Saturday Blog Bonus:
Thoughts on the Reality of Scale

Driving along Route 22, I cannot help but notice the number of billboards with a medical/health care marketing message or those that promote some “fund-raising” event on behalf of finding a cure for a disease.

I suspect that my recent illness makes me more aware of these messages.  Certainly, the illness has added substantially to what has been spent on me or my family throughout a lifetime.  $500,000? Less?  More? More would not surprise me.  Lucky that I have had insurance throughout.

So, why the thinking?  It has to do with questioning national and local priorities, similar to the insightful bumper sticker message about B-1 bombers and bake sales.  I feel the same way about money wasted on wars/tax breaks/corporate subsidies/medical marketing and other special expenditures by governments or corporations.  They tend to target or favor powerful interest groups instead of helping research efforts and general health care and human development costs, like education, for the entire population.

I appreciate the many who participate in fund-raising activities.  Certainly, it helps.  They work hard to offset the pain caused by a less than civilized nation that ignores many of its people. The effort has impact. It is never enough.

Because the reality is that there are 330,000,000 individuals in the United States.  7 billion in the world. Bake sales and walk-a-thons and road races and mailings – and pleading for donations — will not solve our most pressing problems.  A progressive tax system with redirected priorities would make a difference.  Will this happen?  No, I do not have much hope.  Generally, I do not see this thinking in my leaders.  In the few whom I do see espouse a set of wise, benevolent ideas, it seems they are the ones most ridiculed by a public looking to experience bliss, only to be unethically lured by the sirens of reactionary conservatives to crash on the rocks.  It is sad to see how easily people are swayed by illogical ideas.

We are a sick nation, ruled by many selfish people, unable to feel beyond their own gated community or position of power or the idea that governance should involve only their group of rabid or wealthy supporters.

For me and those close to me to get this far in life, lots of money has been spent as a result of the good fortune that accompanies an insurance contract.  Sadly, faced with a disease that may shorten my life, I’ll have to make a decision at some point about how much effort is made to continue.  With the thought that 95% of medical expenses are spent in the final months of life, I will find sensitivity to how this would effect others who are younger and have many more years to contribute than I do.

This does not mean I will give up.  No!  I just recognize that I am not alone within a nation of so many.  I wish people could understand what “scale” means when it comes to the challenge of governance.  Food pantries and charities are not enough.  Government has a vital role to play, and it should be financed appropriately.  Its leaders should be challenged to think more broadly and not only for themselves or their closest friends.

To be continued…Please share if  you are willing

Fear

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From the Oxford Dictionary:

Fear.

The emotion of pain or uneasiness caused by the sense of impending danger, or by the prospect of some possible evil.

Well, my little adventure is not playing out as evil, but a discussion with my local specialist yesterday, and thoughts expressed by the UPenn specialist last Wednesday, do imply that I plan for a long stint in the hospital.  Am I fearful?

Of course, we should all hope that when I do visit Philly again this coming Wednesday to hear about the most recent biopsy results, the pathologists have uncovered a different prognosis, and I can waltz back to the Valley to revel in the holidays and prepare for the spring semester and enjoy more fun working with my friends at Koa Lab.  I think I must ignore some of these pleasurable thoughts.  Instead, prepare for the worst.  Wish for the best.  Preparation is the better plan, as I indicated yesterday.  Right now it looks like  full-featured chemo performed over 4 to 6 weeks.

I told some friends yesterday that I would rather be shocked next week with good news than with bad news, and I can tell that my doctors know this by the honesty they have shown, for which I am thankful.

But now, what to do?  What to do?  How fearful am I?  Well I am not.  Right????  Just another bump in the road, reconciled as the next trial, just one more, not the first, but probably the most challenging from my selfish perspective.  The health threat attacks me.  It is my crisis.  No one else’s.  I am amazed by the redirected focus.

Still, on this Saturday morning, I reach inside as deeply as possible to decipher what I feel. Nothing surfaces. I look at the definition above without emotion, just a matter of fact perspective that another hurdle must be scaled.

