A couple months ago, I saw an essay in The New York Times by Mike Schur and Todd May titled “What We Believe About Freedom.”
It was part of the Times’ “The Big Ideas: What Do We Believe?” series, and although it’s probably behind a paywall unless you subscribe, they wrote about how “freedom” does not absolve us of responsibility for others.
They wrote: “Why do we need to believe in obligations to others in order to adequately approach many of our other beliefs? Because to believe adequately, we must first understand that our beliefs are inseparable from our responsibility for the safety and happiness of those with whom we share our planet. Without that, we will lose the possibility of a common social existence. We will fulfill Margaret Thatcher’s infamous quip: ‘There is no such thing as society.’”
Naturally, that got me to pondering what I believe in. Of course, like anyone else, I believe in a lot of things, ranging from how everyone is at least a little hypocritical to how no one will take you seriously if you don’t take yourself seriously to the superiority of the trombone.
And if I had Ron Shelton to write my life, I’d be able to deliver a classic monologue about those things. (Just in case you’re not familiar with “Bull Durham,” there’s some language in this clip.)
But as I pondered the bedrock beliefs, the ones I try to live my life by, I realize that they’re actually pretty simple: life should be fair, good things should happen to good people and bad things to bad people, people should keep their promises and live up to their commitments.
I believe in the value of kindness, decency and respect, and that hating people because of their gender, race, sexuality or religion is stupid.
Yet I’m also a person who lives in the real world, so I know that life isn’t always fair (and I’d be remiss if I didn’t say it has probably been unfair in my favor more than I’d like to admit). Sometimes, the bad guys win, and people break their promises.
Mean, nasty people get ahead; various forms of hatred exist.
All of that ticks me off, sometimes to the point of anger, but maybe that’s a good thing. Angry me is not my favorite version of me, but what’s the alternative? Being such a pessimist and such a cynic — and I’m very capable of both — that I don’t react at all?
Perhaps, just perhaps … it means I still have some idealism left.
I didn’t want to tackle these matters alone, so I asked some of my best blogging buddies to share what they believe in. I’m grateful to all who participated, and here’s what they had to say.
I believe in the inherent worth and dignity of every person. I believe more observance of this principle would help us fix our hardest, most-pressing problems.
I believe we often act with more selfishness than kindness. I believe flipping the ratio would increase happiness for billions.
I believe community sustains us.
I believe in storytelling and in the potential of a single person’s story, told well, to help us understand the broader human experience.
I believe in science and in its capacity through continuous self-correction to explain the mysteries of our planet, of the universe and of life itself.
I believe there are many paths to spiritual comfort. I believe in vigorously pursuing mine and in assertively respecting you as you find yours.
I believe truths are universal and ideas are bound to time and culture. I believe that distinguishing between the two is difficult and that to find truths we must repeatedly re-examine our ideas — rejecting some.
I believe I often fail to live in to my beliefs.
I believe singing and peanut M&M’s usually brighten a day.
I’ve recently been thinking about things I believe in. I can think of plenty of things I don’t believe in: bigotry, the current government, luck…. but I’m a bit of a pessimist — I find it hard to find something tangible that I can hang my hat on.
But I think I’ve found it.
I believe in the power of laughter.
I’ve recently been watching a streamed live theatre show – an improvisation/ comedy company who perform a new “film” every night. Every single time, my daughter and I have been in fits of laughter.
It’s absurd, it’s surreal, it’s silly and it’s absolutely brilliant. I watch my teenager with tears rolling down her face from laughing and it makes me laugh even more.
However, last January, the same child was refusing to come out of her bedroom. She was refusing school. She was refusing to eat. She was refusing to show me the cuts on her arms.
But then I bought a ticket for a show we could watch from our front room. That night she joined me.
She smiled. She laughed. She asked if we could watch the next one.
And slowly, little by little, she has become interested in theatre.
She has become inquisitive about what makes something “funny.” She’s talking to me.
We’re booked in again for tomorrow. One day at a time.
So I believe in the power of laughter, the power of theatre, the power of doing something that unites us.
I believe that things can get better.
“Find happiness where you are.”
When asked to write about what I believe, I sat down and made a list. It included everything from being kind to others and the environment, to embracing diversity, to finding joy in simple pleasures.
As I mulled over what to write, this quote from Robert Holden, PhD, popped up in my Facebook feed. “Beware of destination addiction — a preoccupation with the idea that happiness is in the next place, the next job and with the next partner. Until you give up the idea that happiness is somewhere else, it will never be where you are.” The lightbulb went on! It sums up so much of what I believe about life.
Having fought a battle with cancer, I know all too well that tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. What if today was all you had? Would those goals you’re working toward and material possessions you’re struggling to accumulate really matter? Don’t get me wrong — goals can help us make the most of life. But until we learn to love and appreciate what we already have, we’ll never truly be happy.
