Saturday, August 28, 2010

What Really Matters?

No matter how hard we may try to live a good life or do the right thing, sometimes bad things happen: We fail; we or people we love get sick, suffer or die; an accident happens; people disappoint us; our heart gets broken; we lose a job; get sued; lose a house; file bankruptcy; have to start over and on and on.

When the worst happens to us, what can we do? We can wallow, of course, really roll around in it and maybe we least for a little bit. After all, if something bad happens to us, we have the right to responsibly be a complete mess for a while.  Some of the most helpful advice I ever got came from my father who said once during a time of turmoil for me, "Just remember to come back out from under the bed after about a week." 

Perhaps the most interesting thing about times of trouble is that they tend to make us focus on what really matters in life. When we lose all the trappings of prosperity we are reduced to just ourselves in the raw.  I always think about Jimmy Stewart's character in the classic film, "It's a Wonderful Life." George is threatened with the loss of everything when his scatter-brained but loveable Uncle Billy accidentally gives the week's Bailey Buiding & Loan deposit to the evil and conniving Mr. Potter, who takes full advantage of the situation. Believing Mr. Potter when he tells him that he's worth more dead than alive, George actually contemplates ending his life by jumping in the river. That's when George's guardian angel, Clarence, saves George by jumping in the river so George will save him instead. Clarence then shows George how everything he has done in his life has made a positive impact on his family, friends and community. He shows George that his life, however humble, has truly mattered.

When we get down pretty low it is easy to think that we are worth nothing. That's when we need to remember what really matters and what doesn't. So in honor of the double dip recession and the greatest unemployment since we can't remember when, I've made us all a list to help us keep things straight.  Here's what I came up with:
What Matters: 
What Doesn’t:
1. People.

2. Love.


3. Having good manners and treating others
with kindness and respect.
What mean people think, say or do.

4. Helping one another.
That you can’t save everyone, help everyone or do it all because every little bit still counts.

5. Doing your best and going for it!
That someone else may be better, younger, smarter, faster or richer than you. It just doesn't matter if you win or you lose.

6. Working together to solve a problem.
Who’s at fault or who’s to blame.

7. Taking responsibility for your life.
The millions of reasons why something isn’t your fault.

8. Friends and family.
People who don’t wish you well. As my grandfather used to toast, "Here's to those who wish us well, those who don't can go to...."

9. A life of purpose with meaningful work.
The Rat Race (because even if you win you’re still a rat).

10. Each moment, which is a gift.
The wouldas, shouldas and couldas: Forgetaboutit!

11. Making healthy and wise choices.
The so-called friends who drop you because you made the healthy choices instead of going along with the crowd.

12. Making peace with yourself and living
life to the fullest.
That you are only human and your life is less than perfect. We’re all a work in progress.

13. Accepting others as they are.
That you can't change or control others. Stop beating your head against the wall, it doesn’t work anyway.

14. Being authentic and true to yourself.
Being who you think you “should” be just to impress others.

15. Learning and growing without being afraid of looking stupid.
Making mistakes or slipping up sometimes. Don't take yourself too seriously. "Too perfect" people are annoying anyway.

16. Good health and taking care of yourself.
How much you make or how you compare to someone else.

17. Happiness and a good sense of humor. 
Laughter heals, the studies prove it.
The small, petty stuff that’s way too easy to get upset about or even that big stuff that you have no control over. 

18. Having a safe and healthy place to live.

How much bigger and fancier someone else’s home may be compared to yours.

19. Being a part of your community.
How inexperienced, young, old, or “unimportant” you think you are, because every single person can make a difference.

20. Gratitude and appreciation.
That things are less than perfect right now.

Maybe this list is either incomplete or too inclusive.  But it just doesn't matter, now does it? You know what does? The fact that despite whatever may be going on in your life, you are going to (eventually) be just fine. So surround yourself with the people you care about. Laugh with them. Be grateful for them. Pay attention to them. Know that this too will pass and you will again have peace in your heart. Because you matter. 

1 comment: