• Jill Hance Bakke

Seeking the Good Life

Although we are awakening as a society and seeking a better life, we’ve little idea how to find it. Many of us spend our days surviving, working eight hours or more at a job to earn enough to pay for the things our society has convinced us we need.

We find ourselves tied to things: the latest gadgets with all the features we seldom use, a bulging closet of clothes, piles of magazines we intend to read, and electronic games on everything. Our cellphones ring and beep constantly. In addition, we are tasked to take care of the things we own. The house must be kept up, the lawn manicured. We spend our time in the upkeep of things, and we are involved more with our seductive distractions than in knowing ourselves. We look outward rather than inward. Our lives are unbalanced.

Back in the sixties when automated typewriters, powerful vacuum cleaners and other household Items were available at reasonable prices, we were told these wonderful tools would allow us a four-day work week and three days of leisure time to use as we wished. Instead, we discovered we work more in both our workplace and at home. Our escape is frequently in electronic gaming and cell phone texting. We have lost in varying degrees the connection to friends and family, nature, and ourselves.

We rush from here to there and pride ourselves in our ability to multi-task. We may be too exhausted to indulge in things that once filled us with delight: a walk in the park, a boardgame with our child, making cookies that filled our home with the scents of cinnamon and sugar, or a neighborhood barbeque.

We bring our children up so they too live at this hectic pace. We push them into dance or sports as soon as they can walk. We have forgotten the long lazy days of our youth when we discovered our own interests—days spent climbing a tree to settle into its branches to read, laying on a beach and listing to the surf, joining friends for a pickup game of baseball. Our children are losing their creativity, their peace, and their freedom to be who they truly are.

We sit on the edge of our robot lives instead of living lives filled with passion, love, and connections. We want perfection, which is impossible to achieve. And we fault ourselves when we don’t achieve it. We are our own worst critics. We think we will solve our problems eventually, but we carry them with us. We rush to the bookstore for the newest book on manifesting what we want or how to declutter our lives. The techniques work, but they don’t hold because we are off center.

Even though we push aside our fears, they remain and urge us along a life of survival. The answer to our problem begins with the realization that every turmoil and dark time has possibilities within it. The pandemic has given us space to find our center and the ability to pare down expenses and our time to manageable amounts. But it must begin with our getting to know ourselves, determining what is important, and jettisoning that which has become a burden. No one can do this for us. It is our task. It is a personal choice, not society’s choice that we are seeking. And our choices may be difficult. For example, do we really want to take on that time-consuming office with the PTA or local government because we see value in what we can accomplish there? Or is it our ego speaking because we think it will make us appear more popular, intelligent, or enhance some other aspect of the ego?

Our value comes from what we are: our compassion, our treatment of others, our peace, our patience, our focus on the good things in life instead of on our fear, worries, resentment, or revenge. Nothing by itself is big or small, and we are wise to avoid judgments of good or bad. We simply do what comes to us to be done. A letter to a shut in may seem small to us, but it can be an enormous gift to the receiver. A smile can lift someone’s day from gray to sunlight. This is where we begin; this is how we can change our life into something other than accumulations and work.

We also need to remember to center ourselves by relaxation. Reading a good book, practicing yoga, listening to music, indulging in a hobby you enjoy, or spending time in nature is valuable. All these things help us create a new world. Like Gandhi told us decades ago, the change begins with us, each of us, individually.

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