It occurs to me that I don’t provide a lot of Life Lessons in this blog, which would earn me an F in Blogging 101 while also leaving my legions of followers and admirers bereft of my bottomless martini of wisdom.
The fault, as always, lies not with me.
Sometimes I sit at the laptop with the intention of sharing golden nuggets of insight that will turn your little lost lives into a never-ending Carousel of Happiness. But then something intrudes into my world uninvited, like a beer in the fridge, or a YouTube video of a thousand monkeys clapping. Suddenly I’m off in another direction – just as I was getting ready to enrich your lives in countless ways!
Well, screw it. No excuses this time.
This blog will barrel full bore into the meaningful side of life, in keeping with the holiday spirit, in keeping with the need to do something positive each day – even when you’ve just paid a pile of cash to an overpriced plumber because the toilet wouldn’t flush, only six months after you paid another pile of cash to another overpriced plumber to fix that very issue, but when you tried to call that plumber back they said they couldn’t pencil you in till the end of the week, and kept you on the GD phone for 30 minutes telling you what they couldn’t do instead of what they could do, until you wanted to take your phone and shove it right up their…..
So, what can we do to enrich our lives today? Glad you asked! Let’s have at it, shall we?
Here are six life lessons guaranteed to make you happier, wiser, and happiwiser.
Read a Book
Did you know reading involves a complex network of circuits and signals in the brain, and as your reading ability matures, those networks get stronger and more sophisticated? Well, now you do.
That’s not the only thing, either. Research has shown that people who read literary fiction — stories that explore the inner lives of characters — have a heightened ability to empathize with others. Reading expands your vocabulary, helps prevent cognitive decline as you age, reduces stress, and prepares you for a good night’s rest.
You should read a book every day, even if it’s just 30 minutes. Read pulp fiction, classic lit, breezy romance novels, history, scripture, philosophy, comics, how to repair a toilet – whatever. But be sure to read a book. Every day.
If you’re looking for a suggestion, heck, here’s a totally random idea that came right off the top of my head with no aforethought whatsoever:
Whoa, how did that book totally randomly inexplicably pop up on the screen? What a fun and engaging read! Highly recommended! Here’s where to order it:
Stop Shoveling Potato Chips into Your Mouth
Seriously, WTF are you doing cramming those bags of salty, crispy, delicious potato chips (or “crisps,” as the Brits call them) into your mouth? At your age? Are you out of your mind? Why not just mainline lard into your veins? Better you should put the chips away and grab some grapes.
Oh, did I write this publicly? It was meant for mine eyes only, because I chose a potato chip Advent Calendar this holiday season. This means that every day from Dec. 1-24, I get a new bag of salty, crispy, delicious potato chips to munch on, when I really should go grab some grapes instead. And I will, I swear – after Christmas!
But to the point: Eating right is important and keeps gaining importance as you age. Twenty or 30 years ago I would breakfast on bacon, grits and eggs, and then have a big ol’ Mexican fiesta for lunch. Today, I eat a piece of fruit every morning for breakfast and salads for lunch five days a week. I try (try) to keep snacking to a minimum, and it usually involves some combination of nuts, hummus, whole-grain crackers, and spicy Indian delectables.
Dinner? That’s another story. It’s sacred, and I prepare full, delicious meals.
Eat right. Listen to the nutritionists. They know of what they speak.
Work Up a Sweat
Here’s the thing about exercise – do it enough, and it becomes a habit. Your body starts expecting it and your endorphins start demanding it – to the point where it doesn’t even become exercise anymore, but just part of the daily routine.
You always feel better after exercising. It gives you more energy and a more positive attitude. It doesn’t matter if you’re training hard for a triathlon or doing chores around the yard or house. Staying on your feet, moving around, bending, stretching, workin’ dem muscles, working up a sweat – it’s the right thing to do.
