Welcome to Ask April, a no-nonsense advice column focusing on what it is you can do to correct things that need correcting. While we all know much in life is out of our control, and sometimes, our reaction is all we CAN control- we really do have a lot of personal power, thankfully. Our will is just as important as the wills of others around us, and while we need to be considerate, we also need to make sure others are equally considerate of us. It is my hope that when you write in to me, asking advice, that I can help you make a good decision that somehow improves whatever situation you’ve found yourself in. As with anything I share, I recommend people don’t automatically take my word for anything, but include my advice in with the rest of the things that help them make a decision. I wish you well. Read on.
Every other week, I answer a call for advice, and every other week, I share my views on something I observed- I call this Observational Wisdom.
Today’s topic is one close to my heart.
Living a life that matters.
I had not thought of the topic much when I was younger. I was able to get out and about and everyplace all on my own. I did things that were considered important. I had a job doing things people needed done. I had a second job doing things that made people smile and laugh. I volunteered on a regular basis doing things I felt made the community better.
That gave me all the sense of living a life that mattered I needed. I felt I did what mattered to other people as well as to myself.
Not quite three years ago, however, I found myself too sick to leave the house most days, or do what I felt was anything of value for the community, let alone anybody I loved, or even myself.
Or so I thought.
First, I realized, I still mattered to the folks who loved me. At first, I couldn’t understand it. I had always tried to be useful, and I was anything but that for quite a while. I quickly noticed who disappeared, and who stuck around. I realized I was so driven to do what I felt made me beneficial, I had attracted people who only came around when they felt they would get something out of me.
While I was resentful of that at first, I quickly realized I was the one allowing that, and had nobody but myself to blame for it happening. It showed me who my true friends were, and it showed who really cared if I was around or not.
I also noticed something strange. In was able to do small things the few times each week I did make it out of the house, and I was able to do things from home that mattered.
I did a bit of volunteer work at a thrift shop a couple of miles away once or twice weekly for about a year. They sent me home with donations to sort and price to be dropped off later.
I was also able to do a small bit of online research to donate to our local history association.
I’ll be donating crochet goods to a couple of causes to raise funds in the coming months as well.
Nobody will ever know who did these things, not that it would matter. Doing this for the sake of contributing something to the community, although it’s behind the scenes, makes me feel I am still part of it, even though I don’t get out to the gatherings and events like I used to.
So, I am able to still volunteer a little bit. It is mostly from home, but it still matters, and not just to me.
Beyond that, I’ve able to make people smile when I do leave the house. I used to me a much more irritable customer in the past. I complained a lot more often. After not being able to go as many places, and do as much as before, going out places has become a chore on bad days, but it is still a real treat to get out. Unlike the past when I felt I was very busy and needed to get places, I have become much more patient and understanding if service was not great. People act like it makes their day when I stop in for something, because many nasty customers make their jobs hell. I’m one of the nice ones now.
Even if I can’t do much, if all I can do is be nice to people, that is enough.
I also learned to steer out of arguments on line. That was a really tough one. I love to “share” when I think I am right. I found that a lot of people don’t care about other people’s views and feelings on topics. Few actually want to share. Many want audience. I started noticing it disgusted ma, and I realized I was contributing to it. I was not educating anybody or spreading awareness. I was engaged in online fights. I’ll still get in there every so often, but NOT like I used to. I do not miss it.
Don’t get me wrong. I am JUST as strong in my beliefs and opinions as always. I just found there was a lot less tension when I disengaged from the arguing online. Also, like most opinionated folk, I really don’t give a shit what other people think. I discovered if I did not give my opinion, and instead walked away, that meant I did not have to hear other people’s opinions. They are still out there, brawling online all day, fighting the world. I’m elsewhere living life instead.
Not adding to online drama means I am available for more positive exchanges online, and it spreads joy as opposed to hostility.
I was also called upon by neighbors to help with things I would not have had time for if I was out working. I house sat numerous times, and pet sat during work hours as well. I even got to babysit! That people trust me with their homes, pets, and kids means I am doing something right. It helped them. It mattered.
I gardened. I shared the garden fruits with friends and neighbors.
I get a request about once or twice a year to be interviewed by somebody doing a paper on Paganism. I did a 41 minute phone call with a college student yesterday, and she said I gave her all the information she needed for her project. It’s one paper for one person, but still, it matters.
There have been times in the past two and three quarters years I could not even walk a quarter block, but I could still do small things that mattered to other people even a little bit.
My Priest says “The Meaning of Life is whatever you make it to be.” For me, it is all about doing things that matter. Part of it is because I like to see people happy, and part of it is because I like to be happy. When I make other people happy, it makes me happy, too. So, I admit, it’s selfish. I don’t know if I do it for me more, or if I do it for other people more.
All I know is making things better for other people makes things better for me as well.
I can’t think of anything more meaningful.