If I Had My Life To Live Over Again


If I had my life to live over again,
I’d dare to make more mistakes next time.
I’d relax.
I’d limber up.
I’d be sillier than I’ve been this trip.
I would take fewer things seriously.
I would take more chances,
I would eat more ice cream and less beans.
I would, perhaps, have more actual troubles but fewer imaginary ones.
you see, I’m one of those people who was sensible and sane,
hour after hour,
day after day.

Oh, I’ve had my moments.
If I had to do it over again,
I’d have more of them.
In fact, I’d try to have nothing else – just moments,
one after another, instead of living so many yeas ahead of each day.
I’ve been one of those persons who never goes anywhere without a thermometer, a hot-water bottle, a raincoat, and a parachute.
If I could do it again, I would travel lighter than I have.

If I had to live my life over,
I would start barefoot earlier in the spring
and stay that way later in the fall.
I would go to more dances,
I would ride more merry-go-rounds,
I would pick more daisies.
By Nadine Stair, an amazing 85-year-old woman, from Louisville, Kentucky, who provided the words above after someone asked her how she would have lived her life differently if she had a chance.

Gratefulness adds richer color and a gentle texture to everything.

Never let the things you want
make you forget the things you have.

Seize Every Minute

LiquidOfLife1If I had my life to live over, I would have talked less and listened more.

I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded.

I would have eaten the popcorn in the ‘good’ living room and worried much less about the dirt when someone wanted to light a fire in the fireplace.

I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth.

I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.

I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted in storage.

I would have sat on the lawn with my children and not worried about grass stains.

I would have cried and laughed less while watching television – and more while watching life.

I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband.

I would have gone to bed when I was sick instead of pretending the earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren’t there for the day.

I would never have bought anything just because it was practical, wouldn’t show soil or was guaranteed to last a lifetime.

Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy, I’d have cherished every moment and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was the only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.

When my kids kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, “Later. Now go get washed up for dinner.”

There would have been more “I love you’s”.. More “I’m sorrys” …

But mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute… look at it and really see it … live it…and never give it back.

“If I Had My Life To Live Over” written by the late Erma Bombeck after she found out she had a fatal disease.

Life shrinks or expands
in proportion to one’s courage.
Anais Nin

Runner Intentionally Loses Race


Oscar Wilde wrote, “One should always play fairly when one has the winning cards”. This is evidenced profoundly in an article published about a year ago on Huffington Post (one of my favorite websites). There is so much good content on the site, no one can take it all in. Even though I missed reading about the incident near the time it happened, the meaningfulness of the event has little to do with the passing of time.

A Spanish runner has shown the world that sometimes, just sometimes, winning isn’t everything.

Last month, Spanish athlete Ivan Fernandez Anaya impressed the world by giving up victory to do the right thing. According to El Pais, it happened as the 24-year-old raced a cross-country event in Burlada, Navarre on Dec. 2.

In second place to Abel Mutai, the Kenyan athlete who won a bronze medal in the London Olympics, Anaya suddenly had a chance to surge ahead. According to El Pais, Mutai mistakenly thought the end of the race came about 10 meters sooner than it did, and stopped running.

Then, he “looked back and saw the people telling him to keep going,” Anaya told CNA. “But since he doesn’t speak Spanish he didn’t realize it.”

So Anaya slowed, guiding Mutai to the actual finish line. And he didn’t think much of it, either. Anaya told El Pais, “I didn’t deserve to win it. I did what I had to do. He was the rightful winner. He created a gap that I couldn’t have closed if he hadn’t made a mistake. As soon as I saw he was stopping, I knew I wasn’t going to pass him.”

His actions may not have won him the match, or the approval of his coach, but they did get him a few new fans. On Facebook, more than 500 friend requests have come in since the generous act… http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/18/ivan-fernandez-anaya-hone_n_2505360.html
The short YouTube video below shows the end of the race: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=azgL23K_8zU&feature=player_embedded

What I expose myself to and keep myself away from has a profound effect on my thinking and there by the quality of my life is positively affected. By paying less attention to ‘blood and guts’ news, gossip, reality shows, junk news, horrid happenings and generally keeping myself away from that sort of ‘crap’ my level of contentment changed. Instead I haven give more attention to meaningful events like the story above and for that change of habit alone, I became happier.

