I went to a Support meeting last Wednesday. Hospice holds them once a month so that grieving folks, who have lost someone they love, can talk with and listen to others like themselves.
I was late because of something I had to do earlier. When I came in the meeting was nearly over. The dozen or so people in the conference room were about to go home. Linda, the dear lady guiding the session, had asked each of the persons around the table a question, “For what are you grateful?”
Forcing each person to consider that question and answer was a way of helping them to get outside themselves. It was a way to forget their very real problems for a moment and focus on more positive things in their lives.
I was asked, ‘Gene, for what are you grateful?’
I thought for a millisecond. I never have to think long to answer that question. Although I am nearing a century of life, I am as happy as I deserve to be. I have my writing, food, shelter, and health. Since losing my dear wife, I live alone. I miss her every day, but I have learned to manage, with great difficulty, without her by my side.
“I’m happy to be alive,” I said. “Not just conscious and breathing but able to enjoy and make the most of every moment I have. I’m grateful for my four children. They are all fine human beings, persons of good character, and doing well. I’m grateful that I’m able to write, and I am grateful that people enjoy reading what I write. My writing is about simple things in life, but I find humor and wonder in everything. I wake every morning with joy and anticipation, ready to write something more.”
Before this sounds too sugary sweet or preachy, let admit something to you. In the years since I lost sweet Jeannette, my wife of fifty years, there are moments when I get lonely. I need someone to talk with and to know they understand. I have learned the telephone is one of the best therapy tools in the world. When I call someone that might be having a problem, listening to them, and giving them comfort when it’s needed, I feel better.
Why does that occur? It’s simple, really. Any time I focus on someone other than me, it gets my thoughts off myself, and I forget to feel sorry for myself. I feel better. My attitude improves.
Abraham Lincoln said, ‘Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.’ The simple act of pretending happiness, or pretending courage, or beginning a task you know you cannot do, accomplishes other miracles. When I am sad or fearful or dead certain I cannot accomplish some formidable task, the simple act of acting and pretending as if I am brave or happy or see that job already finished makes me happier, braver, and somehow able to finish the job in style.
How can this happen? Here is why. It is the way our mind works. William James, the famous American Psychologist, explained it by telling us a truth about the mind; a fact about our unconscious and our consciousness.
‘Feeling follows action,‘ James wrote. Act and pretend a certain way, and the unconscious responds to make it happen. ‘ That is because the unconscious part of our brain is a dumb creature. It does its job by wrote. It has no initiative. It does whatever our conscious mind tells it to do… and it is easily fooled.
We need other people. You and I may be completely self-sufficient individuals. We may be happy with ourselves and able to be alone and content. But if we do not enjoy the company of other people, a part of our soul has been amputated. Our psyche has been damaged.
Most of the persons at Grief Support Meetings are folks that have lost someone dear: a spouse, a child, or a parent. Chances are that survivor, if they’ve lost a wife or husband (most have), is a widow or a widower. And often, they are usually not young in years. What I have learned may help others like me. In my half-century in Lake County, and the near-century I have been on this planet, I’ve managed to learn a couple of things about enjoying my life no matter my age or situation. I want to pass on these things to others. The very act of helping other people is a kind of therapy for me.
There are miles and miles of distance between the two terms, ‘Being old’ and ‘Growing older.’ To grow older, no matter your years, if you keep a star before you, your eyes on a goal of doing something worthwhile, you cannot help but grow older in style. More than that, if you live to be a hundred and eleventeen, you will never be old.
End of sermon for today. No contributions wanted.
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