I’ve always thought of myself as a self-aware man, or at least a self-critical one, and I realized the other day that I’m in danger of becoming cynical. As we leave summer behind and move into the fall, a time when we return to more routine and structure in our lives (does the feeling of the first day of school ever fade?), I want to focus on making some positive changes in my life. Nothing earth shattering, just little things that I can put into action every day. Here are my initial thoughts:
1. Be nice, even when others aren’t
There is a line in a John Irving novel that reads, “Be nice twice.” In other words, start out being nice, and be nice even after your first attempt is met with rudeness. I tend to come into a situation on the defensive, prepared for confrontation. Unfortunately, the same barrier that keeps me safe also keeps me distant. I will work on being the catalyst for positive exchanges. I will be nice—twice. After that though, watch out!
If you are expecting rudeness, it generally shows up. As you are willing to be catalyst for positive exchanges, I doubt you’ll ever be pushed beyond the second nice. Whatever. I think you are nice.
2. Don’t lie, cheat, or steal
Not too long ago, I heard a story about a guy who was working at a football game on the sidelines. During the game, he took the opportunity to trip one of players. His bad behavior was duly noted on 17 cameras. Of course, he was very sorry for his actions (how could he not be?). Reflecting on the story, I found myself thinking, “Well, if you aren’t cheating, you aren’t trying, right?” Wrong. It’s not right. There may be glory in winning, but there is honor in doing your best. And glory fades.
Are you paying attention? Ryan Lochte, Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger, Jimmy Feigen, Hope Solo, Brock Turner and the Chicago police force just to name a few. Mary Schmich, Chicago columnist, wrote a wonderful column about this very topic. She agrees with you! Oh. And I am sure we can all find ways to apply this rule to our own lives.
3. Leave things better than you found them
You always hear the dreamers wishing, in lilting voices, for mankind to all pitch in: “If we all rode the bus just once a month instead of driving to work, it would save a baby seal.” The common refrain from mankind is, “WHO CARES?” But what if, for just a few days a year, I did care? What if I picked up a piece of litter or used the hand dryer instead of the paper towels or some other seemingly insignificant thing? Would it make a difference? I am ready to find out.
I’m a nothing-mucher recycler, but I do pick up litter on occasion and honk loudly at anyone who disposes of litter out their car windows. Litterbugs! Aren’t those people the worst of the worst? Is being less judgmental on this list? I love baby seals. I can do better.
4. Always help those who are willing to help themselves
I open my wallet to people who raise money for their causes by washing cars, sponsoring a walk-a-thoner, or selling lemonade, just to name a few. These people want something, and are actually willing to do put in the effort to make it happen. The cause is not always noble, I’m sure, but the difference between them and the people who just ask for handouts is huge to me. I was in the fifth grade when I read Wilson Rawls classic Where the Red Fern Grows, and I remember one of the book’s lessons: “God helps those who help themselves.” For those who call themselves Christians, here’s our cue!
I open my wallet to the homeless person who tells me a joke, holds a corny sign, or wears a fun hat. Marketing is important. On the other hand, I also often give to the homeless person on the street corner who just asks. My motto is that it is far better to ask than to take! Hey, I should write that on a sign and give it to a homeless person! (See my post about Chief—who, by the way, is no longer manning his street corner. Oddly, I miss him! And I hope he retired to Arizona.)
5. Be thankful for what you have
I struggle a lot with this. It always seems to me that my car is dirtier than others, that my job is harder than others, that my life is emptier than others, wah, wah, WAH! The truth is, I’ve got a pretty nice little life going here. I’ve got a family that is special, on many levels, and a few good friends. I plan to work harder on being more thankful and more aware of these and the many other blessings I have.
I am grateful you helped me put my fingers on the keyboard and resurrect Odd this summer! And if Cousin Carla is reading this, I am always grateful for her cookies and for her cutting up fruit during her visits. But I do think you can over gratitude. I heard someone say the other day that she hated cleaning the cat’s litter box and then quickly add, “but I am so grateful for my cat.” Okey-Dokey!
