‘My Top Ten Truths For Coping With Life.’ By Dr Linda Berman

 

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This post was written before the onset of the pandemic; it is interesting that, on returning to it now to edit and update, I have not had to alter that much. Indeed, these truths feel even more important and relevant at this difficult time in all our lives.

What are the truths that can help us through? There are many; I have picked the ten that I have found most helpful.

1. Life is full of paradoxes and contradictions.

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Nothing is straightforward. Even truth. Things do not always turn out as we expect; what appears the truth to one person may be seen differently or misinterpreted by another.

“The truth is rarely pure and never simple.”

Oscar Wilde

“All human knowledge takes the form of interpretation.”

Walter Benjamin.

2. Coming to terms, as far as possible, with the ageing process and one’s own mortality can be freeing. This may be especially necessary now, when illness and death are very much around us. 

Survival is the celebration of choosing life over death. We know we’re going to die. We all die. But survival is saying: perhaps not today. In that sense, survivors don’t defeat death, they come to terms with it.” 
 Laurence Gonzales

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“Once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.”

Morrie Schwartz.

Talking about death has become the new taboo over the past few decades. If we do not talk about death, it becomes an enormously large ‘elephant in the room.’ It is there, but denied, and that must leave us with unresolved anxieties. Such death anxieties, explored in a previous post, may manifest themselves in all sorts of ways.

I attend a regular local Death Cafe. This is not a morbid experience; paradoxically, I emerge from the cafe feeling supported and uplifted, more able to appreciate the life I have.

The Death Cafe is a national and international organisation which provides an opportunity for people of all ages to meet over coffee and cake and to discuss whatever they wish in relation to death and loss.

In this time of Coronavirus, many Death Cafe meetings are now available worldwide on Zoom online. The large group of attendees are divided into  ‘rooms,’ so that all those present will be in a small group of about six people.

“I feel strongly, because a man who will himself die one day in the not too distant future and, also, as a psychiatrist who spent decades dealing with death anxiety, that confronting death allows us, not to open some noisome, Pandora’s box, but to re-enter life in a richer, more compassionate manner.”

IRVIN D. YALOM

3. Truth, and reality, can be painful, especially now, in this time of Coronavirus.  Escape sometimes, if you can; take time out.

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“The truth is ugly: we have art so as not to perish from the truth.”

Nietzsche

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Van Gogh. Irises. Wikimedia Commons.

Taking time out from the daily grind, or from the people around you, can be refreshing, rejuvenating, healing.  If you can achieve this kind of escape, it is important to make time and space for it. If it is not possible to go to green spaces at the moment, then a long candlelit bath, or a quiet time with a good book or some music may be important.

Whether through such activities, for example, as walking, exercise, yoga, meditation or reading, such ‘escapist’ self-care helps us cope with life in lockdown and beyond.

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Claude Monet – Pear Tree in Flower [1885] Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.

4. Keep on Learning.

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Continued learning is a wonderful way of achieving a fulfilling life and it can help us cope with all kinds of difficulties. Education gives us different ways of thinking, alternative viewpoints and new approaches to the problems of everyday life.

Once you stop learning, you start dying

Albert Einstein.

It also broadens our horizons and distracts us from the difficulties we are encountering. It creates continuity as we absorb and pass on to future generations the knowledge of our ancestors.

This beautiful quote expresses my point perfectly:

“There is divine beauty in learning…. To learn means to accept the postulate that life did not begin at my birth. Others have been here before me, and I walk in their footsteps.”

Elie Wiesel

Learning about oneself is included in this; self-knowledge and awareness can have a positive impact of our lives, our relationships and our work:

“An unexamined life is not worth living. ”    

Socrates

5. Develop Kindness.

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Maximilien Luce .The Good Samaritan (Le bon samaritain) [1896] Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.

Loving kindness, to oneself and to others, helps us get through life. Loving oneself and the special people around us, warts and all, makes for a happier and more contented life.

“Embrace the glorious mess that you are.”

Elizabeth Gilbert.

“The best part of life is not just surviving, but thriving with passion and compassion and humor and style and generosity and kindness.”

Maya Angelou

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“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.”

Henry James.

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“The ultimate lesson all of us have to learn is unconditional love, which includes not only others but ourselves as well.”

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

6. Live in the moment

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“If the path be beautiful, let us not ask where it leads.” Anatole France.

Despite the pain that we see all around during this pandemic, there is still beauty in the world.

Living for the present, for this moment, is not always easy, and this might be extra difficult now. However, it is definitely a good way of thinking in terms of managing our life. The past is gone, the future is unknown, we only have today and this moment.

Although things are tough at this time, perhaps we can pause and try to appreciate what we do have in our lives that is good.

“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”

Buddha

7. Value Difference and Diversity….

…….in others and in yourself.

Valuing difference in others is crucial both in a work situation and in our personal lives. In contrast to this, maintaining a narrow attitude to others who are different only  results in a lack of creativity and a stultifying world-view.

Diversity brings us new perspectives, a variety of experiences and new ways of thinking. 

With an open and accepting approach to difference, we will also be able to discover and develop the many sides of ourselves.

“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself. I am large. I contain multitudes.”

Walt Whitman.

In relation to this, it is important to maintain empathy for others’ situations, to keep an open mind and not judge others who may be different from ourselves.

“The only means of strengthening one’s intellect is to make up one’s mind
about nothing — to let the mind be a thoroughfare for all thoughts.”
― John Keats

 

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“Peace is not unity in similarity but unity in diversity, in the comparison and conciliation of differences.”
Mikhail S. Gorbachev

 

8. Keep Being Creative, Even in Small Ways.

“In a time of destruction, create something.”

Maxine Hong Kingston.

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Harriet Backer – Chez Moi [1887]. Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.

In whatever way you choose, being creative is a healing and rewarding; however, we do need to bear in mind, as we have seen in a previous post, current anxiety may make creativity difficult during this time.

It may be necessary now to allow ourselves the space and leeway to spend our time in the ways that are most comfortable for us and that help us to get through.

9. Appreciate What We Have.

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Charles Courtney Curran – Comfortable Corner [1887] Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.

There is an old saying that tells us if we were to all put our problems on the table, when we see the problems of others, we would take our own back.

Especially at this difficult time, feeling appreciation and gratitude for what we do have in our lives can enhance our sense of well-being.

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Julius von Klever – Blooming Poppies [1905] Gandalf’s Gallery

“Enjoy life. This is not a dress rehearsal.”

Nietzsche.

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

Albert Einstein

10. Keep on keeping on.

Perseverance is the key to many people’s success in life; even when things feel down and a little hopeless, keeping on, despite all the setbacks, may be the way through.

This is especially true of blogging, principally in the first few months, when very few will even notice your blog online.

By keeping on and persevering, it is now 2 years since I began and I am happy to say I have been noticed! I have many followers, but there are times when I still need encouragement and self-determination to persevere.

Each time someone presses ‘follow’ on my blog, the more determined I become to find new ideas and to press forward with my writing.

‘Perseverance, secret of all triumphs.’

Victor Hugo

‘Perseverance is a great element of success. If you only knock long enough and loud enough at the gate, you are sure to wake up somebody.’

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“Finally, never give up on yourself. Then you will never give up on others.”

Pema Chödrön

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‘…….a spider usually spins a new orb web every day to help it keep its stickiness and insect-trapping capability. Throughout the day, the spider makes frequent repairs to damaged threads.’

©️Linda Berman

10 comments

  1. This is an inspirational post. Especially about truth since it appears that this can be subverted by ideologies which may lead us far from it. Particularly liked the three key actions…’ to be kind’. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

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