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Savoring the struggle and creating joy



Here are some quotations to help us sustain the joy of the holidays through the coming year:

“The secret of contentment is the realization that life is a gift, not a right.”  –Anonymous

In fact, each day of life is a priceless gift—even if we still have that horrible commute and ornery boss to face.

So why not take a quiet moment to open each day the way a child opens his first Christmas gift—with great appreciation, anticipation and excitement. For this day will never come again.

“Be absolutely determined to enjoy what you do.” –Sikorski.

Take a vow to be joyful in your work, joyful in relationships, joyful in taking on challenges and problems. Make sure there is joy and laughter in your home. Find some joy in just being you. The people who live around you will be glad you did.

“One resolution I have made, and try always to keep, is this: ‘To rise above little things.’”                        –John Burroughs

 Write on the walls of your heart: “I will not let the constant barrage of ‘little things’ keep me from getting to the ‘big things’ that make each day joyful and meaningful.”

And finally, this from John R. Silber, former President of Boston University:

“Inevitably you will sometimes be disappointed in marriage, disappointed in friends, disappointed in institutions, and sometimes disappointed in yourself. Thus, if you are to retain your joy in life, you must find much of that joy in spite of disappointment, for the joy of life consists largely in the joy of savoring the struggle…traveling with courage and a good sense of humor.”

 Best wishes for savoring the struggle and creating joy with your life this year.


A spark in your eye, a spring in your step, a song in your heart



What does it truly mean to be a success as a human being? What does it mean to live life successfully?

I have a hunch we might answer that question a little differently during the holidays. For example, Ralph Waldo Emerson defined success as follows:

“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children…to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a little better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is the meaning of success.”

Emerson is suggesting that we may need a different way to think about what it means to be a success:

We need a way to think about success that includes every day of our lives, even the ordinary days—especially the ordinary days—all the way to our last day.

We need a way to think about success that includes (and makes use of) failures, setbacks and tragedy, since these are an inevitable part of life.

We need a way think about success that deepens and enriches our humanity, that helps us grow as persons and fulfill our own uniqueness.

We need a way to think about success that makes us excited to get out of bed each morning and helps us pursue what matters each day.

We need a way to think about success that helps us laugh more and deeper–a way that enhances all our important relationships and helps us be fun to be with.

We need a way to think about success that helps us find something to live for that is larger than ourselves, larger than any circumstance, and even larger than death.

Or as Krakatoa the parrot said to Hodgepodge the hippo (in my children’s novel, The Tale of Hodgepodge):

“There are many who frantically chase success, but success is not a chase and it’s not frantic. Success is a spark in your eye, a spring in your step, and a song in your heart.”


At ease in a world of dis-ease



One of the things I like about December is the uplifting music. For example, we’ve all heard Vince Gill’s familiar song:

“Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”

A sentimental cliché? Perhaps. But sometimes clichés mask a deeper truth.

Suppose I actually wanted to let peace begin with me, how would that work?

In his poetic essay Desiderata, Max Ehrman begins with these words:

“Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.”

I like this reminder to relax and go peacefully, go gently, go quietly, go kindly through my days and years—especially in the midst of all the noise and busyness. (And it’s a reminder I often need!)

But how do we cultivate that ability? Ernst suggests, two things:

First, be on good terms with silence. Not an empty silence, but a deep, quiet listening—a warm, friendly fireside chat with my life.

They say a good friend is one who knows the worst about you and still likes you. We need a silence where we become that good friend to ourselves.

The busier our days, the more we need to put down our phones and turn off the tube, turn off the noise in our brains and make a little time for real, enriching silence.

The second suggestion is to do everything I can to be on good terms with all kinds of people—but without surrendering my genuine self, without being false.

The more ornery the person, the more we can learn from learning how to be with him or her in a human way.

In fact, maybe peace is simply about the work of learning how to be with yourself and how to be with others.

And that’s good work. It’s no small thing to do the “inner gardening” that helps you become a person at ease in the world—especially in a time that has so much dis-ease.



Loving your particular life



I’ve shared quotations before about the love of life, but here’s another one I appreciate from Henry David Thoreau:

“However mean [humble, poor, ordinary] your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names…The fault-finder will find faults even in Paradise. Love your life.”

I think Thoreau is telling us:

It’s a good thing to love life. To accept it, appreciate it, embrace it, cherish it, enjoy it, and seek to do well by it.

But that’s not enough.

What’s required is to love your particular life, the life you have right now, as is—with all of its successes and failures, ups and downs, strengths and weaknesses, tears and laughter.

For this is the only life you have. And it’s worth more than you think it is. (And by the way, you’re worth more than you look like you are.)

Does loving your particular life seem like an unreachable goal?

Actually, I think that goal is closer to us than we think it is. It starts with loving the near. Loving the here and now. And it brings some real benefits.

For example: Loving your particular life makes you more fun to be around. And it frees up energy for facing the challenges you have to face.

As Samuel Johnson said:

“The love of life is essential for the prosecution of any serious endeavor.”