Friday, August 27, 2010

A Life Lived

So. Has it been worth it? I’m talking about life. My life, the sixty-three years I’ve spent living here on planet Earth.

Not an easy question to answer, especially when I’m sitting here feeling and watching my body slowly self-destruct.

I see my life as a journey, an obstacle course of events and emotions, of roads taken and not taken. I see it as a ceaseless series of decisions, in effect allowing me to create the life I have lived.

Yes, I have been the creator of my own destiny; who (or what) else has the power to make my decisions for me? Certainly not a loving God because how would I explain his bad decisions? Would I give him credit for all the good decisions while I took the blame, or blamed others, for all the bad ones? No way. I alone am responsible for the life I have lived, I take credit for both the good and bad decisions, and I accept the consequences of those decisions.

So. Has it been worth it? My life, that is.

There has been mental pain, and fear, and grief, some caused by me and some not. A childhood of abuse both by my parents and the church, the death of my mom when I was eighteen, the putting down of beloved dogs, a hundred other things I had no control over. The pain I have caused me (and others) was my decision to drink and to smoke—the latter one is killing me as I write.

I am hardly unique when it comes to earthly suffering. Every human, everyone reading this, has known pain both mental and physical, fear, and grief—many, many of whom have known it much worse that I. It is part of life’s obstacle course this suffering, and it is up to each one of us to choose which road to take: either overcome it by working on change, or continue to wallow in it with self-pity.

I made a choice, a decision, a long time ago to let good things dominate my life. Asking Martha to marry me was the best decision I ever made. Helping sick addicts, in fact helping anyone, comes in second.

But so do all the little things that cause joy, and happiness, and delight. A phrase from a book or poem. Air-conducting Tchaikovsky’s “Violin Concerto in D”. The squirrel I trained to shell and eat sunflower seeds out of my hand.

And therein lies the answer to my question.

Has my life been worth living?

A resounding yes, because the good has always outweighed the bad.



Elisabeth said...

There is something very beautiful in the image here, Charlie: 'The squirrel' you 'trained to shell and eat sunflower seeds out of' your 'hand'.

It doesn't compensate for the pain and physical suffering you describe but it makes the effort worthwhile in some strange way. As if the squirrel is symbolic of your attempts to get something good out of your life, something worthwhile after all despite the pain and suffering.

After all smoking is an attempt at killing pain and therefore understandable however much it causes even more pain.

Thank you for these thoughts, Charlie. I'm sure many of us share and understand them.

Fay's Too said...

I am so very glad to know you.

Syd said...

I believe so too Charlie. The good wins out. And it has been a good life. Wishing you more good times to come.

mapstew said...

Good outweighs the bad, I find that too Charles. I find that too. And I have only recently realised that quite often in the past I have let other people make the decisions for me. (That was MY decision!) But I have now taken control, taken charge of my life, and can no longer 'blame' when something does not work out the way I would want it.
Some of my peers do not quite like the new 'mapstew in control of his own destiny', but that is their problem, and they can deal with it anyway they see fit. :¬)

You have been, and continue to be, a big influence on me Charles my friend. You give me smiles, books to check out, films to see (or not). But most of all you give me hope. And another view of life, and love. I am glad to know you. I wish you peace my pal. :¬)

(Plus, I want to know about your experiences in recording studios????)

Donda said...

"because the good has always outweighed the bad." That's a great place to be at when you can see it with clarity. :)

Wandering Coyote said...

A social worker once said to me something like, "is an unexamined life worth living?" or something along those lines. That stayed with me a long time, because it's quite a profound idea. Your blog is a testament to an examination of your own life. You have consciously processed and integrated your experiences and learning, and because of that alone, you are a richer person than most people out there.

Trina S. said...

I am so happy that you are happy with your life! What a great place to be!

I have learned one true thing that always sticks with me... follow your heart. NO matter. Others may not get it, like it, understand it... some will support it, love it and be graced by it and in the end... your being honest to YOU and your destiny and your heart... WINS every time!

Tiffin said...

Definitely, Charlie. For all the sorrows and suffering, I wouldn't trade one second of it because it is also extraordinarily beautiful and wondrous. I don't know about you but the worst choices I made were the ones when I didn't listen to my true self, when I hung my brain on a hook somewhere and wasn't mindful. I'm working really hard on the mindful bit at this stage of my life; I know you are for certain.

I loved WC's post. And what am I doing up at this hour? Got doing something and lost track of the time.

Warden Files said...

Cherish every moment of life, both bitter and of bright. Look not to the heavens or indeed to the depths, but rather gaze upon those you love and who have loved you.

Of course you could always drink whiskey such as myself.

Kim Ayres said...

Whatever else, Charlie, the kind of person you have become is one who has made a positive and profound effect on those around you.

In the years we have known each other through blogging, you have always been supportive, sympathetic and encouraging.

And sometimes you even laugh at my jokes - which always makes a guy feel better :)

When my mother died, and old friend said of her, you always felt better about who you were after you'd been in her company. I couldn't think of a more wonderful compliment than that.

Periodically I come across some rare souls who have that same effect. And you are one of them, Charlie.

I'm glad you feel your life has been worth it for you, because it has certainly been worth it for those you've touched

Pat said...

Good! That's the right answer.
I endorse all that has been said about you - grateful for their eloquence.
I would be proud if I felt I had made a difference - as you certainly have.
Love you Charlie.

TechnoBabe said...

