I would like to try and do justice to an element of Dr. Harry Reiss’ philosophy. That is the real name of my longtime psychiatrist.
It might be summarized with the statement: “It doesn’t get any better than this.”
The above can, I believe, mean different things depending on context and intonation. There is the Michelob beer connotation, with a group of 20-somethings sitting around a fire at the beach reflecting on how great their life is. There is the fatalistic intonation of the Jack Nicholson character in “As Good as it Gets” wondering if this is all that life has to offer, with I believe the words “what if” affixed at the front, making the statement into the question.
But to this set of commonplace interpretations, I would like to add another.
Dr. Reiss would say of today, “It doesn’t get any better than this,” not because I am living the high life in any kind of ostentatious of flamboyant manner, but rather because I can learn to appreciate the positive things it has to offer, however seemingly mundane or ordinary they are.
If I can wake up and walk into the bathroom without any pain, that is pretty darn good. If there is fresh milk and orange juice in the refrigerator, that is pretty spectacular as well. If I have a working computer and the presence of mind to put words down on paper in articulate sentences, then my cup is filled to overflowing.
My eyes are working. I can see outside my window. My ears are working as well. I can hear the cars going by. I have a full day before me, to live as a free man in a free country.
All of these things are very real aspects of this very real individual day. Yes, there are things that I think I want, that I think are necessary to complete my happiness. I would like my agent to sell the latest manuscript to a commercial publishing house. I would like to get married.
But while these are objectives worth striving for, the idea that they will somehow make my individual days any better is a dangerous myth. By that time, other things will have changed as well.
I’ll be that much older, and in that much poorer health. I will not have the privacy and peace I value so highly. I will have opened myself to criticism from every quarter.
I’m not saying I won’t seek to achieve these worthwhile life objectives, I’m just saying that the idea that they, in and of themselves, will make my individual days any better is probably wrong.
The real solution lies in another of Dr. Reiss’ recurrent admonitions: That life is a series of individual days. I can choose to look for the positive in this day, for there is always something positive to focus on. I can become more adept at that skill. I can let go of the myth that just because the sun goes down and rises again, anything will be different.
As Janis Joplin reminds us, it is in fact all the same day. If that seems like a contradiction or some kind of double-speak, I don’t think it is. If I appreciate this day for all it has to offer, and other days that might come along will be appreciated in the same way.
Not because a mountain has been climbed, or an arbitrary objective achieved. But simply because I’ve become more skilled at taking each day for what it has to offer.
This glass is already half full. If I can just see it that way.