In my late 20s, I was promoted to a management position. Instead of thinking ahead to my next career move, I recall sitting in my new office and thinking “This is it. I’ve made it.”
A couple years later, when my husband and I got married, I decided family would come before career advancement and earning more money. I’m happy to say I’ve held to that decision. Today, my family lives in the house we bought when we got married 27 years ago. It’s what many people call a starter home — a steppingstone to something bigger and better — but it’s enough for us.
From time to time, people ask me the secret to a long marriage. To me, it’s about being happy with what you have and letting the small daily annoyances go. If you spend your time chasing perfection, you’ll never be satisfied with anything in your life, including your relationships.
When my daughters were growing up, I passed this philosophy along to them. I told them not to get stuck on the treadmill trying to keep up with the latest trendsetters. Unless you’re Richard Branson or Bill Gates, there will always be someone with a bigger house, a nicer car, a better job, more money or a more up-to-date smartphone. Just ask yourself — is what you have enough for you?
Ultimately, every one of us can choose to be happy with what we have and to find joy in simple pleasures. Instead of chasing abundance, how about settling for having “just enough”? That, to me, is pure joy and happiness!
I spent a great deal of time considering the topics I believe in and feel passionate about. There are a lot of things I have a strong belief in, so it has been hard to narrow down.
It has been almost two weeks since Bill so graciously asked me to be a part of this project, and I have been debating a few topics back and forth.
The older I get, the more I find myself thinking about time. Time is so valuable to me; suffering insurmountable losses has taught me that anyone I love can be taken away in an instant, and I don’t like feeling as though I have been robbed of time. I don’t like thinking about all of the things I never got to say, and I don’t like thinking about all of the experiences they missed, or their unmet dreams, because they didn’t make the time.
Recently, I had one of the best days I have had in a long time. I shared much-needed laughter with some of my favorite people. I relished in the kind of laughter that strikes a nerve where I cannot stop laughing no matter how hard I try. This laughter became contagious, and the whole room erupted into laughter, which made me laugh even harder. I love those moments!
I had hour-long conversations that led to pondering questions, hypothetical scenarios and deep thinking. It’s so refreshing to be around open-minded people who can challenge your way of thinking without putting you down and educate you without making you feel stupid, and are appreciative when you do the same for them.
I stood on a screened-in porch and felt the mist of the rain kiss my skin while I watched in awe at the lightning strike the sky. I wondered if the storm would scare my 1-year-old niece, but much to my, her mother’s and her great-grandmother’s delight, she loved it! She started clapping and laughing! I had conversations with my niece, which mainly consisted of saying “hello” to each other back and forth 847 times, but I loved it! I especially loved when she walked up to me and hugged me; it almost made me cry.
I also played a game of Scrabble with my aunt, with who I identify in many ways. Like me, she is a very empathetic person, which makes her thoughtful. If I had not married into her family and found her on the street, we would have been friends, and I think of her as such. I’m also blessed enough to call her “aunt.”
I also enjoyed playing Scrabble with my 83-year-old grandma, who is my husband’s grandmother biologically, but she has become my grandmother through my adult life. She and I have shared many deep, emotional and wonderful conversations over glasses of wine, and they have become a part of my best memories.
It was in these moments I realized what was most important, what I truly believe in with my entire being, is making the most of time. Not only have I endured painful losses that have ripped holes in my soul, but I also fear such losses occurring in the not-too-distant future with my husband, father and grandmother.
None of them give me causes for concern other than age, time, and watching my husband grow a little more tired with each dialysis visit, along with specific conversations. I will not get into detail about but said conversations, but they have left me with a feeling that is urging me to pay attention. The one that is telling me, “Make the memories now!”
The truth is, time is a cruel mistress. Nothing and no one are promised to you, and time can take it away in the blink of an eye. So as I looked up across the Scrabble board and glared at my grandmother for scoring 64 points on a five-letter word, my glare quickly softened as I wondered how many more times I’ll have the opportunity to play Scrabble with her and how grateful I was for that current opportunity.
I was also in awe because, let’s face it, 64 points for any word in Scrabble is impressive, but especially on a five-letter word! I told her I was impressed, and I told her how much I enjoy playing Scrabble with her.
I want the people in my life to know how much I love them, so I have been making a point to tell them while I have the chance. People often don’t realize how much or in what ways they touch your life, and I think it’s important to let people know.
I also believe it is essential to make time for the little things, like watching a thunderstorm, enjoying a peach so juicy the juice runs down your arm or a glass of wine with your aunt and grandma over a game of Scrabble. Watch what you eat and exercise, but also eat the ice cream, have lazy days and treat yourself once in a while. Laugh often, be silly and earn the affection of a child! Life is too short not to.
I believe in positivity.
