In my constant search for the meaning of life I am often stymied. My efforts are thwarted by life itself. I have finally given in and come to the conclusion that life is a mystery—and not one that is going to be solved by me. But I have found a few truths floating around the other mystery I have not cracked—the Internet. On my Facebook page I found some wise words of advice attributed to Dr. Richard Carlson, author of “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff”.
This paragraph showed up on my Facebook page on a bright Sunday morning, and rather than skip over it, or nod my head in silent agreement then go on with my day, I thought I would share it with you along with a few thoughts of my own. I shared it on Facebook with the comment: “easy for you to say….” Here is the paragraph which took some licence with the good doctor’s guide to a good life:
“Live beneath your means. Return everything you borrow. Stop blaming other people. Admit it when you make a mistake. Give clothes not worn to charity. Do something nice and try not to get caught. Listen more; talk less. Every day take a 30 minute walk. Strive for excellence, not perfection. Be on time. Don’t make excuses. Don’t argue. Get organized. Be kind to people. Be kind to unkind people. Let someone cut ahead of you in line. Take time to be alone. Cultivate good manners. Be humble. Realize and accept that life isn’t fair. Know when to keep your mouth shut. Go for an entire day without criticizing anyone. Learn from the past. Plan for the future. Live in the present. Don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s all small stuff.”
Now these might seem like clichéd bromides, but if you take them one by one—there is a lot of wisdom here. Personally I would have led with “realize and accept life is not fair”. If you come to this realization early, you are golden. Then when life seems to be fair (or your rendition thereof) you are a happy camper. And when it is not—well, you were prepared.
I try to follow many of these rules, but fail miserably with a few. I try not to argue, but sometimes I cannot keep the beast within that wants to get her point across. Occasionally I do this loudly and semi-aggressively. I prefer to debate but sometimes the debate turns into a dispute. On examination, there is really little satisfaction in an argument, because whoever happens to be holding a different opinion will rarely be swayed by your brilliant argument. Thus the advice to “not argue” is good, but sometimes the will is weak. I am sure that by the time I am 90 I will be able to act more successfully on this advice.
I try to be kind; I let people cut in front of me; I plan on taking a 30 minute walk everyday (as soon as this stupid knee will let me do more than a shuffle); I have pretty good manners; and I love being alone at times. I try to be humble, listen, and keep my mouth shut. The operative word here is try—as I am not always successful.
The one that really hits home for me is to “go for an entire day without criticizing anyone”. I think this one is key to living a happy life. But it is the most difficult one of all. We are a people who seem to need to criticize—our government, our neighbours, our family, our friends—even our acquaintances. I think that what is important is that in our criticism we are defining ourselves and our values. But maybe we should find a different way to go about it. Or at least understand why we are so critical.
Being critical is not always bad. Apparently it has two roots. The assessing, analyzing, evaluating and appraising root is how we compare ourselves to the world and its contents, ideas, and the people who form them. But if criticizing takes on its shadow meaning—the one that censures and condemns, slams and passes unfair judgment, then I agree with the Dr. Carlson–we should try to erase this from our habits.
I have not learned “not to sweat the small stuff”. It is a process, and one that is more difficult for some than others. I know that what I am worried about today will rectify itself in some manner. I just hope that the manner in which it rectifies itself is not one that finds me in jail, on the street sleeping with my piled high shopping cart beside me, or toothless.