LukeyoutheU essay 3
Years ago, I visited a friend in Boston. She and her husband had recently moved to a then unfashionable part of the city, to a part which was tucked away from most of their friends. The move allowed them the chance to make additional friends and to experience a different slice of life. It was a lifestyle choice which gave them more interior space both psychologically and physically.
Their new-to-them flat had plenty of old-world charm. I remember it having beige walls and darkly-stained wainscoting, wood trim, high ceilings, and hardwood floors.
On the day of my visit, we were buzzed into the flat. (Someone else arrived or came with me, I feel certain, but I don’t recall who.) We walked inside and up the stairs to what I guessed was the main living area. No sign of our hostess. It felt like a minute or two passed though it was probably not more than thirty seconds before, all of a sudden, my friend rushed in from another room. Her face was aglow (which, in my experience, it often was). She beamed full of something as she walked towards us. (I dimly remember a couple of others also being there, waiting.) I wanted to know, probably all of us did, what was causing her liveliness.
She surprised us (well, me at least) by talking about the preposition "in." About how great it was. About how important it was. About how such a small word (here she held her thumb and index finger nearly touching to indicate tininess) can make such a big difference.
It was the start of prepositional awareness for me. Thank you, L., for many things, including introducing me to the power of prepositions.
Prepositions are typically short words, and, I think, often overlooked. Who besides possibly some grammarians regularly considers the words in, on, to, or by? Other, longer prepositions do make more of a statement: with, against, and beyond, for example. Still, they’re just prepositions. No matter how big they are (and I will admit throughout is a big one) how important, in the abstract, can they be? It's not like they're the subject or the verb of a sentence. One uses prepositions, certainly, and knows what they mean, but how could they be that important that my friend got all flushed? They have utility, yes, but what do they have compared to nouns, especially proper nouns? Nouns are nice and solid and often specific; nouns we can point to and almost always agree on. A chair, a throne, the throne of England. And what about verbs? Verbs are engaging words, full of external action or internal feeling. There’s an inborn excitement in motion, be it outside or inside us. Run, put, seem, know. But prepositions? They're plain Jane connectors. They’re just, well, there. They have utility, sure. It'd be tough to live without them, I'll agree. Kind of like doors. Doors are useful but how often do I think about doors? Now, wait a minute, I say to myself as I follow the metaphor. A door can be the opening to a whole new world...
I wonder if prepositions, if these often little and typically overlooked words don't serve a mighty and important role in life. A preposition, after all, demonstrates how the speaker/ writer/ song composer/ poet/ thinker/ person in the inside of her head believes objects are connected to other objects. How verbs connect with things. Don’t run to scissors has a very different meaning than Don't run with scissors. Prepositions show what the relationship of something/ some action is with another thing/ action.
So what's this mental jaunt got to do with you, dear reader? A big deal, in at least one circumstance.
I suggest this: that the prepositions you use to connect with life tell/ inform you/ help create how you relate to your life. The quality of the life you live. What you have/ can give to others.
Here's the sentence I would like you to consider. I ask you to apply, to choose the preposition that best reflects what you believe about your life right now.
“Life is [insert preposition] me.”
Go ahead. Think of prepositions and put them in.
Potential prepositions include: beyond, to, on, against, of, through, in, within, for, with. (There are about 150 prepositions in English. These are ones that come to my mind now.)
Life is beyond me.
Life is happening to me.
Life is against me.
Life is on me.
Life is because of me.
Life is through me.
Life is in me.
Life is within me.
Life is for me.
Life is with me.
As for me, I favor the last two understandings/ beliefs:
Life is for me.
Life is with me.
In the past, when something I didn't want to happen happened, I often toyed with the equivalent of life is against me. I very well may have been justified in that thinking in some situations. Nine out of ten people may have agreed with my rightness. It may have been “true.” I’m sure I found/ could find evidence to support that in my life at the time, life was against me.
But what good did that do? Thinking life is against me didn't feel good. It also didn't move me into a better situation. Frequently, I’d just felt worse and worse whenever I thought that way. I'd begin to feel sorry for myself. Self-pity, while perhaps at times understandable, is rarely, if ever, in my experience, useful. In that state, with that thinking, I found myself becoming increasingly upset at the “obvious” injustice of other people toward me. The clear and verifiable “wrongness” of the world at large. Had the idea that life was against. The result? Oh, I remained angry for a good long time. I built a storehouse of anger of how I'd been “wronged.” Often smiling on the outside, inside I was a lot of hurt.
Trouble is, having a storehouse of anger means that’s where I’d go if I wanted something to eat. Holding, keeping anger usually led only to my having more anger. Not so good for people, not anyone. Least of all me.
Changing the prepositions of my life made a big difference. The progression, made over months and years (it need not take nearly so long for you) went something like this:
Life is against me. A belief which resulted in a storehouse of anger.
Life is on me. Life is going to happen whether I like it or not. A reason to give up.
Life is in me. "Well," I thought, "I am alive." I have tried, unconsciously, in the past, to throw my life away by doing stupid things. But life would not have it. I would not have it. I pulled back into the acceptance, then the relief, that I was going to be alive for as long as I was alive so I might as well enjoy it. That life wanted me to live. How did I know that life wanted me to live? Easy! I was alive.
The vast majority of us, I suspect, want to live. Certainly you, dear reader, do. You believe, at least somewhere inside of you, that your life can get better. Otherwise, you wouldn't be reading this essay.
We can think differently. You can think differently. We can change our prepositions. You can change your prepositions. We can do things to improve the experience we have, day by day, and that others have, day by day, of and in life.
Nobody else though, finally, can do the job for us. Not totally. It's up to us, you and me, individually, dear reader. Others can help. I hope and intend to be helping here. Finally, though, it's an inside job.
Life is within me. No matter how much or how little you have, you have life. If you're breathing and reading and thinking about the prepositions in your life, you have life within you. Life is good and it can always get better, in some fashion or way, as long as we're alive. If may or may not be able to get physically better, perhaps not right now or ever. But it can always get mentally better. We can think more helpful and useful thoughts. If you can't, go see a cognitive therapist. A good cognitive therapist can help you reign in and learn to discipline your thoughts. If you really can’t, cannot, can not think differently, or will not, you’ve made your choice. You are, in a way, marking time. Time until your physical body ceases in its current state. When we're dead (and we are all headed that way), there's not much to worry about, is there. That's when one really cannot think (or act) differently.
But that’s not your case.
Right now, in this instant, there is life within you. Use it. Live it.
Life is for me. Life is with me. Once one gets to this level of understanding, once one gets to this belief, once one chooses and decides that life is for me: Wow! Then great things can/ do happen. Mostly on the inside, where it’s most important; and, increasingly, I find, on the outside, too. One feels better. You’re not a worthless object even if you've felt like one at times in the past. You are a worthwhile human being (who is also an object) who can be worth more. To yourself and others.
Thinking better about oneself, using the more useful prepositions, helps one to be kinder to oneself and to others. Which helps oneself and others to act more kindly toward oneself and toward others. It’s the creation of a virtuous cycle of potentially increasing good.
Difficult situations which will/ may arise are faced with hope. And hope can turn the tide. By thinking this way, that life is for me, life is with me, you will build up a storehouse of saying yes to life. Of believing it’s good and thereby helping to make it objectively so.
Dear reader, I ask you to consider the prepositions of your life. It's the connection we decide to apply to the things, situations, relationships, people of our lives which changes our relationship with them. Decide, and make, changes for your obvious good.
Against, to, for, with or some other preposition. Choose wisely.
“Life is [insert preposition here] me.”