Monday, March 1, 2010 at 3:52PM
As we mark the passage of another year we take stock. More and more, I heard “boy I’m sure glad this year is over.” We like the idea of fresh beginnings, new starts as if the “next problem isn’t already in the mail.” I was born on New Year’s Eve and I used to think that the world held a party in my honor. My life has been a process of finding out that not only is it “not about me,” I’m not that special.
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. said the secret of his success was that at an early age he discovered he was not God. This year learn that you are not God. Resign as general manager of the universe. I would be even more afraid if I thought I was responsible for the running the world - I thought I was serving God in an advisory capacity.
The good news is we don’t have to change; we have to figure out a way to be happy the way we are, where we are. I once counseled a widow in her 60's who was so unhappy because all the men she was interested in were interested in younger women and the older men were looking for a “nurse or a purse.” She was too old to find someone and, therefore, couldn’t be happy. I encouraged her to hold out and not be happy until she got younger. Of course, it sounds silly when I say it that way, yet, how many of us are unhappy about a something that we can’t change? A common denominator in all emotional pain is the need to change current reality.
What can we change? We can change the conversation we have with ourselves. I’ve often said to my clients that they wouldn’t have a friend in the world if they talked to others they way they talk to themselves. Albert Ellis, the founder of Rational Emotive Therapy says we’re talented at upsetting ourselves -“we’re are talented screwballs who are anxious about being anxious and depressed about being depressed.”
Another source of pain is the past. Linus says to Charlie Brown, “it’s wrong to be worrying about tomorrow we just need to focus on today.” Charlie says, “no, that’s giving up I’m still hoping yesterday will get better.” We laugh when we hear that ,yet, I see many people who hold on to things from the past that cause unhappiness in the present.
All we have is this moment, the now. It doesn’t matter how many years we have left - we all have the same amount of time -right now and it’s how you spend your “nows” that will determine your happiness. Don’t save something for a special occasion, every day is a special occasion; there are no ordinary moments. According to Jewish tradition, one of the questions you will be asked questions when you die is “did you partake of all of life’s allowed pleasures?” I’m working on it. I have Simple Pleasure Cards where I list my favorite sights, smells, sounds, tastes, things to touch. Just thinking of Louis Armstrong singing “It’s a Wonderful World”,for example, can add joy, gratitude, appreciation to my life.
Become an inverse paranoid and look for all the examples of the good things the world does for you. Focus on your blessings, accomplishments and gifts.What you give your attention to grows. The worst thing would be to be happy and not know it. You don’t want to be like Colette who said “What a wonderful life I’ve had! I only wished I’d realized it sooner. Begin now!