The end of May is approaching and the days are getting longer. We have had a few glimpses of summer but right now the weather is cloudy and there is even some rain. I took advantage of the cooler weather to plant some vegetables and flowers. I also planted some ground cover and I’m crossing my fingers that it will grow in the rocky soil around our house. There was some type of squash growing our compost pile that I moved out into a garden bed, curious to see if it survives and what kind of vegetable it produces.

Life has been busy and I haven’t had much time to sit out front and have a cup of tea. The chairs out front have also been broken, which would’ve made sitting down a bit more challenging. Work is slowing down a bit and we have new chairs so I enjoyed a chance to sit out and watch the color change in the hills as the sun sets on the other side of our house. I’ve been playing with  watercolors  to try and capture that look. Tonight as I looked and wondered how I would paint the scene, I noticed the shade from ridges and the plateaus hidden among the folds and greenery. Not sure how I would capture that, but I’ll continue trying.

Midway ship, tower, with flags flying

I’ve also been thinking, as I have a habit of doing, whether I sit out on our front porch or not.  One of my thoughts was about a focus in US culture on the importance of always winning, whether it’s a race, financial goals or something else. Somehow, always winning, being the top dog and other top achievements are considered the ideal. This seems as if it is based on a flawed assumption, that simply because a person wants to be the winner, if they work hard enough and try hard enough they can reach that goal. And if they aren’t a winner then they just didn’t work hard enough and it’s completely their fault they didn’t reach their goal.

The problem is made worse with advertising, television shows, movies, books, social media and other communications which strive to create a world view where a person only has worth if they are a winner in every area of their life. If you aren’t, then if you purchase the right product, find the right people, check tasks from a list, you will be a winner. Life becomes a competitive sport, where in order for us to be a winner, someone must be a loser.

Personally, this seems like a plan for mental illness and not enjoying what life brings us. This viewpoint sets us up to view others as competition to be beaten instead of others who could help and share in our journey. Unless other people are on our team, they are against us. It also sets us up to never find satisfaction in our life, except for those few, brief moments when we are ‘winners’, standing in the spotlight while the laurel leaves are placed on our brow. The rest of our life is simply a preparation for those moments, striving for more winning or recounting our past glories while lamenting our lack of current achievements. In the meantime, there are so many moments where we can enjoy simple pleasures, spending time with family and friends, and doing things because they give us joy, that are overlooked because we weren’t a winner all of the time.

Statue of military person kneeling and  holding a helmet

Myself, I try to live by something my grandmother told me when I was disappointed, again, that I didn’t win in games I played with my cousins. She told me I should focus on competing with myself and bettering myself instead of focusing on how well others did. I am still working on that lesson and it has helped me throughout the years when I get frustrated at my lack of progress in some endeavor. I remind myself that I am doing the best I can with the knowledge, and fitness I have now and that I mostly keep trying to improve myself. While I could be doing better I could also be doing much worse for myself.

I will also add a note that thoughts like this are not the entire focus of my existence and I am not permanently located in a place of depression and anxiety. One area where I feel I have improved is in dealing with my depression and reducing its affects on my life. However, after living with it for so many years, I do have down moments which leads to times when I doubt myself and what I do. What’s changed is that I’m working to not let them stop me or control how I live my life.  It has helped me to know that I’m not the only person experiencing issues, so my hope is that by sharing I may help others.

Two fighter jets flying overhead

I hope that everyone has a good holiday weekend and is able to honor those who have died while serving our country. As I get older I find myself inspired by these instances of service and looking for ways that I can contribute to the community in order to honor the price paid by others.

Pictures by J.T. Harpster