Thursday, April 30, 2009

Life's lessons

Not long after my mother kicked me out of the house, she went all soppy on me and sent me a book, "Life's Little Instruction Book". Strange thing from a woman who had only months before told me that she didn't want to see me again.

I guess Ma was trying to reach out and teach me things she figured she wouldn't be around for. How funny to expect a book to do that... a book which must be opened and ingested.

The time was not right for me and this book. Understandably it was a rough period in an already pretty shitty existence. I thumbed through the pages quickly, but none of the entries hit home in my stupid teenager mind so the cute little paperback went into a box and did not come out until years later.

When I was in my early 20's I stumbled upon this book again. Even though it carried with it so many bad memories I read through each of the pages and considered each short sentence offering wisdom for life.

Some of them were quite down to Earth:
"Check for toilet paper before sitting down." (uh huh, I've rarely been burned on that one)
"Marry a woman you love to talk to. As you get older her conversational skills will be as important as any other" (I think that I've managed this quite well, thank you)
"Accept a breath mint if someone offers you one." (usually this is a thinly veiled suggestion, one which I often use myself when faced with someone who suffers from temporary halitosis)
"Never cut things which can be untied" (yeah, this is true on so many levels)

While others were more abstract, and gave me pause:
"Don't confuse comfort for happiness." (ooo... this took a while to understand)
"Life will sometimes hand you a magical moment, savor it." (very much like the roses thing, but more succinct - I use this often)
"Let some things remain mysterious." (I have a harder time with this one)

Even with what I often feel is a swiss cheese brain, these short and simple sentences have remained front and center in my thoughts for years. People have told me that I should have studied philosophy or something, they say it because I have a different way of looking at life. What I secretly think is that I've taken to heart many of the things found in this book. Even if it weren't for the book, I think I would have a different outlook on life simply because of the way I've lived it.

But the one simple saying from the book which I remember the best, the one that prods me the hardest:
"Live your life as an exclamation, not an explanation."
Oh Honey! This is it. It says so much, but without pointing fingers.
It goes right along with the train of thought that says you should take responsibility for your own actions, and I love it. The world would be a better place if people were to automatically take responsibility for their own actions.

Another "life lesson" which was not in the book in so many words, but certainly keeps hitting me in the head is "You're right about that".

In my 30's I was a HUGE PBS (public television) viewer/supporter. One of the specials I would clamor to watch was Dr. Wayne Dyer. Here's a guy I could really wrap my brain around. His concept that just allowing someone to be right is a powerful idea. He said things like, "If you have the choice to be right or to be kind... always choose to be kind."

One of his monolougues was heavy with the thought that arguing over the little things makes no sense and could possibly be counterproductive when the bigger things come along. If you have no idea how to bend and be flexible with the minutiae of life, the serious crap is going to make you snap. I've found this to be true in so many divisions of my life, not just with my partner, but with family members, coworkers, everyone. "You're right about that"... try it, it doesn't hurt too badly.

This brings me to the thing that got me started on all of this. I don't even know who's blog it was that I saw this... only that they said the writer was 90 when in actuality she's just turned 50. Whoops.

As I read this it occurs to me that there are some sections of my life in which I could really use some work. Namely #'s 4, 9, 28, 29, and 42.
How about it, what do you think you could do better in your life?

Written By Regina Brett, of The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Ohio . "To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons life taught me. It is the most-requested column I've ever written. My odometer rolled over to 50 in August, so here is the column once more:"

1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.

2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

4. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

5. Pay off your credit cards every month.

6. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

7. Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.

8. It's OK to get angry with God. He can take it.

9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.

10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

11. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.

12. It's OK to let your children see you cry.

13. Don't compare your life to others'. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.

15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don't worry; God never blinks.

16. Life is too short for long pity parties. Get busy living, or get busy dying.

17. You can get through anything if you stay put in today.

18. A writer writes. If you want to be a writer, write.

19. It's never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.

20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for an answer.

21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special.

22. Over prepare, then go with the flow.

23. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.

24. The most important sex organ is the brain.

25. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.

26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words: "In five years, will this matter?"

27. Always choose life.

28. Forgive everyone everything.

29. What other people think of you is none of your business.

30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.

31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

32. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch.

33. Believe in miracles.

34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn't do.

35. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.

36. Growing old beats the alternative - dying young.

37. Your children get only one childhood. Make it memorable.

38. Read the Psalms. They cover every human emotion.

39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.

40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back.

41. Don't audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.

42. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.

43. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.

44. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

45. The best is yet to come.

46. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

47. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.

48. If you don't ask, you don't get.

49. Yield.

50. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift.


ian in hamburg said...

Now if that isn't a post to cut out, paste up, frame, tack on a wall or carry it around folded up in your wallet, I don't know what is.

You're one lady with her head on straight, snooker. :-)

DTB said...

My dad used to say "Always be good, if you can't be good, be safe." Reminded me of "If you have the choice to be right or to be kind... always choose to be kind." I like it

Maria said...

I really, really want to read the story of you and your mother sometime and what happened....

CrackerLilo said...

I echo Maria--when you can, when you're ready and up to it, I'm interested in what happened with you and your mother. (But I understand if you never post it.) My wife was a throwaway, too. Her mother has since tried to make overtures, and L'Ailee has met her for lunch perhaps twice in 17 years. Neither time ended well. She doesn't care if her father is even alive.

As for the short bits of advice, there's lots for me to work on. #2, #6, #16, #18, #26, #28, and #29. But I figure, as long as you're alive, you can still work on yourself.

Great post!

Goofball said...

damn, I must frame this post next to my bed