It has been a tough few weeks. Tougher for my mother, almost 90, who has been in and out of the emergency room and hospital for the past 3 weeks. Tough for my father who is the same age and who in spite of their incessant 'arguing' and disagreements about large and minor things, loves and wants to care for her. Tough for my sister who has stayed in the Bronx with them to manage and oversee their care and coordinate with doctors, look into home care and rehab, keep my father steady, keep the family networked and everyone informed, and play interference at times. She has also had to try to support her husband who is playing single parent to a 12 year old and autistic 19 year old back in California,while managing a job that requires his leadership, and a home. It has been good that she loves to talk on the phone, as she did as a child, mimicking my mother's authoritative voice. Tough for me too, to feel on the outside of the loop, being concerned and trying to focus on work and my home while wanting to be there, yet also dealing with my own illnesses, the ugly head of depression and anxiety having risen up again and more intensively these past months. Confusion and frustration over my present and uncertainty as to what kind of future commitments to make have thrown me into a tizzy, yet must be tabled right now. I have to ease off on my seriousness around finding/creating meaning and purpose in midlife, the desire to establish a more powerful and satisfying 'career' and work direction, and focus on basics - eating, self care, a bit of rest, a bit of friendship and companionship, a bit of dancing-tango and facing some fears and patterns of the past.
And then there is Haiti too....earthquakes and devastation on a grand but distant scale. Phew-
That said- as the Life Commandments email comes through from my friend:
"This email is from my friend's sister. Little did she know that she would be burying Ashley, her 21-year old daughter, in a few days, as the result of an automobile accident on 10/22/09. Bill is on his way to Philly to be with his sister. It's only been a couple of years since her husband died unexpectedly. If you think you shouldn't live life to its fullest EVERY SINGLE DAY, remember this and every other tragedy like it."Barry
It sounded like one of those millions of email blasts about someones fate and distress meant to prod (or guilt) us into feeling good!
The challenge is every day seems to be filled with stuff that makes it difficult to feel like one is living fully - and of course, much of it is in our minds, both thoughts and the biochemical nature of them.
That said: Here goes: This was sent and I have added my comments:
Written by Regina Brett, 90 years old, of The Plain Dealer,Cleveland, Ohio
NOTE-actually Regina is 53 or so. Midlife
To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons life taught me. It is the most-requested column I've ever written.
1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.
Mostly....Some of this is perspective, and some is perception/experience. When I am vomiting and in pain, it feels neither fair nor good for instance! I am sure when my mom was experiencing 2 kidney stones stuck at the urethra, a urinary tract infection, and painful swelling and infections in her legs, she also could not access much of the 'good' . But boy did she try and we tried to help distract her
2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.
This has been advice my mother (and others) have given often. It does seem to work as a good direction. Sometimes we need assistance to take that very small step, like a baby. I recall the home movies of me taking my first steps. A few fingers can help. As we get older we may need to ask for that help, or remember that early determination to get up and try again.
3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.
Yes, Yes, Yes.. Yet is is human to get angry at those who may thwart us, or even worse - do us deliberate harm. It is probably true that it is best not to be consumed or focused on the hate. Better to use the anger towards some positive action. And yes loving IS so much better, but if a person is bent on doing one harm, best avoid that person, stop him or her, and find someone else to share love with
4. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and parents will. Stay in touch.
Well yes. We KNOW this to be usually true, I certainly experienced this. Unless we have very disfunctional and heartless families, or have chosen badly in terms of friends, or find ourselves isolated and far, or we are very fortunate to work with some very compassionate people and organizations. (And this was not my experience in my office for quite a while as some knew. Developing and maintaining a positive network is important, and requires energy and time. Sometimes it is so sad that our ties are stretched over such long distances. It takes a community....... And sometimes we must call on faith (that GOD or higher power or spirit thing within and without) to help sustain us through intense pain or strife. For some of us that trust and faith is hard to access
5. Pay off your credit cards every month.
Yeh- of course. It is what I tell my kids. A good idea. Who needs to build more interest and debt? That is good mainly for the companies that get rich off of it. Best to live within means, barter, trade, not buy? Yet our consumer and capitalist society tells us otherwise, and we see debt rampant around the world and used to keep the corporate control and benefit the few real wealthy and powerful. Yet here is where moderation and friends and family can help, as well as skills, creativity, and a good job and economy. But in the face of a declining one...well there maybe little choice
6. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.
A yes, and a challenge for many of us to remember and honor! When to persist and when to back off can be a tricky process. In my family, more backing off, or slowing down, listening, accepting would probably be good- no? Perhaps this crisis of my parent's health and aging is calling all of us to work on and grow more skilled here. If we put maintaining love and good feelings first-over achievement or objectives, that could help. Working on it, letting my sister take charge. Saying one's piece and letting go
7. Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.
Well, for women,this is more often true. Men may prefer solo at times. 'Go cry it on a mountain' can also be good advice and a cathartic experience. Tears can cleanse. Hey, there are studies about this! I myself often feel the safety of letting go in someone's strong embrace.
