Things to live for - count ‘em!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Since I’ve returned to Chicago, after spending roughly 10 months living in Jersey, I have to say that life has treated me rather well. I think I’m a bit wiser now than I was back in late 2016/early 2017, and that is largely due to a number of events that happened last year, which tested my mental and emotional endurance and taught me some valuable lessons. The most important thing I took away from the negative things that happened in my life was that you must take care of and do good things for yourself in order to be happy. Never settle for less than what you deserve, and never live your life entirely for someone else.

These days, I no longer deal with depression. My time is far too occupied for those sorts of feelings to take hold, and now that I have shifted my perspective and considered how fortunate I am in life, I realize that there is nothing to be depressed about, anyway! I’ve written previously about the things I fill my life with, but I’ll list them in brief: writing, reading, drawing, hiking, drinking, traveling, seeing films, talking online with friends, and making new videos for my YouTube channel. Each of these things allows my knowledge or experience to grow in some way, and thus, I grow as a person.

Look, the brain is a muscle just like those in your arms and legs. It’s my personal belief that not exercising your mind largely contributes to intense boredom, sadness, or outright misery. Think about it. When you don’t walk enough, you feel lethargic. Your health declines, as does your energy level. Not using your brain results in a similar predicament, albeit an emotional one. A working mind is a happy mind. Finding enjoyable hobbies to occupy your time also allows you to take a step back now and then and make a positive assessment of your life as a whole. It encourages appreciation, and with appreciation comes wisdom.

I encourage everyone who is feeling downcast to make such an assessment. Take a look around you and perform a quick appraisal of your material possessions. Next, consider the friends and/or family in your life, and think about how much they mean to you and how they have helped you or given your life meaning in some way. And finally, think about the things you are currently able to do and experience; things you could do right this moment, or the next day, if you wanted.
The view out my apartment window is great, even in the winter.

As an example, I’ll describe my own such evaluation. Looking around this apartment, the first good thing that strikes me is the apartment itself. It’s on the 19th floor of a building on Promontory Point, right on Lake Michigan. In the autumn, I can see the park out on the “point,” which provides a great view of the leaves changing colors. The lake itself is something worth seeing. On nights when there is a full moon, the light of it reflecting on the water looks brilliant.

Going into my own bedroom, I find a personal comfort zone filled with furnishings and possessions I value greatly, collected and arranged just the way I like. If I pick up one of the many books off my shelf, I am immediately overcome with appreciation for it, as I recall the great story I read within it, or if it’s a new book, I flip through it with anticipation for the story I have not yet experienced. My laptop is an endless source of information, entertainment, and convenience. It is the tool with which I write my own book, the conduit through which I communicate with my friends, and a treasure trove of instantly accessible music, films, TV shows, and programs, among so many other things. My sketchbooks and art supplies are just waiting to be used; to help me bring an idea to life on paper. My clothes, including my favorite band shirts, are just waiting to be worn, to make me look and feel great. My altar is waiting to fulfill my spiritual needs and take my mind beyond this world.

My friends may have all moved in different directions, but I anxiously await the times when we next get together for reunions in New Jersey, and in the meantime, I maintain contact with them online. Those friends who have stuck with me through the years have proven themselves loyal and true, providing me with reliable, if infrequent, interpersonal relationships, and teaching me the difference between real friends and fake ones.

Tomorrow morning, I could go for a hike in a forest preserve. This very night, I could use my building’s gym to get some exercise. I could work some more on my book after I complete this blog post. I could make new videos and upload them to YouTube. Tomorrow, I could go and get that haircut I’ve been wanting (though I might do that next weekend, when it’s not as cold). This month, I could travel to another city and state. Before the year is through, if I save money carefully, I could travel to another country. These are just some of the things I can do, and I don’t take them for granted.

So that’s how you do it. Some people like to call it “counting your blessings,” but I’m not a Christian, so my take on it is something more along the lines of “count your lucky stars.” Tonight I plan on drinking some wine, touching up a few of the sketches I’m working on, and listening to music. What are your plans? What is there to be learned, or discovered, or experienced? That’s what you should be thinking about, and in many cases, if you do so, you will feel your mood elevate. People underestimate the value of their own minds. Getting those gears in your head to turn means everything; it means the difference between hope and doom. It may sound dramatic, but often enough, it really is that simple!

Bear in mind, I am suggesting that you count what you have, not what you don’t. Taking full advantage of the avenues and resources at your disposal does not mean moping over the fact that you know another person who has more than you, or seems to have it better than you. On the contrary, that is one way to sink yourself into the thick of depression! Don’t look at what you have as “less” or “more” than what someone else does. You’re supposed to be looking at your own life, and not worrying about what other people are doing. I certainly don’t!

So count what you have, and don’t just “make do” with it. Be happy about it, and if there’s any sort of comparison you want to make, let it be that of what you do have today with that of what you didn’t have yesterday. In other words, if you were in a bad way in the past, and now things are better, that is what we call a “win.” Life definitely has its ups and downs, as they say, but if yours happens to be on the upside, that is not something to nitpick or complain about. Life is for the living, and living is for those who have working brains!

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