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Living Life One Thing at a Time - Chef's Choice Five In reply to last month�s question which asked what Jack Palance meant by his enigmatic reply to Billy Crystal�s query about the secret of life in the 1991 movie �City Slickers,� Kristi, 54, wrote, �My husband and I have always been intrigued by the symbol of �one� and we find it fascinating to hear other people�s musings on its exact meaning. Craig sculpts for a hobby and one of his pieces depicts that hand-signal with the forefinger raised to denote a single thing.

�Some make the gesture out to be obscene,� Kristi continued. �Others relate it to sports. Most just question it. We perceive the message to be that there is only one supreme power, one Presence in the Universe. That perception comes from our personal spiritual perspective. We believe -- and, believe you me, our belief is tested daily! -- that there is only the power of Love, a.k.a. God. That is what we believe Curly, Jack Palance's movie character, meant by his answer.

�The word �one� can also be interpreted to mean that we are the only governing power in our lives. Only we make our choices. And only we can truly respond to their consequences. Craig and I are quite steeped in the �Course in Miracles� so most, if not all, of our perspective is gained from its influence in our lives.

�Billy Crystal's character seemed fascinated by Palance�s perplexing response to his question. He feared the taciturn old cowboy, tried to befriend him, tried to figure out what made him tick but ultimately could not figure him out. Maybe it�s up to us to try to figure out what that �one� thing is for each of us. After all, we are the only lifelong relationship we will ever have. No one else can walk our footsteps for us.

�It may seem we don�t have choices at times, but, in fact, we do have a choice in how we respond to everything that happens to us. Life is all about choices. I still choose Love, not the earthly, love-song sort of love, but the kind that gives me hope and the resolve to get up each morning and swing those legs over the side of the bed and to try to make my world better, bit by bit.

�To me that is Love. A Love I cannot explain, only feel. And so, with Love foremost in my mind, I get on with each new day.�

To What Are You Committed?

To go along with Krist�s affirming words on the wisdom of Curly�s single-syllable advice, here is Roy H. Williams� interpretation, shared on the Internet (Wizards of Ads.com) under the title, �What Are You All About?� This is what Williams wrote:

�Jack raises a forefinger and tells Billy that the secret of happiness is �one thing.� In classic left-brain style, Billy spends the next three days trying to figure out what that �one thing might be. Had Billy not been quite so linear and sequential, he might have realized that Jack was simply trying to tell him that, to be truly happy, he must give himself utterly and completely to something. �One thing.� Anything.

�To what are you committed? What is your �one thing?� You haven't been confusing transient, temporary pleasures with true and abiding happiness, have you?

�Happiness will grow in no soil other than the soil of commitment. The root of happiness is loyalty, as only from it can the shaft of self-image shoot skyward. Personal interests and accomplishments are the branches that reach out from the shaft of self-image. Joy, peace and contentment are merely its leaves soaking brightly in the sun.

�Without soil and root, there can be no leaves.

�To be truly happy, you've got to know who you are. It is your loyalties and your commitments that define you. Likewise, it is from your loyalties and commitments that your dreams and goals emerge. (Tell me your recurrent daydreams and I'll tell you who you are.) Sadder than living your life without ever achieving your dreams would be to live your life without a dream. But perhaps the greatest tragedy of all is to have a dream and achieve it, never realizing that happiness will not be your reward at the summit of the climb; happiness is the climb.�

Williams then offered these three quotes:

A man saw a ball of gold in the sky;
He climbed for it,
And eventually he achieved it --
It was clay.
Now this is the strange part:
When the man went to the earth
And looked again,
Lo, there was the ball of gold.
Now this is the strange part:
It was a ball of gold.
Aye, by the heavens, it was a ball of gold.
- Stephen Crane (1871 - 1900) "For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin - real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, or a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life." -Alfred D'Souza

"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." -John Lennon

And he concluded with this curt exhortation: �Commitment...loyalty. Make no other plans.�

The Path to Our Inner Selves

On the importance of aloneness in our hectic lives, Theda advised: �I think solitude is needed to clear your mind and connect with your inner self. This is important to find peace and also to make wise decisions about your life. You cannot really do this with outside influences distracting you. Much love and peace in your endeavors.�

A Joyous Discovery of Sisters

�Where to start? At the beginning is always good,� wrote Emily of Brewster, New York, in her response to a previous question of the month on the need for each of us to reconcile and forgive our regrets. �I have always been a trusting wife,� Emily went on. �Recently my husband of 10 years decided the marriage was over and it was time for him to find someone else. He proceeded to attach himself to a much younger woman -- 24 years younger than he! I myself am 14 years younger than my husband. Anyway, enough of the bitter background -- let me get to the point.