On the Buddhist “Eightfold Noble Path”, “Right Mindfulness” is considered to be one of eight activities that most affect the quality of one’s life. I am glad to not only know that, but to imperfectly practice it and receive the benefits of that wisdom.

Win without boasting.
Lose without excuse.
Albert Payson Terhune


The “Just War Theory”


On a semi-regular basis I attend a local Unitarian church and always benefit from each visit. This morning the minister talked about a concept I had not heard of called “Jus Ad Bellum” which in Latin translates to “The Law to War Theory”. Some refer to it as “The Just War Theory”.

At a time my country is considering making war in another country (again) I hope many will go through the seven criteria for a “Just War” and come to their own conclusion concerning possible new military action in the Middle East.

Just Cause: The reason for going to war needs to be just and cannot therefore be solely for recapturing things taken or punishing people who have done wrong; innocent life must be in imminent danger and intervention must be to protect life.

Comparative Justice: While there may be rights and wrongs on all sides of a conflict, to overcome the presumption against the use of force, the injustice suffered by one party must significantly outweigh that suffered by the other

Competent Authority: Only duly constituted public authorities may wage war. “A just war must be initiated by a political authority within a political system that allows distinctions of justice. Dictatorships are typically considered as violations of this criterion.

Right Intention: Force may be used only in a truly just cause and solely for that purpose… correcting a suffered wrong is considered a right intention, while material gain or maintaining economies is not.

Probability of Success: Arms may not be used in a futile cause or in a case where disproportionate measures are required to achieve success.

Last Resort: Force may be used only after all peaceful and viable alternatives have been seriously tried and exhausted or are clearly not practical..

Proportionality: The anticipated benefits of waging a war must be proportionate to its expected evils or harms. In modern terms, just war is waged in terms of self-defense, or in defense of another (with sufficient evidence).

“The Just War Theory” has Catholic roots, but in my mind stands as wisdom unbound by any dogma. War is something that has always been difficult for me to sort out and I often been a fence straggler. I have grateful that “Jus Ad Bellum’ has been made known to me. It will a useful yardstick from now on when the politicians and generals start talking about making war, not matter how limited in scope.

There is no such thing
as a little war.
It’s like trying to say someone
is a little pregnant.

Oh, Boy… Oh, Boy

image006eThe phrase, “You can do anything you put your mind to,” seems to imply all a person has to do is imagine what he or she would like to accomplish, mentally focus on the task for a while and wait for the inevitable success to take shape. To a some degree that is accurate. Focused intention can be a powerful force. However the phrase is deceptive because it fails to reference the difficulty of staying self-directed toward a particular goal. A little here and a little there usually won’t make things happen.

Most of us don’t know what we really want. We think we do, but we really don’t. We only know what we don’t want. We don’t want a boring job. We don’t want to be poor. We don’t want to disappoint the ones we care about.

Knowing specifically what I want is much different from knowing what I don’t want. As long as I only know what I don’t want, my intentions will never be focused.

Much of what I chased over the years has me now wondering “WHY” in capital letters. In a lot of cases what once mattered just doesn’t mean much to me now. For example. business success and prestige associated with it (yes, and the money) was a primary driver for a couple of decades.

Succeeding still matters, but I seek different things that are in sync with this phase of my life. What was important in my past was not a mistake. Each phase was a step forward, eventually to where I am now.

Today I am seventy-six days away from being done with a long-lived professional life as an executive. Excitement for the freedom to march freely into an unknown future is not scary. Maybe it should be, but I don’t feel the least bit fearful past a few butterflies of anticipation. Being convinced I am doing the correct thing for myself helps, in spite of not knowing exactly what will take shape. Until I can be free of what has been for so long I can’t begin to discover what will be.

Therapist and author Dr. Pat Allen wrote, The only way you know you love yourself, or anyone else, is by the commitments you are willing to make and keep.

What once were only distant thoughts, hopes and dreams are not only possible but likely… at least a good many of them if I am dedicated to staying committed to myself. I have the energy and time to stay focused on moving toward and experiencing some of my greatest hopes and dreams. I won’t be one of the sheep walking blindly uphill anymore!

