I blame it on summer. The deadline fast approached and I had A) no ideas, and B ) no time to pull anything off even if I did. So I did what anyone in my position as columnist for a local paper would do. I made a list.
Actually, I’ve been contemplating this list for a while. I’ve collected some very sage advice over the years, far more than a 500 word limit would allow. As Mark Twain famously observed, it takes a helluva lot more time to write a short piece than a long one; it requires that one be succinct, a thing that no self-respecting, egomaniacal writer likes to be. (Writers love their own writing.) It requires that you “kill your darlings,” as Annie Lamott dictates. So much brilliance reduced to a few, short paragraphs? “You’re killing me!” is what I say to my editor every month, right after he says, “No” to my request for more space. So my office is strewn with dead darlings.
You see how I digress and take up column inches? But, you see, this is my forum with no column inches and likely no readers, so I do as I please.
Anyhoo, here is what I wrote, and may it set you straight on the path to happiness.
That will be 5¢ please. I accept Paypal.
By the time you read this, school will be back in session and I will be doing the happy dance, back in my bliss, working on the next book. But today it is early August, and I am trying to write while entertaining/mollifying/feeding my lovely children without benefit of an entertaining trip to an exotic locale—or even a lousy locale like Legoland. (Okay, we did go to the Oregon Caves, but I don’t count that as either exotic or entertaining.)
All this to explain the list. Lists are infinitely easier to cobble together than an essay, or at least this is what I always think before I write one and realize that it takes just as much time, but nevermind. No one reads anything longer than 500 words anymore anyway, or so I’m told. Lists, apparently, are the new books.
So here’s a little light list-reading from my creatively cramped summer:
THE BEST ADVICE EVER
- Speak your truth in love. You can’t go wrong if you say what needs to be said in a loving way. No one can argue with your truth, and no one can take exception if you present it lovingly.
- Don’t take life personally. If you contract a lousy disease, it’s not personal: it’s life. Life happens. If someone flips you off, is that about you, or about their own unhappiness? Just because someone hands you a turd doesn’t mean that you have to accept it.
- Suffer happily. You will suffer; that’s a given. But you get to choose how you handle that suffering. You can do it gracefully, or you can whine and moan and be a victim.
- Make the good count for more than the bad. My friend Pattie (the bright light of the Mustard Seed) told me this. I think about it all the time. Thank you, dear friend.
- When people show you who they are, believe them. Ah, Maya Angelou! My mama liked to say that character doesn’t change. Accept others as they are without making excuses for them or imagining they will change and act accordingly.
- Don’t chase people. If someone wants you in their life, they’ll make room for you. You shouldn’t be the only one pursuing the friendship. Don’t waste yourself on someone who does not value you.
- To thine own self be true. Don’t fear others not liking you. Your only concern should be whether you like yourself. Be true to who you are and the right people will be drawn to you for the right reasons.
- Treat others as you would be treated. Best advice ever. It’s so simple. If you do nothing else but live this Golden Rule, you will make the word a better place.