�The point is that I took him back and ever since I have been completely lost. I don't feel comfortable in my own skin. I am very spiritual, and for this he dislikes me. He has no faith. This past weekend I went on a trip with the mothers and girls from my oldest daughter�s Girl Scout troop. It was a weekend filled with 500 giggling women and girls. There was not a man in sight. It was wonderful! This was the first time I have been away from HIM since I found out he was cheating on me. I thought I would break down and be miserable all weekend. Much to my surprise, this did not happen.

�Every woman in my daughter�s troop was so supportive and encouraging. They are all my guardian angels. They made my spirit feel free again, and I began to find myself for the first time in years. I have had my disagreements with several of these women, but in the end they are all here for me. I wish I could do something to tell them how much they mean to me.

�They are helping build my self esteem back up. But that is not all. They are my spiritual sisters! They make my soul feel love again. Not the kind of love that you get from a man. No, this is the pure love that is unconditional, non-judgmental, supportive and, most of all, given freely. I feel that I have been blessed, and I want the world to know it! Thank you, ladies, for all you have done for me. I will never forget it, and neither will my girls.

�A huge regret,� Emily concluded, � is that it took me so long to realize the vital need to have spiritual sisters in my life. I'd urge everyone, regardless of how happily married they are -- or think they are -- not to rely solely on their spouses for all of their self-fulfillment, self-love and sense of worth."

Healing the Past: Forgiveness Essential

�In many ways, I haven�t reconciled and forgiven my regrets�my many, many regrets,� poignantly wrote an anonymous contributor. �My regrets all consist of a loss of one kind or another and therefore grief has played a major role in my life for over 20 years.

�Grief itself is an immense handicap, especially if the grieving is over a loss other then death. Grief, mostly associated with death, the loss of a loved one is socially understood, accepted and even honored. I have found that grief over the loss of a family in divorce, the innocence of a daughter by the hands of her father, a missed opportunity, or the loss of ones health is ignored, misunderstood and often not tolerated by family, friends, or society. And I have found that my regrets, loss and grief over such things were ignored, misunderstood and not tolerated by me.

�It is taking years to realize and understand the effects of regret, loss and grief. In my case it took the loss of my health to get my attention. I live with the pain of Fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and depression. The only way out (other then death) is to heal. The only way to heal is to forgive.

�I have learned the power of forgiveness. As memories surface again and again I learn and return to the power of forgiveness. I have forgiven family, friends and co-workers over and over again. And, I have asked members of my family, friends and some co-workers to forgive me.

�Then somewhere along the way someone asked me if I have forgiven myself? Forgive myself? Well, no. I took responsibility for the events in my life whether I was responsible or not. I had wrapped myself in anger, self-hate and fear, and now I was given permission to forgive myself.

�With the help of a dear friend and counselor I learned to forgive myself. With each regretful memory, she helped me realize that I did the best I could at that point in my life. I learned to take responsibility only for the part I played and I forgave myself for that.

�Circumstances have changed and I have changed. I am older and wiser than I was 10, 15 or 20 years ago. By choice, I am wiser than I was even yesterday. By choice I am spiritually stronger than I have ever been. Healing my past, I have found, is a continuous process. And forgiveness is the best treatment.�

Question of the Month

Our question for next month was suggested by Renay, �a retired senior� writing from Melbourne, Florida: �I was reading an article by you which told that about one in three people live alone these days, and I thought, �Gee, I wish he�d write something encouraging the travel industry to make more arrangements for those who want to travel alone.� Then, at the bottom of the article was your email address, so here I am, suggesting that you make a case to the travel community for singles who want to travel by themselves, who enjoy meeting and chatting with others for short intervals on trips but who don't want a bosom buddy to tag along with.

�I think a lot of singles would like to travel alone but aren�t encouraged by the travel industry to do so -- and these business people are missing out on a terrific market! For instance, I was reading an article about one of the cruise lines (Princess, I think it was) that�s building seven more ships. I wonder how many accomodations they�ll have for singles? Today it�s almost intimidating for people to say they�re traveling alone -- everyone expects you to be joined by someone!

�Personally, I don�t mind vacationing alone. In fact, I look forward to traveling solo in order to meet others. I also know that when one travels alone, others seem to take you �under their wing,� so to speak.Therefore, it�s not the singles or other travelers who need an 'attitude fix' but the cruise ship companies, airlines, hotels, travel agencies, etc., all of whom base their specials on double-occupancies. How about great rates for one as well, you know what I mean?�

I sure do, Renay. Let�s see, then, if some sisters and brothers out there will help us out with a few suggestions in regard to personal and corporate attitude fixes on traveling alone. Write to me, would you? I�ll share your counsel and advice with Renay and the rest of life�s solo travelers.

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Lionel Fisher is the author of Celebrating Time Alone: Stories of Splendid Solitude (Beyond Words Publishing, 2001). Reach him at beachauthor@hotmail.com to share your thoughts on magnificent aloneness.