At an emotional and spiritual level I am taking better care of myself than ever before. Good health and contentment are major contributors to what will be. The child within is jumping up and down saying “oh, boy… oh, boy”. For my prospects and possibilities I say with the conviction of a grateful heart, an appreciative mind and a thankful soul, “Truly I am richly blessed”. Bring it on… I am ready!

There are two types of visions.
Those that will happen no matter what,
and those that can be stopped.
Now more than ever, I wish to tell them apart.
Emlyn Chand

My Treasury of Time

hourglass EDITEverything is always changing no matter how much we wish for it not to. It is the way of the world. Nothing is permanent. At birth each life starts evaporating, accelerating more rapidly all the time. Even with a loving life made with another a day will come when they will likely depart this Earth one at a time. And likewise go friends, family and everyone we know. Everything is just for its time, and no more. My accumulation of years is not such that all in Saxe’s poem below belongs to me. However, a good bit of it does. Even more I can feel and see it on the horizon.

My days pass pleasantly away;
My nights are blest with sweetest sleep;
I feel no symptoms of decay;
I have no cause to mourn nor weep;
My foes are impotent and shy;
My friends are neither false nor cold,
And yet, of late, I often sigh–
I am growing old!

My growing talk of olden times,
My growing thirst for early news,
My growing apathy to rhymes,
My growing love of easy shoes,
My growing hate of crowds and noise,
My growing fear of taking cold,
All whisper, in the plainest voice,
I’m growing old!

I’m growing fonder of my staff;
I’m growing dimmer in the eyes;
I’m growing fainter in my laugh;
I’m growing deeper in my sighs;
I’m growing careless of my dress;
I’m growing frugal of my gold;
I’m growing wise; I’m growing–yes–
I’m growing old!

I see it in my changing taste;
I see it in my changing hair;
I see it in my growing waist;
I see it in my growing heir;
A thousand signs proclaim the truth,
As plain as truth was ever told,
That, even in my vaunted youth,
I’m growing old!

Ah me!–my very laurels breathe
The tale in my reluctant ears,
And every boon the Hours bequeath
But makes me debtor to the Years!
Even flattery’s honeyed words declare
The secret she would fain withhold,
And tells me in “How young you are!”
I’m growing old!

Thanks for the years!–whose rapid flight
My somber Muse too sadly sings;
Thanks for the gleams of golden light
That tint the darkness of their wings;
The light that beams from out the sky,
Those heavenly mansions to unfold
Where all are blest, and none may sigh,
“I’m growing old!”
By John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887)

Gratitude thrives in me for every hour lived and resounds even more strongly for each one remaining. Today I strive to make better choices more true to the hopes and dreams I hold. With my treasury of time dropping like sand through an hour-glass I have little to spend on anything except being true to what contributes to happiness.

Real generosity towards the future
lies in giving all to the present.
Albert Camus

Freedom and Choice

A futurist’s comments I read about fifteen years ago predicted one day the number of big stores where you go to buy things would be far fewer. The suggestion was made that instead of going to Sears or Best Buy to make a purchase, in the future one might pay admission to a “display store” that had one each of many things to peruse. A choice made could be bought on the spot but only with delivery later to the buyer’s home within a few days.

A couple of the major Internet sellers are experimenting with same day delivery in New York City this holiday season. Things are changing!

The futurist also predicted grocery stores much smaller than what we have now would become popular for two reasons: 1) Some people don’t like all the walking and searching necessary in big box stores and 2) a good number of consumers actually want LESS choices. Smaller stores have always been a factor for the inner portions of major East Coast metropolitan cities. Same is true in Europe to an even greater degree for cities and towns of all sizes.

Most people equate choice and freedom. It seems so reasonable. Freedom means you are free to choose, right? It means you are free from restrictions. If you can’t choose, then you are not free. And it would seem to follow that the more choice you have, the more freedom you have. But it doesn’t work out that way.

The more options you have, the more energy you have to invest in making decisions. Which shampoo? Which car? Which dress? Which restaurant? Which movie? Your energy and attention are consumed by these decisions, and you have less left with which to live your life.

What does choice give you? One answer is that choice makes it possible for you to shape your world according to your preferences. All this does is to enable you to fashion a world that is an extension of your own patterns. With modern technology, you can weave a cocoon of your preferences and rarely run into anything that contradicts them. You end up isolated from the richness and complexity of life.