As noted before on this blog, my main form of exercise is a daily bike ride, usually in the range of 40 minutes to an hour. I’ve been doing this for 30-plus years. I can’t imagine not doing it. I make time for it even when there isn’t time for it, or the weather sucks, or I REALLY don’t feel like hopping on the bike and dodging the traffic.
If you don’t exercise regularly, today is the day to start. With one further bit of advice:
Don’t jump into it with your foot pressed firmly on the gas.
Avoid the mistake other beginners make, which is to go out and immediately try to run five miles, or hit the fitness machines for an hour straight, or swim 30 laps, or hit the heavy weights for 45 minutes. You’ll do this for a few days until your body slumps over and your brain begs you to stop, so you never do it again.
Start off slow. Try taking brisk walks. Begin with 10 pushups instead of 50. Swim a couple laps and, if you feel like it, swim a couple more. Work your way up. Don’t psyche yourself out.
But do it.
Take Time Every Day to Emit Vocal Bursts Produced Predominantly During Exhalation
That’s about the closest thing to a biological explanation of laughter that I could find while googling around the internet. Apparently, human laughter mainly involves exhalation, while ape laughter involves both inhalation and exhalation. So now you know….
Laughter might not be best medicine – as some know-it-alls claim – but it’s pretty damn high on the list. There is almost no problem that can’t be solved with laughter.
I’ve been to funerals that were drowning in sorrow and loss, and somebody will say or do something funny, sometimes inadvertently, and somebody else will issue a mild chuckle, and someone else will join in, and then others, and others, and suddenly the whole place is cracking up, and for a brief moment, everything seems okay again.
For a few years in the late 1980s and early 90s I was a bartender at a comedy club. I must have mixed drinks through a couple thousand individual comedy routines during those years – tens of thousands of jokes – and I bet I can’t remember more than a handful.
What I do remember was the huge gulf in mood between comedians who could make the audience howl, and comedians who couldn’t. There is nothing happier than a comedy club filled with laughter, and nothing sadder than a comedy club filled with silence.
Comic genius Mel Brooks had a famous line about the difference between comedy and tragedy:
“Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die.”
I couldn’t agree more!
Take time out to laugh, every day, as often as you can. Go on YouTube and save your favorite funny scenes from sitcoms, sketches, and movies. Ask someone to tell you a joke. Stick your foot out and trip somebody, then watch them flail first-face to the ground. Keep those laughter muscles working!
Dwell Not on the Inevitable
We’re all going to die. Our loved ones are all going to die. Everyone everywhere is going to die. Senseless tragedy happens every minute of every day, and it could one day happen to you and me.
At some point all the stars will burn out and the universe will be a vast, dark void of nothingness.
This is what we face – at least on this physical plane. When we depart it, who knows?
Sometimes I think about the futility of this particular miracle of molecular physics we call life, but then quickly snap out of it. I certainly don’t dwell on it. I do try to plan, to strategize. I try not to put myself or my loved ones in harm’s way unnecessarily. Common sense is your friend.
But at the end of the day, you can’t really control the fates. They are what they are. Learn to live with them.
Get a Change of Scenery
There is nothing more replenishing than getting away from your nest and experiencing something else. I say this even as someone who has reached an age when hanging at home is its own reward.
This doesn’t mean you need to hop a flight halfway around the world. Just drive a couple towns over for the day, or bike to a different part of town. See something different, eat something different, sit in an unfamiliar park and watch unfamiliar people. Break out of the routine and remind yourself that there is something out there beyond the four walls of your everyday existence.
There now, don’t we all feel better? Don’t you? Don’t I? Aren’t we glad I published my Positive Life Force Blog of 2022? Take these tips to heart, my friends. Read a book and get some exercise today.
As long as the book is Voodoo Hideaway by Vance Cariaga…..
*Okay, nobody asked. That was a lie. Tip No. 7: Never lie!
Note: The photo is of Confucius, a wise old sage who would not mind me swiping it from Getty Images