6. Never ask anyone to do what you wouldn’t do yourself
As someone who has stayed in the same place for a while now, I have risen to a level of great power over others. Of course, power is in the eye of the beholder, but I am a benevolent dictator. As often as possible, I take on the least desirable jobs. It’s important to me that those I delegate to know, by my actions, that I will never ask them to do something that I wouldn’t do myself. I don’t push things off onto other people. I give myself high marks in this area of my life, but I will still keep it on the list so that I don’t let my power go to my head.
I have always made the coffee at the thousands of events that I’ve chaired over the years because everyone else hates the job. One day, a fellow parent offered to take over the horrid task. I was so happy. Then I learned she was a coffee lover and was tired of drinking my terrible coffee. When I heard this, a thunderous AH HA boomed in my head, and a new strategic plan was born. Going forward, I often did the jobs nobody else wanted to but not necessarily well. I bet you go above and beyond more often than not, Cousin Craigster.
7. Do only things you would do if your mother were with you
The thought of my mother always being with me is a warm one—kind of like being in Hell. Just kidding, Mother! Everyone knows that you’re a saint (especially after they get to know me!). Those of you who watched Seinfeld will be aware of the “world’s colliding” reference. Aren’t we all on our best behavior when Mom is around? I’m just going to pretend she is sitting on my shoulder and act accordingly all of the time. Well, some of the time, at least.
Maybe we should have t-shirts made that say “What would mother do?” Or maybe not. Your call!
8. Smile when it isn’t easy
I feel good when I see someone walking along with a big old happy smile on their face (assuming that they aren’t deranged, having just escaped from an asylum, and chasing me). As my old friend Ruth used to say, “Smile. Someone in Malaysia may be watching.” And, as my old mom says, “Smile. It keeps them guessing!” I’m going to work on smiling for no reason more often.
Smiling is very good! When you smile, you send a signal to yourself that you are happy. Your brain takes the cue, and you actually become happy. I like to think of smiling as an automatic hack for happiness. And you know, when you smile, the whole world smiles with you! Big Group Smile on the count of 3!
9. Forgive, but don’t be a sucker
Those who know me will be looking at me askew, as if to say, “What you takin’ bout, Willis?” Forgiveness is one of my weaknesses, but I’ve been told, and want to believe, that forgiveness can be liberating. It takes a lot of energy to hate. Anger never keeps you warm; rather, it burns you up. I’m going to try to let a few old wrongs slide and put those angry feelings down. I’m tired of toting them around. I won’t forget—that would be too big of a step for a beginner like me. Maybe next time around.
I’m driving along and all of a sudden realize that I’m rehashing in my head some wrong someone did to me 20 years ago. Does this happen to you? Why on earth would I want to think unpleasant thoughts (although revenge isn’t all together unpleasant to think about) when I could think happy thoughts. I’m working on this too! We shall overcome.
10. Thoughts become things, so think good ones
I have a choice: to think pleasant thoughts or unpleasant thoughts. I’m going to work on thinking more pleasant thoughts and fewer unpleasant thoughts. Here are a few that I will start with: I love my life. I’m in the right place at the right time all of the time. I expand in abundance, success, and love every day, and I inspire those around me to do the same. I am adorable. Cousin Kb swears that thinking these kinds of thoughts will bring all kinds of wonderfulness into my life and the lives of the people around me. I believe her . . . mostly.
Nothing I can add here! I am right with you on this one!
That’s my list (except when my OLDER cousin interjected). It will always be a work in progress, but I plan to make daily progress. Maybe you can share some of your odd life rules and we can work on our lists together.
So I embellish. Why should this post be any different than any other Craigie post? And with age comes wisdom, little cous.
Working on our lists together! Great idea! What is on your list, Odd Reader?
Odd Loves Company!
P.S. CC you should know better then to end a list on an odd number! Even if this is an Odd Blog. I had to add a number 10.