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What truly is life?

Life is not what I thought it would be, or rather, I’ve learned that the idyllic life I was expecting to lead is better in some ways, but horribly cruel in others.  This intangible subject of life is one that I ponder often.

My lovely bride and I discuss this subject frequently and it never seems to come to a satisfactory conclusion.  We both agree however that life is not what we expected.  Stepping back to when I was a kid, like most of us, the future was wide open.

*Into the great wide open
Under them skies of blue
Out in the great wide open

That was me and possibly you.  Well, it didn’t turn out quite like that did it?  After high school and four years in the Air Force I gave my life to Jesus Christ, married a local beauty, had two loving children, and spent 37 long years working shift work in the chain link fenced area of a chemical plant.

It is hardly what I expected out of life, but in other ways, extremely rewarding.  The upside was I brought a great measure of security to my family.  I acquired new skills and property.  I worked thousands of hours of overtime.  I learned to repair computers.  I became a writer and author.  In exchange for all this work and commitment, I lost out on family time and this was the downside.

Passing through most of my adult life without serious loss probably put me in the minority, as all of us learn that life can deal us a hand that makes it almost impossible to go on.  Loved ones, friends, and people who are special to us… die.  That’s something that can be so debilitating that our own death seems preferable.

I have a friend who awoke next to his wife of many years only to realize she had passed in the night.  My heart pours out to this fellow and I’m sure his view of life is quite dismal.  I pray the up in his life comes quickly.

I absolutely hate depression or depressing subjects and this is why I couldn’t get through more than a season or so of the award-winning television show, Breaking Bad.  Someone suggested I watch the series Dexter, because “It is so exciting!”  Nope.  One minute into season 1 Episode 1 and I shut it off.  Instead I turned it over to channel 16, our local municipal access channel and watched the Texas Parks and Wildlife’s presentation on prairie chickens, of all things.

Wanda Orton’s column on the antics of Rufus Honeycutt’s father at the Brunson, is the way I choose to see life in the future.  I know there are more setbacks ahead, but I want to see the up coming, even if it means picking myself up off the deck and shaking the dust off after a down.

As a youngster, teen, and man in my twenties, I had no real clue that life for the most part is what I make of it and how I choose to view it.  Guess what folks?  A whole lot of what we see as life is by choice, not necessarily by chance.  Sure, every once in a while a foul ball comes into the stands and there’s not much you can do but cover your face, but this is the exception and even if you are hit, life goes on.

For years I led my life pretty much like an anchorless boat following the current, not realizing that with a little preparation, I could add a rudder and a small motor and danged-well go where I chose.

I can walk into my work place with a good attitude and greeting, or do like most of my coworkers and not even offer a salutation or claim to begin life at the end of their shift.  They are still in the boat drifting and I have a motor.  I’ll take the first choice every time.

Someone said that for every up, there is an equal down.  I think it was the guy who invented the third iteration of Fig Newtons, but I’m not sure.  If you think about it, this is an example of life.  We should be taught as children to not seek a life of pure pleasure and be toughened against adversity.  I don’t rightly know how this can be done in our modern society.  Back in the day, kids had chores and jobs while going to school.  Now they are home more than their parents.

They occupy themselves with anything that can pass the time and it is all based on pleasure.  When the “Fam” can finally get together, it’s time for more pleasure, to “bond the family”.  When anything tragic happens, the kids need counseling, as they are totally unprepared to deal with even the smallest obstacle.

No, life is not what I expected in so many ways and yet, I still have my faith, family, and friends to bolster me and carry me through the low places.  If you are in one of these terrible depths, take heart; you can be sure there is an up coming your way.  It’s Newton’s third law.

