In times like these, we look to many sources for comfort, for hope. Many look to their faith or their families, many are looking to our young president to give us the "audacity of hope," and some of us -- like me -- start looking at the easy sentiments of greeting cards. Don't be shocked: extraordinary times require extraordinary measures.
I received the following holiday card from a patient. Quoting the poet Souza, it says: "Dance as though no one is watching you. Love as though you have never been hurt before. Sing as though no one car hear you. Live as though heaven is on earth."
It reminds us of what is important.
Dance. When we become stuck in our lives, we stop breathing, we stop moving. That is why you see so many of our fellow travelers, stiff and out of breath as they move through their lives. It is lovely to see youngsters move freely, dancing with abandon. What happens to those once free-moving children as they get older? They become more aware of what others think, they become more self-conscious, they stop dancing as if no one is watching. Their bodies become rigid as they become stuck in fear, mostly imagined. When is the last time you danced your bottom off, unconcerned about what others would think?
Love. We convince ourselves that so many things matter most in this life: Work, the kind of car we drive, the number of dollars we have in our retirement account. Yet, imagine yourself on your death bed. What are you likely to remember in those crucial last moments of consciousness? The pay raise you got back in 1997? The Ford Mustang you drove with such pride in 1969? Aren't you more likely to remember the heart-opening feeling you felt when your firstborn came into the world, the feeling of closeness you felt with your spouse or your partner one particular summer evening when the night stars surrounded you? Love, like all great things, is not without risk. It opens the door to the possibility of hurt. That can cause some to slam the door on love. For others, more courageous and fortunate to have worked through the hurt, it can deepen and make more compassionate the supreme human experience of loving another.
Sing. If you are like me, and can't carry a tune in your back pocket, then you know the pleasure of singing full throttle in the acoustic womb of your car or the shower. In those moments, you could even imagine yourself on "American Idol" -- until you remember that lots of people would be watching. The throat closes, your voice diminishes; the song is over. Here it is again: this squandering shame that is self-consciousness.
Live. As Auntie Mame is famous for saying: "Live! Life's a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death." Many people believe in the promise of heaven, and some believe in reincarnation -- all great bonuses to this reality we call life. Imagine that you have only this moment; fill it up with wonder and curiosity, live it fully without the fear bred in the future or the regrets mired in the past. Live here, now, feasting at the banquet of life. Experience heaven on earth.
In that freedom we can dance, love, sing, live. Now that is a great recipe for these recessionary times. And it doesn't cost a cent.
Dr. Michael O.L. Seabaugh, a Cape Girardeau native, is a clinical psychologist who lives in Santa Barbara, Calif. Contact him at email@example.com For more on the topics covered in Healthspan, visit his Website: www.HealthspanWeb.com.