I was listening to a podcast the other day, and the man was talking about a visit he had to a nursing home. The residents were in a dementia unit, and he went on to talk about how they would use a laminated page with the residents name and 15 photos to help them remember who they are and the things that are meaningful to them.
I wanted to share an excerpt from this that hit home for me.
I can’t help but notice the kinds of things these pictures were, too. Patricia had 90 something years to her name. Ninety years of stuff that might have been on that page, all the accomplishments and the memories, the people and places, friends who came and went, highs and lows, joys and sorrows, love and hate, and boredom and anticipation, anxiety and calm, fear and peace. And at the end of it all, there were scones with jam and cream. Ten percent of her photos were dedicated to that. Ten percent of who she is. It struck me that with the brevity of life, the constant coming and going of things, what remained in the end for these men and women was what they had loved. Sitting their past 90 years of age, suffering from dementia, most of what you ever though was important is gone. The arguments and the hurts and the conversations and the judgements and the regrets, they’re all faded or forgotten. Your friends might be gone, your bank balance definitely isn’t going to be on that page and even the business you built doesn’t photograph well, and it probably isn’t that interesting anyway.
And there is a view of what you loved and you don’t score more points if that thing is world peace when Patricia’s thing is scones. If there are any points, you only score more by the intensity of your love, not by the object of it. What do you love? What pictures will tell your story in the end?"
This was a really powerful story, and sparked a lot of interesting thoughts for me. All too often I find that the things I worry about the most tend to be the things that are impermanent. I have been thinking back to this story a lot, and it really is true that the things that define you are the things that you love.
Ask yourself, "Who am I?"
Did you say your career? A hobby? A passion? A volunteer in your community?
I challenge you to look deeper. While taking pride in these things is not a bad thing, would you still be you if you didn't do/have these things? Sure life might be very different but inherently you would still be you just reacting to a new course of events in your life.
The things that last, when all else has faded are the people/things we truly love. All too often human nature and societal influences push us to put all of our energy into "things". We tend to neglect the loves in our life, in favor of that next big promotion or the next awesome toy. When you are 90 years old and sitting in a nursing home what would be on your laminated paper? What is truly important to you? What would be in your 10-15 photos?
Once you've realized what would be on that paper, ask yourself. Are these things always a priority in your life? If they aren't, why?
The point I am trying to make isn't that you need to make a drastic lifestyle change or that your current way of life is incorrect; the point I am bringing to light is that every once in a while its good to reflect on what is genuinely important. If we live a purposeful life where we give our energy to the things that we love, we can live a much more fulfilling life.
I spent the better part of my 20's chasing money, fast cars, etc. I thought that the cure to my dissatisfaction was to become someone else. I thought if I could achieve material wealth that all would be better. I couldn't of been more wrong.
You have everything you need to be happy inside you. Just bathe in the positives, life isn't about that next big paycheck. It is about loving. Love is the only thing that survives in the end.
I'll end this blog post with another quote. One I personally love and I think is great advice to live a happy life.