Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Thanks for the Memories and Welcome!

Tomorrow I will go up to my cabin in the mountains to spend the last days of the year reflecting on the year that is ending and anticipating the year about to begin. This year I’m going to try a more formal sort of retreat, following the suggestions in a book by Sylvia Boorstein titled Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There. You gotta love that title.

I look forward to my New Year's Eve ritual. I build a fire in the fireplace. In the last hours of the year, I write a letter to the old year. I reflect on the year, on what I learned and experienced, on the themes of the year, on what I think I will remember. I thank the year for all the blessings it has brought.

Then I write a letter to the new year. I welcome the new year and share my hopes and intentions. I invite the new year in like a new friend, curious, eager to get acquainted, excited about possibilities. I tell the new year what my word of the year is (more on this in just a moment).

I hold both letters as I say a prayer, once more thanking the departing year and welcoming the new year. Then I burn both letters in the fireplace as an offering.

Every year on New Year's Eve, I pick a word for the following year. It is always a verb. It is not a resolution. My word is a focus word, a gentle reminder, a guide. I write the word on little cards that I place where my gaze is sure to light--by my computer, the bathroom mirror, the car dash.

How do I choose my word? Sometimes I am pretty sure I know before New Year's Eve, but more often I don't. As the year comes to a close, I open my mind and heart. The word comes to me, like a whisper in my soul.

My word for 2010 has been "Attend." It calls me to the present moment. It guides me to suspend my inner chatter and to look and listen. Sometimes when I'm caught up in distractions and reactions, I can hear it and I take a deep breath and pause. Attend. It has been a cherished word and I’m grateful for it.

I won’t know my 2011 word for sure until New Year’s Eve, but the word “Yield” has been dancing around in the shadows of my awareness for several weeks now. I suspect that might be my new word. We’ll see. I will return from the cabin on New Year’s Day, and I will post my new word and tell more about it.

As part of my thanks to the departing year, I would like to say thank you to you. I started this blog in February, not at all sure what I was doing (still don’t know), and with no idea where it would lead (still don’t know that either). But I do know this. I have been so deeply touched and humbled by the support and encouragement I’ve gotten from so many people. I remember the first follower I got who was not a friend or family member. I couldn’t believe it! Who was this mystery person?! Now I have lots of new blog friends.

Through you and your blogs, I have received so much wisdom, inspiration, challenge, information, and lots of great fun. And as we all know, fun is good. I am so blessed to be part of this network of people. You are such a gift. Thank you.

Best wishes for a blessed end of 2010 and a new beginning with unlimited possibilities in 2011.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Preparing the Ground

I know lots of folks (like my kids!) love Christmas, but I really prefer the lull after Christmas. I like the quiet time to reflect on the year winding to a close and to anticipate the new one almost here.

With that in mind, I thought I would say a little more about the blog plans for 2011. As I said before, I am going to try a more structured approach, highlighting one of the 10 Steps every month.

Before we get started with that, it might help to prepare the ground, so to speak, to grow some new habits. Remember that only 10% of our happiness depends on outer circumstances. Of the 90% left, some portion is based on the temperament we were born with, but the overwhelming portion of our happiness is directly attributable to our habitual thoughts, actions, words, and feelings. In other words, biology and circumstances are resoundingly trumped by habits in the happiness formula.

So let’s start with a baseline. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest, how would you rate yourself as a happy person? This isn’t about how you are feeling at this moment, but generally, how would you rate this aspect of your life? This is like your homepage, your default setting.

Okay, now let me ask you, if you could increase that number, would you? Most of us would say yes. Whether we are at 2 or 9.9 on the scale, most of us would not say no to more happiness. So what we are going to do is reset our homepage. We are going to move our default setting up the scale. We are going to do this by identifying and reinforcing our habits that serve us, and by substituting good habits for the ones that don’t.

Will that make us feel happy all the time? Of course not. But we can build a reservoir of well-being to enhance our happy times and to sustain us during challenging times. We can live in the embrace of deep, abiding joy.

Between now and end of the year, I invite you to think about your habits. If you are like most folks, you have some habits in both categories, habits that serve you and habits that don’t. So be honest. But no judgment. No blame. No effort to be any different. Just loving awareness. In fact, if there is a theme throughout all the steps, I would call it loving awareness.