Knowing that you feel your life has been worth it brings a big smile to me. You have been an inspiration to me and I am older than you are! I want to look back on my life and say the same, that it has been worth it. Now we understand the importance of each and every day. And every day since I found your blog I have been grateful for your writing it. Getting to know you and Martha through the blog is a blessing.

laytonwoman3rd said...

Spoken like a man who will not only endure, but will prevail.

hope said...

Recently there was an article in our local newspaper about a man being awarded for his contributions to the field of school psychology. He looked nothing like when he'd been my Guidance Counselor in Jr. High, but just seeing him brought a smile to my face. So I wrote him a note, to thank him for helping me become the person I am today.

His reply included a quote from his favorite professor, "The greatest monument we can leave behind is that we made a difference in someone's life." He let me know that even though I was thanking him, he wanted to thank me for letting him achieve that quote, which was his life's goal.

Charlie, my friend I've never seen, YOU are a monumental influence of good. Keep it up. :)

Robert the Skeptic said...

Tumors, accidents, heart attacks and the like have taken many of my friends younger than I. To believe there is a capricious deity looking over us, pulling levers and strings, ingratiating some and smiting others, is an asinine.

As you say, our lives are what me make of them. I heard someone say once that we may not have a choice regarding the cards in life we are dealt, but we do have a choice in how we play our hand.

I often think about this subject; think about the things I have wished for in my life. I am blessed with a loving partner, beautiful healthy kids and grand kids, I live in one of the most beautiful places on earth. Sure I would love to have a "dream home" and fly my own airplane. But in the purest and truest sense, my fondest wishes have been granted. Every day is a gift. Great post, Charlie.

DJan said...

I echo these commenters. I found you not long ago, but your previous posts are a wonderful resource for me. Your blog has a new follower because of my visit to the East Coast. My sister's husband has end stage emphysema and I pointed her here. First she read all your "health" posts, then "opinion" and she is as hooked as I am. Your life is a jewel that I turn in my mind and ponder. Yes, you are a true gift to many.

Sharon Longworth said...

A few posts back you said that nobody ever listened to your advice - I hope you know that we do - we're hanging on the wisdom of your words, even if you don't intend that we should.
This was a fine and inspiring post - thank you.

Mary Witzl said...

What Robert said. Every day is a gift. It sounds like a terrible cliche -- it IS a cliche -- but it's also true. There is something wonderful about learning to be grateful for all the good things we have and the things we enjoy.

Such as your blog.

Philip said...

I don't really know what to say. I suppose I most want to say that I wish we lived in the same street. We live in the same blogging street and that's no bad thing. Your words are always strong even when you are not strong physically. Your words seem to get stronger in fact.
Thanks Charlie. Take care.

lisleman said...

Taking time to reflect and share with us is wonderful. Thanks.
There seems to be one thing missing based on just the little I've known you through this blog. The good humor and laughter you decided to share wasn't listed or did I miss it?

I think most events are random and it's our reaction to them that alters our path. (I'll need to copy that for future reference before I forget)
thanks and all the best.

Ponita in Real Life said...

You are so very right, Charlie... we each are responsible for our own lives and the decisions we make. The fact that you have made the decision to give of yourself to others is a testament to the size of your heart.

When my oldest sister was killed in a car accident 5 years ago, our youngest sister printed little business cards with a sketch of a dragonfly (because that was Laurel's favourite) and these words: "The key to immortality is to live a life worth remembering." I don't know where that quote is from, but I feel it is so true.

There a song out there with this line: "I want to be remembered for the love I spread around"... I think that says it all.

Love you, Charlie, and I'm very honoured to have discovered you here in bloggerville. It has made my life richer. xoxoxo

Murr Brewster said...

A couple hours ago, before I read this, I was driving through the Columbia River Gorge into the sunset listening to Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto in D and conducting so hard I nearly drove off the road. I don't hold much stock by coincidence, but I like to think that some of the steering-wheel pounding resonated in your direction, as your words do with us.

Angie's Lil' Nothings said...

Thank you

Jerry said...

Without a doubt. You contribute and you appreciate. It is so odd that so few actually pick up on this formula.

The Good Cook said...

I have been pondering many of the same questions - not only about my life, but about my recently passed husband's life.

I believe he lived his life to the fullest, reaching his ultimate potential. I believe WE lived our joined lives to the fullest - being the best couple and parents we could be - thereby reaching OUR full potential.

Now, alone, I have to find my new fullest potential. That is what is painful.

Attila The Mom said...

I'm very glad you came in to my life, my friend.

KleinsteMotte said...

Charlie you are brave and honest. Your reflections mirror ours. it is the human search we all go through. Your answers are what makes you special. You touch us and make us want to reach out in the blogging world..
I think it's great that this allows us to hear you. Blog on. Your choice is making a difference and leaving us with admiration.

Clyde said...

Of course any life is worth living.
My brother died of cancer at 44 ---never smoked a cigarette and was an athlete----I lived his last weeks in a room with him--I said "Why you---why not some old drunk in the park"----he said "Why them, why not me".
I guess it's like a card game---we just have to play the hand we are dealt---sometimes we bluff

Kevin Musgrove said...

Yep, right answer. I was going to write a pile of waffle about what "worth it" means but you've made a better job of it.

Bibliophile By the Sea said...

Hey Charlie....hit the mass Google, mark as read button a few days ago and missed this post. SORRY......and I was happy to have caught it guy Charlie, you put it all into perspective.

stacybuckeye said...

Reading your blog makes my day richer. Letting good dominate is the only way to survive, soul intact.