I recently turned another year older, and it was one of those zero-birthdays that occurs every ten years and has a zero at the end of its anniversary. I haven’t lived as long as some and certainly didn’t manage to realize all my dreams and aspirations, so I have some regrets, sure, but I’ve also learned some lessons along the way.
One, learned from my friend Leslie who died before I did, since I haven’t yet as far as I know, is to make your bed every day. Seems simple enough, don’t it, but what it accomplishes is that it starts your day off by being organized and neat rather than messy and lazy, so I recommend you try it yourself if you haven’t already. Just make your bed every day, even if you don’t manage to make it until nighttime. I find it easy and convenient to do when I’m waiting for my coffee maker to be hot enough to make my overindulgence in morning double espressos because it takes about three minutes, tops, and when I go to bed at night I have nice, smooth sheets and nice puffy pillows instead of a wrinkled mess of sheets, blankets and pillows.
Second, and probably more importantly but also much, much less easy is to practice this two-word habit every day: Be kind.
I’m sure many of you already sneered at that suggestion which is, should I mention, rather unkind. Which goes to show you that this two-word habit is both harder to practice than you might think and easier to sneer at and dismiss out of hand without even trying.
As X once sang, the world’s a mess. But we made it that way. You do realize that as human beings, we’re in charge of all this. Most of the good things and bad things you’re dealing with on a daily basis are all up to us. Nature tries its hardest to fuck with us by lobbing a few weather disasters or the occasional volcanic explosion or earthquake and so on, but we otherwise have managed to reconstruct the whole world to make it easier for us to live in it.
Most of these considerations are physical. Buildings, furniture, various modes of transport, the food we eat. It’s designed to make our lives as convenient as possible, and making convenience the uppermost consideration in nearly every aspect of these complicated lives. Drive thru everything. Supermarkets overfilled with so much food we can’t possibly eat it all. Shelters from storms that prevent rain from making us annoyingly wet.
We generally don’t consider all that stuff. I was reminded of it recently when I purchased a turntable again after decades of not having a turntable and experiencing the unique inconvenience of how music used to be.
Now, we literally have a small wireless networked speaker plugged into a nearby electrical outlet and we tell it what we want to hear. We don’t even have to be near it or touch it or anything. We can just say “Hey Siri, play Heart’s Greatest Hits” and moments later we are listening to Heart’s Greatest Hits. Which, by the way, I highly recommend listening to at your earliest convenience.
By contrast, there are about seven steps involved in listening to a vinyl album before you get to listen to it:
- Get up off your buttocks and walk to the turntable.
- Take out an album and remove the inner sleeve.
- Remove the LP from its sleeve.
- Place the album on the turntable.
- (Optionally) clean the grooves of the album with a small brush of some sort.
- Turn on the turntable and move the tonearm over the edge of the vinyl album.
- Set the needle into the groove of the album.
In a sense, convenience is about laziness to the nth degree. We can no longer be bothered with remembering phone numbers because our phones do it for us. That’s assuming, of course, that you still make phone calls. Still, you don’t really have to remember anything about your family members and friends. Birthdays? Add it to your calendar. Email addresses? Your email app will fill it in for you. Passwords? Manage them with a password app (which, by the way, you really should be doing).
I’m not averse to convenience by any means, mostly because I am super lazy about most activities. Hell, if I can get something delivered to my door, you know I ain’t heading to a store and looking for the damned stuff. I insist only on two things:
- Clean as you go when in the kitchen. Whether you’re cooking or making cocktails or just buttering some toast, clean as you go. Don’t just dump everything into the sink and “come back to it later.” Because you won’t. And please don’t substitute real pots and pans and dishes and utensils for disposable crap. The world has too much disposable crap and as we’re quickly learning, most of it isn’t disposable at all.
- Make your bed every day. See above.
- Oh! Also please learn the difference between ‘your’ and ‘you’re,’ and please remember that ‘it’s’ is always short for ‘it is’ and ‘its’ is always possessive, like his or hers. Those aren’t laziness things but they fucking bug me every time I encounter them. I think if a genie granted me a single wish, it would be that everyone understands English grammar when they’re writing.
As usual, I have drifted far away from my initial premise which is what I think I excel at as a writer.
One important aspect of kindness is that you probably won’t be treated kindly in return. You’ll have to get used to that. To paraphrase Proverbs 11:17, kindness is its own reward. I’m sure you’re now flummoxed and maybe frightened that I, an avowed atheist, is quoting scripture but take that as a lesson that one can take advice from any source without necessarily adhering to every one of that source’s ideas.
You’re going to encounter people who are, hmmm. What shall I…? Oh, yes! Assholes. Assholes exist in every culture and every country and every race and every gender and no gender at all. They love being assholes and practice it daily, if not every minute of their lives. I’m sure you know at least one asshole, who hopefully you do not consider a good friend. One thing my old therapist taught me is that we can judge our own lives by those we choose to populate it with. If you know a lot of assholes, chances are you’re one, too. I mean, why else would you put up with them?
If you’re already an asshole, you can stop being an asshole just my deciding it. This rule is pretty much true regarding every decision you make in life, because most of those things aren’t based on facts, which can be annoying and frustrating. Opinions are just how you decided to live your life, and you can change your own opinions immediately without any consequences whatsoever.
This is absolutely true. If you hear a voice in your head arguing that you can’t change your own opinion about things, ignore it. While it is true that changing someone else’s opinions is nearly impossible and will likely result in them digging themselves in even deeper just to prove that you’re wrong and they’re right, as if that’s something to be proud of, your own opinions can change by just deciding to do it.
So, please choose to be kind. Or kinder, if you’re already kind. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Try not to judge. Offer help, but not guidance unless you’re asked for it. Listen more, and talk less. Try to understand how someone reached the point in their life where they are right now, and if that’s difficult then just ask them. Chances are they’ll be surprised anyone cares.
Finally, a word about this blog that you’re reading. I used to write rather regularly about pretty much whatever was on my mind, and then I stopped. The reason I stopped is because everyone else suddenly decided their every thought, meal, vacation, funny pet poop, or child utterance was also worth everyone else’s attention.
In short, it’s not. Mine’s not either. Be kind today!