LIVE EVERY DAY AS IF IT IS YOUR LAST
When gratitude has to have a hashtag and the Twitterati behave as if it’s an amazing new invention, I have to wonder what philosophy of life people are buying into. There’s a difference between wanting something from life and seeking something rewarding out of it. The former links to the material successes and comforts, the latter a sense of a life well lived.
Gratitude lists have become the new affirmations or the latest ‘must-have’, ‘must-do’:- something else to mark off as completed on life’s ever-growing checklist of achievement. Surely there’s something wrong with this thinking.
The Stoics suggested we should never underestimate or overlook the small things in life and paying attention to the micro details benefits our wellbeing; morning dew on a rose, tea warming in a beautiful pot, colouring with a child.
I’ve talked to many people suffering from mental ill health who assured me that by reconnecting with the simplest of things and performing day to day actions with care and attention helped their recovery.
Gratitude for being in the world, for the experiences we’ve had so far, without putting a value or judgement on them – good or bad – reminds us that the world will keep spinning when we’ve gone, like the billions before and after us. Those fields we tramped with the dog in the pouring rain, moaning about sodden socks and miserable fellow walkers, will still be there. Maybe it’s time to enjoy sodden socks and wet dogs before the chance trickles down the drain to join the stream of all past lives.
If we release control and treat each day as it comes as a gift, accepting that all experience is beneficial even if it’s not what we want – in fact, it’s those negative experiences that help us grow - we free ourselves from a craving for more that can never be satisfied.
I’m sometimes criticised for being a pessimist when in fact I’m a realist. Planning for the worst possible scenario is good business practice as I found during my career. Today this translates into accepting whatever comes my way and knowing that it doesn’t really matter either way. Accept the worst and move on. If you lose your job, you’ll be in good company and if your relationship breaks down – ditto.
There’s an old saying, What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. That’s not universally true. Many people are broken by tragedy and bad luck but the strength comes from accepting that this is how things are until death, the great leveller, brings release from the suffering. It amazes me how many people behave as if they are going to go on forever - as if death doesn’t have their card marked.
I am drawn to the philosophy of Seneca. We get caught up in the inessentials, the stuff that doesn’t matter and in so doing, spend no time in exploring our minds and hearts, ( instead of watching Love Island J ) He said,
‘It is inevitable that life will be not just very short but very miserable for those who acquire by great toil what they must keep by greater toil. They achieve what they want laboriously; they possess what they have achieved anxiously; and meanwhile, they take no account of time that will never more return.’
The future is uncertain and always has been. That’s the nature of it so living in the now is the way to keep a sense of perspective.
Letting go of all expectations is not the mark of a loser or a failure. On the contrary, when we reach this point of releasing the ego and merging into the true self, we gain awareness of what we want from life. It maybe acceptance that you did your best, that you find joy in day to day things or if you’re like me, you found a calm spot under an oak tree from where you could watch the birds, simply being.
For a short read on Seneca, this book is worthwhile.
My new novel, Edna’s Death Café is out with Matador on September 8th 2018