Fond Remembrance

If you were at the end of your life, perhaps in your 80s or so, what would you like to look back at, and fondly remember? In other words, design an ideal life from that perspective — what do you want your experience of existence to have been?

I think first and foremost, my best-friend has always played a primary role in my life. Even before I met her, I could palpably sense her absence. For the first two decades, it felt like something was missing — and when she finally showed up, I felt relief. So I’d like to fondly look back at that friendship: the laughs and adventures, the places we went, our comical “struggles” to navigate life, our marriage, and our role as parents — all that stuff. I’d look back and smile at our silly antics.

I enjoy seeing my son succeed, so I’d like to look back and see him as a hyper-successful entrepreneur. With his competitive nature and intelligence, he’d enter a field in which he’d innovate and improve. Ever resourceful, he’d build up a business to the very heights of worldly achievement. And of course I’d like to see him have a loving family of his own — people his mom and I would have a great time with and delight in.

A bit indulgent perhaps, but I’d be amused to look back and see myself living in my childhood happy place. I always wanted to live in Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort. I imagined living in a camper, maybe switching campsites every once in awhile, riding my bike all-around, and visiting the theme-parks. Well, Disney actually built houses right down the street from the campground — it’s called Golden Oak and it feels like it was made just for me. But instead of a camper, I’d be living in a multi-million dollar house (sometimes compromises have to be made I suppose).

More indulgence: I’d like to look back and see myself with access to unlimited funds. For instance, I’d like to be an early-adopter of self-driving car technology. I might even like being an early-adopter of personal flying machines — who knows. Basically I’d like the option of becoming an early-adopter of any new technology that comes around. I don’t like being out of the loop on technology trends. To me, the most exciting things on Earth are technological innovations and I want to experience many of them firsthand. I’d have a robot-dog for sure — and yes, I would probably become a cyborg eventually.

And finally, I would like a small workshop for my tools. I’m slightly sentimental about them and think they deserve a home of their own. I’d like to look back and see that they were well-used and cared-for. I don’t think the actual projects are as important as putting the tools to good-use, and for that I need a space to readily store and access them.

I think that pretty much sums it up. Part of it, is that I want to look back and laugh at how I skated through life with relative ease. Yet internally, I’ve always made a big deal about everything — constantly blowing stuff out of proportion. The primary conflict of my life’s narrative is “Man versus Self”. I’m always struggling against my pessimistic nature — attempting to appreciate the goodness that surrounds. So I want to look back and see that I was able to do just that: appreciate and enjoy life.

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Surprise Party

I keep hearing this message: if you practice appreciation, things get substantially better. In other words, when you actively look for the good in your circumstances, and you’re thankful for what you find, then good stuff will keep coming your way.

It’s as if you’re telling life “hey I like all this good stuff, thanks a lot, can I please have some more?”. Otherwise, if you maintain a pessimistic, complaint-filled attitude, you’re essentially telling life “hey, everything you provide for me sucks, please stop sending me stuff or I’ll keep complaining — leave me the f*ck alone!” And life-the-fulfillment-generator, ever wanting to please, does exactly as you ask.

Oh and life doesn’t go for that “do as I say, not as I do” bullsh*t. If you superficially ask for something awesome, and then think negative-thoughts the whole rest of the day, then those vain wishes won’t register with life. You gotta walk-the-walk. If you want awesome stuff, then you have to display that desire to life in the form of constant appreciation.

One important aspect of displaying appreciation, is to stop focusing on yourself. For example, if Jen throws you a surprise party, does Jen want to hear about how scared you were when she jumped out? Does Jen want to hear you criticize her choice of decorations? Does Jen want to hear about how much the cake doesn’t quite suit your tastes? NO! Of course not! Jen wants to hear a sincere “Wow, thank you Jen! This was amazing!”.

If you can’t praise the item itself, praise the effort and generosity behind it. “But Rich! I can’t find anything good in my life! Everything sucks!” Then you’re not trying hard enough. You’re being lazy. And now, the onus is on you — life doesn’t suck, you suck for being such a self-centered, whining brat. Life provides a veritable playground-of-adventure, and all you can do is nitpick. Sheesh.

And if you want to personify the creative-force-underlying-life as God, then go right ahead: God the creator, by your benevolent generosity, you’ve provided a garden for me to play within. It’s amazing, I love it! The complete immersion I feel here is incredible, I so often believe myself to be an embodied being — full of emotions and all kinds of sensations. Everyday you provide interesting circumstances with which to engage my attention. I’m absolutely amazed by the spectacle before me, the narratives go this way and that — I’m always surprised! For this gift you have given me, I in return give you my ever-present gratitude. I am honored to be here experiencing existence — thank you.

Kickin Back

Boy I tell ya, I’m prepared for a miracle. When something great happens, I’ll gratefully accept it. Prior to this, I would have been wracked with worry and suspicion, believing the sweet meat to be bait in a trap meant to ensnare me. I knew life as a condition designed to lull me into a false sense of security, biding its time until finally taking-back whatever I loved, leaving me with loss and desperation. So I hid, hoping life would just leave me alone. To have called me a pessimist is an understatement.

But finally after all those gloomy anxiety-ridden years, life has taken the last few years to prepare me, getting me to understand and appreciate all the good things this world has to offer. Am I perfect in my optimism? No. Is there still more work to do? Yep. But I’ve always been in the self-improvement club, so that’s just par for the course. For many years I was into fitness and nutrition, now it’s satisfaction with life — happiness really. And yes, I believe happiness is an actual condition we can achieve.