What is freedom? It is the moment-by-moment experience of not being run by one’s own reactive mechanisms. Does that give you more choice? Usually not. When you aren’t run by reactions, you see things more clearly, and there is usually only one, possibly two courses of action that are actually viable. Freedom from the tyranny of reaction leads to a way of experiencing life that leaves you with little else to do but take the direction that life offers you in each moment. From an article in the Winter 2012 Tricycle Magazine titled “Freedom and Choice: Breaking free from the tyranny of reaction” by Ken McLeod.

Thoughts of simplifying my life are getting stronger year by year, which is odd since I have spent my adult life accumulating. In my last move it became readily apparent what a burden “all my stuff” has become. I’m a single man who lives alone in a home of over 3000 square feet filled with stuff that took two moving trucks and six men fourteen hours to load and unload. I only moved a mile and a half!

When I read what I just wrote, I feel a bit ridiculous made worse by the knowing I have a big rental storage unit for things my home has no room for. I am grateful for the growing realization and acceptance that one day all of my stuff will be someone else’s.

The model of ownership,
in a society organized round mass consumption,
is addiction.
Christopher Lasch

Peace Within the Riddle

What do you want? Or is what you want always just something you don’t have.

Those spoken words actually came falling out of my mouth this morning from a source I am unsure of. Since I live alone, saying such a thing aloud actually caught me by surprise. Only after speaking them did I start to wonder where they came from. Nothing specific happened. No particular thought was bouncing in my head.

All I did was go stand on my porch for about a minute taking in the cooler weather. Enjoying the view of the big cyprus tree out front decked out in its rich fall brown I watched the needed autumn rain drizzle down. Listening to the soft splatters on my driveway and the gentle ringing of drops falling in the gutters, I felt contented in the moment. Then as I came back in my home and was walking down the entry hall, those words arrived for me to say aloud to no one except myself: What do you want… or is what you want always just something you don’t have?

Neil Gaiman wrote, I don’t want whatever I want. Nobody does. Not really. What kind of fun would it be if I just got everything I ever wanted just like that, and it didn’t mean anything? What then? So does that mean I will always be malcontented and never at peace with where I am and what I have? I hope not. Such a cyclical truth going round and a round in my brain would be maddening like a dog chasing, but never catching, his tail!

A lot of people get so hung up on what they can’t have that they don’t think for a second about whether they really want it, was Lionel Shriver’s view of things. In that case I’d like NOT to be in the group he called “a lot of people…” and believe I have escaped the usual simply by asking my question; What do you want… or is what you want always just something you don’t have?

Thinking redemption and happiness can never be found in “what is” and instead only achieved within “what might be” is the near raving of a lunatic. In his novel “Lullaby” Chuck Palahnuik stated his version of this thought when he wrote, Are these things really better than the things I already have? Or am I just trained to be dissatisfied with what I have now?

Possibly the continual search for more, different and new is a natural insanity that is innate with being human. Dan Millman wrote in “Way of the Peaceful Warrior…”  If you don’t get what you want, you suffer; if you get what you don’t want, you suffer; even when you get exactly what you want, you still suffer because you can’t hold on to it forever. That brings me back at my original quandary: What do you want… or is what you want always just something you don’t have?

I found an explanation that sets my mind at ease to some degree in an article written in Psychology Today by Alex Lickerman, M.D., a practicing Buddhist for over twenty years. He wrote: Research suggests that our conscious minds aren’t so much in charge of the decisions we make as they are great rationalizers of them. Which means they often collude with our unconscious minds to craft stories about why we do things and even why we feel things that are just blatantly untrue. We often have far more invested in seeing ourselves as virtuous, noble, fair-minded, and good than we do in recognizing the truth: that we often want things and therefore do things that make us base, selfish, self-righteous, and unjust. All of which is to say that sometimes we may not actually know what we want. Or, even more commonly, we may not know why we want it.

What do you want… or is what you want always just something you don’t have? That thought I spoke aloud this morning has no precise answer, except to find peace within the riddle through accepting what is and trying to keep hope for a future with no specific definition. For the calming effect of the experience of writing this, I am humbly grateful.

As soon as you stop wanting something,
you get it.
Andy Warhol