On this blog page, author Mary C. Woolling posts an ongoing series of her essays showcasing the positives of life.

New essays are added often. You are cordially invited to become a regular reader. Also, please feel free to share this site with your family and friends via the “Tell a Friend” link, located in the right-hand column below.

Comments on Mary's essays are most welcome. Simply click on the “Post Comments” link appearing at the end of each essay, and share your thoughts.

If you'd like to contact Mary, you may do so at mary@herestolife.us

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Choose to Be Happy

There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.
—Epictetus 135-55 B.C.

“We are not disturbed by events,” the Greek Stoic philosopher Epictetus is purported to have said. He taught that it is by our perception of the circumstances we face in life rather than the circumstances themselves that we ultimately determine the quality of our days.

Epictetus likened life to a game where each player is given a random roll of the dice that is completely arbitrary and open to interpretation as to its positive or negative effect. He stated we do not have complete control over what life gives us. However, we do have total power over our response to it. We can consciously choose to be imperturbable no matter the circumstances, even when we come face to face with the specter of death.

We all know there is an inevitable end to everyone’s life on this earth. We can do nothing to change that fact. We reconcile ourselves to the concept of death quite easily until it involves someone close and dear to us. Then it becomes personal and very difficult to understand and accept.

When my mother passed away, 16 years ago, I wondered how I could go on. My mother was a sweet and gentle spirit. She had been a constant source of encouragement, strength and happiness for me all the days of my life. She was my best friend, my mentor, my confidante, my ideal.

Mom was so much a part of me that the sudden, gripping finality of her passing left me feeling as if I had died, too. I didn’t see how I could ever enjoy anything again without her here. In spite of the presence of other family members, the black void she left was enormous, and I felt frightened, completely alone, and lost.

It was through quiet meditation and the loving support and consolation of family and friends that I ultimately found my way again. My rock was my wise and incredibly patient kindred spirit Frank. He put the sun back in the sky for me, as his love, encouragement, and support eclipsed that terrifying and overwhelming blackness. What would I have done without Frank?

Also helpful to me was recognizing and appreciating the never-ending beauty of the world around me. I came to realize my life did not end with my mother’s but rather continues, with all kinds of possibilities ahead. I learned that I could give up and give in to discouragement and sadness, or I could look out and up and be happy. The choice was mine to make.

Mom lived a long and wonderful life. She could not ask for more, nor could any of us who loved her. Now is my time to carry on and strive to make my life count for something just as wonderful. My mother would have wanted me to do that.

We can’t deny that every one of us ultimately faces problems, heartaches, illnesses, and death. But the good news is, even in the worst of situations, we have a continuing source of love, healing strength, and renewal. This power is right within our grasp. Indeed, we are surrounded with unlimited, comforting signs of God’s presence with us — all causes for happiness, from the simple treasures of nature to the small moments of our everyday lives.

To quote wisdom from the Scriptures, “Stand and consider the wondrous works of God.” (Job 37:14)

Open fields of wildflowers bathed in sunshine
And dainty butterflies flittering among the blossoms.

Welcome rain showers
And the parting of the clouds afterward,
With clear blue sky beyond.

Starlight and moonglow,
Country lanes and falling leaves,
Wide open spaces.

Towering, snow-capped mountains
With lush valleys below.

The placid surface of a lake,
Grandeur of the oceanside,
Ineffable feeling of peace achieved through silence,
Beautiful melodies which touch our heartstrings.

The patter of little feet,
The toothless grin of a baby,
The spontaneous hug from a child,
The loyal companionship of a beloved pet,
The comforting words of a trusted friend.

A tasty meal upon the table,
A handwritten note from someone far-away,
A sincere compliment from a person we admire,
A sudden smile from a passerby,
The sound of a familiar voice from long ago.

Free time and a good book,
Leisurely walks out in the open,
Cheerful delights of a flower garden,
The constancy of the changing seasons.

People who need us and those we can help,
A warm and cozy fireplace on a snowy evening,
Having a job to go to every morning,
And the knowledge of having done your best at the end of the day…

In a recent interview, world famous singer and gifted painter Tony Bennett said, “I try to show through my paintings and music that, even though moments in life can be tragic, very hurtful, very terrible, what my singing and painting have taught me is that if you stay in a meditative state, you finally realize from studying nature, that life is absolutely beautiful.”

The takeaway is: it’s up to us to choose our outlook. Let’s choose to be happy!

