Nine Life Instructions


Is there mercury in this salmon?

ONE—FOLLOW YOUR GUT. Everybody—people who don’t even know you—wants to tell you how to live. Some of the stuff is useful and necessary, like (a) you don’t have to give your baby a bath every day and (b) those little fluorescent light bulbs last forever but you can’t just throw them in the trash when they do burn out. Some of it will “resonate” with you, as meditation advice did for me. But all the opinions about spirituality, about exercise, about diet, about replacing your pillows twice a year, and so forth, can make you crazy. And they keep changing it…. Omigosh, how many grams of protein have I had today? Oh, hey, this is Alaskan salmon, is that the poison kind with mercury? Were the salmon humanely treated? Coffee is chock full of antioxidants? Who knew? Does antioxidant mean “against oxygen”? Help!

Relax. The way I see it, we have as many lifetimes as we need to get it right.

TWO—KEEP AN OPEN MIND. How do you know there’s no such thing as a leprechaun?

old faithful

Old Faithful

THREE—WRITE DOWN YOUR WILD IDEAS and bursts of inspiration. You’ll think of a thousand reasons why they won’t work, and you’ll discard them… at your peril. They’re like geysers: They come from the depths. They’re your Self talking to yourself. So keep track of them, even if you’re not ready to act on them.

FOUR—COLLECT SOMETHING, like coins or stamps or antique butter chips (little tiny plates for pats of butter), or colored bottles. See, it’s fun and you meet interesting people, but the best thing is that your friends and family will know what to get you for holiday and birthday presents. And start collections for other people—your children or grandchildren, for example. I gave two of my grandsons starter coin-collecting kits for Christmas this year, and I’ll be giving them coins for their upcoming birthdays. If for some reason they don’t want to save and collect coins, at least they’re getting something useful—not just money, but interesting money.

FIVE—WRITE NOTES, REAL ONES, ON PAPER, or send cards, whatever, in the actual U.S. mail. It might seem quaint, but it’s a thoughtful going-out-of-your-way sort of thing… a mitzvah, if you will.

SIX—LIGHTEN UP, IN EVERY WAY. Bring light into your environment—physically, mentally, whatever lifts your spirit: music, flowers, bright prints in pretty frames, lace curtains, whimsical lamps, people who make you laugh. The flip side is, don’t let negativity come in and steal your joy. I allow people with minor problems (and they’re almost all minor) ten minutes to vent, and that’s it. Any more than that contaminates your space, and you have to have a priest or shaman or somebody come in and expel the gloom and do a house blessing.

SEVEN—This is vital, and it will serve you well: BECOME AN EXPERT IN SOMETHING OR SOMEONE—Jesse Owens, protein in human nutrition, the Isle of Man, the reign of King Henry VIII, making your own “green” housekeeping products, growing tomatoes, U.S. vice presidents, reiki—whatever turns you on. That woman wrote a best-selling book entirely about commas, for crying out loud. I, personally, am an expert on so many things that it’s unmanageable. I need to sharpen my focus and hone my expertise on, say, mindfulness meditation or the proper use of the em dash.

tomatoesWhy? For one thing, the object of your expertise becomes its own little universe, and if you study it exhaustively you will become not only smart but wise. Moreover, it’s satisfying and energizing to keep learning new stuff. Most important, it’s a good way to market your “brand,” personally or professionally. You can write articles or books, speak at a Kiwanis luncheon, teach at a community college, put up an authoritative website or blog, sell things… the possibilities are virtually endless.


NINE—LET’S GET THE PAPER COMPANIES TO STOP BLEACHING EVERYTHING. Why bleach toilet paper, for example? It’s just going to get brown again. Likewise with napkins, paper towels, and so forth. Bleaching household paper products is an absolutely unnecessary and environmentally harmful practice, and we should start an internet campaign via email, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and so forth, to get consumers to demand that the practice be stopped. (But see “ONE” above.)

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