Oh, I am sure there will be those of you who disagree. While living this life with the goal of some reward in the next might work for some of you, I have to function on the theory that this is it! In fact, while convincing the peasants that suffering in this life was the key to reward in the next may have worked for thousands of years, most of us peasants have started to catch on and are demanding actual happiness in this life. Before you start emailing me about burning in hell, again, I’m not saying there isn’t an afterlife, I’m just saying I want to make the most of this one just in case!
Living your life with the goal of going to heaven is one of those goals like world peace and true love. They are all certainly worthy of working towards, we shouldn’t give up on the possibility of any of it, but it might be good to have a backup plan. I’m just saying let’s stop putting so much pressure on ourselves. How about if we learn to be happy in the only moments we are actually guaranteed, this one, right now!
Yesterday, I had one of many conversations I’ve had with a friend lately about life, and love and death and we ended up briefly discussing our fathers. Let me tell you, there is nothing that makes you more aware of your own mortality than the death of one of your parents. They are the people you thought were invincible when you were a kid. Yet, death can come and grab them, unexpectedly and with no prior warning whatsoever.
Even worse than the death of a parent, as I have mentioned before, I have far too many friends who have lost children. Children were supposed to guarantee our own immortality. This one has weighed heavily on my mind also because my own son spent a year in a war zone, has cheated death more than once. It keeps you aware that life can change at any moment. It keeps you focused and grounded in what is really important.
My father was exactly my age when he was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Rheumatoid, it is an autoimmune disease that affects every single part of your body and eventually leaves you crippled. Susceptibility is believed to be hereditary. Only one in ten have it with the severity that my father had it, or suffer with the amount of chronic daily pain he lived with for the next fifteen years before he finally, and mercifully, died of cancer. My dad had just married my step mother when he was diagnosed and they both assumed they had finally found “happily ever after.” What I will always remember the most about my dad, what always gets me through my own tough times, is that he never, ever, ever complained!
I lose patience with people this time of year when they start complaining about the “winter blues.” I lose patience with people who keep telling me how unhappy they are with their lives, what a rut they’ve gotten themselves into, but do nothing to change it. I am not unsympathetic. I have been depressed, I have been sad but I have always chosen action over inaction, change over consistency, risk over security and optimism over pessimism. You’re only guaranteed this one life folks and while you can’t control all the circumstances of it, you can control your part in it!
Maybe it’s time to step out of your comfort zone. Maybe it’s time, if you want things to be different, to start doing things differently.
So for those of you who say you want to change things, you want to be happier, but you don’t know where to start, I’ve come up with a list of over 50 things to do instead of feeling sorry for yourselves during these cold, dark, winter months!
So here goes ~ read, go find a new book at the library, start in a section you wouldn’t normal go to, join a book group, read a book to a child, start a journal, write a poem, go through old photos, take new photos, find a local band and go dance, sing, play whatever instrument you can play or drum along on the counter, go to a poetry reading, find any local speaker at any local event and go listen and learn something you didn’t know before, draw, paint, call a friend, email a friend, go buy a hysterically funny card and send it to a friend, surprise a friend at work by bringing them a cup of coffee, make a new friend, watch a comedy, even better watch a documentary about something you know nothing about, apply to that job you’ve always wanted, go on a date with someone who is completely not your type, start a new relationship or end an old one, plan a trip, take a trip, make a child laugh, dye your hair, shave your head, change your look completely, sign up to take a class or go to a seminar, rearrange your living space, bake cookies, buy yourself fresh flowers, try yoga, meditate, join a gym, say hello to that one person at the gym you’ve been too shy to talk to, learn a new word, learn a new word in a foreign language, go for a long walk, go to the park and swing on a swing, try a new restaurant (yes, even alone), find a new recipe, shop for weird ingredients, make an amazing new meal just for yourself, even better invite friends over and cook for them, host a wine tasting in your home, explore a new church or a new spiritual group, volunteer for a new and challenging assignment at work, find a spot where you can stare at the stars on a clear night, make snow angels, go to a local fundraiser, check out the latest exhibits at the University of Maine Art Museum here in Bangor, take a kid to the Discovery Museum, attend a city council meeting just to see what’s going on, volunteer for a local charity, attend the Red Ribbon Ball in February for EMAN.
and if all else fails read Emily Burnham’s column, Culture Shock, in the Bangor Daily ‘cause that girl will find you something to do!
“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.” – M Scott Peck (The Road Less Traveled)