The Good Life

I followed a link from Twitter (thanks, @JustineMusk) tonight to a blog post called How to Cure Deep Procrastination. It poses what seems like a very simple solution to curing real, problem-inducing procrastination, like the kind that gets people bad grades, trouble with their bosses, parents, or spouses, or no book progress in months. *ahem*

The author proposes that we have to justify ourselves to a part of our minds that haven’t quite kept up with the evolutionary chain. That little monkey-brain doesn’t so much care about our surface goals and just wants to be happy, or to put it more succinctly than the author, to eat, fornicate, and be comfy. So to get the monkey-brain on board with doing complex things like getting good grades in a class you don’t like, or writing a novel, you have to rationalize how this thing you’re putting off will eventually make your monkey-brain happy. The first step to rationalizing this is to answer the question.

“What makes a life good?”

The author suggested fairly simple answers to this question. Religion is a good starting point, or you might try philosophy if you’re spiritually uncommitted. But I think that does a complete disservice to the question, and that it probably won’t work anyway. Monkey brain doesn’t really care so much about philosophy, I’m guessing.

Almost two years ago, I lost my identity. My heart problem started in September 2009, and over the next several months I was forced by my declining health to quit my job, abandon my career, lose my contribution to the family finances, rely on my husband and son for my most basic needs, sacrifice my independence, give up on my goals for the future, and put away my passions. In order to survive, I gave up nearly everything that I had once used to define who I am. So without knowing that, how could I answer the question:

“What makes a life good?”

It’s a difficult thing, when you realize that you’ve forgotten what you’re living for. No wonder my writing was stalled. How could it work? The very things I once poured into the words – my passions, my personal meaning, my themes – had, if not died, then at least gone comatose.

I genuinely had no answer to the question. I mean, there are the expected things, like being a good wife and a good mother, and those are definitely true, but they aren’t enough. I love my husband and son too much to put the burden of carrying my self-concept entirely on their shoulders. I firmly believe it’s better for all parties for me to be a balanced person, rather than a soul-sucking, emotional singularity fueled by their need of me. The answer, then, needed to include other people, but it needed to be about me.

“What makes a good life?”

Do I define myself in concrete terms? By the roles I take on and the successes I achieve? What happens if I fail? What happens if I get what I go for and it’s not what I wanted? Well, the answer to that one seems pretty clear, considering that’s basically the mistake I made last time. I defined myself by my success as a nurse, as a student, as a caregiver, etc.. My self-concept revolved around stuff I did and people I took care of. The card house came tumbling down when my heart misbehaved because I built it on a foundation of the roles I played, rather than a core concept of the person playing the roles. It was a painful fall I’d rather not repeat.

“What makes a life good?”

It took a while for me to come up with an answer. It took writing this entry and eight pages of hand-written material on the subject. It took some soul searching. I think I finally found the answer, though. My personal answer, anyway. Not for mass consumption.

What makes a life good… is living with honor.

Not that old, naive version of honor that is all about knights and gentlemen and who draws first, but honoring the things that create happiness and well-being in my life.

  • The body – with proper exercise and nutrition, to stay strong and functional
  • The mind – by being creative, curious, productive, and hungry for knowledge
  • The heart – by rediscovering and engaging my passions, and by nurturing the self
  • The Other – contributing to my family and my world through generosity, shared knowledge, compassion, and kindness

It was a very short leap to rationalizing my writing as a means to the end result of living a good life after I came up with the answer. Just picking up the pen every day will help me live the good life, honoring my creativity, my curiosity, my passion, and my newly found sense of self.

And oddly enough, my broken writing may have been the catalyst to mending another little piece of my broken heart*. It’s hard to argue with that.

* The metaphorical one this time. My real, not-so-broken-anymore heart is doing a bang-up job of keeping me upright these days, which is awesome. I’m still careful not to over do it, but 98% recovered by my own, completely subjective measurement.

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2 Responses to The Good Life

  1. Suelder says:

    beautiful ari – ((huggs))

    Honor is a good thing to remember.

  2. LJCohen says:


    This is beautifully written and very moving.

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