Hold that thought....

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happiness is the Way

There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way. –Buddha

A friend asked me to “favor him with a reflection” on this saying by the Buddha. I doubt that my reflections are a favor to anyone, and I have no expertise in Buddhism, but the passage is intriguing and I have been mulling it over for a few days.

It reminds me that there is no way to happiness “out there.” I’ve read that only 10% of our happiness is dependent on outer circumstances. That’s not very much. So happiness, if it to be found anywhere, is inside us. As the Bible says, “The kingdom of heaven is within you.”

I had lunch today with a former student, now with his own successful practice. As we talked, I was struck by his great attitude about life. He seemed truly happy. I asked him about it, and he told me a story. He spent six years in the Navy, most all of it out at sea working in the engine room of the ship. It was hot. It was hot all the time. There were no days off, no vacations. He looks back on it in a Tale of Two Cities kind of way – it was the worst of times which led to the best of times. Now when he gets up in the night and goes to his refrigerator for a glass of cold milk, even after all these years, he is grateful that he has a kitchen that has a refrigerator that has fresh, cold milk in it. He is content.

Happiness is not a destination. It is the way we live. Or at least it is the way we can live, if we choose to. Choosing to live that way might take some effort, perhaps some training. There is much wisdom out there to guide us, to inspire us, to encourage us. But, like horses, we can be led to joy, but not made to drink it. Ultimately, it is our choice to live in joy. Or not. That freedom to choose can be scary (there is no one to blame) and liberating (we have the power) at the same time.

It is a choice we make every moment. We can remember happy times in the past, we can anticipate happy times in the future, but happiness can only be actually experienced in the present moment. So each moment is a new opportunity to choose. I believe that if we choose repeatedly to be happy, it becomes a habit, our default position. It doesn’t mean that we feel lalala happy all the time. But it means that we live from that foundation. It is our home base. In that sense, happiness is the way.

Developing joyful habits is the focus of this blog. The title 10 Steps to Finding Your Happy Place (and Staying There) might sound like there is a way to happiness “out there,” but in truth, all the steps bring us back to where we started, with ourselves. George Moore said, “A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it.” Like finding your glasses on top of your head, we wake up and realize that our happiness was here all along.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Turning Toward Light

Yesterday was the first day of winter in the northern hemisphere. It was also winter solstice. Interesting that the beginning of winter also marks the beginning of longer daylight. As we enter the time of dark and frozen quiet, the days begin to lengthen, so gradually that most of us don’t notice until the morning when we wake up and see the dawn.

I have been touched by many blog posts in recent days about the grief of Christmas instead of the joy. For many people, the holidays mark experiences and anniversaries of loss, betrayal, loneliness, poverty, stress, and despair. My heart breaks open in witness to so much pain.

And yet, within the pain is promise. A friend once said that winter is when the earth is pregnant. What appears to be dead is quietly preparing to burst forth with life. As Bambi’s mother assured him, winter does not last forever.

So it is with the seasons of our lives.

Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. Psalm 30:5

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Message to Portland Readers

Dear readers in the Portland area,

I will be leading a once a month discussion group beginning Jan. 11 and continuing on the second Tuesday of every month. The purpose of the group is to support each other as we develop habits to grow a joyful spirit.

Everyone is welcome. If you are interested, I would be glad to give you more information and answer any questions. Please email me at galenpearl@gmail.com.

Best wishes,

Monday, December 20, 2010


GLAD stands for Give Lovingly And Daringly.

I discovered this concept in the book Glad No Matter What, by SARK (pen name for Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy). The author suggests that we can help the world by giving more, and giving more creatively.

We all have something to give, and giving not only benefits the recipient, but also benefits the giver. We are happier when we are sharing our gifts, whether that is money, time, talent, kindness, or ideas.

Oprah once gave $1000 to every audience member with the instruction that the money had to be given away. She had a follow up show to tell the stories of what people did with the money. That was the coolest show. Some people gave the money directly to their chosen recipients, and it was interesting to see the variety of choices. Others used the money as seed money to generate even more funds to donate. The ideas they came up with were so imaginative. But the best part was watching how darned happy everyone was. They were just giddy with generosity.