And then I think, Is that a lie?

Am I really scared, and have just covered up fear to talk valiantly?  To show strength?  How much do we all bottle up fear to project the image of strength to others?  Too, often, I “fear.”

The most interesting thought to hit me, on this Saturday, as I write about a word that envelops us all at one time or another, does leads to this.

I no longer worry about fear,

and that is significant.

To be continued…please share if you are willing.

Preparation

Some days certainly seem better than others.  Yesterday was not one.  I sulked in response to residual pain from the biopsies and wondered what the results would be when reported next week.   I hung around the office most of the day.  Finished a couple of critical tasks for a 9am class this morning.  Tried to read.  Tough. Could not concentrate.  Kept looking around the room.  What to do next?  Which project?  Which new course? No answer.  Clearly, a depressing day.

Finally, I said screw it, and left.  Best thing I could have done, and my frame of mind changed.  A few hours earlier, on Facebook, I had cited a remark made by a former boss, one of the smartest people I have ever known, who said some days just require doing whatever you want.  It was wise advice that I have exploited from time to time over my life.  The comment was made in the late 70s.  It worked, again.

Ok, now I had an improved frame of mind.  I was reading, and then received here on the blog a nice compliment from a friend saying I looked fine the other night when she and her husband saw me.  This is true.  Externally, this little problem of mine does not show.  The poor blood counts under the skin are the culprits prompting the worry in my doctors and the warnings to me that suggest I be prepared for a difficult series of events.

Preparation.  Ok, I can deal with that, and it is why I do not downplay the potential severity of a poor diagnosis.  I would rather be very pleased with a better than expected result, instead of the other way around.  This way I can be ready for a long stretch of treatment, which was discussed on Wednesday as a likely possibility.  I suspect readers who have a history of athletics or artistic performance will understand the need to prepare for anything.  Slacking off and assuming all will be well sets up failure.  This is the positive thinking that works best, I think.  Work incredibly hard to understand what might happen and prepare the strategies required to face stiff challenges with confidence.

Unfortunately, this is not as easy as doing push ups, or wind sprints, or “ups and downs.” There are no game films.  No tryouts.  No auditions.  No rehearsals.  No spring training or preseason.  While physical exertion in sports or the trials of “hell week” at the theater help, emotional preparation has no specific action plan.  Everyone is different.  Knowing yourself, I suppose, is one critical step.  Knowing your fears. Knowing your worries.  Knowing who your friends are.  Knowing what is in front of you.

Is there more to what is needed for the production of emotional strength?  Yes, and I am not sure if I know exactly what it is or how to obtain it.  One clue is perseverance.  However, where does that come from?  And if you never had it, could you suddenly produce what is needed in a crisis?  We do know of the wonderful things that humans can accomplish when faced by horrible situations.  How much is innate courage?  How much just happens?  On the one hand, how do we respond to surprise threats and danger?  On the other hand, how well do we handle the fear of upcoming and sustained risk?

For me, the shoulder analogy mentioned in an earlier post again illuminates my feelings, but in a different way.  This time, on the left, stands the optimist, able to get back on his feet quickly and easily recover from the effects of crisis.  This ability came through participation in sports as a child/teenager and a desire to please my teachers when I did not understand a concept.  Faced with potential disapproval or perceived disaster?  Optimism drove me to work harder.  All would be well.

However, on the right shoulder stood the worrier.  When would the next shoe drop?  Worry was damaging.  For as long as I can remember I have challenged the worrier to disappear.  Slowly, I have made progress to approach worry with strength, and perhaps, why I am capable of accepting right now that the worst might happen.  So prepare and not worry.

At least, not ignoring the worst case scenario is important.  Note, I said not ignoring — instead of not dwelling upon.  I certainly wish all it took was 50 ups and downs each day, or two weeks of rehearsals.  No, it is a different form of willpower starting from the perspective that positive thinking requires some form of exercise.  You have to figure out what that exercise is.  I believe you cannot only say, “be positive.”

