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Reflections November 2017

Leslie Goes Boom

Create Your Happiness Today

By Leslie Handler

They say that if you throw all the baggage you have on a table with all your friends, and put it all up for grabs, that you would end up taking your own crap right back again. I guess we’re just used to it. We know how to cope with what we know.

I spent part of my youth growing up in the Cayman Islands. I remember in the mid-70s, Cayman had pristine beaches, clear water, and coral within six feet off the shoreline. I would spend hours snorkeling above that coral and even became a certified diver to be able to enjoy even more sea life a little bit deeper in the ocean.

There were no TVs on the island back then and very few phones. Of course this was way before cell phones existed, the internet, or any social media. When I was there, I was totally unplugged. I’m a person who easily gets sensory overload, so for me, Cayman was absolute paradise. Seven Mile, the main tourist beach on the island, had only one multi-story hotel. Everything else along the beach was private homes and condos that owners rented out to tourists.

By the mid-80s, Americans began to hear about Cayman and started to flock there. The last time I was there was in 1986. That gorgeous seven-mile stretch of beach and shallow coral was all still there, but they had added multiple high-rise hotels, fancy restaurants, and pricey bars. TVs were everywhere as were telephones – and people, lots, and lots of people. It was no more my quiet little island.

I miss it. I often tell my husband that I want to go back to Cayman, but I want to go back in 1976. Sadly, I know it can’t be done. So I remind myself that I can’t live in the past.

Then there’s the future. You know, it’s that pesky thing I haven’t lived through yet, but I worry about all the time. I worry about what I’ll be doing and who I’ll be with. I worry about my future health, how my aging parents will cope, and if my children will be happy. Will my husband outlive me (I hope)? Will my parents stay healthy and happy until their last day on Earth (I hope)? Will my children have good jobs, healthy children, and a general happiness with their lives (I hope)? Sadly, again, I can’t predict the future. So I remind myself that I can’t live worrying about what will come.

I’m not all that old now. I’m only edging up to 60. I feel young in my heart and in my soul, but my body likes to remind me of my age in subtle ways. I’m one of the fortunate ones. I’m able to move quite well despite the aging aches and pains. At this time in life, I am able to reflect on the bad stuff that’s happened in my life as well as the good.

With the bad, they say that if you throw all the baggage you have on a table with all your friends, and put it all up for grabs, that you would end up taking your own crap right back again. I guess we’re just used to it. We know how to cope with what we know. That’s when the good comes in.

By the time you’re my age, hopefully, you have learned to throw away the crap, and embrace the good. Notice I did not say forget the crap. You have to remember to protect yourself, but throwing away my wish to go back to the Cayman that was, to live through the crap of the past, or even to keep stressing on what will be in the future does me no good. I can’t change either the past or the future.

I’ve learned to try very hard to live for now. I try to keep up with new technology including the use of my computer and social media, but my lessons of the past taught me that even though I can’t go back to an unplugged Cayman, I CAN unplug right here at home. I CAN throw away my anxiety over the future by planning new adventures, and I CAN enjoy the here and now…this moment. I can enjoy writing this essay, being at my desk, having the company of my dogs at my side, and seeing the beautiful day it is today, right now, right this moment.

I don’t want to be the old woman who tells the same stories of her past over and over again and believing that things were only good in my youth. I don’t want to be the woman who does nothing but stress over things I cannot change in the future. I want to be the woman who socializes with other people and is found to be interesting and up with what’s happening today.

I don’t want to be 20 again (except for my physical body – that would be quite nice). I love the lessons I’ve learned in life. Those lessons only come with the life experience of aging. I wouldn’t exchange that experience for anything, but I also want to live for today. As all decades past, present, and future, there will be the good with the bad. My wish is that I’ve learned well how to cope with the bad and throw it away so that I have lots of room for the good in each current day. Won’t you join me in enjoying today?


Leslie Handler is a nationally syndicated columnist and 2015 award winner of National Society of Newspaper Columnists. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and

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