I live in a suburb of New Orleans and have been writing here off and on for 10 years. I have been married 53 years to the same crazy guy.
Cypress Knees on a Cloudy Day
Where Did I Go Right?
As I get older -- I'll be 75 in March -- it seems things have gotten considerably better for me. Let me be clear, when I say things have gotten better, my circumstances are pretty much the same, but my inner life, the part of me that acts and reacts in my life is definitely better. I find myself often pondering why. I see friends who aren't doing so well, who are sad or insecure, lonely, threatened, etc., and I wonder more and more often what I have done right. I believe that's what we are all looking for, our everyday life to be happier, more joyful, less stressful -- especially less stressful. Some recent experiences made me realize that our reactions to circumstances are what count, not the circumstances themselves. After not reacting well several times to situations, I have started making myself wait at least a day if possible before saying anything at all. After a day, I don't even remember what had me all tied in knots. The encouraging thing about all this is the fact that it is all within our control. We can stop it if we truly want. Stress is addictive. Never believe it's not. It's a type of high.
Magic Happens Here
We all look for gifts from every imaginable place, but the biggest is in our hands and available every day, the present (the gift). I have carried out an experiment recently of checking in with myself periodically to see where I am. About three-fourths of the time, I am in the present. A few years ago, it would have been one-fourth. The more we focus, live, breathe, and abide in the present moment, the more our life works. Granted, there are lessons to be learned in the past, and I mean the past as recent as last week when we were sharp or impatient or judgmental. The trick is to learn the lesson and move on. Don't conjure up guilt, which a friend helped me realize is totally irrelevant. Just move. There is absolutely nothing for you in the past other than lessons that should have already been learned. The future? It will take care of itself. You are creating it by being present in the present -- yes, I said that -- and feeling as much joy and peace as possible and trying to convey it to others. Our work is here and now, not tomorrow or yesterday. Now. Right now.
Susans and Bottle Brushes Near Our Cabin
Worry and Lack
Worry. What a horrible word. I've done far too much of it in my life. It's a total waste of time and energy, yet we all fall victim to its appeal. We feel if we worry enough, we'll cover all our bases and nothing will happen. We remember a parent saying, "Well, you better worry!" Worry is more focused on the future most of the time, will the sale come through? Will the storm pass us by? Will the child, grandchild make the grades? Will the husband stick it out when things get rocky? The questions go on and on. And there are no answers. I read once years ago -- don't know who said it -- that if you're on the path of uncertainty, you are on the right path. I believe that's true. Uncertainty teaches us to perfect survival skills that we don't hone otherwise. Seems I've often been on unsure ground financially. Sometimes it gets wearisome, most times it challenges me to do and be things I wouldn't do or be otherwise. Those who have always been on firm ground, whether financially, emotionally, or psychologically will never know the thrill that comes when things go right, when the job comes through, when you keep your cool, when you recognize a pattern and stop the nonsense before it starts. There are good things that go with lack. I always remember that. It's hard to appreciate being pain free if you've never had pain. Hard to understand the thrill of paying off the loan, buying the car, making a friend, holding your child when you've never been without all those things. Be thankful for bounty. Also, be thankful for lack of it. It's a learning experience that's full of happy surprises.
Those Ol' Cotton Fields Down Home
One of the great awakenings of my life was beginning to recognize and understand the patterns of my behavior. We all have them, those things that keep us, like a rat in a maze, traveling over the same ground. The actors are different, but we tend to play out unhealthy relationships over and over until we realize they are unhealthy. Most of us want approval. The problem comes from where we look for it. There are people who, when they realize you are looking for their approval, consciously and often unconsciously withhold it. It takes hard work and self-awareness to come to realize that your opinions, behavior, and choices are just as valid as another person's. The more content and happy you are with your own life, the more you are able to look at the person with the disapproval, constant advice, subtle criticism, etc., and realize their words have to do with themselves and nothing to do with you. It's a challenge but patterns can be overcome. I have many friends who, in their 50s, were still looking for approval from their elderly parents. Learn to realize that withholding approval is a subtle -- or not so subtle -- method of control and live your life the way you want.
The Changing Season
Most Significant Lesson
I believe the most significant lesson and the one that was hardest to learn for me is the fact that life is about the journey, not the destination. So many of us life each day telling ourselves: Tomorrow, things will be better. Tomorrow maybe I will win the prize, write the story, paint the painting. Maybe tomorrow the child will be happier, move closer emotionally, etc. Maybe tomorrow the disease will go away, cure itself. Maybe tomorrow I will see my lost loved one again. We all have these thoughts. The problem with holding on to this thinking is that we are saving ourselves for a future that may never come.
Every single day is precious. When I'm discouraged and weary with life, sitting outdoors, walking outdoors, even taking a ride lifts my spirits. Seeing how nature is content to just be, no striving, no stress, just being. I think that's our challenge. We don't need to always be looking for tomorrow. No matter our circumstances, we all have the ability to change them. It is our obligation to ourselves to either do that or make ourselves happy where we are. Spending a life looking forward to better times is a sad existence. I am closer to spirit as I get older. I remember hearing my grandmother say "Good morning, Mr. Sun," as the sun rose each day when I would stay with her. I find myself saying a quiet thank you for another day to overcome my many faults, to express my caring to others, to forgive anyone who didn't meet my expectations, which is no one's obligation, and to enjoy this absolutely stunning gift called life. I write what I write hoping that something will trigger inspiration for someone who needs it. Long ago, I read a story that changed my life forever. We are all here to make the path of others a little smoother. This is my small effort.
Sue Pratt (author) from New Orleans on October 29, 2020:
Thank you for your comment, Audrey. When I get discouraged, I look back to where I was in my 20s and where I am now. I am a rock star!! Thanks again. And you're right, it's up to me!
Audrey Hunt from Idyllwild Ca. on October 28, 2020:
I want to thank you for this uplifting article. It is packed with wisdom and highly motivating. I totally agree with you. I often remind myself "If it's to be its up to me."
Sue Pratt (author) from New Orleans on October 24, 2020:
Thank you for your comments! I'm glad you agree. I did not meant to publish the article, was not finished! It's encouraging to know someone is interesting as I have much more to say! Thanks again!
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on October 24, 2020:
Sue, I couldn't agree with you more. We can control our reactions and we don't have to react at all anyway. I am like you as far as being so much more content as I have aged. I am at peace and that is so nice.
OTEE from India on October 24, 2020:
... our reactions to circumstances are what count, not the circumstances themselves.
Nicely put Sue. And congratulations on completing 53 years with the crazy guy. :)