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How Much of Life Is Left to Be Enjoyed?
Those Betraying Life Inventories
How much is left to be enjoyed of life? This question, or some other form of it may be merely attached to a passing mood, or it may keep hanging in the air as a sensitive bell so easily disturbed by every aspect of a monotonous, predictable life.
Especially in those moments while we are making an inventory of life so far, fishing through the memory albums for something that would be worth reviving. When we find it, it hardly serves as a consolation, but rather as a painful reminder about how much life can degrade with years.
To the rescue may come a notion how this "steadiness" of life at least provides a sense of security and certainty, as opposed to those crazy younger times of life when passions, ambitions, and strife were making of us something like a puppet on a string. A little sigh comes---and we are not quite sure if it's a sigh of a relief or still a sigh of nostalgic reminiscing about something better back there.
Friends are not much help. The older the friendship, the more their sameness just adds to our own; and on certain evenings we may catch ourselves not answering that phone, as we don't really have a stomach to hear about "how her confrontation with her daughter-in-law ended", or "what the doctor said about that pain in her knee."
Going Through the Motions of Living
Of course, by now, we seem to have become veterans in this struggle with often maddening predictability of our life which has become one huge routine. For example, a paperback novel may do, and there is always something to watch on the TV. If our kids allow us, we can even meddle a bit with their "situation", offering our wisdom and pretending that they appreciate it.
That combination of kids, novels, TV, and gossiping allows us to escape from our own life into someone else's where there is more going on. Not to forget the good, old apothecary---our fridge, which always has a ready balsam for our boredom, anger, sadness, fears, and just about any other version of those crappy knee-jerk responses to life.
Well, gone are those mornings in front of our bathroom mirror when we were tempted to send a victorious wink to that image. Now it boils down to sticking our tongue out to check how white it is for a possible body's fight with a microbial intruder.
Encouraging ourselves for facing a new day with a smile in that mirror is completely out of question, because that smile would bring out the full map of wrinkles which would be anything but encouraging.
Maybe at no other times but in our mornings, routine feels like such a blessing---sparing us from having to think with those groggy minds what's the next to be done. This way we just go through the motions, not caring much that our whole life has become more or less exactly that---going through the series of predictable motions.
Insisting on Uncomfortable Comfort Zone
And yet, it would have been so much more tolerable if that nagging question had not become like an unavoidable shadow of that routine---is that all that's left to be enjoyed of life?
In some daring moods strange ideas may pop up to be instantly felt like a threat to our comfort zone. Like, "finally" losing some of that extra weight; or changing hair style and its color; or getting a dog; or cutting into our life savings and finally taking that trip; or even rearranging the furniture. Boy, do we ever feel silly at the end of such thinking, because none of it is bound to happen anyway.
As I am writing all this I may be playing a clairvoyant a little bit by predicting a general reaction to my possible changing the tune into something that would suggest a change from all that. So, as if I can hear from some readers:
"Hey, you old dude, don't you dare rock the boat with any of your therapeutic crap, or I will stop reading. You have been doing just fine by describing a life of security, serenity, and certainty, and those minor dissatisfactions don't really matter all that much. So, don't spoil it now".
O.K., I say, go on and find something good on your TV, because that's exactly what I am planning to do---for those few folks who may at least add "my therapeutic crap" to all that other crap they already got familiar with.
How to Like Dislikable?
At one time or another you must have run into that mantra of the self-help industry---or even if it was only an advice coming from a caring friend: "Learn to appreciate life, and count your blessings, not your curses".
Sounds familiar, doesn't it? And it wouldn't even be such a bad advice if anybody cared to also add to it one thing---how the hell to "appreciate" something if we don't like it in the first place? Over the years we have become so proficient at hating things that it spread over even some of those neutral or likable things.
As if our brain got stuck in a groove of disliking, so it keeps feeding that attitude by searching over all those things that are to be disliked. The inevitable decline in our zest-hormones may be just adding to it---so, really, how do we manage to like something that feels dislikable, like our life for a good example?
Somewhat similar advices are: "Trust yourself, believe in your abilities, forgive, move on in life..."---without an instruction how to do it. For, if you could suddenly have a great self-esteem at a snap of your fingers, then why would you need to read a whole damn book?
Sometimes it takes tricking our minds a little---which is only fair, because it keeps playing all kinds of nasty tricks on us throughout our lives. So we have to somehow produce that feeling of appreciation without bluntly lying to ourselves with a parrot-like repetitions of positive affirmations.
Empathizing with Hypothetical Admirers
If someone gave you a toy-car for your 50-th birthday you would be right to get insulted. But now, try to remember the face of the kid to whom you bought a toy for his birthday. What happened with your feelings about that little toy while you were empathizing with that kid's enthusiasm?
It was the same toy in question, but empathizing made such a huge difference about how you felt about it. You saw it with the kid's eyes. Maybe your face even made the same expression of excitement and surprise that you saw on the kid's face.
Now, how could this possibly be of any help? You see, while you can't produce feelings of gratefulness for what you've got and for who you are---at least not in big enough dosage to make you excited about it---why not imagine someone who is much less fortunate observing what you have and who you are?
Can you move around without a cane, a walker, or a wheelchair? What is the view from a wheelchair like, as you can get from here to there in a moment without any problem? Could you empathize with a person sitting there as they are admiring your swift moves across your floor?
Could you start seeing things in their relative value, and put a big price on whatever you've got at this time in your life---if they would be seen by a much less fortunate person? Simply by empathizing with them.
Look around, look inside yourself, yes, even take a brave look in the mirror, and see all that with admiring eyes of someone who might wish they had it. What would they see that seems to be invisible to you?
Possible Losing It Is Setting Its Value
There is that old life truism that "we don't know how much we have until we lose it". Here it gives us another little trick to use so that we spontaneously feel appreciation for what we have. Just by imagining how we would feel by losing our eye-sight---which we still have; by losing our dear ones---who are still with us, we just can't but appreciate our life.
Some time ago our son, now a tall and strong six foot man with greyish hair and beard came from work straight to our place, and right at the front door he gave a bear hug to his mother, tears rolling down his cheeks.
He stayed like that for an extended moment not leaving his mother from his embrace, before with a shaking voice telling us how his good friend's and coworker's mother had passed away, and he empathized so strongly that he couldn't wait to see his mom being healthy and well. My vision got blurred, and I only noticed those were tears while wiping them off.
So, could empathy help us in answering that question from the title of this article: How much is left to be enjoyed of life? Could we see it all with a different set of eyes, as if seeing it for the very first time?
For maybe, and the odds are quite realistic, somewhere in this wide world there is a millionaire or a famous person, or both---who would honestly envy us. If we could see ourselves at bed- time with the eyes of a soldier at a battlefield, maybe we could truly appreciate our peaceful night's sleep.
And then, in the morning, as we look in our bathroom mirror---who knows---perhaps we could skip sticking our tongue out as to see the level of active erythrocytes on its surface fighting for our health, and instead giving ourselves that deserved victorious wink.
Because, hey, we are still alive and winning with every breath!