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My tips for a good life

I wrote something in a friend's journal that I'll archive here, because it's a good idea for me to take my own advice from time to time:

  • Travel. Experience your surroundings, and don't be afraid to immerse yourself in someplace unfamiliar. Fill your days with joy and beauty whenever possible.

  • Go to museums and live performances. Remind yourself of the creative process. Imagine and create things of your own.

  • Taste. Since we must eat, one may as well make it pleasurable. Try to have rich and diverse culinary experiences when possible.

  • Learn. Have good, meaningful, stimulating conversations with teachers and people who nourish your mind. Give back and nourish them in return. Our minds have an appetite for information, and education is a way of feeding that hunger.

  • Connect with the water. It doesn't have to be a trip to the pool or a wallow in the hot tub: my hot morning shower is a high point of my day. Routine or not, the sensation of water is more than just a wake-up.

  • Inhale. Smell flowers, smell perfumes; smell food cooking. Smell pine trees in forests, and rich earth.

  • See the world around you in all its colors. Watch the body language of those around you.

  • Touch. When shopping, touch fabrics: rough, nubbly dupioni silk, or soft suede. Touch the petal of a real flower.

  • Read and absorb knowledge. Take up new hobbies. Read poetry aloud. Continue to grow.

  • Move. Have rich, intimate sex with your partner. Smell clean, fresh sweat, and taste salt. Imprint the shape of his shoulder, the brush of his lips in your memory. Dance, and sense how good it feels to move your body.

  • Laugh often. There are things of great gravity in this world, true, but there are moments of great joy, too. Be silly. Do not always take yourself so seriously.

  • Listen. Listen to music that makes you dance; music that makes you cry. Hear the voice of a singer so powerful and passionate that the sheer force resonates in your chest. Listen to the voices of those you care for. Listen to what a friend is really trying to tell you.

  • Speak often with your friends and family. Tell the people you love that you love them. Love and be loved. Stay in touch so that you do not regret not calling, not writing, and not talking more often. Say thank you, and be kind. Give others the benefit of the doubt.

  • Remember history. Respect the past, and the things and people that shaped you into what you are now, but do not live there. Be in the moment, and dream of the future and the possibilities. Reach out for them.

  • Do good work. Get satisfaction from what you do. Make a difference. Be a part of your community and give back. Know your neighbors, and consider what it is to be a good citizen.

  • Keep mental markers: focus on what's working, and get rid of what isn't working and is never likely to work. Forgive as much as you can, and admit when you are wrong. Humility truly costs you nothing. At the same time, do not compromise your self-esteem. Although it is sometimes better to be happy than to be right, remember that you matter, and that your contributions have worth and merit.

  • Stand up for what you believe in, but don't be so almighty proud and stubborn. Other people may have viewpoints that are equally valid. When it is appropriate, and sometimes when it isn't, have the courage of your convictions, and protect those who cannot defend themselves. Be your own advocate, and take responsibility for your well-being.

  • Do it now: a friend of my parents who had cancer told them not to wait to plant a garden. Mom and Dad listened, and have gotten tremendous joy out of seeing a yard that once produced nothing but pinestraw come to life.


Somewhere, I still have the program from The Shadow Box, a play I saw in college. It dealt with the terminally ill, and included some very wise words:

"This light... this air... this smile... this breath... this moment...
It doesn't last forever."


A quote I try to keep in mind:
"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us."
- Gandalf, The Lord of the Rings


I learned regret from my maternal grandmother's death. She wrote me often, and I was in college ... I was so very absorbed in new experiences that I didn't respond as often as I should have. To this day, I wish I'd written more. I know she understood, but I wish that I'd been more mature.

I learned that it's important to use your body while you have it from my friend Bobby. For the last few months of his life, his mind was there, but he was unable to communicate. He had lost motor functions, and became a prisoner in his own body. It was a cruel end for a kind, witty, intelligent man who gave so much to other people. He was a nurse who did a lot of outreach for HIV. He loved good food, and he loved to dance.

I'm grateful for learning both lessons earlier rather than later. I don't keep them in mind as often as I should, but that's part of why I'm preserving this post here.

As for the thank you part, thank you all for enriching my life and nourishing me with your dialogue.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
thermidor
Aug. 20th, 2006 01:18 pm (UTC)
Thank you for posting this! Really lovely and good advice!
twr
Aug. 21st, 2006 03:29 am (UTC)
Thank you. For this, and all your other advice.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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