I’m really stuck on my love of life!
I’m 89 and the happiest I’ve ever been.
I’ve a memory of a motto I used to see in the Mayflower Donut Shops years ago.
The Optimist’s Creed was on their wall and their coffee mugs.
As you ramble on thru Life, Brother,
Whatever be your Goal
Keep your Eye upon the Doughnut
And not upon the Hole.
It made such an impression on me I’ve brought it to mind dozens of times over the years when my head begins to hang low.
Morning Coffee Klatch
This morning I had coffee with my good friend and mentor.
We talked about our attitudes.
How impossible it seems to change attitudes.
And how many people expect someone else to change it for them.
We are so fortunate to have been blessed with an optimistic perspective.
And thank God, our attitude seems to have little to do with circumstances.
We’ve each had our ups and downs.
When we’ve had to, we’ve managed to somehow turn our downs around.
Yes, our circumstances are very comfortable now.
But we know many others who have at least as good and even better circumstances as ours, but who have so many “issues” that they feel an unstoppable need to complain.
They do not seem able to share our ebullience about life.
How grateful we are that we do not have our heads full of the troubles others need to carry around.
We feel fortunate to have nothing in our heads about politics or much else over which we have no control.
My friend and I were so grateful in being free of concerns.
We almost feel guilty for feeling so good, when others feel so bad.
We guess we must not all be made of the same stuff.
Surviving Hard Times
Neither of us were raised in particularly good times, nor had particularly good families, or much to brag about in our schooling.
My childhood was spent during the Great Depression and the beginning of World War II.
The only argument I ever heard my mother and father have was about the food on our table.
Dad complained how bad dinner was.
Mom said it was the only food there was in the house.
My folks were glad I was off to the military for WWII so that I could get three good meals a day.
By that time the government was rationing food — only half pound of meat per person per week.
There was rationing of tea, jam, biscuits, breakfast cereals, cheese, eggs, lard, milk, canned and dried fruit.
Fresh vegetables and fruit were not rationed but supplies were limited.
Daily newspapers had headlines of thousands more soldiers and sailors dying in battles in both Europe and the Pacific.
Almost every home on any street had a service flag in a window with a gold star on it, gold meaning ‘dead son.’
1. Ways we deal with downers
The simplest way we use to cope with a downer is to open the door and go outside.
Once outside we feel free of concerns. It is joyful.
Doesn’t matter if it is outdoors into the woods as we have out here. Or onto a street in a city.
We each used to go outside in New York City — me on Charles Street in Greenwich Village and her on 80th Street in the Upper West Side.
2. Hiking is my biggest remedy
After a few days in the hospital last week, I’m more limited in my hiking energy.
But I still am able to amble a half hour or so on easy trails with my wife and dog, Stanzi.
I enjoy the woods and trees now as much as I did on a twenty-mile backpacking trek.
I’m reminded of some verses by a Chinese Zen nun,
Sixty-six times have these eyes beheld the changing scenes of Autumn
I have said enough about moonlight,
Ask no more.
Only listen to the voice of pines and cedars, when no wind stirs.
I underlined those lines in an uplifting book I leaf through from time to time, Aldous Huxley’s Perennial Philosophy.
The woods are also my sanctuary.
As my friend said this morning, when you are out in nature you see the meaning of Eternal Justice.
It — Just Is.
Nothing to change. Not to worry.
We’re not sure we have a choice about what attitude we are able to use in life.
We seem stuck with the ones we have.
We know so many who stay indoors when they are feeling down.
Some even stay in bed.
We understand the temptation.
Too bad one can’t get up and open the door. Or at least look out the window.
We feel so fortunate that we’re stuck with the necessity of forcing ourselves to see a glass as half full and not half empty.
3. Ways to clear the head of worries
There is a trick I use when a bunch of worries take hold of my head.
I go outdoors to the nearest place I can sit beneath a tree and find a small patch of dirt to clear of twigs and leaves.
I write a word with my finger in the bare dirt about the first worry that comes to mind — say “bills” that need to be paid.
I then write the next worry that comes to mind with my finger right on top of the first word
And after that I write a third. Then another.
Another and another, until they’ve all left my mind onto the dirt.
It doesn’t really solve any problems.
But it does take them out of my head — if for only a few minutes.
4. Then the Bigger Worries
Other times when I’ve had, I mean really big worries, that wake me in the middle of the night, I have to get up.
I pick up a pad of paper and begin writing down the things that are bothering me.
I write until I have jotted down all the ideas that are in my head.
When I can’t think of anything more to write down I ask myself, “What can I do about them at two-thirty in the morning?”
The answer is always obvious — NOTHING!
Except I can pray about them.
I no longer believe in prayer magic. No dissolving the problems as if they no longer exist.
But I do believe I can usefully pray for guidance, and strength to know intuitively what to do about any problem.
And I never fail to get some sort of useful intuitive answers when I have to face the problems.
Don’t think that these are minor issues, like where and what to have for lunch.
One of the worst concerns
I once owed a lot of money to a mafia-looking, no-neck bunch who came to see me in my office.
While I was in my conference room with one of them, another was in my reception area telling my receptionist, “I hope ‘Papa’ doesn’t lose his temper in there. There was a guy whose legs got broken one time when Papa did lose it.”
No, I did not have the money to pay them. But we worked out something that I could live with.
Thank God I have been somehow given the attitude — that I can turn my lemons into lemonade.
5. I seem to have a placebo attitude
It makes me feel as if I have a solution, even when I don’t.
It gives me hope when all else seems to go against me.
Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, my dark ideas never come to pass.
I usually have indigestion and not lung cancer, a muscle ache and not a stroke, a headache and not a brain hemorrhage.
I’ve quoted it before — but let me say it again.
Anne Frank wrote in her diary shortly before she was taken away to die at fifteen in a Nazi death camp:
As long as this exists, this sunshine and this cloudless sky, and as long as I can enjoy it, how can I be sad?
I often think, if she could write that during her deadly ordeal, I don’t see why I can’t find ways of coping with my own difficulties.
And hey, why worry now about something dark that might happen and spoil today’s sunshine?
Life is too too short for that.