Voice: Life is what you make it

March 03, 2001

One of the side effects of growing old or being disabled is the feeling that the walls are closing in, like the walls of those rooms of the Inquisition that actually closed in, pressing their occupants to death.

My personal walls have (figuratively) closed in until I now have a living space of 3 by 4 feet, in which I spend most of my time. My recliner is now "my place in the world."

Such a restricted life would be intolerable if I did not have letters, newspapers, books, magazines and TV to expand my mental horizons. I have always loved solitude; I dread to think how the isolation would affect me if I were the "party girl" type.

No matter what our circumstances, happiness and contentment come from within. One can feel devastatingly alone in a crowd of thousands. One can have all of the comforts and luxuries life has to offer, yet be bitterly unhappy and seething with discontenment.


The more interests one has, the more interesting his or her life becomes.

When I was a social worker for the aged and disabled, and again when I was a newspaper reporter, I witnessed again and again the fact that retirees who have few or no interests other than their work die soon after retirement.

On the other hand, those with many interests seem always to be happy and live longer, healthier lives. Stress is the great killer of mankind; when eliminated through focusing on many interests, it has no power to hurt us.

But even when life is short and one is sick, we have the consoling words of Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) to tell us how many interests can enrich our lives: "The world is so full of a number of things/I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings."

Life is what we make it. We can settle for an impoverished life of sack cloth and ashes, or we can enhance life's texture through a positive attitude and many interests. No one can give us happiness or contentment; we must create them for ourselves.


E Centro

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