That show made me realize that I had not done a good job of teaching my kids to give. Well, that’s not entirely true. They have always participated in volunteer activities. But I had not taught them to give money. I have always donated money to organizations I support, but I always did it quietly and usually anonymously. I felt good in my own heart, but what I realized was that my kids never saw me do this. While I was doing a good job of teaching them to earn and manage their money, I totally dropped the ball on the giving part.

I have heard many great ideas from parents about how to teach their kids to give, and I would be delighted if you would share ideas in your comments. I’m sure many of you have done a much better job than I did! But that show really caught my attention. So I sat down with the kids and explained the concept. Then I pledged a certain amount of money for each kid to donate. I said we would do it every year.

They got into the spirit right away. It was fun to watch them explore and compare options. When they made their choices, I accompanied them to the organization so that they could give the check in person and see what their money was going to be used for. One daughter gave her money to the Humane Society. The director was so gracious and took her on a tour, explaining all the ways that donations help the animals.

The best part is that I now see them making the choice to donate some of their own money.

Of course, what we give doesn’t have to be money. So I am going to accept the GLAD challenge to think more consciously about all the blessings I have that I can share in more creative ways.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Finish Well

New Year’s Eve is two weeks from today. Some of us are looking back at the year with some regret. There were so many things we meant to do, but didn’t. Resolutions that were abandoned before the new year champagne had gone flat. Hopes that didn’t manifest, dreams that died on the vine. Losses we didn’t see coming or weren’t prepared for.

Some of us have turned our attention away from this year, shrugging it off as a lost cause, too late to redeem (sort of like my football team). We are already looking ahead at the new year, excited about a fresh start, renewing the resolutions that we will surely keep this time, eager to do better, be better.

But go back to the first sentence. We have two weeks left in this year. In horse racing, it doesn’t matter if you are first out of the gate. It doesn’t matter if you trail behind or cruise along in the middle of the pack. What matters is how you finish. The finish line is everything.

I realized this morning that I was throwing away two precious weeks, a lifetime by some measures. I have two weeks to live well, do well, be well. I have two weeks to count all the blessings of this year, to be grateful for the abundance of grace that has poured over my life. I have two weeks to feel good about what I have accomplished instead of berating myself for what I didn’t. I have two weeks to be a good friend, to listen more, to help someone. I have two weeks to love my children, to appreciate my family and friends. I have two weeks of present moments, holy instants, to savor.

It doesn’t matter if you read this post today or Dec. 31. Whatever time is left in this year, two weeks or two minutes, is ours to do with as we choose. No matter what has happened this year, we can choose to finish well.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Resolution or Revolution

It’s that time of year, looking ahead to a new year, a fresh start. It’s time to make our resolutions.

Be honest. What was your immediate reaction when you read that? When I wrote it, I felt a knot in my stomach, my shoulders slumped, I held my breath. (As I wrote in the last post, holding your breath is a sign of stress.) Hmm, this can’t be good.

Frankly, I don’t make resolutions anymore. Anyone who is a resolution veteran will tell you that we don’t often keep them. By the end of January, many of us can’t remember what they were. If we think about them at all, it is usually because we fell short of our goals, and we feel guilty, ashamed, inadequate, weak.

So I am proposing a resolution revolution! Let’s overthrow a system that is not serving us and find one that will.

First, let’s consider why the current system is not working. It seems to me that most resolutions are promises that we think we should make, without much thought about whether they are promises we really want to make. Also, many of our resolutions are really about habits, either bad habits we want to quit, or good habits we want to develop. Habits can rarely be changed based on a single act of will. Finally, we often set up our resolutions as all or nothing goals. We either meet the goal 100% or we fail. Yikes!

So let’s revolutionize our system. Revolution means a turning, a complete change. Let’s turn the system on its axis until it supports us and sets us up for success.

1. Make commitments you really want to make.

Shoulds are not going to work. We have to want it. We have to want it more than we want the status quo. Here’s an example. I lived a good part of my life with some emotional habits that were not good for me. I knew I needed to make some changes, but I was afraid. Then one night I ended up in the emergency room with a pain in my abdomen (picture third chakra) that was so bad I thought I was going to die. The immediate physical suspects were quickly ruled out. They doped me up and scheduled me for a series of tests over the next several weeks. A week later I was back in the ER with the same symptoms. By then I knew that there was no physical cause. This was my cosmic wake up call. I decided right then and there that whatever I had to go through to make some changes in my life was less scary than experiencing that pain again.