I like, “don’t quit.”

To be continued…Please share if you are willing.

Writing:
When I Do Not Want To

A friend at the college notes that if one wants to write, they should do so each day, if only to complete one page.  Well, I see the value in this, although if I can get out just one line, I suspect I should be happy.

So, here, I started, merely a stream of consciousness, trying to digest the events of yesterday, when another three “cores” were removed from my rear in an attempt to find out exactly what is wrong with my blood and bone marrow.  It is tiring.  Again, I keep hearing, remain positive, and want to.

But honestly, it is hard.  Today, I wish I could say otherwise.  So, I write.

This summer, I read another good book (actually read lots of books).  This one was entitled Opening Up: The Healing Power of Expressing Emotions.  The title says much; if one opens their emotions, facing trauma can be a bit easier.  Most of the book was about writing, as the author presented his research connecting the act of writing with the healthiness of the writers.  He succeeds at presenting the case that writing helps and heals.

Off and on since 1975, I have kept a journal.  I have not been consistent, believe me.  Entries tend to occur at times of crisis.  The sad story to see, I guess, is the number of starts and stops indicating numerous challenges over almost 40 years.  The journal proved to be vital this summer when Lupron forced a horrible side effect on me.

I suspect some people might ask why I am so willing to disclose my current feelings about the illness I face.  What I have to say is probably not that special.  Only my thoughts about fear or hope or trust or anger. The author discussed the personal act of writing and the act of sharing.  I wish to share because I do wonder if I am not alone.  Maybe the process of wrestling with my own feelings (both good and bad) help another find a path toward understanding.  What is so curious for me, though, in my thinking since last week’s preliminary diagnosis (and now with a little more detail in front of me) is the question rolling around my head — “is this all there is?”

A post was trending in Facebook a while back describing the regrets severely ill people have when facing end-of-life.  While end-of-life is not yet in store for me, this crisis has found me thinking of some regrets (or are they just thoughts of exasperation?). Therefore, I’ll end this “Writing When I Did Not Want To” post by saying one regret among several that must disappear.

“I must learn to trust myself.”

To be continued…please share if you are willing

 

Experts

There were four of us in the room.  Me, the doctor, the fellow, and the resident.  The doctor was listening to me, and talking to me, as we explored the symptoms, the the test results, the prospects, the need for another biopsy, the good chances, the bad chances.  A lovely conversation, that occurs often with people my age, and really too often among all ages.

I consider myself (finally) a pretty smart individual (people have told me this) who can follow a technical conversation.  I suspect that this was one of the more important discussions to occur in my life, already filled with many others.  I do not build rockets, but not much gets by me.  Perhaps the one discussion where I did miss its meaning so many years ago was about probabilistic distribution.  I was told the odds, but did not listen well, and misinterpreted what was possible.  In the end, I was wrong.

Maybe that is why I have always been sensitive to risk, and its appropriate computation. Maybe that is why my quantitative skill happens to be in the field of statistics and probability.  I missed once, and did not want to do that again, ever.

So, today, more probabilities.  The expert outlined the probabilities, and we are still uncertain.  Hence, another drilling into my ass.  Three times today, three “cores,” hopefully getting a good specimen with which to perform the various tests.  I must wait a week for the experts to tell me what might be the best course of action.

I believe in experts.  They put a lot of work into what they do.  I trust experts, even recognizing they make mistakes, because we are human.  Mistakes occur.  Because no one is perfect, I abhor people who criticize experts .  The greatest trust occurs when the expert is doing their best to make the right call.  It is all I can ask for.  I consider non-experts who question experts irrationally, well, irrational.

So, I have another week of waiting.  It is fair to say, based on the conversation, that no matter what, the news is not “great,” but there are still chances that the situation is less than dire.  Only, my friends should know that “dire” is not being ruled out.

I guess I have to let the experts do their work.  After all, I consider myself an expert on a couple of things.  I have to trust my opinions.  I should trust theirs until I do not.

