I live outside New Orleans and have been writing here for a long time. I have spent most of my 76 years trying to understand human nature.
Gathering of Pelicans On Lake Ponchartrain
Finding Our Spot
I usually write anything I write with a purpose. I think the purpose here is to encourage those going through all the nonsense we all go through when we are young and working to find our "spot." My youngest grandson when he was two was very possessive of his "spot." If anyone sat down where he wanted to sit, "That's my spot!" We strive to find the correct job, the position just for us. We work hard at building a strong relationship with our spouses (sometimes). We build relationships with friends, some that last, some that don't. The years go by and we are still not content, much less happy. This went on for me until I was in my late 60s. Then one morning I crawled out of bed and realized the ugh feeling that had greeted me almost every morning of my life was gone. I felt good. Actually, I felt better than good, I felt happy.
I'm writing this because when I was going through "stuff," the articles I found when looking for encouragement were written by people people with nine degrees, four perfect children, perfect parents and a perfect job who seemed to be unable to find themselves in all the perfectness. My life has been messy, not perfect. Nothing drastic, just a lot of drama, self-absorption and immaturity. It's a life people can relate to as most of us are less than perfect.
Tenton Mountain Range, a Happy Vacation
I have been in a state of contentment/happiness for a good while now. I am hoping against hope that it lasts for a very long time. My husband asks daily if I want to get out and I answer no. I want to sit on the couch, work on my computer -- I do proofreading and editing -- watch the bird feeder, feed my cats and keep an eye on my aquarium. These small things fill my days with enough. We had a couple of wonderful trips last year and some wonderful times at our cabin in Arkansas, but now I just want to be home. I've tried earnestly to lay a finger on and capture what brought me to where I am. All around me it seems people have trouble and here I am, sounding like an old hippie who has smoked too much weed.
What I think brought me here is that for almost five years, I have tried to do the right thing. I have tried to be thoughtful of my husband. I often fall short. After 57 years, we know the right buttons to push to get a reaction and he does it, as I do. But mostly it's good. We laugh a lot. He's a funny man. I have worked on my relationships with my two children and they have improved noticeably. One lives in the UK and the relationship is difficult to maintain, but it's getting better each year.
The friends I treasure are the ones I can be myself with. I try my best to bring good things to the table when I'm with them. With the friends who have problems, I try to listen and understand, as they have with me in the past.
When I feel anger welling up against those who have different political beliefs, I remind myself that this is not who I'm striving to be and I let it go. I want to be part of the answer, not more of the problem.
I spend moments during the day sitting in the quiet, being grateful for this life, which has been such a fun and exciting experiment. I hear over and over the term, "work," working on myself, etc. It's not work for me, it's experimenting, learning how to create good by being good, if that makes even a bit of sense.
A Sunset from the Cabin in Arkansas
God and Whatever Else
Some of you reading this will think, "Well, she's finally gotten right with God." No. Don't get me wrong, knowing and feeling God's love is BIG for me, very big. But I have felt it all my life and never felt the peace I have now. I attribute part of it to the grace I've been shown, but there's more to it.
Some of you will think, "It's an astrology thing and she's experiencing a transit through whatever house." I read a lot of astrology and I think that also is a big part of it, but again, there is more.
Some readers will believe it's because my health is good and I'm eating the right things. Well, I'm eating well, but my health is iffy with AFib and other issues, so it's not that. I was in the hospital in the spring with pneumonia and I remember wishing for just a day or two of the peace I've experienced recently.
What Is It?
I'm aware this sounds full of hubris, but I believe, for me, I have found the answer I've looked for for years. We are happy, content, grateful, feel blessed, when we live up to our own expectations of ourselves. It's a subconscious thing. We might think consciously, "Well, I'm a good person. I deserve good things and happiness." But if that totally persnickety subconscious is not pleased, we are not happy. And I also believe it's different for each of us. There are those who will never get there because they expect so terribly much of themselves.
My advice is to study your own actions and reactions. I still get angry, I still get depressed sometimes and want more and better of life. But mostly I don't, because I know it detracts from what I'm working toward, which is maintaining this state of being. If I begin to say something that is remotely self-congratulatory, I stop myself. I ask myself why am I saying this? Is this something this person wants to hear? Does this person or do these people want to hear that I got this compliment or accomplished this thing? Why would I tell them? When my husband asks me to "come here" for the 900th time of the day, I remember how he came running when I was sick in the spring. When someone corrects me and I know I'm right, I ask myself if it matters and keep my mouth shut. That is such a hard one for me because I am the world's biggest know-it-all. Overcoming these needs of the ego builds strength and the subconscious takes note. It's about watching our actions and reactions. It's basically you watching yourself.
A student from many years ago sent me a lovely text a couple of months ago, talking about the influence I had on him. We live in different cities, but are social media friends. He's someone I admire who has accomplished good things in the field I was in before I retired. I was flattered, needless to say. It was very tempting to show it to everyone I know! But I showed it to my husband and that was it. I have come to understand that insecurity causes us to want the approval of others, to "toot our own horn," as my dad would have said. Keeping quiet about how "wonderful" we are helps build security because we learn to function without approval from others. I used to believe that people who talk constantly about their accomplishments were conceited. It took me years to realize that it is just the opposite. Resisting the need for praise or attention, again, builds the kind of strength that has nothing to do with the ego. We all need a healthy ego, but let the praise come unprompted. That's when it counts.
There are also the mundane things like resisting all the food I love and eating what I should. It's true and it actually makes sense that that gets in the subconscious and creates a pocket of guilt and self-loathing as well. I'm doing better with it. Discipline, there's nothing the subconscious admires more.
Like many others, I'm drawn to violent, sometimes morbid television shows. Who knows why? I've learned to stay away from watching that kind of thing. There is enough of that in the news without actually searching it out and it also creates guilt because we know better than to allow all that in our subconscious.
And perhaps a large issue to save for the end, I have learned to stay in the present. The book The Power of Now changed my life in so many good ways. We all spend time in the past. It's natural. I have learned to limit those visits to mostly the good times I remember. The sad, unhappy times have extracted their pound of flesh, no need to give them another single ounce.
Years ago, I volunteered with people with AIDS. A man I was assigned to called me at random times night and day. The one day I didn't return his call simply because I was overwhelmed, he actually needed help. Someone else got him to the hospital. I was devastated and filled with remorse. A psychologist who worked as a volunteer put it very simply, "You made a mistake. Don't make the same mistake again. That's all. Let it go." That's what we have to do with the past. We've all made mistakes. We need to learn from them and move on. Everyone has regrets. It's a disservice to ourselves and those around us to let them consume us. It's not why we are here.
I have studied metaphysics to the point that I could write a book. I believe that what we think does create our reality to some extent. However, my firm belief is that who we are also creates our day-to-day reality. Our subconscious knows who we are. It's aware of our every triumph and every failure, every feeling of love and every feeling of resentment, envy or jealousy. The subconscious or what some call the higher self is a difficult taskmaster. It takes time after time after time of making the right choices until it's satisfied. And then we have peace.
Well, there's my philosophy. I'm sharing it because I keep thinking today, what if I had realized all this when I was 20 years old! What could my life have been like!? Good luck and Godspeed with whatever you decide to do with your life. It's such an honor to have that decision to make, to do whatever you want.