Okay, that was a dramatic example. Sometimes we can achieve the same result by reframing the choice (and avoiding the trip to the ER). For example, maybe I don’t want to exercise as much as I want to sit and watch TV. But suppose my choice is between being incapacitated by poor health and being able to take a hike in the beautiful forest when I go to my cabin.

The point is to figure out what you really want and then frame your choice so that what you want is compellingly more desirable than what you have.

2. Focus on habits rather than on a goal.

Let’s be aware of our habits that serve us or hinder us. If we are not making progress on a goal, chances are there are some habits we are not addressing. (Gail Brenner has written a great post on becoming aware of our habits.)

Research shows that it takes about 21 days to change or to develop a habit. A church in Kansas City initiated a program to help the congregation break the toxic habit of complaining. Each member gets a purple plastic bracelet. Each time you catch yourself complaining, you switch the bracelet to the other wrist. The goal is to go 21 days without complaining. (Check out A Complaint Free World)

If we focus on our habits instead of a single goal, we are much more likely to make the changes we need to make to support our efforts instead of sabotaging ourselves. Instead of fixating on losing 50 pounds, we could focus on becoming aware of and changing our lifestyle habits.

As for specific techniques to change or develop habits, I will be writing about that frequently next year as I focus on each of the 10 steps to finding our happy place and staying there. But really, most of us have stopped a bad habit or developed a good one, so we already know how to do this. Think about what steps you went through.

3. Celebrate success.

We tend to focus on our shortcomings rather than our successes. Why is that? I don’t know. At any rate, that is a habit in itself that we can set out to change.

Going back to the complaint free church, part of the program is recognizing that if you beat yourself up every time you have to switch the bracelet to the other wrist, that is a form of complaint. Instead, give yourself credit for every minute you don’t have to switch the bracelet. Be your own cheerleader! Wow, I went five minutes that time! Way to go! The stated goal of being complaint free for 21 days is much less important that the awareness and effort made for 21 days.

One of my favorite stories is about Father Keating who started a practice called centering prayer. The idea is to choose a focus word, or centering word, that we can use when we find our mind wandering to call our attention back to our contemplative union with the divine. (It’s like using the word “thinking” in Buddhist mindfulness meditation.) Once, after a prayer session, a frustrated nun came up to the priest and complained, “I feel terrible! I must have had to say my centering word 1000 times.” Father Keating didn’t miss a beat. “That’s wonderful!” he exclaimed. “That’s 1000 times you were connected to God.”

So join with me this year and become a resolution revolutionary!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Are You Belly Breathing?

Sometimes I will run across something and I’ll think, oh that’s interesting, and then I move on to something else. But when I run across the same thing almost immediately from another source, I think, oh this is something I should pay attention to. I didn’t pay attention the first time so it has come to me again.

So here it is. Belly breathing. That means breathing into the lower part of your lungs. This will push your belly out. We’re born breathing that way. Animals breathe that way.

Somewhere along the way many of us become chest breathers, breathing only into the top part of our lungs. Why do we do that? Maybe because we want to keep our tummies flat. Maybe because of stress. Stress causes us to hold our breath. Holding our breath tells our brains that we are in danger and that triggers the release of fight or flight chemicals, very handy if we are actually being attacked, but very damaging over time. Chronic shallow breathing feeds a loop of stress response, actually creating more stress.

Just as shallow breathing contributes to stress, belly breathing promotes relaxation. It tells our brains that we are safe and releases seritonin and endorphins. Deep breathing pumps more oxygen into our blood, which in turn nourishes our muscles and our brains. I’ve read that deep breathing can alleviate pain, anxiety, sleep problems, and depression. It helps us remove toxins and improves the immune system. I didn’t read this anywhere, but I’m hoping it will help me remember where I left the car keys.

One of the sources that recently came to my attention was a presentation to managers about resilience. The presentation focused on scientific study of the different parts of the brain, which links belly breathing with higher brain function. Higher brain function relates to our attention span, judgment, empathy, learning, forethought, optimism, and self-awareness.

