June is a very special month. It’s book ended by two of our most patriotic holidays–Memorial Day and the Fourth of July–and graduations and weddings, celebrating the closing of one chapter and the opening of another, occupy the days inbetween. For students who have completed one grade and are looking ahead to the next one, June is also a month of change, and, if a student is moving from third grade to fourth; from sixth grade to seventh; or from eighth grade to high school; the change is a significant one.
June is a month of memories. Not only national ones, but personal ones. When we attend the graduation or wedding of a family member or friend, most of us think about our own, and about the chapters those celebrations closed, and the ones they opened. Some memories are painful. Some are happy. Some are somewhere inbetween. But in most cases, “what if” questions come to mind, and that, in my view, while natural enough, can take us down paths to nowhere unless we answer them in a present and positive way.
By that I mean we should take these questions as clues to what we regret in our present lives, and then see if there are ways to change regrets into acceptance. One way to do this is to think about–or even make a list–of things in our lives we are satisfied with. Then consider each one, determining why we are satisfied with whatever it is–job, family, friends, leisure pursuits–and finally, see the elements in each that create the most satisfaction, and the elements that create the least.
Nest, consider the things we are not satisfied with. Make a list, consider each one, and determine the source of our dissatisfaction. Again, determine which ones create the most dissatisfaction and which ones create the least.
Knowing why something pleases or displeases us is important in finding out who we really are, and then choosing areas in which our personal choices can make a difference. One may not be able to eliminate an unpleasant co-worker. But one can learn to ignore him/her. Reminding oneself that the co-worker’s behavior is not about you, it’s about him/her goes a long way, even if one feels personally persecuted. My Aunt Roberta was a great example of doing just this. “One simply rises above it,” she would say if someone described a persistently unpleasant situation.
I think one thing that impedes progress in coming to terms with our lives is forgetting that we change with age. We continue pursuing leisure activities we have become tired of because we’ve always done it. We continue to spend time with people we no longer enjoy because we’ve always done it, and we don’t want to hurt their feelings. We join in conversations about topics in which our opinion is a minority one, though we rarely offer it. And are angry at ourselves for not speaking up, because we feared the consequences of doing so.
The United States today is not an easy place to live. Road rage, random violence, public vulgarity–and what my generation would call “tacky” media–surround us. And that’s enough to cause a great deal of dissatisfaction! But still, we have choices that can make our spot on the planet a better place. We can choose to be courteous. We can choose to be generous-spirited, and bite our tongue when derogatory words are in our mouths. We can try to see issues, both private and public, from many sides, instead of making an instant judgment, which almost always results in a very narrow stand.
And most of all, we can take better care of ourselves. Examining what pleases us and what doesn’t will reveal ways we can do that without abandoning our valid responsibilities to others in our lives. As Socrates said, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” I agree!
As June draws to a conclusion, take time to accept the closing of some chapters, and anticipate the opening of others, particularly if self-examination is the engine for both.