This I Believe

James - Johnstown, New York
Entered on December 31, 2006
Age Group: 65+
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After 65 years I finally realize the past is over; it no longer exists. Two marriages and three children. I managed some of it well, but much execrably. I’d change much of what I have done, but I cannot. I guess I have always known that, but now I accept it. I no longer lose sleep over the mistakes I have made, but cannot undo.

I also know that the present is brief and transient. I accept that the present will not accommodate the dozen things I want to do today. Shall I stew when my goals for the day are unmet? Or, shall I sleep soundly knowing that I have done what the day permitted, having made some effort to choose the most important activities first.

And what is important? That has changed hugely in the past year. For most of my life I have been unconsciously hugely selfish. It wasn’t that I compared choices and said, “this is for me and that is for her,” and chose the former. I rarely considered how my choices affected those around me even those I supposed loved. Instead, everything was, “this is what I want to do today, tomorrow and after that.”

I learned that Buddhists have a fundamental belief, “Don’t cherish yourself; cherish others”. This works for me. I accept that; I am I can be happier if I do not place myself at the center of the world. I am much happier when I put others there. This removes competition and conflict in relationships. Instead, when I try to base choices on what she wants, we are all happier. She has gotten what she wants; I have gotten what I want. There is no conflict of competing interests.

I know the first 65 years would have turned out very differently if I’d learned early not to cherish myself. I am sad that there were so many people whom I could have enjoyed and made happier if I had listened to them and weighed their interests before mine. Sadness is passing. The past is over and all I can hope for now is to make one or two people happy today and then go to bed with little weighing on my mind and sleep well. Whether I have one day, a year or 20 years more, those are the only days I can live now. The others are over and, however regretfully, unalterable.

James Clauson