It's Your Life to Live
tom walsh


I love languages, and I love the ability we have to communicate simply by changing intonation.  I often look at sentences and think about the different implications involved in a simple shift in stress, a different way of pronouncing the same group of words.  The sentence that I'm using as a title to this column is one of the most important to me for quite a few reasons, no matter how we stress the words when we say it.

"It's YOUR life to live."  It's nobody else's life--we don't have to live to please others or to meet the expectations of others.  It's nice to want to meet those expectations sometimes, especially when we recognize that meeting them is in our own best interests, but we certainly aren't obligated to do so.  This is my life, and I have to do the things that I feel are right and best for me and for the people for whom I've freely accepted responsibility.

For example, I have a wife and step-children, so I can't quit my job and go spend a year in the Grand Canyon, no matter how appealing that idea may be.

But even in the context of the family, I still must do what I feel is right and best for me.  In this case, I've accepted full responsibility for contributing to the well-being and support of my family, and it's in my best interests to live up to that responsibility and keep my word, for that's the type of person I am.  I can't pack up and go, nor do I wish to do so.
No matter what anyone else tries to convince me to do--enter this business, take this job, take these classes--I have to stay true to my vision of life and my conscience.

And since I'm fully aware of the implications of this way of being, I can't ask anyone else to do anything in their lives just because I think they should do it, or because I think it's what's best for them.  I have to tell them what I think and then back off and let go of all expectations, trusting that they'll do what's best or at least learn from mistakes.

"It's your LIFE to live."  You've heard it before--this isn't a dress rehearsal.  This isn't even opening night, with many more performances in the future.  This is the real thing, every minute of every day.  It's your LIFE.  It's an awe-inspiring thought for me--we've been given this wonderful gift of life, and we're living it every day, if we choose to do so.

We've all been given a wonderful opportunity to shape and craft this life we've been given into something useful, artistic, helpful, loving, magnificent.  But most of us get caught up in tasks--things to do and people to see and deadlines and contracts.  We forget to keep in mind that if we choose to do so, we can spend some of our time learning about LIFE, learning how to create a happy life with love and peace and hope.  I heard a wonderful short story on a tape program that I have.  A preacher was driving on a country road when he came upon a beautiful small farm, with tall rows of corn, produce gardens, a beautiful house--everything you could imagine in a small farm.  Spying the farmer, he approached him and exclaimed, "What a beautiful piece of land you have here!  God definitely has blessed you with a wonderful farm and a bountiful harvest!"  The farmer looked around himself and said, "Yes, I definitely am blessed with what I have, but you should have seen this piece of land when God had it to himself!"

"It's your life to LIVE."  A frightening thought:  the absence of life in an organism that's been alive is death.  If you're not living, if there's an absence of life in your day-to-day routines, does that mean that you're dead?  In the film Harold and Maude, Maude, a 79-year-old woman who lives her life as fully as possible, tells Harold, an 18-year-old who's obsessed with death, that "A lot of people enjoy being dead.  But they're not dead really--they're just backing away from life."

Are you living your life, or are you existing?  Have you ever sat down and written out your goals and then worked to try to attain them, or do you just hang around and wait to see what each day will bring you?  Do you come home and do stuff you love to do, or do you just turn on the television set and let it "entertain" you while you sit there passive, not moving forward or adding to the value of your life?  Or are you so caught up in your 70-hour-a-week work life that there's no time for reading to your kids, for taking walks with your family, for writing letters to loved ones, for working on the hobby that you love so much but which you've been neglecting for so long?

It's YOUR LIFE to LIVE.  It's a beautiful thought, one full of awesome and glorious potential!


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Yes, life can be mysterious and confusing--but there's much of life that's actually rather dependable and reliable.  Some principles apply to life in so many different contexts that they can truly be called universal--and learning what they are and how to approach them and use them can teach us some of the most important lessons that we've ever learned.
My doctorate is in Teaching and Learning.  I use it a lot when I teach at school, but I also do my best to apply what I've learned to the life I'm living, and to observe how others live their lives.  What makes them happy or unhappy, stressed or peaceful, selfish or generous, compassionate or arrogant?  In this book, I've done my best to pass on to you what I've learned from people in my life, writers whose works I've read, and stories that I've heard.  Perhaps these principles can be a positive part of your life, too!
Universal Principles of Living Life Fully.  Awareness of these principles can explain a lot and take much of the frustration out of the lives we lead.


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