But from my perspective at least, developing happiness is a full-time job. For instance, I had to demolish my previous worldview and replace it with one that could support contentment. My original foundational beliefs about life were making me miserable — I was constantly interpreting life’s circumstances in a negative/harmful way. It does take work to discover a comforting worldview and to put it into practice. I found writing (in this blog for example) a decent way to monitor my mind.

Controlling my reactions is sometimes difficult but mostly doable. If I feel fear for instance, first I try to ignore it — if that doesn’t work I shut it down by applying my newer more-comforting worldview. My initial reactions to circumstances are still oftentimes negative, but I’ve gotten better at catching them. Meditation helps by providing practice in monitoring and silencing thoughts. Plus I tend to see my reactions in a lighthearted way nowadays: silly me getting a bit flustered, well just get back on track, no biggie.

Actually, I try to see all of life in a lighthearted way — I used to be way too serious. You can’t enjoy doing something if you’re too afraid of messing up. And since I believed life to be serious business, I was worried all the time. But my newer more-comforting worldview allows me to trust life, I can see existence as a benevolent experience, a good time in fact. I can finally appreciate all that’s been given to me and all that’s yet to come. Thanks life, what a truly entertaining time I’ve been having.

Spirituality To-Do, Item 2

Putting the Bhagavad Gita into practice.

I must infuse this artist’s eternal all-pervading essence into my thoughts.

Besides snips and snails and puppy-dogs’ tails, what am I made of? Flesh and blood? Meh. A mechanical explanation of reality seems a bit too limiting to adequately explain what’s going here. Although for many years I assumed myself such, I no longer think I’m mere mechanized meat. I’m not even sure my human form is anything but flickering pixels.

And if I’m just an illusion, then this world is too perhaps. But it’s not a random jumble of pixels flickering on an off, it’s a grand spectacle of coordinated light — a show so dazzling that we can’t take our attention off it. Yet who’s the programmer that produced this wondrous extravaganza. If ever there’s someone to be grateful for, it’s that guy. Amazing work buddy!

Yet how unappreciative I’ve been, never acknowledging his handiwork in everything I experience. Just look at all the characters, the cast is huge! From strangers to close companions, their narratives put on quite a show. Then there’s the breathtaking high-definition scenery — um, amazing! And what about my own story? I have to admit I’ve been about the worst audience member I could be, constantly complaining as the story unfolds — but despite all that, I wasn’t even thrown out for my disrespect, life has been persistently carrying me along without much effort on my part. The producer is apparently very patient and forgiving.

It would do me well to infuse appreciation into everything I experience. When I find myself within a particular circumstance, I should see the scenery as the artist’s craftsmanship and the drama as part of a grand narrative skillfully written to include me. When I find myself faced with a dilemma, I should see it as an interesting challenge made just for me. When I have an idea, I should know it to be inspiration direct from the artist. To be truly appreciative, I should relate all things to their underlying creator.

Perhaps many of the problems in life are just engaging obstacles whose job is to provide entertaining resistance upon my path. And perhaps the other so-called problems are just flawed-thinking on my part, self-imposed obstacles readily removed by a spiritual perspective. Through my pessimism, I’ve often wished for the worst, yet thankfully this fulfillment-generator called life regularly denys my requests.

I must accept the artist’s benevolence and presence within all people, places, and things — including myself. What’s there to be afraid of? Everything is the sustainer-of-life himself. The borders between are simply variations in pixel color created for dramatic effect — it’s really a unified whole, art created by the artist. And so that I may render my utmost appreciation and wholly participate in this interactive experience, I infuse this artist’s eternal all-pervading essence into my thoughts.

Anniversary Apology

I met my friend twenty years ago. We were just talking and I brought up the fact that all the good things I have in life stem from her presence. I paused and reflected on that statement. If true, it means that my gratefulness is woefully under-represented by my actions. In other words, I should be worshipping the ground she walks upon for all that she’s given me. If she did nothing else starting today, I’d still owe her for the last two decades.

She was my first and only girlfriend, my first and only best-friend, she taught me how tasty food could be. And after growing up in such a negative family environment, she showed me that “family” could be a term of endearment. She was the adoring and dutiful mother that our little baby needed. And of course my more cheerful outlook on life is plainly due to her guiding influence. Having been a pessimistic realist, I now believe in the goodness of life and all sorts of fanciful things.

Because of this, I have most certainly taken her presence for granted. She has carefully crafted the majority of meals I’ve eaten. I literally can’t enjoy food without her around. And most importantly, she not only listens to my inane philosophizing, but responds as though she cares. I have never met a better cook, or a more clever person, nor a better listener — she remembers everything. People, including babies and animals, tend to adore her.

What that initial statement made me realize, is how little gratitude I show toward such a vital component of my life. It’s sheer disrespect on my part, and I’m taken aback by it. I should be demonstrating my appreciation daily — hourly in fact! I asked whether she’d rather have a thank-you or an apology — I think her response is obvious. And so I wholeheartedly apologize, and repent for the horrible way in which I selfishly took her presence for granted.

But mere words are not enough, I must change my ways. In my future dealings with her, I must trust her opinion much more than I already do. What she thinks best, probably is. My patience towards her must be an endless well. When she speaks I must silence my own mind and simply listen. I must recognize the ingredient of love she mixes into every meal. Every bit of criticism that crosses my mind must be checked by the infinite delight she’s infused within my being.

I apologize to you, Michelle, for being so late in my understanding of the totality of your greatness. Happy Anniversary!