I know what you’re thinking. “Here comes some know-it-all dipshit with some empty platitudes about how I should live my life.” Well you’re probably half right. And after you read my post, you can tell me which half.
I will try to refrain from the worn out aphorisms like “Live, Laugh, Love” or “Keep Calm and Carry On.” But be warned. You are in for a small serving of cheese. Feel free to add your own as you see fit.
- Be grateful.
Virginia Tate died of ovarian cancer in September. She was 53. I ran three red lights and dog-cussed 7 fellow drivers on the way to her funeral. I hustled into the pew and checked the program. I wondered whether I would still have enough time to make it to my 4:30 appointment. But when Virginia’s husband Wally walked in, time seemed to stand still. There was just something different about Virginia.
“There are some people who, by the way they live, teach us about the Divine,” said her Minister. Virginia’s favorite saying was: “You take what you get and you say ‘thank you.'”
For ovarian cancer? After years of quiet devotion to a husband and 2 sons? After teaching scores of Kindergartners? Not me. I usually look at what I get and try to send it back. Or bitch about it. Or compare it to what others got. But as I grow older I realize that random, unexplainable, often unfair events will largely dictate the lives we lead. So what do you plan to do about these things you can’t do a friggin’ thing about? I plan to try to accept them and be grateful for the things in life that are blessings, and if possible, the hardships as well.
2. Think big.
My late uncle, Jack Clements, worked as a salesman for Hogan Office Supply for 40 years. Every day he would put on a suit and tie, drive downtown to his office, walk past the door of a boss he loathed and push paper..and pens…and pencils. Sound like Willy Loman? You would think he was miserable and you would be wrong.
He was as happy a man as I have ever known. He was in the business of enjoying people. He loved his customers. He knew about their lives and he cared. He would give lunch money to a hassled secretary, or always remember a customer’s birthday. And this wasn’t some contrivance. He wasn’t ingratiating himself as a means to a loftier position. This was how he lived. But he always seemed to want more for me.
One night about a month ago I was having a particularly fitful night of sleep. I got up, took a few Advil, and moved to the couch where I had the most vivid dream. I was walking through my garage when the kitchen door opened and Uncle Jack walked out to meet me. I was excited to see him but he only stayed a few seconds…..long enough to tell me this is the only life I’ll ever have so I’d better be bold.
I’m cynical about messages that are imparted in dreams. Hell, if I listened to my dreams I’d probably be raising Llamas in a nudist colony in New Zealand. With an ageless Farrah Fawcett. But this dream had a useful message from a trusted soul. So I’m going to try and heed his advice.
3. Don’t take it personally.
Most people don’t give two shits about you or what you do on a daily basis. It’s not that they are mean or vindictive. They just don’t have time to consider much outside their own sphere. So what. Someone hurt your feelings? Big deal. Someone not treat you the way you expect to be treated? Lower your expectations. Your life will be immensely more happy. And you will be more grateful (see 1 above).
4. Appreciate others out loud.
Think about the last time you said something nice to someone. Think about how it made you feel. Consider how it made them feel. It’s such a simple gesture. There are so many people I admire, so many people I enjoy, so many people I take for granted. I’m going to work on that this year. And I’ll start with you. If you are reading this, thank you. I know you have a million and one distractions. I’m grateful that you allow me the opportunity to be one more.