In other words, belly breathing will help us quickly get back to and stay in our happy place. So how do we change a habit as basic as how we breathe? Here are some techniques I’ve started using. I’ve added 10 belly breaths to my wake up routine to get my brain turbo charged with oxygen. I begin my morning meditation with a few deep breaths. I also take 10 belly breaths when I go to bed to help me relax and get ready for sleep. I already have my phone set to vibrate at 10am, 2pm, and 6pm as a reminder to say a quick prayer, so it’s easy to take a few deep breaths then as well. And of course any other time when I become aware of shallow breathing, I can shift to belly breathing.

The key is to avoid making this an added stressor! Don’t worry about the times you forget. Give yourself credit for the times you remember. Your body and mind will thank you for every belly breath!

Check out this site for some additional tips!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Blog Plans for 2011

I have been blogging for ten months about finding our happy place and staying there. The ideas have been organized around 10 steps. Every post relates to one or more steps. I have not approached this in any systematic way. Rather, I have written about what caught my attention, or what was on my mind at that particular time.

In 2011, I would like to focus on the steps in a more structured way. Beginning in January, I will highlight one step every month. For example, in January the posts will focus on step 1, giving yourself permission to be happy.

Because the blog is primarily concerned with habits, and because it takes approximately three weeks to establish a habit, I believe that by highlighting one step a month, we can establish good habits relating to that step before moving on to the next. By the end of ten months, we will have terrific habits that will firmly ground us in our happy place.

Of course, there might be things that pop up off topic, and I will write about those things just like I do now. But the step of the month will be the predominant theme throughout the month.

My goal is still, as it always has been, to offer practical techniques that we can easily incorporate into our everyday lives. No resolutions, no extra things on our already too long to do lists, no separate place or time to practice. These are habits to weave into our ordinary lives, to reset our default manner of interacting with our world and the people in it.

My hope is that you will be my partners in this adventure, sharing your ideas and stories through comments or emails as we go along. Anonymous comments are always an option if you prefer. On the other hand, if you are an occasional visitor or a silent lurker (as I am on several blogs), then you are most welcome to continue in whatever way makes you most comfortable.

I will write more about these plans (and about my usual random topics) through the rest of December, and we will start the new year with this new approach.

What do you think?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Into the Future, One Baby Step at a Time

Jessica Simpson made a commercial for Direct TV in her Daisy Duke character. She was serving beer to some good ol' boys in the bar who were talking about the advantages of Direct TV. As she put the beer down, one of the guys slapped her on the butt of her little short shorts. Before he could say "redneck," she threw him on the floor and pinned his throat with her spike heel. Then she looked in the camera and (speaking about Direct TV) said in the most exaggerated Southern accent possible, "I totally don't know what that is, but I want it!"

Well, that's how I felt about an RSS feed on my blog. I saw them on other blogs, and people told me I should have it on my blog. So I finally said, "I totally don't know what that is, but I want it!" And my good friend Rob magically made it happen.

So now you can sign up for it, whatever it is! Look for the RSS box under the email subscription box in the right margin.

Now I'm going to have to figure out what Twitter is and become a tweeter. Maybe next year.

Monday, December 6, 2010

It Starts Young

Blogdom has shifted from gratitude at Thanksgiving to over consumption during the holidays. Post after post gives us advice about lowering our stress, avoiding bankruptcy, and focusing on meaning instead of the mall. But I fear we are fighting an uphill battle.

My daughter went to a Catholic elementary school. At Christmas, each class sang a song in the Christmas service. Her first grade class was going to sing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” which includes the refrain “Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.”

Some of the words were hard, but she practiced and practiced. She would stumble a bit through the verses, but when she got to the refrain, she would belt it out with rejoicing that could be heard all the way to Israel, I’m sure.

Then, shortly before the service, I listened more closely. Instead of reverently singing “rejoice, rejoice,” she was greedily singing “New toys! New toys!”

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Secret of World Peace

I mentioned in my last post that there is a treasure trove of wisdom at Life Lessons Series. Two bloggers, Abubakar Jamil and Farnoosh Brock, are cohosting this collection of contributions from various bloggers about lessons they wish they had learned earlier in life.

Over 80 people have contributed so far, including me. There is so much to read, I haven’t even gotten through half of it yet. It’s more wisdom than my little brain can absorb!