That sounds so simple and easy, doesn’t it? I like it as a philosophy; it’s broad and encompasses so many things, I can apply it to almost every aspect of my life. But it’s also part of me, who I am and how I am, I can’t help it. Whether my positivity is a result of nature or nurture, I don’t know and I don’t really care.
It doesn’t matter.
That’s all rather hand-wavy and abstract, though. So what do I mean?
Well, I believe in action rather than remaining still. If there’s a problem at work, I’d rather make a change to fix it than shrug my shoulders and leave it for someone else to deal with, or at least investigate and support someone else to resolve whatever it is. If someone’s struggling with a personal issue, I want to help them. Even if I can’t offer anything practical, a bunch of flowers and regularly checking in can go a little way at least to lift some of the stress.
My grandma is a big influence on me; she has always said “get your endorphins working” whenever someone complains of feeling poorly or tired. She was a nurse, midwife and midwifery teacher; she knows some good stuff. If, after all her years of experience in health care, she puts faith in determination as much as in medicine, I’ll take her advice every time. We’ve had to tell her to get her endorphins going in the last few weeks, and it’s just wonderful to hear her bouncing back to her usual character, even if at almost 97 her body isn’t quite as spritely as she’d like.
I try to always believe that there is a way forward. Two-and-a-half years ago, our family suffered a loss, but even in the weeks that immediately followed, I knew there was a light at the end. I might not have been able to see it sometimes, but I knew it was there. In those moments where I blamed myself, or questioned my choices, or accused others of making the wrong decisions or giving bad advice, even then I knew that a day would come when I didn’t feel that bitterness and shame.
When I say I believe in positivity, that doesn’t mean I always manage to enact it. Of course not, who does? We can’t all be the Dalai Lama. I have my moments of bitching and moaning, of self-criticism and of ignoring the massive pile or ironing or the weedy flower bed. But my positivity also extends to forgiving myself for such failures — I’ll get there in the end, probably.
If I believe I will, there’s a much better chance than if I’m sure I won’t.
I was raised Catholic and pretty strictly. I made all of my sacraments, attended weekly classes, went to church every Sunday, became an altar server and much more.
My religion always felt like more of a burden than anything. Waking up early for church seemed like torture, I hated altar serving. I hated dedicating my free time to church activities and working my schedule around when I needed to go to church.
I guess I just never fully bought in, sitting there in the pews half-awake and trying to understand old biblical writings. And despite not fully buying it, I did still feel allllll the Catholic guilt.
So I’m not Catholic anymore, though I could still recite to you all the prayers and find myself praying in times of despair. It’s just not something I believe in, but it doesn’t mean I’m not a spiritual or religious person. I know many Catholics, along with those in other religions, who have an undying belief in their religion. And I think it’s admirable.
While I may not agree with a lot of ideologies and I certainly don’t agree with any hate that comes from these ideologies, I think it’s admirable to believe in something so strongly. I believe in the power of belief. I believe that when people pray for you, or send you good vibes, or light a candle for you — it’s a very strong and powerful act that can go a long way.
No matter what your belief may be, if someone believes in something and they believe in you, then I think that’s a powerful sentiment.
I thought I knew exactly what I would say. I believe in kindness, or some might call it empathy/compassion. Not necessarily the so-called random acts of kindness, which feel like a fad diet or a New Year’s resolution, too brief to hold meaning, too spurious to value, but rather the deepest type of kindness based on the expectation that everyone on this planet has intrinsic value and deserves to be treated with kindness.
Don’t get me wrong — some individuals may deserve to be limited/constrained, or at the very least, experience a few consequences for their actions, but it should still be grounded in kindness.
But then I got tired or cranky or short-tempered, and I didn’t feel like a person who should be writing about kindness. Besides, is that what I believe or what I want to believe? Is belief something solid or something aspirational? Can belief be defended, given weight and texture, or must it always be ephemeral, something that shouldn’t be scrutinized too closely?
I’ve noticed when someone else believes something fiercely, in particular those who with strong religious beliefs and, on the other hand, absolute atheists, I move in the opposite direction. Yet, if you asked, I would have said that I’m the type to try to make sense of what someone is telling me rather than immediately opposing it. I am, perhaps, an unreliable narrator of my own life.
I realize that I don’t believe in absolute truths, but I appear to believe in heuristics, ideas that are mostly true except when they are not. “Be kind to others” is a heuristic because most of us can think of a time when our attempts at kindness backfired or led us to feel taken advantage of. Yet kindness is still generally a good idea. So here are a few others: Be honest with others and yourself. Celebrate the ways in which the world, life and the people you meet are sources of wonder and joy. Reading/writing is a way of life. Democracy is a kind of lifeblood, as essential as air or water. Find ways to make meaning out of your life. No matter your age, keep learning, keep working, keep playing.