8. It's OK to get angry with God. He can take it.
Oh- maybe 'SHE'? Yeah and it is probably safer, unless HE/SHE throws down lightning bolts! Then again, GOD may seem silent and at the moment unable to provide a good distraction, except maybe lightning bolts. Mother Nature may do a good job with a spectacular sunset or squirrels chasing tails round a tree.
9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.
Great Idea, if one can make rent, food and then some. Saving some for rainy days -- car breakdowns, vacations and 'retirement' can't be bad. Can it? Yet there is also the saying "You can't take it with you" Balance . Yet for my kids, Ian?, I'd say - save SOME- always. Interest compounds. Alhtough the market confounds and certainly now has deflated!
10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.
Who would want to resist? Dark chocolate is good for one's health.
11. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.
And how many years might that take. Counselors, pastors, and analysts can stay busy and employed. One probably already has screwed up plenty- I know. But yes, yes, make peace. And may my daughter make a living if she becomes a psychotherapist!
12. It's OK to let your children see you cry.
Too late on that one. They have seen it aplenty. Yet how much? Good for them to see one happy and loving too.
13. Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all
Yes, not good to compare to feel worse, yet maybe good to know so we can learn from each other? Be close to each other? Why don't we know the journeys of those who are close? Because mostly we don't share the nitty gritty- just the bullet or bragging points. We read the best sellers and books of other lives or fantasy/fictional lives, and rarely find fascination with those right around us, because either we don't ask, they don't tell, we don't make or have the time, or they don't tell a good story.
14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.
Ah- but it can be so exciting. And sometimes the society around one just can't handle it. Remember inter-racial relationships, gay lovers, an older woman and younger man, were taboo and those engaged were treated badly. Oh yes better to be able to proclaim without shame. Of course.
15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don't worry; God never blinks.
You sure? Things are constantly changing and we certainky do blink and can be blind to the changes around us. When we sleep the world shifts and perhaps dissappears for a while. What changes must each of us stay aware of, go with, direct? climate change? A wave of neo-fascism?
16. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.
Om. Alternate nostril breathing. Yoga nidra, meditation. More on this later. Meds calm the mind too, touch, exercise, and sometimes a stiff drink.
17. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.
Ourselves as we age, when we are sick? Yes, yes. I have been bogged down in trying to get rid of stuff not needed.What about people that are not joyful, depressed? Do we dump them or work to help them? Find the beuaty in it? Transformation.
18. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.
Yeah? maybe so, maybe it leaves one very depleted, and maybe it is only temporarily that one feels stronger, or remains alive. It might also make some folks bitter and ready for revenge. Healing and recovery can bring out and reveal strengths one did not have before.
19. It's never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.
20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for an answer.
Yeah, and what if that NO comes with a shove and a black eye? Ok, we know what this is supposed to mean. My cousin tells a romantic story about how he asked his future wife to break a date for him. Glad she did all those years later.
21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets and wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special.
Especially if we are dancing tango and someone get's to see the lingerie or lie in the sheets. OH, remember not to let the candle flames catch on the pillows or the sheets or burn the night table! Maintain some presence of mind.
22. Over prepare and then go with the flow.
Great advice for teaching Yoga, traveling, or anything. Only my boyfriend doesn't sometimes like to prepare or plan. Then I find it challenging to go with the flow. The flow becomes planning and preparing and eats up the present. Sometimes my present is just so full of things to deal with it is hard for me to make time to plan or follow through. I know you all have been here.
ANYWAY - HALF WAY THROUGH- HANG IN
Do we dare continue?
23. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.
Is wearing purple eccentric? In the 70's There was a couple who used to roam aroung NYC, always in purple. They were known as the 'Purple People' and tended organic city gardens. They mostly rode bikes or walked. Out of the hippie generation. Early environmentalists? They were NOT 'Purple People Eaters'. What about fuchsia?
24 No one is in charge of your happiness but you.
Why is my boyfriend always trying to make me happy? I told him it was not his job. And that said a big hug, a massage, an amazingly connected, masterfully executed dance, a dinner out, an astounding piece of music, a startling sunset or spectacular view, good health, npo pain, a lot of sleep (and money?) can certainly help. My father used to joke, "Rich or Poor it is good to have money". And of course we knwo "Money can't buy happiness' but it doesn't hurt either. It certainly can buy favors and health care. OH yes, we can sit in bliss, meditating on a mountain top, and live in denial or determination to be happy in spite of horrific conditions in a concentration camp. Sometimes the spirit is broken.
25 Frame every so-called disaster with these words ''In five years, will this matter?".
How many years has it been since Katrina? 911? And are we talking about the news stations or media's latest focus, or real lives of real people effected by some major disastrous events. Oh yes, my fingernail being bashed is NOT a disaster. True. Nor the scratch on the pimple on my daughter's face. Yes, a good question to ask oneself. In fact in 1 million years will much of this matter? Will we EXIST? So now what?
26. Always choose life.
And Why? and what if I don't get a choice? There is the corollary. Accept Death. And of course Accept Life. What about choosing life and quality of life for self or others?
