Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Choosing the moment

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There is no perfect, best or right time in life, is there? I am slowly reaching that conclusion and tired of waiting – endlessly.

That translates into savoring what is the present. How many times have I read that in an inspirational book or heard someone wise articulate it? And I knew each time there was truth in it, but I just wasn't ready or able to truly grasp how to make it mine. How to own the present. For me, I suppose, it will be a lifelong journey.

I was buoyed yesterday when I read an article in Smithsonian Magazine about the gifts of aging: that the older one gets the happier they are.

... In 2010, researchers at Stony Brook University analyzed a telephone survey of hundreds of thousands of Americans and found that people over 50 were happier overall, with anger declining steadily from the 20s through the 70s and stress falling off a cliff in the 50s.
This may be news to people who equate being old with being sad and alone, but it fits with a body of work by Laura Carstensen, a psychologist at Stanford. She led a study that followed people ages 18 to 94 for a decade and found that they got happier and their emotions bounced around less. Such studies reveal that negative emotions such as sadness, anger and fear become less pronounced than in our drama-filled younger years.
Cornell sociologist Karl Pillemer and co-workers interviewed about 1,200 older people for the book 30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans. "Many people said something along these lines: "I wish I’d learned to enjoy life on a daily basis and enjoy the moment when I was in my 30s instead of my 60s,’” he says. Elderly interviewees are likely to “describe the last five or ten years as the happiest years of their lives.
Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/What-is-So-Good-About-Growing-Old.html#ixzz24qofuiFV
Right now, my life seems like the beginning of Charles Dickens' A Take of Two Cities
" It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way ... "
That sums up my personal life (I am doing work I love, my children are thriving, but I worry about the health of my parents; my mom is recovering from an intense hospital stay), describes the state of the world, could not be a more apt spin on our imminent political contest and, I assume, is probably how it always is. Life. It's never perfect, but can come close at times, and also bottom out in a very bleak way.
My task is to accept those peaks and valleys without letting them yank me too far in either direction. The Smithsonian article claims we get better at taming our emotions as we gather more experience. I also like what Eckhart Tolle says about acting as if we choose the moment, accepting it, even if we have not.
• What do I keep waiting for?
• How do I appreciate the present?
• What practices bind me to the present?
• How can a practice of gratitude help?
• What wisdom have I acquired over time?

always another hurdle,
problem or dilemma

and I let them
get me all
bent out of

what I have learned

that's just life

ups and downs

yet I can
the present

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