This I Believe

Sharon - Portland, Oregon
Entered on April 20, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65
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This I Believes

I believe in the power of wise sayings to shape my life and guide my actions. They have become the words I live by. My dad, now 89, was the first person to introduce me to the power of sayings. If he caught me reading a book with a flashlight under the covers after “lights out,” he would remind me “You only have one pair of eyes in this world so take care of them.” I can hear his voice echoing in my mind every time I toy with the idea of getting lasik surgery.

In the early nineties I took a series of personal growth classes to get my life back on track. We listened to lectures, shared our stories, and worked to face the truth about our lives. One day I heard the facilitator comment, “The way we do anything is the way we do everything.” Startled, I realized how true that was in my own life. I am a planner by nature, for example. I plan everything down to the smallest detail—my vacations, my presentations at work, my weekends. That doesn’t leave much space for spontaneity even though I said I wanted to be more spontaneous. The way I do anything is the way I do everything.

Of course, the corollary is that if I change one thing it can affect everything. So when I decided that I wanted more fun in my life, I knew I could spend time hiking or gardening or visiting the art museum and this new behavior would filter into other areas of my life.

When combined with another wise saying–“Actions speak louder than words”– the anything/everything mantra has been a great antidote to my naiveté and capacity for self-deception. If I am assessing whether or not I believe what a politician or a lover or my children is saying, I look at their actions. Or I examine my own actions. I say photography is really important to me, but how often do I just grab the camera and spend a day exploring with my lens. Not all that often. So how important is it really? Our actions mirror our real priorities, conscious or not. So if I am not making time for an activity I say is important, I need to consider changing something–either my words or my actions.

One other wise saying has been pivotal in causing me to behave differently:

“YOU are the party.” If I go to a social gathering and mentally start complaining about how dull and boring it is, another voice intrudes reminding me that “I am the party.” If I don’t like the way it is, I can choose to make it different. I can introduce a stimulating topic, tell a funny story, and get everyone out on the dance floor— something other than blaming others and complaining. “I am the party” applies far beyond social occasions. It is relevant for situations at work, community meetings, and workshops,

My sisters reminded me recently how I came home from high school one day, declared “to change is to live” and then started moving our bedroom furniture around without even consulting them. So sometimes I incorporated a new-found saying into my life awkwardly, but overall wise sayings have been critical in helping me examine my life and change my behavior. I think I was right back in high school: to change IS to live. And wise sayings have helped me make constructive changes in my life and live consciously.