27. Forgive everyone everything.
Really? Hitler? Stalin? Osama bin Laden? Sadam Huseein? George Bush? Well certainly there are things we can't changee- so acceptance is key, and understanding could lead to forgiveness. But should one forget? Excuse? Stay silent or speak up? Is one supposed to forgive an ex for focusing on his own desires, sexual and power needs, when the mother of his children was in the hospital after a breakdown? While she was having severe reactions to medication that she was trying to withstand for weeks and months without much support or care, experiencing major side effects and pure exhaustion, her ex-husband chose to take off anyway to meet a new woman (sight unseen) to bring back into his bed and home, and left his children, upset and worried, in the care of the mother's friend.....
Of course, better to forgive, the children did, but really hard to do. And hard to forget while he continued to belittle and financially contributed less and less while attempting to alienate her from the children with the help of that woman. Ah yes, breathe and let go.
28. What other people think of you is none of your business.
No, but it certainly can effect one's business or status, or life. Especially if they have the power to determine one's well being, wheer you live, what you do for work, how you are compensated, and your life or death. Yes,could you tell that to the wives of Henry the 8th and have had them believe you or value that statement?
Tell that to a kid who is bullied incessantly. Best if he/she doesn't buy into the taunting, but what if the taunts lead to torture? What about the Jews on Kristallnacht. Let's not get too pat with these sayings. PULEASE.
29. Time heals almost everything.. Give time, time.
Almost is the key word here. Good to have perspective. Good that time is relative. And "Time marches on"---and we do too, to our graves? Good sometimes that our memory fades, especially of pain....
30. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
yes. And better if it is toward the good, no?
31. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
UH- sometimes my siblings and parents, and coworkers, and empoyers, and friends, and even my cat does. Worse when I do, of course. So make me laugh? Help me to see the humor? Walk, talk silly around me? I do love Robin Willliams.....
32. Believe in miracles.
Walking on water? War will end? We will have endless peace and prosperity for all. We will live in harmony. Why not? better to hope. Better than Dorothy "I do believe in Ghosts". Positively affirm and pray... and yet - do not expect.
If a person survives his/her cancer treatment- a miracle. If not? accept life- accept death. Ah yes, Annie sings "Tomorrow, Tomorrow". " and "With a little bit o' luck" There will be another musical.
33. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or
That is a good thing I suppose....But doesn't he/she, like Santa, know if I'be been naughty or nice? He/she loves naughty as well as nice? Hitler too. Must have. Let him rampage for a long long time. This is supposed to make us feel good and safe? What about the God that will destroy the 'evil doers'? It almost could seem like God doesn't care.....Anyway, nice to wrap onself in the feelings of love and light.
34. Don't audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.
35. Growing old beats the alternative -- dying young.
Although some might argue, it depends on how well one lived life, and how one valued or did not value it, or was valued? Hey my folks are heading toward 91. Let's ask them. I do think they would agree, as long as one is not in continuous pain.
36. Your children get only one childhood.
And it lasts forever relative to mine? Hey- me too, I just got one. And the men in my life too. Only how come they still think theirs are continuing? And shouldn't we keep growing, even when shrinking? When does childhood end- really? What are we supposed to do with that? Feel guilty if we messed it up with our one chance at parenting? What about re-incarnation?
37. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.
Whom? to whom? How much? How often? once enough? Truly loved? my cat? Loved and did litle about it
38. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.
And mice and bugs, and leaves right now (fall). Yeah- outside is great. So why am I on teh compputer reading and responding to allthese virtual messages!?
39. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back.
UH- maybe, maybe not. We might trade a few. Or quite a few. What's in YOUR bag?
40. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
Or maybe you do not have what you need (or think you need or want). But certainly envying won't help get more of what you need or want. Certainly seems like a human thing though and could prod one to action, or acceptance.
41. The best is yet to come.
I certainly hope so. How does one know? Pretend is good. Foregtting the past might help. Yet if this is the case, how come so many older folk reminisce? Best---best of waht? Pretty broad arena. Best of depends (Depends??? those diaper thingies?)
42. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
Where we going? Hey- won't you come visit? Steve Post, from WBAI, used to talk of bed people. I once visited my Uncle Bernie. He was hanging at home in bed with several of his friends. They were mostly dressed, just under the covers. Staying cozy and warm and commiserating. I thought it wierd at that time, but fully understand now this retreat from his usually busy life, filled with many artificial people/friends/colleagues in the fashion world, always on the go. The man needed a rest. I just did not know how to connect. There was no room for me then. (They were all quite big, overweight) My Uncle Bernie, was called the 'Big O' for a reason. 'Ozer'- not what you think! My folks, especially my Mother, was usually 'Up and at 'em', the 'Rise and Shine' Lady. Exhausting. it was hard to find peace with her. And ironically some of the more memorable moments were when she lay down for a nap, listening to Opera, reading a book, a break from the show. One could then lie down and relax with her, head on her bosom. Breathe. Be present! show up. Not just dress up.
Yes. Yield and find support. Support preceeds action. Yoga principles. and if you don't yield you might get hit by oncoming trafic, no?
44. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift.