Because we humans are solitary creatures in that our minds are confined within a single physical body, it is impossible for us to really know or fully understand anyone but ourselves—and few of us can really manage even that. As a result, we are and can never really be sure of what the lives of others are like. Being only one of nine billion equally individual beings and therefore vastly outnumbered, we tend to rely strongly on assumptions and often-faulty comparisons as we stumble blindly through a life few, if any of us, understand. But in making assumptions and comparisons, those of us with a strong sense of insecurity, self-doubt and self-deprecation tend to see the lives of others as somehow better than our own.
I spend an inordinate amount of time minutely examining my flaws and weaknesses, real and imagined, and frequently, in light of what I read and hear and understand about the lives of others, ask myself the age old human question: “What have I done with my life?”, the answer to which is too often: “Nothing. You have all but wasted 80 precious years!”
But on those rare moments when I can drag myself back from staring into the abyss and force myself to sit down and try applying a little seldom-used true objectivity, I can grudgingly admit that my life has not been totally devoid of memorable events and achievements.
I have flown an airplane around the tops of towering, whipped-cream clouds. I have descended into the crater of Mt. Vesuvius. I’ve walked the streets of Pompeii and Rome and Athens and Istanbul and Vienna and Venice and Budapest. I’ve been places and done things that never even entered my mind as being possible when I was a child. I read of fairy-tale castles and fortresses and kings and great adventures, and while I have yet to meet a king, I have visited castles on the Rhine and recently visited a fairy-tale fortress on the island of Corčula.
I have written and published more than 20 books, yet criticize myself for not having written more.
I realize that others have done far, far, more, been far more places, and accomplished far more than I ever have or will, but for that to in any way diminish the pleasure of my achievements is the height of ingratitude.
I have been blessed with a loving family and dear friends. I have been in romantic love, and been loved, several times—though when I look back on these loves, my reaction tends to be more of sorrow and regret that they ended than of infinite gratitude that had them at all. I fear I am shamefully greedy and selfish when it comes to my own wishes and desires.
I think it is because I love life so deeply…so desperately…that the thought, at the age of 80, of not having it forever terrifies me. I do not fear and never have feared death itself, but the thought of not being here to enjoy all life has to offer….
I cannot speak for you or your life. I’ve not had your individual, specific joys and sorrows, your adventures, known the people who have come into your life and either stayed or left it, or your reactions to any of these things. I am only sure that your life has been filled with them all, and that you quite probably look back on them with as much emotion as I look back on mine.
The word “alone” is generally seen as a negative; to many people it is frightening. But it is a simple fact is that no matter how many friends or family members surround us in however-close proximity, they are not us, nor are we them, and each of still exists totally within a small box of bone located at the top of our spine. The old saying “No man is an island,” is true as it relates to our intellectual and emotional connections with others, and the comfort we take from the proximity and the touch of a friend or loved one. But I…and you…l can fully be aware of our own sensations, feelings, and reactions to any given circumstance. So, in that context, we must admit that each of us is our own island.
So, in the final analysis, we cannot compare ourselves with others: we are each unique, and unique has no comparisons.
Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1), which is also available as an audiobook (http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=sr_1_1?asin=B00DJAJYCS&qid=1372629062&sr=1-1).