What is a ‘good life’?

So many questionsJane S recently asked: “Kate, if you don’t mind me asking, I would love to hear your perspective on ‘a good life’ … what gives meaning to each day now? what gets you up each morning? what are the places, past-times and people who remain key to a good life? At the heart of my wonderings is the question: are they the same as they always have been, or have things shifted?

I know this is a huge question … sort of like the meaning of life … but if you have space and energy to share your thoughts, I would LOVE to hear them. In part, this is for my own appreciation and learning, as a fellow human being and
as I work to support those who are involved in the lives of people with dementia. In part, if it’s ok with you, I’d love to share your thoughts.”

What a ‘huge’ question, or rather, lots of questions! Where one start to answer what the meaning of life does is, or what is a good life? I decided to begin with one of my favourite quotes;

“To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child or a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know one life has breathed easier because you lived, This is to have succeeded.” Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 – 1882)

Following on from that, one of my favourite singers Tony Bennett was asked in an interview how he would like to be remembered. He said, without any hesitation, ‘I would like to be remembered as a nice person.’ Since then, I have simplified my own thinking about what is being successful, and about what is a good life.

I’m not a huge fan of Richard Branson, however I do like his quote, ‘Every risk is worth taking as long as it’s for a good cause and contributes to a good life.’

Our humanity is really all that matters, not wealth or status. For me, it also comes back to taking personal responsibility for our actions and reactions. Being self-reliant, and heroic when it counts, is really important to me.

Honesty, forgiveness, loving, sharing and caring, living beyond myself, helping others, trust, charity, truth, family, courage, dreaming, feeling blessed, peacefulness and contentment… for me, these are all vital to what constitutes a good life.

My husband and children get me up every morning, not literally, but my love for them, and the thought of spending time with them. My writing and advocacy for people with dementia gets me up. Writing my blogs, the public and private ones, gets me up in the morning, and helps me heal the continuing grief and loss of living with the symptoms of dementia.

Things have shifted, and yet stayed the same. Old relationships have become more important; spending time with friends is important too, and I do have a very small band of wonderful friends who go out of their way to spend time with me.

But strangely, face to face friendships are less important these days as so many shy away from PWD, and I have learnt to live without the close support I used to have from many of my friends. Perhaps I am too direct and open about my life for some to cope? I have had some friends say, ‘I am not interested in your dementia journey’, or ‘they don’t want to face it’, and sadly, they have dropped out of our life.

As I get older, my elderly family members have become more important, e.g. special aunties and other long time friends. I’ve recently wished I’d spent more time with them in my 20’s and 30’s, and not been quite so caught up in my own life, but also realise building a career, raising a family, and living hundreds of miles away from them made it difficult, so there is no guilt, just a little wistfulness.

As a person with a diagnosis of dementia, my dreams and goals may have changed, my ability to remember all of who I once was, or everything I have done might be less accurate, but the essence of who I am, and what a good life is to me has not really changed. Even without dementia, chances are this would be the same; we evolve each and every day of our lives.

Ps: Jane, I have no idea if this answers your questions? I could probably revise what I have written here for years to come!!

14 thoughts on “What is a ‘good life’?

  1. great post Kate

    I think that “acceptance” is something that helps too. Oh, and family and friends. It’s a lonely life without either or both of these….

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  2. Josef Locke, the Irish tenor summed up ‘A Good Life’ with his rendition of “If I can help somebody as I pass along, then my living shall not be in vain”. I like to think I am of a like mind. Just being there is quite often enough. Keep on writing, Kate. Your words most certainly do help somebody. Power to your elbow.

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  3. Dear Kate,

    to me a good life is what you get when you “always do your best” under any circumstance. It is daring to be always yourself (rather that pretending to be someone else) Because only from there it is possible to build up healthy and fulfilling relationships with others and with yourself, you open up to what life can bring you and there is space for true love, laughter, and LIVING….

    Thanks Kate for bringing up this important topic…….

    Susana García
    Madrid
    Spain

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  4. Oh Kate, I have tears in my eyes as I write this. When I saw your email, I opened it with excitement – ‘You star, Kate, thanks for thinking about my question so quickly’, I thought as I clicked the link.

    And then as I read and read, my heart was moved, not just my mind. I think of all those people with dementia who are described as ‘no longer my husband/sister/aunt etc’, and even ‘He left us some time ago’, as if the person died some time ago even tho still alive … it’s as if (as you described so well) the essence of the person is no longer there, yet they ARE.

    I liked too how you wove the importance the essence of who we are and how we live our lives that counts. And of course the people in our lives. I am sad to think that some friends move away – I have heard of many stories like that so don’t doubt your experience, but I am saddened never-the-less.

    I reckon unless services ‘get’ your description of a good life and valuing the essence of the person, then they’ll not ‘get’ person centred work.

    I am doing a little rave here – i do hope I understood what you intended to convey.

    Thank you thank you Kate. I look forward to when next your thoughts and writing take you on this path.

    with warm appreciation and wishes
    Jane

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  5. A good life to me, is doing more good things than bad things. Helping people, and even if it’s only one person, if you improve their life in even a small way makes it all worthwhile. Learning the importance of the important people in your life, and learning the irrelevance of material possessions and vanity.

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  6. A good life …. well I was thinking part of it would have to do with personal health, but you have challenged this for me dear Kate! I would say you lead an exceptionally good life (based on your blog above) even though dementia is challenging your health. You have made your life full and meaningful.
    A good life for me is about so much, but one of the most important is being relaxed and comfortable in my own skin. This allows me to have strong honest relationships, be a good parent, help others and generally deal with whatever comes along in life. I’m still learning this important skill and know I’ll be a student to the end!

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    • I’m still learning too, and hope to also be a student to the end!

      There is a lovely saying I first heard from Wayne Dyer, ‘When the student is ready, the teacher appears’, which I agree with 1000% and love its simplicity and truth.

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