To be continued…Please share if you wish.

Time Left

DSCN97531280x768_zpsd83bfd94-1000x1300While pursuing a doctoral degree in public policy, I enjoyed getting to know a professor I respected greatly.  He had kidney problems, and was waiting for a transplant.  One evening, in a course that explored the Theory of Democracy, class members and he were discussing civic collaboration and what draws people to make a commitment to helping others.

The professor told a story about two women in their late 70s, living together in Iowa, who made every effort to participate actively in community events and deliberations. Though older and moderately disabled, their loyalty to the town never wavered.  They were asked what drove their interest.  One answer was the feeling of “time left” to make contributions. They understood a need to be part of the village and not to run away to support their own interests. The irony of the professor’s story was that he was waiting for a donated kidney, and you could tell that his health was a daily struggle.  I can remember tearing a bit.  He obviously was thinking about his own time left.

The story was so striking that it has haunted me for much more than a decade.  I don’t really know why, except I have always possessed a similar thought about the big picture of society.  We only have a short time to make an impact.  We can only think of ourselves or we can contribute in any way possible that produces a civil society, a fair society, a just society.

sand-clock

While I did not finish the degree, I did involve myself directly in Allentown public policy as a city council member, and later in a Mayoral campaign.  For the last 10 years in Allentown, I have tried with only moderate success to encourage a movement stimulating broader definitions of community, emphasizing the vital nature of inclusiveness, especially racial and ethnic inclusiveness.  Finally, though, as the stresses from one form of cancer accelerated, I pulled away from politics to think about my health.

And now this, a second diagnosis that involves leukemia, although we do not know exactly what kind.  That determination hopefully comes this afternoon at the University of Pennsylvania where I have an appointment.  Now, 15 years after that classroom meeting, I need to face my own time left.

The last few posts spoke diligently about my thoughts remaining poSand_Clock_Hourglasssitive as life proceeds. Over the weekend, the shock from hearing the initial diagnosis had worn off.  I found myself a bit sad.  Monday was no better, but Tuesday had some good news and some good discussions with friends.  My most recent PSA score for prostate cancer has stayed at zero!  So no need to re-start medication on that front. My blood count scores for the leukemia were stable, a further indication that the disease is not yet acute, and will better respond to therapy.

More important was one particular discussion with a friend that helped to clarify how to approach the coming months in a way that keeps me sane, but can continue to allow me to make a contribution to Allentown or beyond.  I realize it does not have to be in Allentown. Going back to Europe to teach is a nice thought. Positive thinking may not heal what I have, but it can make my life better while I cope with the discomfort that might arise frequently during treatments.

sandclock (1)Crossing sixty to sixty-one does open my eyes about time left.  20 years in the future is very different than 40 years in the past.  Future years shrink to nothing quickly, and even might disappear at a moment’s notice.  Reality is sometimes an ugly reality.  It takes willpower to redecorate.

So one thought that encourages positive thinking is to acknowledge that time left has diminished.  You can sit on your duff and do nothing.  Just feel sorry.  Or you can find a route to follow that is both satisfying and appreciated by others.  I’ll take the latter.

To be continued…Please share if you are willing.

Surrendering to Faith?

A few days ago, in the darkness of early morning and through the veil of my own sadness brought on by illness, I captured a feeling of what people with Faith might believe when coping with crisis.  Yesterday, around 3:30am, I had in my head a complete essay to explain this half-awake dream ready for publication, only later to struggle with memory of those thoughts as real sunlight inevitably peeked through the window.

So, I’ll try to reconstruct.  For me (and I know for others), such thoughts scream with importance in the effort to remain positive.  I suspect that what I am about to write might cause readers discomfort or disagreement.  Forgive me, but I am merely trying to work out a defense to the reality that accompanies crisis.  Surely, people will have other interpretations to the value of Faith.  Their job, if willing, is to challenge me or others who struggle with the idea.  Why should it be a source of comfort?  Is that all which is needed?

