The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

Category: Weekly Columns

No, I’m not writing about the movie or its wonderful music. Instead, this column will contain lists of random things that I think fit those three categories. I was driving to Mammoth, a ski resort we frequent, alone and early in the morning and began reflecting on my life. I had a rough period recently and was feeling a bit blue. I know that that feeling is fleeting and I have much to be grateful for. In fact, I know that gratitude is the key to happiness.

So, I started making a mental list of the things that I have to be grateful for, but I couldn’t help but also think of some of the ca-ca (a good parenting word, don’t you think?) in my life and the world, as well. I’m going to try and stay focused on “The Good” though acknowledging and recognizing “The Bad, and the Ugly.”

I believe the serenity prayer (and I’m not in AA) really says it all about how to view the world. We all get handed our pile of challenges, we just have to choose when to accept them, when to try and change them, and when to just let them go. I hope these lists give you a giggle and some good reflective thought as well. So, with that lengthy preface here they are, in no particular order, in each category:

The Good:
1. My two boys, Will and David.
2. My three dogs, especially Simon who we almost lost.
3. My good health.
4. My best friend Marty.
5. Boba, Pizza, and Coffee Ice Cream.
6. Eric Clapton, Bruce Springsteen, and Sinatra.
7. Computers (yeah, they also belong in the bad
category), MP3 Players, and cell-phones (truly, they also are a mixed blessing!).
8. Skiing, always near the top of my list.
9. Hiking in the hills and parkland, right outside my front door, with my dogs.
10. Our new home theatre with its amazing sound and picture, which makes going to the movies at home almost better than going to the theaters.
11. My good fortune in my former work-life and my luck in being able to retire so young.
12. My further good fortune in meeting my new wife, Loren (we just married this past Dec. 27, 2008).
13. My boy’s acceptance and love for her.
14. Our incredible honeymoon in Africa and its reminder of just how lucky we are, here in America, however much our economy is presently suffering.
15. My Men’s Group and the amazing support they provide during the challenging times, along with the wonderful friendships that have developed there. These are friends that tell me the truth, not what I want to hear. We need to hear the truth from our friends more often. I credit them with making my marriage happen and work.
16. My growing second career in writing and the blessing that so many papers, online and hard copy, have taken my column on in a time when their industry is in such decline.

The Bad:
1. My parent’s death in the past three years.
2. My ex abandoning my kids and the subsequent psychological effects that’s created.
3. My moods and occasional whining (Loren will debate the use of the word “occasional”).
4. My impatience (especially with Will, my teenage know-it-all).
5. Hollywood and movies, reality television, and network news nowadays.
6. Lawyers.
7. Lawyers.
8. All the cruelty in the world.

The Ugly:
1. Radical Islam.
2. Bad parents.
3. Addictions.
4. Renee Zellweger (we call her lemon face, due to her puckered lips).
5. Dating (thankfully a thing of my past, now).

In looking back at these lists, I’m proud to reflect that the total of “Good” exceeds the total of both “The Bad, and The Ugly.” Yes, it is how we choose to react to life’s challenges, not whether we have them or not. We all do. And, in most cases, if given the opportunity to switch lives with someone we know well, we’d opt to keep our own bag of challenges.

A final and important reflection on this was beautifully and poignantly written about by Viktor Frankl, in his powerful book, “Man’s Search For Meaning.” I will paraphrase him, when I describe his story of surviving the Nazi concentration camps during World War II. He said that, of course, the Nazis had full control over every aspect of his life; what he ate, where and how long he slept, work, punishment, life or death. However, the only thing they had no control over was how he reacted. That is our choice, too, when we face far easier challenges, even now.