Meet my Mom, Linda (who I affectionately refer to as “Lindaloo”)! Mom turns 75 today. She’s one of the most content people I know - Zen without ever even having used that word in a sentence (to my knowledge at least). And she complains less than anyone I've ever met (even amid the many hardships she's endured in her life). So, in hopes of sharing the secret of how we can enjoy even a smidge of the contentment that belies Mom's smile, I asked her to share five morsels of life wisdom. In her classic simplicity, she boiled it down to just three. But fret not – it turns out each one has a few sub-points such that you’ll still get the goodness of a full-on five.
1. Life isn’t always what we want it to be - make the best of it.
In the midst of disappointments, trials and tribulations…thank God for your blessings. Call it God, call it the Universe, call it whatever is meaningful to you. But whatever you call it, thank [insert pronoun of choice] for what you have: your health, your family, your close friends, your neighbors, your co-workers…for simple enjoyable moments. Bad things happen, and will always happen…but there are always good and positive things too - things that buoy you at the same time. Look around and choose to find and see them. Deliberately choose to focus on and be grateful for the things that you do have…not the things you don't have or wish weren't happening.
Similarly, find something in each day that you can actively experience and enjoy – if even for only a moment. It could be something as small as walking in a park or past some flowers, taking a deep breath of fresh air, noticing a blue sky or the song of a bird, watching your grandchildren…and being aware of how they’re changing.
If for whatever reason you can’t recognize or appreciate those simple things? Be of assistance to someone else. There’s always someone who has it somehow worse than you do. Find them. Offer to help them. Often, it’s in helping other that we most help ourselves.
2. Live within your means & find happiness within.
Growing up, my parents did not spend a lot of money. But we had a humble house that felt like home, and I liked living there – I always felt comfortable and safe and happy. I am still like that. I don’t feel I need to spend a lot of money on material things to be happy. I see so many people today that feel they have to have finer things in order to be happy. Spend within your means – and don’t spend those means on the things that aren’t really necessary. Sure buy the things you need, and treat yourself to certain comforts or things once in a while, but you don’t have to have everything. And no one needs the most expensive TV or car or clothes or house. You can have moderately priced things that are plenty nice and still be happy.
Things and possessions don’t make you happy - your own self-worth and feelings about yourself make you happy. No matter your past, everyone has something in their life they are good at or capable of doing. It doesn’t need to be grandiose, it’s just a matter of finding and knowing what it is. What’s my thing? Well...I think I have been a fairly good mother in raising my children (she laughs here!). Loving them, knowing that loving them involves disciplining them to recognize right from wrong, to respect themselves and other people, even if they have different ideas and thoughts; Instilling a love for God – some spiritual belief that helps them believe in the general goodness of people and being charitable to others. I think I used to be a good cook…and probably still could be if I did it more these days (she laughs again).
3. Take each day as it comes...and laugh!
When you get up in the morning you don’t know what that day will be – what will happen. Be open the possibility that you may be surprised. Someone may compliment you, or say “…let’s go to the coffee shop!” or whatever. Be up for anything. Be on the look-out for something to make you smile – simple things like going for a walk and enjoying nature, the changing of the seasons, the bud of a new flower, the colors in the trees. Even if it’s just walking from your car into a building, pause for a moment to appreciate the outdoors and all it offers to enjoy. Nature may not be your thing, but kids may be, birds may be, trains may be. Find your simple thing that makes you smile, just because. And look for it and a chance to appreciate it every chance you get.
On that note, you just have to laugh. It’s relaxing, releases stress...and just makes you feel good. You have to laugh more in and even at life . Some people take life too seriously and don’t find any enjoyment or fun in their lives. I can understand that when people are sick, or there is tragedy that they have a tendency to be sad, but even amid suffering, you still have to find one thing – even something simple – that happens during the course of the day to smile aloud about. Do this every day – it’s good for you psychologically and physically. You never know when it will happen, could be at any time. Be on the look-out for this and jump on the chance when it comes.
And there you have it folks: lessons from Lindaloo for a contented life. She is a blessing I am grateful to be able to count everyday (and twice on Sundays)...and the older I get, the more I aspire to her Zen ways (aka the Tao of the Midwestern Mom). Here’s to her and 75 glorious years. And here’s to each of us finding our own keys to contentment.
Have any tidbits you’ve learned/heard along the way? Please do comment and share below. After all, if there’s one thing I am not in the business of pruning, it’s pearls of wisdom in one’s life!