Friday, December 10, 2010

Ten Tips for Not Ruining Your Life

Cruising the internet with my morning coffee, I have observed how attractive posts are that give numbered tips, maybe because a "tip" sounds easy, like "running" to the store or "popping" something in the oven.  We so hope that there's some easy way to fix our lives; I do, anyway, and increasingly I universalize me to we, in the conviction that we're all human.

My main tip, and this is really important for you young people, is --

1.  Just don't ruin your life.
You can do this with one spectacularly stupid act.  Bear in mind that whatever enhances Charlie Sheen's career - drugs, destroying things, sexual antics - will ruin yours.  (Is that why people are fascinated by Charlie Sheen?  Not my readers, of course, but the watchers of NBC's Inside Edition, which comes on right after the evening news, so I can hardly avoid seeing what they're covering each evening - which has been Charlie Sheen for some weeks now.  Maybe forever, since I have only been noticing this for a couple of weeks.)

2.  Never lie your glasses down on the bed.
Do I have to explain this?  It is one of the tempting little careless acts that end up with broken glasses, costing money and time and forcing you to go around half-blind, driving illegally and unable to read.  It will ruin at least one day and cost money.  There are many other small ways to trip yourself up, like not tying your shoes.  Be careful.

3.  Take the damn medicine.
Right now I personally have to stop this and take my 8:00 a.m. immunosuppressants.  There are some things you just shouldn't fool around resisting, or you can lose the transplant.  But there are many other cases, such as finishing the antibiotic, even though you definitely feel better.  Ah yes, and you can universalize this to such things as stopping to gas up the car and get some milk, things that are not so appealing as many other ways to spend time.  But that's reality.  So -

4.  Get over it.
Every life has its difficulties and disappointments, you'd be surprised.  All right, maybe not every life.  On the other hand, every life ends in death, and before that, experiences illness - if it's not chronic insomnia it's migraines or high arches.  Your suffering is not that special - Buddhists even have a chant to cover this, called The Five Remembrances.  Also note that hearing the recitation of your special hardships bores most people. If there is someone in your life who isn't bored by it, they are probably bad for you.

5.  Curb your envy.
A corollary to number 4.  Yes, Oliver Sacks found his way to a stellar career at a young age, and you (that is, I) still haven't.  But most envy is much closer to home, isn't it?  The brother Mom loved more.  That woman in church who has so much charisma and energy, and kept her figure, which isn't fair.  That leads me to --

6.  Don't expect life to be fair.
Not in the short run, that is.  The principle of justice the universe runs on is cause-and-effect, and that can take a while to play out.  This way of understanding things is not particularly owned by Buddhists, though we are famous for calling it karma.  It's in the Christian Bible, too:  you will reap what you sow.  Therefore --

7.  Be generous and kind.
Honest to God, it feels so good to take someone a casserole or surprise them with flowers or just really listen.  And the universe will send kindness back to you, though not necessarily from the same person.

8.  Don't think too much.
There's high-level thinking, like constructing crossword puzzles or addressing the problem of multi-resistant TB, but that's not what most of us do much of the time.  Most of us drift around in repetitive and useless thoughts, like how insane the Sarah Palin phenomenon is, or what Al Gore should have done.  (See how quickly these things pass?)

9.  Don't express your opinion.
Actually, hardly anyone cares what you think, except for the person who's going to take offense.  And if someone does ask you what you think, be wary - they might be trying to trip you up. Or just waiting for their turn.  And do you really want to hear their opinion?

10.  Don't insist on learning everything the hard way.
That is, by bitter experience.  Listen to your grandma and wear your boots.Yet, even as I write this I know you - ah, we - do have to learn most things on our own.  I wish I could spare you some suffering; that's why I've written these tips.  But if you don't learn anything, at least I've given you a short break from work.

Well, this is tempting me to go on to enumerate some of life's hard facts, my favorite these days being, It's always something.  I could say a lot about this.  For instance, it is not necessarily one thing at a time, and you don't necessarily get a chance to catch your breath.  But I'll save that for another list.


  1. Oh this is a delight! Thank you Grandma!

  2. #9 was my favorite but then again, you don't care. ;-)

  3. This post made me smile and feel motivated to be a happier person.

    And THIS made me laugh,

    "if it's not chronic insomnia it's migraines or high arches"

  4. this put it all into perspective-thanks for the wake up call