Sunday, November 5, 2017

It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine

So this is all about me. Yet I suspect it might also be about you.

By the way, how are you? Fine, did you say?

That's right. You're fine. So am I. If you're reading this, you speak English and have access to the Internet. Which also means you probably have access to electricity. Those factors alone put you ahead of billions of others on this planet. You're ahead of the game. You're doing well. Relax. You're fine.

But back to me.

I've spent a lot of my years not being fine. The very excellent Dionne Warwick explained it this way:

A fool will lose tomorrow reaching back for yesterday

(If you need a boost, watch the video. We'll be referring back to Miss Warwick, but there will not be a quiz.)

Anyone who has been abused as a child will understand. You spend a lot of time looking back, trying to figure out what happened, who was to blame, what is to be done about it. You grieve over the things that were taken from you. You spend an unholy amount of time wondering what life would have been like had such things not happened. You see all your friends pulling out way ahead of you - because they're fine. But you're not. And you don't really know why. And you don't really know what to do about it. And you get counseling and you talk and talk and wonder if you've ever going to be fine, if all the bad guys are going to just go away and let you live your life in peace. You feel cheap because you were treated cheaply. You feel broken because you were, in fact, broken.  They broke your body, your spirit, your heart, your courage, your belief that the world was a good place.

Those who grew up rough know what I'm talking about.

Running this race you call life, you're limping along, way behind. Your friends are too busy trying to win the race they don't notice how far behind you are. You meet on the street, they ask you how you are, you say -- you're fine. But you're not. And you wonder if there will ever come a time when you are, in fact, fine. When you're fine and know you're fine and not just pretending.

A fool will lose tomorrow reaching back for yesterday

You ever waste some of your years this way? Yeah, I thought so.

And then, because that bit of self-torture just isn't enough, you waste more years worrying about the future. Are you going to "make it"? Are you going to be fine? Are you going to survive? Are you going to get better? Are you going to live a normal life? Will there be enough money to pay the bills? Are you going to get fired? Are you going to keep it together long enough to limp your way to some sort of retirement that doesn't involve living under a bridge or visiting a soup kitchen?

Are you going to be fine?

I don't know who said it, but sometimes we truly are our own worst enemy.

So, anyway, one day, after almost fifty years of "reaching back for yesterday" and looking to the future with a small pain in my gut, I woke up and thought -- I'm fine. I'm still here. I'm still not dead. I survived. And the past is so far behind it doesn't seem to matter much anymore. And the future ... well, the future is going to be whatever it's going to be. I got through the past; I can handle whatever else might be coming down the pipeline.

I realized, with a sudden, surprising clarity, that I'm fine. I really am fine.

I spent a lot of time being upset about the past; that time would have been better spent finding constructive ways to deal with the past. I spent a lot of time paralyzed by thoughts of what the future might hold; I would have been better off tending to my day to day business to make sure the future would be okay.

But, at the end of the day, I realized: I'm fine. It's okay now.

This dynamic gets explained in a variety of ways. If you were a Zen Buddhist, you might talk about the power of now. Of being here, in the now moment. Right here. Not in the past. Not in the future, uselessly fretting and worrying. But right here. Right now. In this moment. Because everything in this moment is fine.

If you were a Christian, you might cite Jesus:
"Which of you by being anxious can add one cubit unto the measure of his life?  And why are ye anxious concerning raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:  yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  But if God doth so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?" (Matt. 6:27).

In other words, Don't Worry, Be Happy

(If you need another boost, here's the video.)

We could go a little bit further: There really is NOTHING but right now. The past is gone. That ship has sailed. The future isn't here and never will be. There is only RIGHT NOW. That is all we get. Right now. Right here. This moment.

If this current moment isn't fine, we have the power to do something about it. We can make decisions. We can make choices. We can shape our reality.

Are there people in your life giving you stress and heartache? Get rid of them. Get off the crazy train. Don't like your job? Take the plunge, take the risk, get a new one. Don't like what the future holds? Start changing it. Go back to school. Quit smoking. Go to the gym. Make changes. Shake things up. Try something new.

It's all in your hands.

That's another thing I realized. It's all in MY hands. No one else's. Not the bad guys. Not life. Not "circumstances." Not which side of the tracks I was born in. It's all in my own hands. My future depends on what I do right now.

Simple stuff, but like a lot of things in life, it takes a while to realize it. To really grasp it. To comprehend it. To internalize it, use it, lean on it, make it work.

But back to Dionne Warwick.

A fool will lose tomorrow reaching back for yesterday
I won't turn my head in sorrow if you should go away
I'll stand here and remember just how good it's been
And I know I'll never love this way again

And back to electricity:

I've got electricity. Do you know how many people can't say that? If you have electricity, you're doing awesome. If you have food on the table, you're doing more than awesome. If you speak English, you're part of the global elite. If you have access to health care, kudos. Got retirement funds? Good on ya. In good health, everything at work hunky dory? Hey, wow, aren't you lucky? Compared to literally billions of people, you're doing well. You're fine.

And so am I.

Count your blessings.

Maybe the past wasn't so great. Maybe the future looks a little worrisome. But right now, everything is fine. Right now the good far outweighs the bad.

Don't waste your tomorrows looking back at yesterday.

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