The epiphany duiring those wee hours was to see/feel a release that results in surrendering to the thought that your God provides complete peace to counter the destructive force of misery.  “In God’s hands” is the familiar phrase for Christians.  I cannot say how those who practice another religion might refer to a similar degree of acceptance/Faith.  It is not that one quits fighting, it is just that loneliness in a battle disappears.  Someone, something, beyond Earth’s boundaries cares. No one can criticize.  You have renewed strength from Faith that you are supported unconditionally, and can expect salvation in the end.  It is a very tough image to explain, as perhaps you can imagine.

Just try to understand that I could feel how that release works and why it is so comforting to others.

I certainly know and respect how others find great comfort in having Faith, but ultimately it is not a path that calms me.   I have found myself asking this question in the past during other disasters, without benefit.  I do so again.  This time, though, I get it.

I guess such a perspective defines me.  Descriptions such as humanist or agnostic (but not atheist) indicate that I am not connected emotionally to an institutional religion.

There are other, deeply personal reasons for not attaching myself to any particular religion, or accepting unconditionally the offer of Faith. This stems, in part, from the disappointment that comes from watching the sociological, political, and economic distortions caused by religious institutions around the world. They fight each other in an effort to claim superiority.  How stupid.  It also arises from three tremendous disappointments over my lifetime with local Church leadership.  Hypocrisy runs amok.  For example, I was once a Deacon, only to lose trust caused by the insincere actions of the minister and the board.  I had to leave.

As my son once remarked about Christianity, “dad, the Church is perfect.  People screw things up.”  It was a wise thought.  We know religion is a way for humans to come to grips with what we do not know about our existence.  Sadly, traditional power politics practiced by real humans distort the true and useful purpose of religion.

In the end, my conclusion involves questioning a reliance on Faith just because it feels good to do so.  Maybe it is a part of a positive life.  But it does not and cannot end the search.

There is more that I can say and will say about this subject in future posts.  Right now, I merely think that for some, surrendering to Faith is not the (total?) answer.  Strength to persevere has other sources, and ultimately these might provide more power in confronting the awfulness of pain and anguish at times of crisis.

To be continued….Please share if you wish

 

Lakefront Property?

The push and pull of pain and pleasure truly exists.  We cannot deny that throughout our lives there are ups and downs bringing joy and anguish.  Trying to find one’s way from ashes to ashes takes place through a gauntlet of chaotic intervals filled with calm or anxiety, happiness or sadness, pain or pleasure.  Perhaps just too darn often, I have experienced these swings.  Maybe you have, too.  And wonder how optimism lives on, even during short intervals between the traumatic impact of each crisis.  Little time exists to reorient before the next disaster.  Nothing like experiencing the daily Battle of Britain or the long springtime of tornado after tornado, but certainly a too frequent and too sudden source of hardship.

For Blog 2a

Calm, gentle, able to handle anything

An absolute perspective is held by many who never waver from belief that all is perfect at any moment.  In contrast, I will not ignore that the earthly model of recovery from exhaustion affects so many including me:  recharge a battery, refuel a tank, rebuild the foundation, rediscover love.  A few posts ago, I mentioned a reservoir of strength to face challenges and then to find more strength to move on.  A very good friend from my youth responded by referring to imagery of a lake providing sufficient supplies of resilience.

I thought, “is this lake he describes infinitely deep?”  “If not, what is the source that refills the lake after a long drought (note: not a pond, not a well, not a pool — no, a large lake or seemingly an infinitely large ocean that even given their size, still succumb to a lack of replenishment) ?” So, as you sit on the porch, recovering, and looking across at the hills and the sky, what exactly happens to enjoy again seeing (and feeling) the lake return to prior levels? I think this is the vital question that each person (or each person within a common group of institutional  thinking) seeks to be answered.

I return, therefore, to humanism and relativism, and you should know that I am prompted to think of the next post topic at the same time.  For now, though, let me focus on the humanistic approach to our challenge.

