“Lately, I’m finding it hard to get motivated. As the song goes, I feel ‘stuck in second gear.’ I wonder if it’s body chemistry. Maybe I should get a checkup.”
Okay, but while you’re checking on your LDL (“bad” cholesterol) and HDL (“good” cholesterol) you might also check on your levels of LOL.
No, not your “Laugh Out Loud” levels—your “Love Of Life” levels.
As Samuel Johnson said,
“The love of life is necessary to the vigorous prosecution of any undertaking.”
And artist Marc Chagall said,
“To do great work you have to love life.”
Have you ever thought about how much the “love of life” means to your life?
On this day—leap day—we might think of the love of life as a leap, a surge of extra energy and generosity that can inform and infuse any task we take on, any challenge or problem we meet.
Or we might think of the love of life as something that operates more quietly, like seasonings that enhance the flavor of everyday experiences and relationships.
Without a doubt, a deep grasp of the love of life can even equip us to better deal with disappointments, difficulties and failures.
The love of life is a powerful motivator, a deep underground source of fuel that is always there whether we feel it or not, always waiting for us to tap into.
After World War II, a man who had lived through the horror of the concentration camps started an organization to provide humanitarian aid to others who were suffering. He had been so badly beaten in the camps that he was crippled for life—and so were some of the others who worked with him.
An interviewer asked him, “Why are you doing this? You were all treated so horribly, yet you spend your time helping others. Why?”
The man answered: “Ultimately, it’s because we love life.”
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“Lately, my week feels like one big obstacle course.”
That just might mean you’re getting somewhere!
As Frank Clark said:
“If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere.”
Of course it can be tempting to take the path of least resistance and least risk–to try to program our lives for maximum security and minimum difficulties. But we might end up a little bored.
It’s another one of those paradoxes of life…
Sometimes people spend years struggling, working hard, building a career or a business or a family, dreaming about the day when they will “arrive.”
Finally, one day, they reach a plateau where they can put up their feet and relax, but a funny thing happens. They find themselves missing the days of struggle.
So here are some possible takeaways from Frank Clark’s statement:
Maybe life is best lived when we live it so that we never fully arrive…so that we are always leaning in, being challenged, stretching forward.
Maybe there are valuable life lessons and life skills that can only be learned on the obstacle course.
And maybe the obstacle course isn’t what gets between us and life.
Maybe the obstacle course IS life!
“I got stabbed in the back. I’m never going to forget what was done to me. ”
So you’re going to leave the knife right where it is? The more you hold on to old wounds, the more you hurt yourself.
Carrying a knife in our back—or a chip on our shoulder—can erode our everyday joy, which is our birthright. It can also make us not so much fun to be with or work with.
That’s when we need this reminder from Confucius:
“Forget injuries, never forget kindnesses.”
He’s saying: Yes, you’ve been done wrong. Yes, it may have been unfair. But life is too short, and your spirit, your deep inner self is too precious to poison it with smoldering resentment. There is wisdom in learning to turn loose.
Taking this a step further, Gandhi said,
“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”
Admittedly, this is strong medicine. It may take time to apply. After all, people can be so ornery and relationships can be so difficult at times. We may have to reach down deep and find new ways to think about the situation, about ourselves, and about some of these other human beings who dare to take up space on the same planet with us!
But we have it on good authority that this medicine can, in time, heal stab wounds, leaving us a little stronger, a little wiser and…maybe even a little more compassionate?
And who knows, maybe our reaction will bewilder the person who did the stabbing!
“If only I had that person’s brains and talent and looks…”
But of course, the universe only asks that you be you.
A Yiddish proverb says:
“If I try to be like him, who will be like me?”
And Herzog, the character in Saul Bellow’s novel, said,
“I am Herzog. I have to be that man. There’s no one else to do it.”
Long ago, the Mission Impossible TV show always began with the leader receiving a packet describing the impending mission, complete with facts and photos. The cover letter always read: “Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is…”
Imagine that every morning you receive such a packet. In it there are photos of all the people you will meet today, the people you love as well as others. There are also descriptions of the situations, tasks, challenges and problems you will face today.
Then the cover letter says: “Your mission today, should you decide to accept it, is to be you and nobody else, to fill the space that only you can fill, to play with all your heart the role that only you—of all the people in the world and in history—can play.”
“This message will self-destruct only if you choose not to accept your mission.”
“You should see the pile of you-know-what I’ve got to deal with.”
Given the nature of the world we live in that’s not very surprising, is it?
But consider these words from a man who had to deal with more you-know-what than most, Abraham Lincoln. Speaking during the dark days of the civil war, with our young men dying by the thousands, he said:
“The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew.”
“Rise with the occasion.”
Just think about that for a moment. No matter what the occasion, we can decide to rise with it, rise to meet it, rise to overcome it.
Not a bad strategy, is it?
It’s not easy of course. It does demand that we “think anew” and “act new.” Maybe there’s a new way to think about that ornery boss…or that problem with a child…or with a parent. Maybe there’s a way to rise…to bring a little more love, more humor, more forgiveness, more understanding.
I think we can see how this strategy might help bring a sense of mission to our daily lives (and keep our life from turning into an intermission…or, worse, going into remission.)
In other words, it’s a strategy that uses the pile of you-know-what to “fertilize” personal growth. As Bernard M. Baruch said,
“The art of living lies not in eliminating but in growing with troubles.”