A Life Well-Lived


How do you define a life well-lived?

Do you define it?

Do you ever think about it?

I don’t think about it all that much, until I see it written or hear it said. Hearing it today made me pause to consider what I think is a life well-lived.

I believe I don’t think about it….because all my life, I’ve strived to just do it. Just live a life that feels well-lived to me. And my life well-lived certainly wouldn’t match what you’d choose; we’re all different in that way.

But I guess, first and foremost to me, a life well-lived is….a life…LIVED, doing what pleases YOU (or me), understanding what that is for each of us, and going after that.

From when I was very young, I remember having a clear sense of what I liked and what I didn’t. What I was attracted to and made me feel good, joyful, happy…and what had the opposite effect.

As a Taurus-the-bull and a creative, aesthetics and my surroundings have always had a stronghold on me, my sense of well-being, my sense of purpose and who I am in the world, who I’m supposed to be.

I think others may go with the flow more than me, or are just naturally more accepting and relaxed with wherever they are, whatever comes their way. This is a lovely way of being. These folks may live with less stress because they’re not so caught up in things needing to be a certain way.

But for me, what makes my life one that is well-lived is that I do what makes me happy.

People I spend my time with people who bring me up, make me smile, laugh, teach me something. I like civility and kindness. As an empath, I absorb others’ energy physically in my body, so I have to limit spending time with people (or movies or TV programs) who focus on the negatives of life and who embody crises and stress, it seems, in everything they do, every aspect of life. I do spend time with folks like this, as you do, because I have them in my life, as you do. But I have to limit and plan my outings with them when I’m physically at a place I can absorb their energy and then get rid of it through quiet time, exercise, purposeful reading or exploring inspirational media.

Places

Outdoors is my favorite place to be. I get outside every day – in rain and snow and dark of night. I can breathe outdoors; I believe it keeps me healthy. I feel gratitude in nature; I feel small so it keeps me grounded and humble; I feel inspired – nature is the muse for my creativity.

When I was a little girl, my father taught me to save money, buy good things that I love, and take care of them so they last. Things well made last if cared for properly. He gave me permission to choose what I like, not accept. He let me know that my likes matter and I should get those into my life. I (we) deserve that.

I’ve done this all my life. With travel, I would rather go less frequently but stay in a gorgeous 4-star hotel, then go annually and stay in a place that doesn’t feel right for me. I spend as much as anyone, but I may stay 2 nights in the hotel and locale of my dreams, while others may stay for a week or two.

My parents moved to Florida twenty years ago. As a good daughter, perhaps I should have visited them annually. But with my family’s limited travel dollars, and my wishes to introduce my children broadly to the world, we visited them a few times, and then I took family vacations that I will treasure as some of the best times of my life – Mexico; Washington, D.C.; New York City; Shelburne Farms, Vermont; so many ski mountains in New Hampshire; Turks & Caicos; Savannah, Georgia; Los Angeles; Austin, Texas.

My husband and I, as we began to ponder where we might want to live in retirement, explored Hilton Head, South Carolina; Jekyll Island, Georgia; Amelia Island, Florida; Asheville, North Carolina.

I’ve been to Sonoma’s wine country in California, San Francisco, Monterey, Carmel, San Diego. I’ve been to Nashville, Tennessee once and Paris, France twice. I pretend I’m a French girl! I have totally bought into their joie de vivre lifestyle and outlook on life and living – a life well-lived. I studied in London during college and while overseas traveled to Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, France, Italy.

For me, a life well-lived includes all the travel I’ve done, which I chose for me, not out of duty to others.

Things

I am a minimalist. My writing is where I am most sentimental and I’ve written my life’s journey through diaries, letters, books, blog posts. I re-read my writings to bring me back, bring me joy. I am not attached to material things that remind me of the past. Other than books, I’m not a collector of things. Now, nearing retirement-age, I don’t even collect books. I’ve downsized, weeded out, and now visit my library every other week or so. Libraries are happy places for me (particularly those in historic buildings, or the Boston Public Library is a gem). Let me wander the stacks or the seats set far off from the crowds, with a window view, and books at every turn, and I could happily spend hours!

At this age, I have only things that I use and that I find beautiful, helpful. I have drawers and closets that are empty, and that brings me a sense of peace. I don’t like feeling stuffed in any capacity. To me, that feels overwhelming. A life well-lived to me is purposeful and without clutter.

What do you consider a life well-lived?

What people, places and things mean the most to you and why?

When we each decide, we should be very sure to do – to live what we perceive to be a life well-lived.

If not now, when?

Socrates famously said that the unconsidered life is not worth living. He meant that a life lived without forethought or principle is a life so vulnerable to chance, and so dependent on the choices and actions of others, that it is of little real value to the person living it. He further meant that a life well lived is one which has goals, and integrity, which is chosen and directed by the one who lives it, to the fullest extent possible to a human agent caught in the webs of society and history.” ― A.C. Grayling

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