Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Wellness Wednesday: What Makes Life Worth Living?

This blog post was prompted by Thailand Chani's post here, and by her response to my comment. My comment was this:
[...I have very very low expectations about everyone. I've been through a lot. I expect little to nothing from others, and feel as though I must depend upon myself---just me---and no one else. It's a hard and cold attitude, but one that helps me to cope.

Then, if someone does respond lovingly, I'm delighted. If they show integrity, I'm pleasingly surprised. If they seem to care, I'm thrilled.

I'm pretty cynical, and don't expect much from people, period.

I would like to have other people that I can reliably depend upon, but at this point in my life I'm slow to trust, even slower to believe in anyone, especially any group of people (which just multiplies the probability of being let down). Even Hawaiians. Anyone.

I'm not suggesting that you be like me (because I don't even know if it's healthy), but just letting you know how I cope with the frustration and hurt...]

Her response was this:
[Olivia, I can understand how living in this place.. and with this way of life.. it could become necessary to adopt that attitude. I seem to be congenitally incapable of it. A life like that, to me, simply isn't worth living.]

So then I started to wonder, why I feel my life is so worth living. Because I do! True, I do feel depressed. A lot. I don't know---I have a sort of acceptance of this depressed state, because basically I feel so fortunate, blessed, and happier than I've ever been in my whole life (note: I've had a pretty crummy life until the last 8.5 years or so).

Although I am depressed, I'm not miserable at all. Just tired a whole lot, withdrawn (very, very withdrawn---very withdrawn!), lonely (except for my online life), and sad. Maybe I just have to feel and process years of troubled feelings and this will take some time. It's only recently that I've started to feel my feelings instead of to run from them. I feel very accepting of my life and my situation. Grateful for it even. Full of gratitude for all of the many blessings in my life.

Even the challenging things in my life I believe are here to teach me something. There are lessons that I need to learn. Not that I can't change them, of course. But that if I choose to accept them, or if I can't change them right now, then my task is to learn from them what I need to so that my difficult times are not repeated over and over and over again---a problem for me when I was younger.

As far as other people go, I really do expect very little from either individuals or groups. This is based upon experience, upon years of being hurt and of expecting from people what I just don't think they can give. Even basic things like integrity, honesty, respect, totally common courtesy, and more. I no longer believe, even for things like this from those who profess to love me.

So now I prefer to think of love as something that I give, not something that I get. For me, this makes life worth living. And then sometimes, often even...well, truthfully, much of the time, I get even more back than I've given. This really makes life great. But I don't expect it.

Except with animals, of course :) That's a story for another time.

If someone is very toxic, honestly, I'll remove them from my life, and I've been criticized strongly for this. I'm estranged from my family of origin for this very reason. I will try for twenty or thirty years, but then eventually, say after 42 years, I'll give up and establish a relationship of estrangement. This allows me to work out forgiveness and to love those (in a far-off way) I'm estranged from. I explained to my father once that sometimes it is only possible to love and forgive someone from afar, when you are safe. Sometimes you just need to be safe. At least I do. This decision about my bio-family has helped me to make huge strides in my physical health. It's also partially responsible for my recovery from chronic fatigue syndrome (8.5 years ago).

As I told Chani, I don't know if this attitude I have is particularly healthy. It does seem a little cold. And I've been told it's hard. Right now it works for me. I'm open to better ways of living, though...really open.

It's Wellness Wednesday, and for now this attitude makes my life not just worth living, but possible to live. And thrive. It keeps me going.

What do you think? What makes your life worth living? If no one truly truly loves you in the way you need it or want it are you content to love others and spread kindness and goodness and blessings and love to those who are in your life or whose path you will cross today? Should you be content with that? Let me know what you think.


thailandchani said...

I think what you are doing is a beginning. It's the phase where you have had to make some very difficult decisions (the same one I've made, btw, regarding my family of origin). I believe it will eventually evolve into a more open portal that will bring more balance.

I'm not sure of our age difference. I'm 56 - and have had one of those lives most people would not have wanted to live - very empty, vacant, not satisfying or joyful in any way. Truthfully? It is some sort of miracle that occurred outside of me - that is the only reason I am alive today. I've tried to die - multiple times.

It has only been the past several years that I've managed to find a culture and way of life that feed my soul, that make it possible for me to give freely, to not harden myself to the world because I know now that the whole world is not just *this place*. *This place* is a very small piece of this huge planet.

The way of life here makes me feel depleted, lonely and depressed. At the same time, I know it can be different because I've experienced it. I know it's real. For nine months, I lived it every single day.

So.. I'm not willing to quantify the way you are living or your choices. It is your path for right now.

I wish more for you.

Kate I said...

Olivia, I think that we're all doing what's right for us right now, today. It may be different tomorrow or next year but life, and healing, is a process and we're all doing the best we know how to do at this moment in time. If having low expectations works for you now, then you need to go with what works for you.