Now that I can call these heuristics rather than beliefs, I know I could compose an endless list. But what I believe? I feel like a Magic 8 ball because you will get a different answer every time you ask, some the opposite of the last.
At some point in our lives we are confronted by a blank page. Its form often changes. It can be:
- a job application,
- a survey to gauge your strengths (or, in my family’s case, your child’s disabilities).
- the glowing hue of phone in hand, waiting for an incoming text, as you spy those dots flashing across your screen.
These forms are often unsettling. Overwhelming. Nerve-wracking.
Will this happen for me? Will this get me the services I need? Are all my words spelled corectly… Will this post live on for years to come? Haunting me as Facebook reminds me of what happened on this day?
The above scenarios represent a temporary blip in time. But what I believe in — above all — is the blank page. And NOTHING compares to a blank page sitting in a new notebook.
Such pages, especially those nestled in notebooks purchased long ago before the start of the school year or semester, hold so much power. I believe in its potential to unleash creativity you didn’t even know you had, about the lessons you will learn in the weeks ahead, and in the strength and power of the words laid upon the page.
These pages are reserved for me and me alone. And believe me, I am my best and my worst critic!
In a few short weeks, I’ll be dragging my teens to purchase back-to-school supplies. To them, the blank notebooks don’t hold the same value. My girls will be stressing about what color to get, what size rule they are and whether or not they have pocket dividers tucked inside.
On the opposite side of things, The Boss has absolutely no care in the world regarding what his notebook looks like. For us, this connects us to school. It’s used to show us how his day went and it provides us a way to tell his teachers and therapists how the hours passed outside of school and bedtime. Provided, of course, there is actually a bedtime.
So while I trek off to Staples, and listen to my girlie teens argue about notebooks, binders and related supplies, I will steal away for a second to find the higher-end, beautifully crafted notebooks. In this rare moment I will tune everyone out, including my clowns who, by now, will be arguing. I will lower my mask (it’s back-to-school time so it will be crowded), touch the cover, feel the weight of its contents and smell the pages… believing in the possibilities this journal holds. It’s the only joy I find when shopping for such supplies.
Technology is nice and fun. But nothing can compare to the blank pages assembled in this beautiful thing. I believe in this, and the potential and hope it represents. It’s all there. All we need to do is — fill it in.
I believe that there are very few “shoulds” in life.
When we’re young, we’re engrained with what we “should” and “shouldn’t” do. Even as we age, “shoulds” can dominate our lives, whether they come from the media, friends, family, authority figures, etc. We live by these “shoulds” and ultimately can become comfortable with how they dictate our lives. They give us a certain level of predictability.
“I shouldn’t do that, so I won’t.” Decision made. Period. End of story.
But here’s the thing…I don’t think that most of those “shoulds” actually exist. We hear about who should and shouldn’t wear a crop top or a bikini, who should or shouldn’t eat certain things or go back to school or live a certain way.
Have you ever given up on something you wanted because it didn’t fit in with the “should” narrative that you were living? Do you regret it?
Many of us allow these “shoulds” to define our lives, and not just in large ways, either! Even if you didn’t allow them to dictate a big life choice like your career, maybe they dictate how you do your job. Maybe there’s a way you could make your job easier or more accessible to you, but you feel like you can’t because it’s never been done before. Maybe you want to change a facet of your relationship with your significant other(s), but you feel like you shouldn’t because it’s not typically done.
Don’t get me wrong, I still believe that we should cause as little harm to ourselves and others as possible, but besides that, we should live in a way that suits us best without feeling guilty.
I’m working on not allowing “shoulds” to run my life. Care to join me? The next time you think “I should do X” or “I should have X trait” or “I should look like X,” ask yourself why! Often, it’s not because it’s something we want, but a preconceived “should.” And doing what you want beats doing what you think you should do (barring you’re not hurting anyone else) every single time.
The big news last week was about Simone Biles dropping out of events during the Olympics. And many people have shared their diverse beliefs about it, ranging from she’s a hero for putting her health first to she’s a quitter and should’ve powered through it and everything else in between.
Frankly, I believe that is her personal choice. But also, I believe that she is being judged way too harshly due to this mostly appearing to be a mental health matter instead of a physical one.
For example, let’s pretend that she was diagnosed with a physical ailment that jeopardized her ability to perform and caused her to drop out. I don’t know, like she came down with vertigo or her appendix burst or a jealous rival attacked her and broke her knee…
Would we still be hearing people call her a quitter in those examples above? Or would we instead be united in sympathy and best wishes in her speedy recovery?
It seems to me that mental health is not taken as seriously by the public as physical health. Even though mental health can be just as debilitating, if not more so. There are some really cruel comments out there about her these days and I’m surprised by how uncaring people can be.
So, I wish Simone Biles a speedy recovery and I hope she makes a comeback. I also hope that she is avoiding all the negative commentary about her and focusing on all the supportive ones instead.