Thanking Messrs. Wilde & Thoreau

I love and cherish various phrases that, for me, put reality in a clear light, and, in some cases, inspire.  I like phrases that right-size some or all of life’s ingredients. Lately, I’ve been spending time with Oscar Wilde’s, “Be yourself’; everyone else is already taken.” While there appears to be a nearly endless string of speculations as to why we exist in the first place, I think it safe to conclude that part of the answer – no matter the speculation – is, to be yourself.

(Note: I will not be surprised if a reader writes in informing me that one or more meaning-of-life speculations does not include, to be yourself. More than okay. In the event I am so informed, I have my response fully polished and ready to go: I don’t agree.)

So many of us get the message or messages that there is something wrong with who we are. That somehow, were we to give ourselves permission to, as Henry David Thoreau wrote: “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined,” we would be mucking up the works. Not true! Giving ourselves permission to live the life we’ve imagined will undoubtedly result in a happier life. In the first place, living the life you’ve imagined likely means you will be engaged in things you enjoy. Whether you meet every single solitary goal is, when it comes down to it, not the sole point of things. The joy and wonder is the journey itself. Conversely, denying yourself permission to live the life you’ve imagined or, more precisely, denying yourself your right  to be you, will undoubtedly result in a less fulfilling and, as a result, less happy life.

There is another gift that comes with being yourself. You will find yourself among those of similar interests, a reality that makes for solid and healthy friendships (or more) because you don’t have to abbreviate or surrender parts of yourself in order to connect with the others.

Yes, it is quite true that no two people are alike which means any two people will have their differences. There will be, in any meaningful connection between people, the need to compromise. But, and listen closely, healthy compromise and giving up who you are are worlds apart. Healthy compromise is a way of adapting to your environment which, of course, includes the people in your life. Compromise, adaptation, is how species continue to exist and, if they are lucky, flourish.

Compromise promotes one’s growth. Giving up who you are stifles growth, fuels resentment, and leads to a story that never ends with the words, And (he, she or they) lived happily ever after.

So, this writer would urge you to heed Messrs. Wilde and Thoreau: Be yourself; everyone else is already taken, and, Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined.

Lastly, consider this. Had Messrs. Wilde and Thoreau not given themselves permission to be who they were, we would not have these two wonderful quotes to guide and empower us.

The life I’ve imagined

While it would be a stretch to say I am in the process of reinventing myself, I can say that after I move to my new home in the Berkshires at month’s end, a very new chapter of my life will begin.

Many of us, it seems to me, put off the life we would like to be living, if not in its entirety, at least partially. I am of the latter ilk. I have never given myself permission to write as much and as often as I would like. The phone rings, an email comes in, something is amiss on the advocacy front (Something is always amiss on that front. Life never seems to run out of examples of people, companies and or systems denying equal rights to others).

I realize now, more than ever before, that the time has come to truly write as much as I want, unplug the phone, not look at email or the damned Internet, and have at it. It is not lost on me that what I write will, when all is said and done, be what, of any value, I leave behind. And I’d like to leave something of value.

There are, at present, a few short stories underway, the completion of the memoir is, thankfully, within comfortable reach, and the shape of two books are taking form and may, in fact, be blended into one book: currently one is a missive about what it is like to live in the world with a brain injury and the other is about what can best be applied to working with people in the healthcare and other arenas. Some years ago when I was one of 16 or so people that formed the New York City Chapter of Victims for Victims, someone very close to me told me that the arena of healthcare, of human services, attracts some of the most extraordinary people and some of the most emotionally dysfunctional folks you’d ever want to meet. Very, very true.

I am looking forward to setting up my new home. Recently I donated a bunch of things to the Salvation Army: furniture, five or six bags of clothing, three or four boxes of miscellaneous items, and about 15 boxes of books. Now I’m down to a mere 45 boxes of books (this is when you smile).

Once moved, the writing becomes priority. Daily blocks of time will be set aside for that and nothing else. Then, of course, one block of time set aside each week to send the work out.

Life is too short, way too short, not to live the life you want to live. Two quotes from Henry David Thoreau say it far better than I ever could: “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined,”and, “Do not lose hold of your dreams or aspirations. For if you do, you may still exist but you have ceased to live.”