The Work of Living
BY: T. Franklin Murphy | February 2019
We are challenged in life. Many forces push and shove in directions we prefer not to go. We can, however, make it through with resolve and healthy support.
Pain, sorrow, depression—life continually serves up some nastiness. The positive-thinking crowds shudder at the audacity of a facebook poster to even suggest such negativity. Just as little Johnny must eat his brussel sprouts before the chocolate cake, so must we—living in the real world—experience a little discomfort before obtaining the sweet rewards. Unless a neurosurgeon slices a few well-placed lesions in the feeling portions of our brains, life will never be completely painless. Before making the medical call, take careful note of the past failed experimentation with frontal lobotomies. Disfiguring the brain to relieve perceived malfunctions leads to many unattended complications. As emotional creatures, we experience a full range of emotions. A successful and fulfilling life is dependent on effective responses to emotions—even the discomforting ones, not disengagement.
Activity, accomplishments, and engagement creates a better future. Languishing in self-pity and destructive distractions damage the future. Our response to the stresses of living determine how our lives will be shaped, creating a helpful or hurtful future. In many ways, this is a cruel game. Those who struggle with decision making, often settling for foolish action are confronted with more difficult choices the further they down the road. The less skilled at the art of living tend to create a more difficult life. If we want better presents, we must engage in future oriented work.
"Activity, accomplishments, and engagement creates a better future. Languishing in self-pity and destructive distractions damage the future."
The downer mood drains energy and limits effectiveness, creating more to worry about later. Sorrow after significant loss is normal; we need time to grieve. Sometimes the tasks of life overwhelm and our biological system rebels—even shuts down. We shouldn’t feel compelled to force a smile or courageously continue. We should listen to our bodies and pull back. We compound sorrows by feeling guilty over negative feelings, intensifying the overwhelm. We torment ourselves for feeling normal discomforting emotions. But—as a kindly reminder—when we feel sorrow, one key to feeling better is to engage in the activity of living.
We may not be ready to socialize, forcing too much interaction may be harmful. We can, however, engage in productive activities rather than protective activities. We recover by expending energy that will promote self-healing, assisting with the processing of sorrows—gentle exercise, exposure to sunlight, a walk in nature, gardening in the yard, or creative writing. These and many other simple activities heal the soul and lift spirits, preparing the body to heal.
We must focus attention on what needs doing. Make a habit of engaging in the important work of living. This is how we flourish. Those who succeed in this task are not lucky; they are skilled. They are masters of living. They are engaged in the act of doing.