* Tom Petty – Into The Great Wide Open


Anonymous said…
I agree.
Anonymous said…
One of the very best articles you have ever written. I refuse to watch disturbing news, movies or TV shows, too. Connie
Anonymous said…
Bert - that was an amazing piece to me. Hope all will read. Very insightful....Debi
Anonymous said…
Bert, this is so beautifully written I want to share it with my good friend, Laurie Buchanan. She too is an author and a very wise soul. I realize this will be for your Column in the Sun tomorrow, I know Laurie will appreciate this because her motto, on her blog and every where else is, "What you are not changing, you are choosing." This is a perfect example of a man choosing the good over the bad. Thank you for sharing this with me. Sandi
Anonymous said…
Oh WOW! Well written my doppelgänger friend!!
Anonymous said…
Read it... loved it. TM
Anonymous said…
It certainly hasn't been what I expected, I have the realization that in my quest to provide for my family I have actually sacrificed my time with them. I too have kept the faith and pray continuously that I can make up that lost time, sadly the reality is that once time is lost you can never get it back. DB
Anonymous said…
I think the secret to life would be to frame your life as God sees the world and understand how you can serve HIm and bring Him all the glory that he most assuredly deserves. Everything else is noise and a distracting diverting yourself from true service. LW
Anonymous said…
. I always thought I'd be a lawyer living in a high ride loft. My cat being my child. Instead, I married a bumpkin that made me the queen of my single wide trailer and gave me 2 monsters. Teaching is similar to being a lawyer (pleas of not guilty, finger pointing, and objections). Blah. I seriously dislike the hate and discord that is so prominent today. I'm not immune to the grouching and unprovoked dislike. I want to be a kindergarten teacher. Kindergartens tell you they love you everyday. That's what I want..... I'm over the nastiness and aggression. I don't like the person I've become by being exposed to it so much. *praying for a new teaching position for next year*
Keep up the good work! I'm going to do some of your caches tomorrow.
Anonymous said…
EXCELLENT...Another great article Baytown Bert!!!
Anonymous said…
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Bert Marshall's work! LB
Anonymous said…
I passed on your comment and thought it was absolutely correct. SW
Anonymous said…
Thank you Bert Marshall. This was a well needed read. LR
Steve Liles said…
The nail on the head. You know I'd rather be outside than indoors anytime. I have guided our kids with single parents, kids with no parents and kids on the wrong paths to my passion of fishing and hunting. I love teaching and also listening to the stories they offer sometimes. I also have been the MC for our towns Special Olympics for 14 years, so having no children really I do have many. This spring I will also be in Victoria to the bus loads of Wounded Warriors that come every year to get on a boat to go fish the saltwaters they love so well. Your life as well has been an inspiration as your patience and endless help for the needs of the broke computer syndromes. My parents and myself included. Your treasure hunting is also inspiring to keep it shape along with fellowship. Just keep on with your code of conduct and everything you touch will be better that it was before. Great blog Bert.
Anonymous said…
You are a true poet, Bert.

Ed and I went grudgingly to a Christmas Open House hosted by the good-ole-country-boy attorney who handles all of our real estate closings and problems. He is a great guy, late 60's probably. His office is cowboy themed all the way. I expected a boring, business, listen-to-my-success-story afternoon. I was pleasantly surprised.

At the open house were two of this attorney's lifelong friends, and, as fate would have it, both men wrote cowboy poetry. What???? I spent the afternoon listening to their poems as well as listening to them recite, from memory, favorite cowboy poems. Our attorney strummed guitar and sang, guess what, cowboy songs. These men have been featured on a Food Network TV show because they cater, cowboy-chuck-wagon style, special events. It was a totally unexpected and magical afternoon. Who knew old cowboys were such romantics. Who knew our Bert could weave words so well!

I embrace these surprises in life.

Right now, Ed is upstairs with our 3 year old granddaughter, Ina Jane. She will manipulate him into reading bedtime stories for hours. I refuse to fall for that because I recognize her feminine wiles. They are in our female DNA :) I love my husband the most as I watch him play princess tea party. This child has him totally wrapped around her tiny pinky. My totally business, hard nosed, shrewd negotiating husband, being totally manipulated by a tiny woman-child.

Ed and I have discussed our purpose in the remaining years of our lives. We are committed to trying to be Christlike role models for our children and grandchildren and, hopefully, our great grandchildren. We want to teach them to embrace the simple things--the mystery and majesty of our faith--and not get caught up in the trappings of this old world....who has the biggest house, fanciest car, most powerful job. When I found Jesus Christ, my life completely turned upside down and inside out. All of my values changed. I am so thankful. I completed college and chose to be a stay-at-home mom. Not saying that is what everyone should do, but it was, without doubt, what I needed to do. I thank Jesus every day that He gave me that wisdom. Life has not been what I expected but I try to embrace each stage and I think, just maybe, this is the sweetest yet. SW
Anonymous said…
Bert, I want to take a minute and tell you how pleased I am that your article was so well received. Not just because I happen to know the man who wrote it, but because it also validates my opinion. From the time that I began reading it until I finished, I felt it was one of the best things I have read in a very long time, it was simply beautiful, like finding a perfectly formed sea shell on a pile of wood chip mulch. The mulch is very temporary and will eventually decompose. However the sea shell can last of thousands of years if protected. I am very proud of you.
Anonymous said…
This was very good and would be even better if you read it to me and others.

I also believe that life is a journey and not a straight line. Each day you have a plan and through the interactions of others including other forms of life your journey begins and ends. I believe that life is more than human and all life should be respected. This is what the Indians believed and I now believe they are right. I do believe in the here after and hopefully will see some others that have past.

As Bob Dylan said - "Death is not the end" as I prepare myself each day for its coming. CK
Anonymous said…
I’ve been reading this for a couple of days now and I must say that it really hits home. Still looking for answers… I guess I’ll just keep pondering until I can’t ponder any more! Isn't life strange
A turn of the page
Can read like before
Can we ask for more?
Each day passes by
How hard man will try?
The sea will not wait Moody Blues, “Isn’t Life Strange”
Anonymous said…
Best column ever! SM
Anonymous said…
Bert, Excellent read !
I have learned to pray a lot. Next day when the cards a shuffled and dealt, just play the hand your are dealt the best you can. Thanks,Fred

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