The Bookworm: ‘Simple Lessons for a Better Life’

“Simple Lessons for a Better Life” by Charles E. Dodgen
c.2015, Prometheus Books $18 288 pages

Getting your news these days is a nerve-wracking thing. Yes, you’re happy to note cat videos, new babies and neighbors having fun. But who likes to see word of war, destruction, accidents or death?

Yes, life means having both – but at this point, you feel as though there should be some sort of balance. Seek it in “Simple Lessons for a Better Life” by Charles E. Dodgen.

Things sure have changed since you were a kid. That’s a common sentiment. People have probably been uttering it since two years after time began – but today, how do we “not exist in a perpetual state of fear and misery?”

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Dodgen, a clinical psychiatrist, answers that question with what he found in a nursing home.

As we age, and especially when we reach Senior Status, we become “dispossessed of the material features that defined… identities.” Dodgen says that’s the “original identity theft,” and while there’s no alternative to this loss, we can learn to cope with it. Everyone endures suffering and pain to some degree, but there is a way to separate the two, for instance.

“Pain in life is inevitable,” but a good support system can help overcome it to the point of toleration. If that support system is you, resist the need to “do something about it” and just comfort. Simple love and companionship work wonders; reach for it and give it.

Recognize that depression lasts longer than demoralization; to ease the latter, positive reminders of the past are sometimes all you need. Try to remember that, though it’s certainly no fun, “loss allows for personal growth.”

Understand that phantom pain can come from missing people, too, but activity helps and a “gaping hole can be filled with new experiences.” Keep in mind that you are your best health plan, and you can improve your own attitude and experiences, love your body and balance your mind.

And finally, remember that there’s pain in life but what matters is what you do about it.

War, racial tensions, financial problems, dead lions, the list of woes all depends on where you sit. “Simple Lessons for a Better Life” may be able to help you relax about things – or it may not.

As self-help books go, this one is unique: by examining the emotions of those who’ve lost a lot (home, partner, independence, health) and have moved to a nursing home, author Charles E. Dodgen shows how richer lives can come from adversity.

Yes, it sounds simplistic (and there are pages where it definitely is), but what Dodgen says consistently makes sense on at least some level. Though it may take a bit of between-the-lines reading, that’s particularly true when his advice encompasses the needs of caregivers, elders and their children.

This is not a book of wisdom, so much as it’s a book of inspiration that needs to be savored and pondered to get the best from it. If you’re dealing with adversity or just watching too much news, “Simple Lessons for a Better Life” may be just the thing.
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The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Her self-syndicated book reviews appear in more than 260 newspapers.

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