So this: “an outlook or system of thought attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters. Humanist beliefs stress the potential value and goodness of human beings, emphasize common human needs, and seek solely rational ways of solving human problems.”  (wikipedia)

For blog 1a

Turmoil strikes and we have reserves

We do not live as hobos.  We live with others, some of whom we find agreement, and with others we disagree.  Some are very close. Some you will never meet.  Our living together in an atmosphere of “goodness” is one synergistic way the lake refills.  Sadly, though, we are too often disappointed by others because even those who are close to us fail to provide the support we need in a time of crisis.  It is not their fault.  Of course they can be a tremendous help — family, friends, fellow employees, even the kindness of strangers, but what happens inside of us to stimulate recovery is equally, if not more important, because external support is just undeniably incapable of providing a complete solution.  We have seen the evil or selfishness that can lurk within humans, or the lack of understanding what is needed to help, or simply the time to be available.

So, I am still left with figuring out what can refill the lake to its maximum and how to meaningfully describe the process that occurs within us.  To what extent does the lake refill through others?  To what extent is it our own doing?  As I wrote the last few lines, the word strength again streaked across my mind.  Strength to cope.  Strength to grip.  Strength to hang on. Strength to face our feelings.  Strength to wait.  Waiting.  If we see life as having an inflow of pleasure and the outflow of pain – the bubbling spring as source and the occasional drought as drain – we might see that time does heal, if we let it.  We can help by not expecting to draw much pleasure for a while.  We can help by accepting the joy of each day, and not looking too far ahead.

crackedlakebed76

And how to respond to this?

Perhaps this is what my friends mean by seeing perfection at (almost?) all times, even at the worst moments.

Strength to hold on, though, needs exercise and practice.  That is another topic to explore in the future.

So no answers today, but I am left contemplating one or two potential thoughts for my next post.

Meanwhile, enjoy the lakeside view following the drought, as we wait for the spring to bubble loudly and the fruits of practice allows us to survive another day .

To be continued…share if you wish.

Seeking Perfection?

My good friend Dick Nepon (whom I have not seen for a while) made a nice observation about the idea of perfection to my first post .  ” I like to think that the world is a perfect place. Our task is to come to understand the nature of that perfection. No event is good or bad. Perfection is dynamic. Not static.”

He is not the first to observe to me the power of thinking this way.  Another good friend mentioned this in September when I was coping from sides effects associated with Lupron.

This idea fascinates me because (is “sadly” the right adverb to use here?) I don’t see the world as perfect.  Ever since hearing the word in September, I have wondered about this.  Maybe I won’t find the answer here, but let’s explore this concept.  You see, is cognitive dissonance an inevitable result?

Why do (or when) bad things happen to good people?  To say the world is perfect, or as Dick Says, to say that no event is good or bad, leaves me perplexed.  Humans do have a measure of what is bad to them.  Jonathan Hart’s books on happiness and moral values suggest that around the world, and even here in the United States people have varying measures of what is “good” and “bad.”  So, does that mean that to see the world as perfect or could be made perfect is an impossibility?  I guess I feel that after experiencing a series of bad things over many years, and seeing how hard it is to pull myself back up, committing to an idea of perfection becomes a challenging approach.  I just do not believe the world is perfect.

Still, is there any way to reconcile the beliefs of Dick and my other friend with mine?  Of course.  The miracle associated with humans, as far as I can gather, is that we can communicate among each other in a deeply philosophical and rational manner.  It allows us to examine where the differences might lie.  However, even then, there is imperfection, because as we discover that people cannot find common ground in controversial situations, we realize that the definition of happiness is elusive.  A single viewpoint does not necessarily exist.  Perhaps, a solution lies in this realization.  Respecting that each person must find their own happiness and not attempt (always) to find it in someone else’s definition is a very possible path to follow.  The fine line is not to disrespect the other definition once you find yours.

