Thursday, January 18, 2007

5. Be a Sage

Be a sage. Ha. I try not to give out advice to people. It keeps you out of trouble. That way if someone asks you for advice and you wave them away saying "oh no, ask someone else" you won't be blamed if something goes wrong. In my new little book I'm following, #5 is "Be a Sage" so here I go. I am going to give you advice on 3 things, even if they sound like stupid Cosmo column. They're three things we used say in Kenya "love life and the pursuit of happiness." My friend Kristie would play a mock news reporter and interview one of us, pretending that some nerdy scientific discovery we had made. "OK," she'd say, tossing her nonexistent flowing hair (she gave herself pixie-like buzz cut a few weeks intot he program. "Allison" she'd say in a fake cheery voice "everything you know about lovelifeandthepursuitofhappinessGO!!"
Here it is.

Don't be afraid of long distance relationships. Oh yeah, everyone tells you "don't do it." Everyone told me not to. My boss said to my face "those things never last." My coworker used to cry about how she was 45 minutes away from her boyfriend. I am a healthy 4 1/2 hours away from New York City and I am telling you to do it. Don't let distance stand in your way. It's hard, I won't lie to you. Sometimes it's so hard I can't even explain the way it'll hurt when you can't tell someone something the second you get home, or curl up in bed next to them or just see their face in person. As a pretty pratical person I myself have been shocked to find this flutter of loneliness in the weirdest places - I'm an indepedent woman, why is my heart sinking when I see a couple on the train sharing a newspaper? or after I watch a sad episode of Grey's Anatomy and I just want to climb in bed and have someone to snuggle up to? I'm in a relationship I shouldn't feel anything. But it gets you. Communication is hard. Yeah, there's the phone, there's email. And there are about a million ways to misinterpret what gets said on either one. Sometimes you just can't fix it either, what gets said - one of you might not even understand that something has gone badly and the other is left on the other end of the computer or the phone completely hurt and upset while you go about your life as normal laughing with coworkers, going to the soda machine or catching the 11 o'clock news. Then there's the not seeing each other for what seems like forever. And when you do see each other there's never enough time. All this and I'm telling you to go for the long distance thing? In truth, it's probably not really harder than having a relationship with someone down the street or even in your own house. They all take work, they take time and effort. The long distance thing is just a factor out of what could be many factors affecting any couple. And it's a factor worth dealing with when you've found the one.

I've lived nearly a quarter of a century, which is no time at all, yet freaky when I phrase it that way. What have I learned? Love your old relatives. They might drive you crazy, but suddenly one day they'll be gone and so will your link to the past. Visit them and ask them questions and make them tell you their stories. Don't hold a grudge. I'm a bit Irish, I know the old adage "we Irish forget everything but the grudges." DON'T DO IT. It's so not worth it. If you have a grudge and don't want to have one anymore, may I recommend a friend named Captain Morgan. I got sh*tfaced on Captain and Cokes one night and resolved all the old grudges I had. And while those old friends aren't my friends anymore, we smoked the figurative peace pipe that night. Since then, I haven't had any grudges, not real ones. I'm not saying "don't get mad" because hell, I have a temper, a good one too (must be the damn Irish in me, though the Scots are stubborn) and sometimes you just need to get that anger out, but don't hold on to it. Not to sound like a cheesy email chain letter, but if you died tomorrow would you want people to come to your funeral? I would. I'd want a whole freakin' parade, I'd want the traffic to stop my funeral would be so big. Not gonna happen if you hold too many grudges. I truly believe that forgiveness is divine. Not to sound too, you know, hippie-ish or whatev. Take care of your body. I will pause so you can roll your eyes. Seriously, I work in a cancer hospital where people who've taken care of themselves their whole lives get sick. So why should you take care of yourself when you could live it up because you might get cancer anyways you ask? Because for every person who took care of themselves there are 5 who did not. They smoked too much, drank too much, didn't exercise, had a very very bad diet. They didn't go to the doctor when something felt funny, or they had a headache or a weird mole or a strange bump. Please, take care of your body, because it the end you can lose everything, but as long as you have your health, you've still got something. Don't be afraid to treat your body to a bonus once in a while either. A pedicure, even the cheap ones you find in the city can make you feel like a new person.

Pursuit of Happiness
Do something you love, or at least work towards whatever means it takes to do that thing. Don't languish in a thankless job for years only to become bitter and washed up. One of the best teachers I had in high school was a man who turned 38 and realized that he didn't want to sell office furniture anymore, he wanted to be a teacher. He cried when we, his first students, graduated. I think he knew then for sure that he had made the right choice and the going back to school for undergrad courses and slogging through the masters work at night was totally worth it. I bitch and moan about working where I do sometimes, and I complain about hauling my butt to grad school, but while I'm there I can't help but think "this is my way out." Find your way out, and go do something you love. Even if you have to go back to school, even if it will cost you money. Even if it's something small, like taking the train to work everyday instead of driving because it raises your blood pressure THAT MUCH. Do it. Your happiness will be worth every penny. Find something good to do for the world. It can be small. It can be picking up a piece of trash. It can be planting a tree. It can be giving a cold person your gloves or sharing an umbrella. These things make 2 people happy instead of 1. Maybe your small thing will turn into something big. Paying for my Kenyan friend's sister's school fees was one of the best things I ever took on. So many people have contributed to her schooling that I can't even name them all and enough people have heard about it that maybe, just maybe, they'll try something like that on their own. It makes me feel good to know I'm helping someone. Even going to Foster Parrots makes me feel good. There's a bird there now who is so lonely, and just needs to be loved. It is gratifying to be needed, even by a little bird who just wants you to put your hand under his wing and hold his little body close to yours so he can feel your warmth and your heartbeat and finally feel safe and wanted. Stand up for what you believe in and don't let people walk all over you, but also be willing to listen to the opinions of others. Be willing to change your mind. Be willing to change. Never stop being your own person.

I think my sagely work is now finished. Maybe you will laugh at my advice but maybe you won't. It's all I have to give to you really. Maybe it will get you to think or write your own bits of wisdom down to share with all of us.

For Kristie because I've finally answered her "questions"

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