Many factors affect your quality of life, just day-to-day. But one tip that I have used that helps me, and the clients I counsel and coach, is to keep perspective about your personal life, your work, and your social life in an historical context of the age in history in which we live. Many people came before us, and many will come after us. It’s part of the whole life cycle of the global population. The inventions and effects of history last for millenia, but the people who made them all happen don’t.
This idea was popularized years ago by the book series, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff. Like many self-help books, the main message of help was contained in the title. By following the title’s advice, you might relieve yourself of some stress. This is one of many “little daily tips” that can help, especially during stressful times that are happening at home, work, or in your local community.
As a hobby, I’ve done a lot of work on my family’s history and geneaology. With Internet resources, I’ve been able to learn my family’s history through Ancestry.com, and I’m proud that some prominent figures in the arts are in my lineage, including my great-aunt, Esther Howard, who was a Broadway star in the 1920’s and made 110 films between 1930 and 1952. In studying her career (especially my obsession with musical theatre), I also learned about theatre and film history, as well as what was going on in America during the time she worked. She moved from New York to LA in 1930, just as “talkie” movies were starting, and the industry was clamoring for “actors and actresses who could talk” — such as those with stage experience. Obviously, at 110 films, it worked! But the lesson I always took from that, even without ever knowing her, was that we must always seize the opportunity. She moved to LA when New York had just had the stock market crash of 1929 and things weren’t so great there. When the place and the time that we live in hands us an opportunity, I think we would be foolish not to take it.
Think about how this might affect your own life. What year were you born? Who was President then? What was going on at that time? What were the national debates going on? We really only have one life to live, and what I’ve learned from studying geneaology was that we get our stressors — and our rewards — in a certain historical context. My great-great-grandfather was a physician on the plains of Montana from about 1880 to 1906. By studying a little of the history of medicine then, and in that area, I learned a lot about both him and about medicine. He was in a horse/carriage accident, and eventually died from complications from that — not unlike car accidents today. I always wonder what it was like for him to practice medicine without antibiotics, without antivirals, and all the medical technology we have now. But, no matter what we do for work or what technologies we live with, we all live as part of a time and place in history.
So when you’re really bogged down on a crazy, stressful day, try to take a moment and just be “aware” that no matter how good or how bad a day you’re having, you’re part of a time and place that we only pass once. It’s perhaps both sad and oddly reassuring that we’ll be dead in 100 years, and we should probably think just a little about what will it matter by then about the drama we had this morning with some bitchy (male or female) coworker who won’t cooperate, some idiot who drives badly, some colleague who won’t cooperate, or some date who won’t return calls. Sometimes, your quality of life needs to be seen in the context of your whole life (for the current generation, barring any major mishap, close to 100 years) and not just in the context of a bad day, week, or month.
Think about how people many years ago might have felt if they knew what historically was in store for them. We can always trust that technology will move forward, cities and families grow, and the entire content of our lives exists between the birth date and death date on a tombstone. Someone once said, between those dates, “live the dash”. In the end, we’re all just left with “the dash”. Make it good one.
Ken Howard, LCSW, is a gay and HIV-positive (28 years) licensed psychotherapist (LCSW) and life/career coach who has specialized in working with gay men, as individuals and couples, for over 26 years. He helps many gay men (and others) resolve the issues that undermine your quality of life, and helps you to thrive.
For help improving your personal or professional life, whatever your current challenges are, consider sessions with Ken for counseling, coaching, or therapy sessions, at his office in Los Angeles/West Holllywood (near Beverly Center mall), or via phone, or via webcam, anywhere in the world. Call 310-339-5778 or email Ken@GayTherapyLA.com for more information.
Ken is also available for expert witness work on legal proceedings involving gay issues, all LGBT issues, HIV issues, and issues concerning psychiatric illness or disability, as well as organizational consulting for non-profit organizations, corporations, college campuses, and conferences.
To get your copy of his self-help book, Self-Empowerment: Have the Life You Want!,visit www.Amazon.com , or wwwLuLu.com. It’s your “portable therapist” for the challenges you face today in your mental health, health, career, finances, family, spirituality, and community.