Be a blessing

Two years in intermittent lockdowns. And you are still here. Safe at home with your loved ones while names of people you know are being mourned by their families and friends on social media. You can still breathe freely, meaning your lungs are clear. You’re not confined to a hospital bed or in the agony of waiting in the ER for someone to die so a bed could be made available.

These are the many blessings we should keep in mind when we heave a sigh and loudly groan out of boredom and frustration from having to stay at home for the longest time.

While we find ourselves in an uneasy time of rupture and anxiety, it’s also an opportunity for transformative change. Covid-19 is one big wake-up call for human beings. It is a crisis we should process internally and not squander, a “good crisis not to be wasted,” as someone put it.

I detect a shift in spending focus to essentials. It’s back to the basics.

Most importantly, this pandemic should bring us closer to the idea of our own death. Now is a good time as any to consider seriously our own mortality, to use life wisely, to appreciate it fully, to love more deeply while we’re still here and we still can.

An ancient adage says: life is the gift of nature, but beautiful living is a gift to yourself. Bless your life by embracing it wholeheartedly. Strive to fill your cup fully to the brim. You want the world to change? Start by being the change you want to see.  Open yourself to new possibilities. Tell the future: surprise me!

Abraham Lincoln said that what counts is not the number of years in your life but “the life that is in your years.” Do you feel a tug at your heart to develop qualities and potentials in yourself too long neglected? Now is the time to express yourself and give way to your creativity. Stop playing second fiddle and start playing your own song.

Spend the time of the pandemic to discover your ikigai, which is a Japanese concept roughly meaning “a reason to get up in the morning.” It can be tending to indoor plants, taking painting lessons, doing crafts, working for a cause, doing something useful for someone you love, or a neighbor, or a stranger. Feel the impulse at this time in your life to find some new way to discover something new about yourself, to reinvest in something.

Just as you want the future to surprise you, surprise the outside world by coming out with a new improved you, after the pandemic. Even in late life, there’s still time and opportunity to be “juicier” as a person, if not in body.

My default for finding inspiration is the arts. The arts are an antidote to stagnation because you get to live in a world of creative vitality. They will definitely help you feel more joyous and more fulfilled as a person.

Research has shown that art, whether it’s painting, sculpture, music, literature, or cinema, affects the quality of our living by enriching our inner lives. It increases our self-awareness, about what makes us happy and fulfilled. This is because art allows us to have a deeper understanding of our emotions, and also enables us to be open to new ideas and experiences.

Enriched and enlarged by the arts, you become like a cup that is brimming over. With so much more to give, life calls you to share the gift of your “better juicier self” with others.

Remember Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree” story? The tree that gives and gives and gives, giving everything it had, never expecting anything in return, never asking for her due, always there for human beings.

Like that allegorical tree, be a giver, not just a taker. Instead of just counting your blessings, repurpose your life by striving to be a source of “blessings” to benefit others. Note that people will remember you not for the material stuff you gave them but for how your presence made a difference in a positive way.

Being a blessing to others can be as simple as showing love and respect for others, doing a small act of service, empathizing with others. By doing these things cheerfully, in loving kindness, we each do our part in changing the world in small increments.

Maybe, you don’t need to look beyond the home. Start with your loved ones. The greatest gift you can give is your time, attention, love, and concern. The people who are close to us, who really love and respect us would rather have you than the material things you can give them.

Now is the golden time for them to really know the best of you. For when you give the gift of yourself you’re saying “you’re extremely important to me, I care about you, I love you, you’re valuable.”

Outside your own family, infect those around you with the virus of inspiration and empowerment such as colleagues, your peers, your friends, your partners, and your subordinates. Be an enabler of talent. Inspire others to dream more, learn more, and do more by your words and actions, as John Quincy Adams said.

Our society still tends to marginalize, ignore, and even revile the elderly. People are always trying to put us in a cage called ageism. Don’t let them. Resist them. We can’t be dismissed yet. We must summon the energy and desire to give back or “give forward” as someone put it.

Remember, golden oldies have knowledge and wisdom to share with others. Driven by the pull of legacy, the promise of purpose, seniors should use their remaining years to volunteer, to mentor, and to contribute.

Let’s tell our stories, identify our values, share the fruits of our long lives, and pass on our legacies to others, specially our grand children. This “apostolic” work is our lasting gift to them.

As you hunker down and endure more months of the pandemic, count your blessings, yes, but better yet, make your life count by being a better person for others. Wholehearted living is a gift to yourself, coupled with wholehearted giving and sharing with others.

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