I say this because too often we become trapped into following a view of “goodness” that just is not us.  Or our background defines the definition for us.  We gravitate to a particular worldview and we use that perspective to make our interpretations.  When someone says “be happy” to you, they most likely will not understand your true happiness compass, and if you have not found that compass, you may find yourself just shaking your head at others.  “How can they say that?”

Perfection.  That is not the path I can follow though I can see how it works for others and deeply respect those feelings.  Where I can align myself along this path, however, and I believe this might be true for some, is that the journey toward perfection makes sense.  Not giving up on a world that is imperfect is a “star” to reach for.  The reach becomes Newtonian in reverse.  Your own effort to reach actually becomes a helping hand pulling you back on your feet.

To be continued…Please share if you like.

Hide and Seek

A really good friend commented about my first post saying, “happiness lies within.”  My quick response:  “where does it hide?”  You see, I know you can say it is always here.  I agree, completely, but for many it lurks somewhere, within the brain, the soul, the heart.  And what is really interesting, I feel, is that one manufactures the curtain behind which it hides.

Ahhhh…that seems obvious.  Classic/introductory psychology? We are our worst enemy in creating hurdles/blockages/barricades/chains – you name it.  We can even walk up to the curtain and attempt to throw it open, only to not be able to grab hold.  The eureka fades into darkness, and we are back to wondering how people do it.

Perhaps the most frustrating moments is when you intellectually know, “just say your grateful, just say things are good, just think positive.” Knowing how hard you try, you find yourself not comprehending the steps necessary to make those statements work.  I know that has happened to me at bad moments.  To step over into a different perspective takes hard work.  Over and over again you have to look at the good stuff.  The bad stuff creeps in which brings up another metaphor.

Two shoulders.  On the left (that always seem to be for me), there is the rational, get-it-together intellectual who understand what is going on and wants bouncing back after a disappointment easy.  As I noted in a Facebook entry last week, it is a matter of not quitting, stick-to-itiveness, even self-confidence that makes bouncing back possible or inevitable.

On the right is the other person, not allowing you to even think good thoughts.  I know the typical metaphor is Angel vs. Devil.  I do not want to go there.  Instead, I think one side representing the optimist and one side the pessimist is more important for self-development.  Understanding why the pessimist keeps overwhelming the optimist is a critical lesson in life.  It takes tremendous will power to look deeply into those moments when the pessimist takes hold and leads you to believe life will never be good again.

Naturally and socially, I tend to be the optimist, and I think that would be the consistent perspective.  However, when difficulties occur again and again, staying positive is difficult.  What causes recovery?  Over the last few days after my discharge after learning some bad news, I now do feel better.  I seem to have opened the curtain and uncovered this slippery thing called happiness for a little while.  From crying to feeling better.  What happened? Well, I have been working a long time at recovering from “events.”  For me, it was often getting to the gym or the track, and discovering that I could still carry out a reasonable exercise routine.  That worked, again this time.  Thank goodness.  Visited the gym yesterday and today!  Feel better.  Wow.

Ok, why?  Well it is something I love.  Always have.  And many other things I have loved in my life has tended to flit away. This seems to help.  Does that give us a clue to where happiness tends to hide.  A disaster hits in something we do love, and it becomes difficult to find the remnants of happiness?  It is hard to believe that a disaster can use up your entire supply of happiness.  Is it not?  That is what perhaps tends to occur in people who think about hurting themselves.  The reservoir is empty and happiness is impossible to find.  The trick, I suspect, is to know that something does remain – something you love still exists and you can rely on it/him/her to get you through the tough times.  Finding is the operative word.

I know the statement saying “I am grateful” is often presented as a solution.  I do not disagree.  But just being grateful is different than doing something you love in the event of losing someone you love.  There is a need to find something else to love, to have fun, to feel like continuing is worth it.

And this is the hide and seek game to which I refer.  Happiness can hide from you.  It is within a process of writing or talking or doing that can make you the winner in the game.  You may remember winning at the game as a child by following a strategy and not searching randomly.  The same methods apply.

I hope this helps.

To be continued…and please share if you like.