But the most amazing part, to me, is that the contributors are such a diverse group. If you browse around the site, you will see writers of different races, faiths, cultures, genders, and nationalities.

Even more amazing is that all these people from all these different backgrounds have learned similar lessons. You will see some common threads running through the lessons. It is fun to discover for yourself, so I won’t try to identify them here. But perhaps the overall lesson is that no matter what country, race, or faith we come from, we all have similar ideas about the things in life that really matter.

And you know what’s even more amazing than that? What’s even more astoundingly amazing is that everybody is acting like it’s NORMAL for all these people from all these different backgrounds to be talking together about this topic. About any topic, for that matter. No one seems to think it’s a big deal. That is so unbelievably cool.

When I lived in Bangkok, I helped start a professional women’s group. Before long, we had over 150 members from over 30 different countries. At our monthly meetings you would see women of many colors, dressed in even more colors, laughing and chatting about our common experiences. This blog project reminds me of that.

Look around. In my country, people can’t even talk to each other with civility across political lines. In my own city, a young Muslim man tried (unsuccessfully, thank God) to set off a bomb in a huge crowd of adults and children gathered in a downtown square to watch the lighting of a Christmas tree. An anonymous person retaliated by firebombing the mosque he sometimes attended. In response, hundreds of people from many faiths gathered for a candlelight vigil, circling the mosque to show support and protection. So much fear and pain calling out for so much understanding and compassion.

Check out this project and consider the possibilities. I am so humbled and grateful to be a part of it. So this is my personal thank you to the hosts and to all the contributors. Thanks for letting me tag along.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Wake Up, Grow Up, Show Up

I found a treasure trove of wisdom today at the Life Lessons Series hosted on Abubakar Jamil’s blog. It got me to thinking about the lessons I’ve learned in life. They can all be summed up like this:

1. Wake up
2. Grow up
3. Show up

1. Wake up

Wake up and see the world as it really is. When Buddha was asked if he was a god or an angel, he answered no. The questioner persisted, “Then what are you?” Buddha replied, “I am awake.”

I spent decades of my life not seeing the world as it is. Instead, I saw what I wanted to see. I rationalized relationships that were unhealthy. I was the diva of denial. And I was a liar, especially to myself, presenting to the world an image of myself as I wanted to be (read perfect), without regard to the damage my deception caused to my own spirit and to others.

My life was not real. It was made up, because I was afraid to look at truth. But being perfect in a perfect world is stressful! Finally, I couldn’t live like that anymore. Over time, I came to appreciate the perfection of imperfection. As someone wrote, “I’m not okay, and you’re not okay, and that’s okay.” It’s better than okay. It’s perfect.

2. Grow up

Grow up and accept life on its own terms. Recovering alcoholics in AA know all about this. It is embodied in the serenity prayer. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change....”

This was a hard lesson for a control freak like myself. Fortunately, God has a 12 step program for control addicts. It’s called children. I could give you so many examples, but the one I learned the most from was my son’s autism.

I am a problem solver. So I set out to solve the problem of James’s autism. I tried every possible treatment. If a treatment didn’t work, then I simply moved on to the next. I looked for any sign of improvement, finding great significance in ... well, nothing. Each method held such hope ... and led to such despair.

Then one morning I passed the partially open bathroom door as James was brushing his teeth. He was looking in the mirror and making faces and laughing. As I walked by, I heard him say with such exuberant enthusiasm, “It’s GREAT to be James!”

I stopped in my tracks. All this time I thought it must be terrible to be James. And all this time he thought being James was terrific.

3. Show up

Show up and participate in your life. Woody Allen said that 80% of success is just showing up.

Several people I know have died this year. People my age. People who were busy making other plans that did not include dying. So besides missing them, I’ve had my own mortality in my face, up close and personal. And if I didn’t realize it before, I certainly realize now that life is short. While I’m worrying about all the things that might happen in some future I might not even live to see, I’m missing my life right now.

My friends gave me many gifts during their lifetimes, but with their deaths they gave me the gift of an intense appreciation for this very precious present moment.

“Life is short, and we have but little time to gladden the hearts of those who travel this way with us. Oh, be swift to love. Make haste to be kind.”

And that is the most important lesson of all.