Saturday, June 15, 2019

A Day in June

“And what is so rare as a day in June?
Then, if ever, come perfect days,
Then Heaven meets Earth
If if be in tune,
And over it softly
Her warm ear lays;
…Whether we look, or whether we listen,
We hear life murmur, or see it glisten…”

James Russell Lowell (1819-1891)–American poet

There’s something especially wonderful about the month of June. As James Russell Lowell pointed out, it is made up of perfect days, when the outside world looks fresh, bright and inviting.

We eagerly anticipate June all year, for it heralds the beginning of summer, when time suddenly seems to stretch out limitlessly before us, lending a slower, gentler pace to our lives, with its long, warm, sunny days and cool, starry-skied nights. Our thoughts often turn to happy childhood memories of special outdoor events and happenings.

Everywhere you look there is something beautiful and enjoyable: breathtaking vistas of brilliant blue skies, graceful trees heavily laden with deep green leaves at the peak of their loveliness, a veritable cornucopia of fragrant flowers in every type and hue, gentle breezes, daytime symphonies of cheerful bird songs, and delightful evening cricket concerts and firefly lightshows.

The occasional thunderstorm or soft rain shower is welcome, for each is short-lived and only serves to deepen and enrich the already-lush flora surrounding us.

Roadside farmer’s markets suddenly re-appear on the scene, brimming with freshly-picked fruits of the land—feasts for the eye as well as the taste—vibrant red tomatoes, shiny green string beans, assorted mouth-watering melons, sweet ruby cherries, and juicy crimson strawberries.

No more annoying morning wake-up calls for us. We’re on vacation, happily satisfying our sudden attacks of wanderlust by trekking off to destinations of far-away, exotic places or familiar haunts of many a past year.

We’re headed for fun leisure activities with family and friends—backyard projects, cookouts, baseball games, biking, fishing, and the beach or swimming pool.

Or a refreshing catnap on the old porch swing with its familiar, comforting squeak, or in the hammock, hanging invitingly under the softly swaying branches of backyard trees. Ahhhhhh! Yes, things are definitely shaping up.

Plenty of hours to read, relax, and renew our bodies, minds, and spirits.

It’s June. Life is good! What are you waiting for? Get out there and enjoy!

Friday, April 26, 2019

Today

A Prayer in Spring

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.

And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.

For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfill.

-Robert Frost (1874-1963)
American poet and playwright

“Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday, and all is well,” my grandfather used to say. In his long lifetime, he’d learned that most of what we fret about never comes to pass. We waste so much time and wear ourselves out fearing the worst, instead of enjoying the present moment and trusting in God for the future. It behooves us all to keep in mind that we’re not in control; our loving Heavenly Father is. And to remember that, in any trouble we encounter, He is with us, ready and willing to lead us through. The trick is learning to let go and allow Him to do so.

The Reverend Robert H. Schuller, famous televangelist and pastor, once spoke of an experience he had that clearly illustrated the reward to be gained in letting go of worries. As I recall his story, one day while traveling, he found himself lugging two heavy suitcases through a huge airport, as he rushed to his departure gate. The distance to the gate was very long, and the time allowed for traversing it very short. On finally reaching the far-off gate and putting down the suitcases, he exclaimed to the agent, “Wow! What a relief! I didn’t realize how heavy my burden was until I set it down.” When we can set down our burdens, confidently leaving them in God’s hands, we, too, are rewarded with the welcome feeling of a huge weight lifted from our shoulders, a sweet release from our heavy load.

I’m a master worrier. I admit it, and I venture to say many of you, Dear Readers, worry, too. I stew about my problems and I pray about my problems, offering them up to God. But after completing my prayers, it seems, I often take back my concerns and worry some more. Sound familiar? The other day I was speaking with a friend about this ongoing challenge of mine. She offered this suggestion: “Mary, instead of you being a master of your worries, why not give your worries to the Master?”

Sound advice, with which the American poet Robert Frost would have undoubtedly agreed. In his A Prayer in Spring, printed above, Mr. Frost encouraged us not to project ourselves into that “uncertain harvest” of the future but instead to focus fully on today with all of its many pleasures, assured in the knowledge that God has every one of our tomorrows safely in His hands.

“This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it,” wrote the Psalmist. And what a glorious April day in which to be joyful and glad! The sources of happiness are all around us. Feel the warmth of the sunshine on your upturned face. Can you spy the emerging, tiny buds on the limbs of the trees? See the gently-opening petals of the beautiful flowers that have surfaced once again. Take a look at the grass underfoot. Overnight, as if by magic, it has suddenly turned to a lush, verdant green. Hush! Listen to the cheerful singing of the happy birds.

Today is the tomorrow we worried about yesterday, and all is well, for all is in God’s hands. Let us rejoice in the moments of today and trust in Him for all of our tomorrows!

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