Life Advice



Single File: Sweet Payback

Susan Dietz on

DEAR SUSAN: It may sound strange, but I've found my own version of prayer to be a huge comfort in my low moments. It isn't always the same prayer; I change the words to fit my mood. But praying to a higher power gives me peace. Do other readers tell you something similar?

DEAR BLOGGER: Yes, readers have shared their personal prayers over the years. And because they are so very private and personal, I have shaped my own version. For obvious reasons, it's without names or personal references in my life -- so you're invited to mention people and personal blessings in your own life. Here's a sampling of my personal prayer, "Sweet Payback":

"Sunday is traditionally a day of rest, but I suggest you add to it one more tradition, one with repercussions far beyond the obvious. Every Sunday evening, on the brink of a new week, make it a ritual to count your blessings. Do this in full consciousness, wide awake so that you can relish everyone. And don't leave any out, even the ones that came with your heritage. Give thanks for this free country, with its economic and social mobility. Be grateful for good health and the opportunities it gives you. Include your most valuable assets: the ability to reason and take risks, the impulses to laugh and to cry. Name every person you care for, whatever their status. Each one of them is a reason to make the most of your life. Last but not least, enumerate the advantages of being unmarried, the freedom and autonomy inherent in being at the helm of your life.

"It's easy to fall into a semi-slumber that merely gets you through the days, numb to the potential zest of the moments. Going through the motions is pushing away the days without making much of them. I wish for you more than that. Yes, I know there are problems in your life. There are some in my life, too. No one gets through life without them. And even when the biggies have retreated and no crisis is looming, there are still minor-league worries and irritations that sap energy and good will. But I believe each of us has a mission -- an obligation, really -- to repay the positive energy that entered us at birth and continues to animate us. The repayment need not be a continuing or ever-conscious effort, but we should remind ourselves of the debt often enough to keep the payments ongoing.

"There is no alternative to gratitude. There is so much misery in the world. Then think about all you have and come up with ways to share some of it; what goes around comes around. Your contribution will come back to you at the most unexpected moments, in ways you could never plan. If, as we said, most of the rough spots of singleness are the result of society's disapproval of the uncoupled, then revenge is called for. Your life can disprove those skewed perceptions. And if living well is the best revenge, then knowing you are living well surely must be the ultimate (and the sweetest) payback. Count your blessings. Strive to be happy."

DEAR SUSAN: I keep your book "Single File" near my bed, where I can read it again and again, which I do when I forget my strengths and am feeling weak. One of my favorite sections is where you ask us "How do You Spell Success?" Please print it again for me.


DEAR BLOGGER: ere it is. HerHere it is, dear reader, for your (sleepy) eyes and probably a lot more -- some of which, I'm glad to say, are of the male gender, curious to look again at what they really want from their lives, and what they'd consider a life lived successfully. (Deep digging here. Be prepared for heavy lifting.)

The following are classic definitions of success. (Number them 1 to 10, one being the most important, and feel free to add some of your own.)

-- Money.

-- Job satisfaction.


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