This is not a list of New Year’s Resolutions.
I gave up on those many a New Year ago. I may be a slow learner, but I finally realized that by January 3 of every year, at the latest, my list of resolutions was always a train wreck and I had lost whatever few remaining shreds of self esteem inspired the creation of the list in the first place.
So never mind all that. I assure you the principles I’m talking about here:
(a) were drafted last August;
(b) are not to be thought of as “resolutions;” and
(c) were inspired by a redhead in her forties who has become well known, in blogging circles and beyond, not for resolutions but for her pursuit of happiness. The redhead is Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project and Happiness at Home. Her blog is called The Happiness Project. [If you must go see for yourself, just click.]
It was wicked hot in Princeton last August, except inside where it’s air-conditioned, and I was fretful. What was I going to do with the rest of my life, other than sleep, eat, read, watch too much Netflix, and let the Princeton branch of The New York Sports Club charge my Visa card every month? I had already tried tutoring English as a Second Language at the local Y. Pointing to an apple and saying “a-pull” was not for me. I had already tried auditing courses at Princeton University. Auditors cannot ask questions or otherwise speak. Being silenced by metaphorical duct tape was not for me, either.
And I had also already tried learning Russian with a tutor, for an extraordinary amount of money per hour. First she praised me because my accent was good. Next I discovered Russian is the second hardest language in the world if your native language is English. (I can’t name the hardest but there must be one.) Once we got past the well-pronounced twenty or so expressions I remembered from childhood (including “Sing, little bird, sing,” “I want to eat,” and “prostitute!”) — none of which involved the six declensions of noun, pronoun, and adjective, the god-knows-how-many conjugations, the perfective and imperfective forms of verb, the vocabulary with no perceptible connection to any word in any Romance or Germanic language — Russian wasn’t for me, either. (And to think I might have learned it in my crib — except that my parents wanted to raise a gen-u-wine American.)
Tai chi and a French language reading group had also bit the dust. But blogging? That I had never thought about. And then suddenly — miraculously — there was Gretchen every day, throughout that long hot summer, with her chatty lists and tips and categories and principles. It was actually uplifting. And inspiring. I signed up for a course in “Learning to Blog” right away, even though the course wouldn’t start until late October.
Meanwhile I made my own list of principles. Gretchen’s principles were designed to make her happier. Mine were designed to make me happier, too. Some of my principles were therefore borrowed — well, stolen — from hers. But I am nearly double older than she is. So it’s not the same list. And if you decide to make such a list, yours will be different, too. Just remember, it’s not a list of resolutions. It’s more like a nice friend talking things over with you.
What did I do with my list after I saved it on the computer last August? Follow it religiously? Are you out of your mind?
But I did read it once in a while, and still do. It keeps me going when I feel I’m winding down.
January 1 seems like a good time to read it again. In fact, I may well revisit each of these principles in separate posts during the coming year. But for starters, here’s the entire list, without comment. Some of them — such as the first and last — may seem to overlap, but they don’t really, because they take on their subject from different angles. If the list makes you feel like tossing those resolutions you just made and drafting your own principles, feel free to borrow. Even steal.
MY TWELVE PRINCIPLES FOR GETTING BETTER AT GETTING OLD
1. Now is now. (Appreciate the moment.)
2. The perfect is the enemy of the good. (Stolen from Gretchen.)
3. Just do it. (Don’t put things off.)
4. Be myself. (Sort of Gretchen’s.)
5. Be kind.
6. Show love. (Be more demonstrative.)
7. Move. (Get off my butt.)
8. Eat less. (And eat better.)
9. Shed the past. (Get rid of detritus, tangible and other.)
10. Reach out. (To people, experiences, ideas.)
11. Invest in me. (Spend on doing, not acquiring.)
12. Don’t borrow trouble from tomorrow. (Whatever tomorrow brings it will bring without my worrying about it today.)
Now it’s your turn.
What are your thoughts on how to get better at getting old?