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Emails to my Therapist

Being and Doing: Do We Have to Choose?

Dear Nicholas, Here’s how I choose between being and doing in a given situation, if it seems there’s a choice to be made.

being and doing, serenity

I go by Niebuhr’s “Serenity Prayer.” The one that AA relies on. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”


I’ve been writing some lately about the aging process and my efforts to ward off the parts I’d rather do without.


Your view, as I understand it, is that aging isn’t something that needs to be fixed.

Instead, you lean toward staying in the moment and connected to one’s insides–call it vibrations, energy, life, God, whatever. And staying curious about what’s next. And always, staying grateful. Essentially, being rather than, say, waging a small personal war against aging.

I’ve got no argument against this practice of being.  Who could argue with any of the tenets? But I’m also enjoying the process of changing the things I want to and can.  One can be and still make time for a little weight-lifting and a lot of moisturizer.


Doing this kind of stuff does not grow out of despair; though in frustration and attempts at dark humor, I’ve sometimes made it sound that way. Really, it offers a lot of the health-enhancing pleasure of primping, glamouring, self-care.

A large part of why age is so much on my mind lately is that I’m hanging out with my mother who is 96 and doing a lot of being lately. She’s mentally sharp, but none too vigorous of late, though until recently she has been a very active person, a doer (as are you! I’ve seen your resume!)


Two TV shows Mom and I regularly enjoy watching together are Jeopardy, famously a test of quick recall,

and American Ninja Warrior, which Wikipedia describes as athletes “attempting to complete a series of obstacle courses of increasing difficulty.”

In ten seasons, only two people have finished the course achieving “Total Victory.”

Neither Mom nor I are likely to achieve Total Victory over aging or death.  Grudgingly, disbelievingly, accepted.

The Pleasure of a Challenge

However, I enjoy crossword puzzles I know from the start I can’t complete. Husband Bob says I like “Great Wall of China projects.” Also, it seems I like to write books that take me quite a few years to get right.

And so I am, in a crackling kind of serenity, taking some pleasure in tilting at The Big Windmill.

being and doing

It’s invigorating. Also, a surprisingly companionable team sport.

being and doing

I recommend it.

Persistingly yours,


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  • July 18, 2018 at 6:46 pm Reply

    I enjoyed this post!

    • Peggy Payne
      July 18, 2018 at 6:48 pm Reply

      Thanks, Susan. I appreciate your being here.

  • July 19, 2018 at 12:30 am Reply

    All that sounds familiar in my life – it’s a challenge for me to accept the major physical health and fitness changes that are now happening in my body. And there’s No profit in raging against the night, so I’ll toddle along best I can, with curiosity about the process, pleasure in the memories of what I did when I could, and gratitude for what I still have and can do – and work toward accepting the PT/exercises necessary to keep up what I still have and can do.

    My recent experience of temporary near deafness in one ear helped me to understand internally the social complications and distancing imposed by deafness. I was pretty relieved by restored hearing when my doc & his 2 helpers cleared out the wax impacted from OTC treatment.

    When the mechanical irritation in that ear calms down I’ll go to the Costco hearing aid folks my PCP suggested, since his screening test showed it’s time to explore that. I do want to hear better what my wife says – maybe hearing better will help me speak more audibly to her – that’d be nice. Her hearing was recently tested and found similar to a person in their early 20s, so my difficulty being understood by her is not a hearing problem. Despite wanting her to hear what I say, I find it surprisingly hard to point my mouth toward her when I talk.

    Practice makes progress – we’ll see, or should I say, we’ll hear?

    • Peggy Payne
      July 19, 2018 at 12:40 am Reply

      So glad you’re hearing again, Bob, and getting a screening. I’m excited about “hearing” how it goes. Love…

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