It's important for me to understand that where I am with my life will probably change as I change...and change is the one thing we can all count on. My understanding of Buddhist philosophy is that one of the reasons we suffer in this life is that we have expectations of people being different from who they are. We can't force other's to be what we want or do what we want, so that sets us up for dissapointment and hurt. If accepting people for who they are is the same as having low expectations of people, then I see the wisdom in this...I'm just not sure if it is the same thing.

Maybe the answer is to expect the best but to accept the reality. I believe this takes a strong core of love and belief in ourselves and a true understanding of the essential spiritual beings that we all be able to see above the flaws and imperfections in us all.

Yeah, that's the ideal I'm striving for, but believe me, I often forget and get mired in the drama's. That happens less and less often now and my recovery time to remember who I really am, and who "they" really are generally happens very quickly these days.

We've all had different life experiences so there's no right or wrong way to heal...and the healing is an ever changing journey.

Jessie said...

i've been thinking about you a lot lately, olivia. and i've been wanting to write you an email or, hell, even sit down and read your blog! i like to be fully present when i read your words and for some reason i wait to visit until i feel like i can truly be here, with you, as i read...but then i start missing the heck out of you and become worried that you'll think i've forgotten about you when, in truth, you are always in my thoughts.

this post is full of such deep self-knowledge. I love that about you. Your decisions are always very thoughtful. Who knows if our decisions are always the right ones, but I do know that you are a very balanced and loving woman who is trying her best to walk through this life with love, grace, and honesty.

i'm still struggling with my own relationship with my dad. i'm not going to walk away from him completely...but at this point i'm sort of throwing my hands up in the air and giving it space because my attempts, energy, words, and love will not change anything right now. perhaps there is something else i should be doing but, like you, it is the best thing that i know to do at this time.

anyway...i just stopped by to tell you that i love ya and that you keep me brave on a daily basis.

big hug,

Rick Hamrick said...

O--the most telling part of what you describe as your cynicism and cold, low level of expectation is that you admit without prompting how grateful and happy you are when your expectations are exceeded. When someone shows they love you (this is not someone saying they do, but actively performing tasks which indicate the love they feel), when someone passes a difficult test of integrity, your response is not, "Yeah, so what? You'll just let me down next time."

That, my dear, is the cynic, the loser, the one who has turned away from life.

You are simply keeping the doors bolted until you see the light in someone, at which point you toss open the shutters, dash out the door, and revel in the truth of companionship and human, shared feelings.

As long as you can respond with such an open heart, you will be fine.

I love Kate's reference to change, as it is a core belief of mine that until I can first accept, in the moment, that I am not the same person as I was even yesterday, any opinion I develop about others is doomed to being woefully lacking. Too many times, we act as if we are the rock, the stable one, and everyone else is swirling and vibrating and changing all around us such that we don't even know them! Well, they all feel the same way, in looking at how we are being. So, start from the simplest place: I believe you are doing all you can with what you have to be the best person you can be. I can believe that of you because I know it is true of me!

And how embarrassing this can be, when I fall well short of being the person someone else can trust or find shared love with. I mean, think how bad my screw-ups would have been if I had not been doing my best at the time! It's funny when you are not in the middle of one of those moments, but it is soul-shaking when it is happening.

Yet, we get up, check for any broken bones or serious wounds, and move on. Again, and again, and again, still determined to do our best.

Kate also notes the important distinction between hurt and suffering. It hurts when someone hits you. You suffer as you recall, over and over, that experience and wonder why they did it, and what you did to deserve it. You suffer when you wonder if they will hit you again. You suffer when you come to believe a long time later that they never will, but then they do it again.

I don't have a magic, "let the stuff go that has already happened" formula. I think I left it in the same pocket as my "don't waste time worrying about the future when you could be living your life RIGHT NOW" vitamin pills.

You are so powerfully illustrating for all who visit here, Olivia, that one can puzzle over one's life, while simultaneously living it! You are so courageous, so unmindful of what others might think (don't quibble, O--I'm on a roll here) and so clear in your expression of where you are today!

Even if it doesn't always feel that way inside you, my friend, that's what it feels like to me, outside you.

Patti said...

Yes Olivia, you ARe living the best way you know how. I have been incredibly hurt by various people in the past, and have had to step away too, dropping my expectations to preserve my self.

This is okay because I guess I didn't live up to other peoples expectations either. I think it was 'Eileen - the Dream' who said that expectations are just premeditated resentments. So true.

Yet I am happy in my life too. Living for today helps, loving my immediate family, being grateful, appreciating every.little.thing.
Playing creatively and singing out loud, often makes me happier than spending time with people. I try not to judge others and meditate on forgiveness. I believe we must always practice compassion. You never know when it could be you that needs it back.

I also believe that if we love ourselves unconditionally it shouldn't matter what others think. We become more loveable to others because of it. When was the last time you said to yourself 'I love you Olivia' and meant it? It's hard to do.

You are being the best 'O' there ever was. I love this about you :)

Olivia said...

Gosh, I must have the best blog readers in the blogosphere. I took all of my comments from yesterday and just really let them simmer. They were my quiet time today. I decided to make a blog post about them instead of answer them here because there was so much wisdom in them.

Thank you, thank you, thank you,