Darrell Berkheimer: Learning to enjoy the ‘best of life!’ | TheUnion.com

Darrell Berkheimer: Learning to enjoy the ‘best of life!’

Would you believe it, some of my friends have stopped asking me how I’m doing.

They have grown tired of receiving the same answer every time.

It’s the same answer I give when asked “How are you?” at the grocery store, the bank, and various other places.

“I’m fantastic!” I tell them. “And getting better,” I add.

Finally, I realized my expectations — and sometimes my attitude — got in the way of the joy in life that was there for me.

That’s my normal answer.

At check-out counters, it’s an answer they don’t expect; but they seem glad to hear it.

And then they often laugh if I decide to add: “But sometimes I lie.”

Just imagine how many times each day someone asks “How are you doing?” — and how many times they receive a lackluster reply such as “OK,” “Fine;” or perhaps “Good” from a few folks.

From those who pay attention to what I said — and there are some who don’t — I usually get a smile. Some will say: “Good for you;” or something similar, like “Hey, that’s great.”

And no one benefits more from that experience than I do.

It took me too many years to get to that stage — to accepting who I am, and where I am in my life — and to begin displaying to others my joy in living each day. It occurred during those last years of working — when nearing retirement.

It’s too bad it didn’t happen sooner; but I’m making the most of it now.

I suspect many folks spend much of life wanting something more — searching for something better, dreaming about what if — and wondering when they might be able to live some of those wants and dreams.

During much of my life, my family — including an ex-wife and two daughters — lived from paycheck to paycheck. So we did a lot of dreaming.

I was not the best husband or father. I was too engrossed in my newspaper career. My frustrations and challenges were more than I wanted. And my naïve dream of having a near-perfect love with a woman was becoming just a fantasy.

Finally, I realized my expectations — and sometimes my attitude — got in the way of the joy in life that was there for me.

Now, after living through those many frustrations and disappointments, I realize I have had a good life. And with my attitude and outlook on life today, it keeps getting better!

Bad memories fade while good ones shine brightly. I realize now how lucky, or blessed, I have been.

I’m grateful to my parents for providing me with a good education. That resulted in opportunities to work in different locations, and do so much more in life than what my parents were able to experience.

I’m grateful for having a brother who served as an understanding listener to his often wayward and thrill-seeking younger sibling. And he fostered my yearn to learn.

I’m especially grateful for the good health I’ve experienced for so many years — something I haven’t deserved, considering my frequent poor eating habits and lack of proper exercise.

And now, as I look forward to each day — with the positive attitude that daily practice has turned into a habit — I find myself greeting almost everyone with a smile. I’ve learned it’s impossible to smile at someone, see them react with a smile in return, and not feel better myself.

Dale Carnegie, the author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, wrote about a sign in a retail shop that listed the value of a smile. And I copied it from his book.

It costs nothing, but creates much.

It enriches those who receive, without impoverishing those who gave.

It happens in a flash and the memory of it sometimes lasts forever.

None are so rich they can get along without it, and none so poor but are richer for its benefits.

It creates happiness in the home, fosters goodwill in a business, and is the countersign of friends.

It is rest to the weary, daylight to the discouraged, sunshine to the sad, and Nature’s best antidote for trouble.

Yet it cannot be bought, begged, borrowed, or stolen, for it is something that is no earthly good to anybody till it is given away!

And so it is the smiles I receive in return, plus an emphasis on a positive attitude, that have brought me to this “best of life” perspective.

It’s how I arrived at “Fantastic; and getting better!”

“And what is better than fantastic?” a friend asked.

“Is it nirvana?” another suggested.

I’m not sure; but do we really need an answer?

Isn’t it just the good feelings that smiles, and a positive approach, can generate that really matter?

So if you see me, don’t forget to ask me how I’m doing!

Darrell Berkheimer, who lives in Grass Valley, writes a biweekly column published Saturdays by The Union. Contact him at mtmrnut@yahoo.com.

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