trails. Sometimes we're making our way in the company of good companions, and sometimes we are achingly alone.
Everyone has to define the terms under which they want to live their lives. We each of us have our own priorities, and we're not all the same. We aren't all given to the same purposes or causes; we don't define happiness or sadness in exactly the same way. We really are unique, each one of us. We share a common humanity, yes, and a common spectrum of possibilities, but the fine points, the details, are different for us all.
As I've gotten older, as more milestones have gone by my personal window on this, my life's journey, I understand as I never did before how self sufficient we are, and at the same time, how isolated we are.
I believe that we were created to help one another. Do you want to have a good, really good, feeling inside of yourself? Then take your eyes off yourself and help someone else. Do you want to feel as if you matter? Then matter to othersdo something that makes a difference either to an individual or a group.
Are you the only one who has ever made a horrible mistake, lost someone dear, or suffered an injury to your body or your soul? Of course not. We all have. Is every day a day of joy and laughter and all things positive and light?
If only. Nope, there are at least as many dark days as there are light ones in anyone's life; the difference lies in how we rate them. I personally give happy, sunny days a 5 rating, and the gloomy, sad ones a 0.5 one.
Oh yes, that is stacking the deck in my favor, but then I can do that if I want to. Because the most important principle I have learned in life says I can. What is that principle? Gosh, I am glad you asked.
It's that, in the final analysis, everything emotionaland I do mean everythingis a decision. How you handle the firestorms that come your way, is a decision.
Life doesn't control your heart or your mind or your soul. You do.