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Voice: A life of learning

June 01, 2001

"If you had your life to live over, what would you change?"

My first, superficial response to this question would be, "If possible, I would be born to rich, powerful parents, so that life would not be such a harrowing struggle."

But then I would realize this would mean that I would have to give up my poor parents and the spiritual strength that I have gained through a life of hardship. The butterfly which does not struggle to release itself from its cocoon weakens and dies.

So my second answer would be: "I would learn early in life to think with my head instead of my heart and to trust only those who have proved worthy of trust. I would learn to control my reactions so that others cannot control me through them."

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I would hope that I would learn early on that not making a decision is deciding not to decide and is a decision in itself.

I would not waste so much of my life in non-productive or counterproductive activities, such as worrying.

I've had two Achilles heels in this lifetime: until recently, I retrained my childhood's naive trust in others — a fact on which most of the wrong decisions of my life have been based; and I've too often let others browbeat me into being a human floor mat. If we let people wipe their feet on us, they will. No one does this to me any more; I have nobly defended my rights for the past 30 years. I hate authoritarianism with a passion; it brings out the worst in me — so I avoid authoritarian persons.

If I could change myself into a neater, more organized person, I would; the way of the clutter maniac is hard.

Otherwise, I would accept myself as I am. And what I am is largely the product of a life of poverty and pain, plus the teachings of the parents God in His wisdom chose for me. I have done as well as I could with what I was given.

God chose to give me only one small talent, which I could use to try to bring encouragement and perhaps inspiration to others. In His wisdom He did not give me the 10-talent status that would have brought wealth and fame — and disruption of my chosen contemplative life.

So now I ask you: examine your life. What has God done for you? What would you change if you could live your life over again?

The answers may surprise you.

MERRY HARRIS

El Centro

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