"Being grateful for everything that's happened...the good and the bad...shifts my perspective. It moves me into some sort of universal space where I then can access peace," shares Michael Canfield in this short Green Renaissance film. He reminds us that shutting ourselves off from pain also inhibits our capacity to feel joy, and how practicing gratitude through the ups and downs enhances perspective.
Green Renaissance produces gorgeous short films that uplift the personal stories of ordinary people, with the goal of sharing ideas and inspiring change. We feel hugely blessed to feature video-stories that filmmakers Michael and Justine capture with exquisite expertise, and which so beautifully illustrate Grateful Living principles and practices. In this short film we hear from Michael Canfield.
On good days I look in the mirror and I see a wizened old patriarch who shows all the experience of his life and owns it and still has crinkles of joy around his eyes. Other days I look in the mirror and I go, oh boy…who is this old guy looking at me in the mirror? It looks like Keith Richards. [laughs]
One of the things that I struggle with right now is the reality that I’m 68 years old. And I’m still strong and vital, but I recognize that there is a finite time allowed for anyone on this planet.
I’m facing the fact of my own mortality. And it sometimes brings up the feeling of regret of the things that I haven’t done. You know, it’s the cliché…oh I wish I knew now what I didn’t know then. But the truth is, this is where I am.
We adopted a ten year old dog a little over four years ago. She’s been a real example of dignified aging. She’s blind in one eye, deaf now, probably has doggie dementia. But I put the lead on her and we go outside, and her tail goes up, and she’s happy until the time that she can’t walk much further. And she’ll look at me and sometimes say, ‘Pick me up, carry me home.’ The dignity with which she is accepting her life — lying in the sun in her favorite spots — she is obviously at peace. When I get to that stage of my life I hope I can accept and live in a space where I end my life with as much dignity as she’s living the end of hers.
I’m going to be really sad when she goes. I’m going to cry. I’m going to allow myself to feel those feelings. I’ll feel that pain. If I’m not willing to allow myself to feel that pain, then how can I allow myself to experience the joy? And that to me is the thing…you have to be willing to feel this, in order to experience this. And both are valid and they make me a richer person. That tapestry of life that we weave every day, these are the threads. And it’s just one more part of life. Tessa, my old dog, is going to leave me. And until then, I’m going to love her and she’s going to be as good as she can. And that’s life.
Life is good, particularly if I choose to see that life is good. But I can forget that. I can get totally caught up in the day, and the bills, and the responsibilities of life. But the truth of it is, none of that really matters at the end of the day.
I want to be able to act from a place of peace and be able to focus from a place of serenity, as opposed to just worrying about everything all the time. I’m powerless over that.
The only thing I have any power over is myself.
I work at gratitude. Something as simple as writing a list in the morning of five things that I’m grateful for, which could be this coffee…I’m grateful we have a new refrigerator…those things put me in a space of gratitude. The process of gratitude helps me recognize what’s actually going on in my world, and not live in the illusion of what I think is going on in my world. Being grateful for everything that’s happened — the good and the bad — shifts my perspective. It moves me into some sort of universal space where I then can access peace.
I’ve always been somebody who loves the image of a winding dirt road heading into infinity. And I happen to live on a winding dirt road that goes off into infinity into these beautiful tall mountains. Now, I’m blessed. We live far away from a big city, it’s quiet, it’s serene, I’m surrounded by magnificence. I live in the middle of a postcard. I just have to remember to be present and pay attention. And that’s the key…am I here, now? If I remind myself and then remember to open my eyes, it’s inspiring.
The idea of being younger, fitter, stronger, healthier, wealthier, with the perspective that I have now…that would be great. But if I have to give up what I have now in order to have those things, I’d leave them all on the table. And I have, you know. I want to spend as little time as possible engaging with things that don’t uplift me and feel right to me.
Clint Eastwood just finished a film, and one of the songs in it is a great one that I relate to. And I’m actually considering working up a version of it. It’s called ‘Don’t Let the Old Man In’. I’ve made a decision that I’m going to live as richly and as fully and as happily and as youthfully in the moment as I can, for as long as I can. Wherever I am can be heaven on earth because it’s about what’s happening in here. [points to self] I believe that making the decision to not let the old man in is a good idea.
R.I.P. dear Lady Tessa. You were the best, old girl.
To support Michael and Justine in their film-making journey, visit Green Renaissance.
Justine and Michael are a creative couple living in South Africa. Their project, Green Renaissance, works to spread positive stories that reflect the wonder of the world. With the goal of sharing ideas and inspiring change, they produce gorgeous short films that are posted online and available for anyone, anywhere, to watch and share freely.
Through their films, they explore what it means to be human. They touch on topics that can often be difficult for people to discuss – from loss of a loved one to aging and retirement to friendship to love and courage – universal themes that we all deal with at some stage in our lives.
By sharing these stories, Justine and Michael hope to remind us of one simple truth – that we are all human – that inside our hearts and minds, we are all facing similar challenges. We have so much to learn from each other, and our connections run so much deeper and stronger than we think. Learn more and support their work at greenrenaissance.co.za.