Living Simple: Perspective In Our Lives
72/58….my blood pressure reading on November 16, 2006. I was told I was lucky to be alive, that one more night of drinking and my body systems would have shut down. Instead I spent three days in a hospital bed and twenty-seven more days in rehab, and at the end of those thirty days I discovered a rather important fact: I did not want to die.
When one tiptoes through the garden of death one gains a rather interesting perspective on life. I have carried that perspective with me for a little over five years now and it is that perspective I would like to share with you now.
I knew a wonderful man, a friend and mentor, for ten years in Alcoholics Anonymous. Every time I saw him I would ask how he was doing and he would say, “Life is good!” He would share at meetings (with forty-five years of sobriety people tended to listen to him) and not once in those ten years did I ever hear him speak about his problems or things that were troubling him. Instead he would talk about how wonderful his life was and how much he loved sobriety.
I couldn’t help but wonder how that was possible? I mean sometime during those ten years the man must have had a bad day, right? It is not humanly possible to go ten years without something bothering you. Is it? The car has to break down at some point; the dog has to die or the roof develops a leak or something. So one day I asked him what was up? How was it possible that he never had any problems? He calmly explained that compared to the living hell he had lived when he drank booze that every day was indeed a good one and compared to death life is good. Period!
Joe had a heart attack a couple years ago and was back at a meeting two weeks later and same thing, life is good! Not a word about the heart attack or his failing health, just that life was good. He died two months after that of a heart attack he could not recover from, but even though he is gone his words live on with me: life is good!
I had a student back in the late 90’s who was born with Spina Bifida, a birth defect in her case so severe that she was wheelchair bound for life. The first day she came to our school at the start of sixth grade I was enchanted by this smiling bundle of energy, so full of life and joy and a steely resolve that would put most of us to shame. Not once in the three years that I taught her did I see her feeling sorry for herself. Every single day she would wheel into the classroom, smile and say good morning and then go about her day as if nothing was wrong. Perhaps, to her, nothing was wrong!
I had the chance to see Teresa a year ago at a garage sale where she was helping out so her grandmother would have some company. She had gone on through high school and college and was at that time (and still is) a high school counselor and surely she is loved by the students at her school. She had the same smile and the same outlook on life when I saw her then and I doubt seriously if anything is going to change her view of life in the future.
A friend of mine a couple years ago was the exact opposite of Teresa. Dorothy was a woman in her late forties with a chronic sore back and an unhappy marriage. Ask her how she was doing on any given day and you might as well find a comfortable chair because you were in for at least thirty minutes of describing how horrible her life was and how there was no hope and why did all of this misery have to happen to her.
I tried my best to be her friend and help her when she needed it; I hung in there for two years lending a helping hand and listening when she needed to talk, but at the end of two years nothing had changed and I found that whenever I was with Dorothy my mood would darken. I finally ended that friendship because I had made a conscious decision back in 2006 to surround myself with positive people. As I explained in an earlier article my first priority must be to myself or I will return to the darkness that Dorothy can’t seem to escape.
My favorite story about Abraham Lincoln had to do with the year 1862, at arguably the low point for the North during the Civil War. In February of that year President Lincoln’s eleven year old son Willie died and Lincoln was devastated. After the funeral the President retired to his bedroom and did not come out for three days; no word from him, no instructions for his armies, not one Presidential decree. Those close to the President were obviously concerned for his emotional and dare they say mental health.
Finally after those three days Lincoln emerged from his bedroom and after his aide asked him how he was Lincoln told him….and I paraphrase….that man is the only member of the animal kingdom who can choose to be happy or choose to be sad, and that he (Lincoln) chooses to be happy.
IT’S ALL ABOUT CHOICE FOLKS
This is the greatest lesson I learned during my thirty-day stay in the treatment center. Compared to death life looks pretty damn good to me, but I found out over the past five years that there is so much more than life just being okay. With each day that passes I gain a greater appreciation for life. With each day that passes my senses are more aware: colors seem more vivid, sounds more detailed and smells much more aromatic.
I read once that we come into this world kickin’ and screamin’ and we leave it the same way. Most of us, the high percentage of us, hold onto those last breaths with a fierce determination. Why do we do that? I believe it is simply a matter of not wanting to die, that we value life so much that we don’t want it to end. Which of course raises a question: if we value our lives so much that we fight to the bitter end to breathe one last breath, then why don’t we value the times when we are just living life on a daily basis?
If someone were to tell you….guarantee you….that you would be dead in two years how would you live those two years? Would you live them depressed or would you squeeze every last second of happiness and love out of them? Well guess what? Comparatively speaking, considering the whole picture of existence, you really don’t have much longer to live. Are you going to be miserable, upset by everything that goes wrong in your life, floundering in a sea of self-pity, or are you going to be like Lincoln and choose happiness and by extension life as it was meant to be?
Allow me a little leniency because I am going to combine two of my favorite farewells, part from the Irish and part from Mr. Spock. May the wind always be at your back and may you live long and prosper. It’s all about perspective, folks, and the choice is yours. The choice is always yours!
For more Lifestyle Choices articles see below:
- Don't Allow Anyone To Steal Your Sunshine!
Fact: Chances are no matter how much you try to avoid drama and conflict it will find you. How you deal with it is your choice.