I Got Everything I Wanted

Not many people can say, “I got exactly what I wanted in life.” I can.

One of the inside jokes in my marriage is that when I express extreme joy and/or happiness (which happens daily: this is the best moment of my life, now this is…) my wife says, in a sweet way, “You’re certainly easy to please.”

When I was 13 years old, I decided there were two things I wanted in this life, closely related: “No physical labor, and working in a clean, dry, air-conditioned room.”

I made it! I’m 70 now, and I achieved both of these goals without exception. I’m not likely to blow them between now and my departure, many years from now.

The last two years have added one more-generic goal. Since some miraculous events already described here, I have decided that what I want in life is to spread loving kindness to everyone I know and meet. Jesus and Buddha would be proud of me, if pride were not a sin and it didn’t prolong suffering via attachment.

This additional goal is lofty, less selfish and difficult. But so far, so good. You know what? It doesn’t cost any extra and it turns out to work both ways. The smiles, the hugs (Covid permitting), the dried tears, the laughter, the occasional “You just made my day,” are fringe benefits. However, being nice to everyone, having empathy for those around me, and spreading joy have given me something to do in retirement.

Much of it is unknown to the recipients. Every morning, I thank everyone who helped construct me, living or dead. Because I handle my wife’s medical billing, I spend a fair amount of time on the phone with customer service. I make them laugh. I write to their supervisors to praise them.

On the road, I don’t curse those whose actions seem to me to be impolite, inconsiderate or dangerous. I take a moment to say, “I’m sorry you’re in such a hurry. I hope you get where you’re going safely.” I slow down for people trying to turn into traffic. I don’t race people trying to merge onto the freeway; it’s just as easy to let them come in ahead of me.

When retail clerks ask me about my day, I ask them about theirs.

I actually take those “at the end of this conversation” surveys conducted by robots, so I can give the person who just helped me a bunch of perfect scores. Ditto for those emails that ask me to rank my customer service experience. Because if you go into every transaction wishing to a) accomplish something and b )spread loving kindness, that’s what you do.

I overtip (slightly) and sometimes tip people who aren’t used to being tipped. You’d be surprised how happy that makes people in service businesses.

Robin Williams was right: “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind.”

Starfish Story―Every Effort Counts

This story, used by Tamara Levitt on the Daily Calm app, is a cousin of “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” It sounds ancient, but was actually written as the 60’s ended, by Loren Eiseley (NOT anonymous). Here is the original starfish story.

But like all good quotations, it becomes more concise with repetition. With due credit to the author, here is the Reader’s Digest condensed version (35 words shorter than the original)

I saw a man in the distance bending and throwing as he walked. As he came near, I could see that he was throwing starfish, abandoned on the sand by the tide, back into the sea. When he was close enough, I asked him why he was working so hard at this strange task. He said that the sun would dry the starfish and they would die. I said to him that I thought he was foolish. There were thousands of starfish on the beach. One man alone could never make a difference. He smiled and hurled a starfish far into the sea, saying, "It makes a difference for this one."

Thoughts on Love

Garrison Keillor pointed me at these:

Shakespeare: “Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds”

Mary Oliver: “You do not have to be good. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”

Elizabeth Barret Browning: “I love thee to the level of every day’s most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.”

My Stones Will Hold Your Warmth

What I wouldn’t give to have known this quote in November of 1977. Martin Mull’s version, “I am every woman I’ve ever loved, all rolled into one,” is a similar sentiment, albeit not as lyrical.

“What is true? The note I wrote on a slip of paper and put in the drawer of my bedside table after we broke it off that final time: ‘Long after you are gone, my stones will hold your warmth.’”

--Rosemary Howe Camozzi, New York Times Modern Love, March 18, 2022

Don’t Call It A Rut: Comforting Routine

I used to long for excitement, travel, change, every day something different. I enjoyed all that while it lasted. I retired nine years ago, and I must say that one of the many things I have discovered about myself is: I like routine. I celebrate the quotidian. All that desire for novelty has melted away.

I take care of myself with sleep, exercise, meditation and good nutrition. Self-care is job one; without it, you can’t be there to care for others. And I now believe caring for others is my reason for being.

Doing the same thing every morning? Great. Ever since I graduated from the now-defunct Duke Diet and Exercise program, I have alternated between two (and only two) breakfasts: oatmeal or scrambled eggs. This routine prevents decision fatigue and reduces the odds of unhelpful eating decisions. I feed the cat. I meditate. I feel great at the start of every day. I still read a dead-tree newspaper (two, actually).

What thrills I get come from the gratitude that overwhelms me during my hour-long walk with my wife every day.

Routine does not bore me; it comforts me.

This fits in with my mindfulness practice too. Last week, one mindfulness instructor suggested that repetitive activities be approached fresh each day with a “child mind,” while the other gave a talk entitled The Same Fruit; practice enjoying familiar things.” I do, I do.

Different Kinds of Love

I found myself thinking the other day of the different kinds of love. Not a profound thought,      as witness this Time Magazine essay, Why You Shouldn’t Love Your Kids More Than Your Partner. But the thought that occurred to me was slightly different, and helped raise my gratitude level for the day.

Our love for our children is not optional; it is biological. Evolution insures the survival of our race by instilling in us an abiding and nearly ineradicable love for our offspring. Sadly, there are situational exceptions (caused by tragedy and trauma), when a parent loses the ability to provide such love. Those are awful.

On the other hand, spousal love (as deep as it is in my case) is entirely optional. Every day it continues is by virtue of voluntary choice on the part of both partners. I think that makes it all the sweeter.

Heart Chakra Opening Day

My heart chakra opened on Saturday January 18, 2020. This is what I wrote in my journal that day: “Wow! I woke up this morning to another amazing moment. Treatment and prayer work! There was love in my heart, for those who I once felt "wronged" me. We are all children of god, and share one soul; I forget at my peril that we’re not going to Heaven because we never left it, and that this physical life is an illusion."


For just over a year a now I have been on a mindfulness journey, including a 10-minute daily meditation. I think I now spend more time in the moment and that is important. They call it the present for a reason.

Looking back, I can see I had three hours a day of mindfulness practice for 11 years, but it wasn’t formal: that was the decade I spent teaching 8th grade U.S. History half-time.

Teaching is without question mindfulness practice; the consequences of even a moment’s inattention can be major and disastrous.  And now, I am once again spending three mornings a week with my grandson while his parents WFH. That, too, is a mindfulness practice. Any moment I am “not there” is a moment wasted, and a possible step towards small-scale disaster. We should all take our mindfulness where we find it, because it’s good for you/me in so many ways.