Moronic Musings

and other junk as it occurs to me.

Friday, June 4, 2010

26 Helpful Tips for Getting Through Life in One Piece

I know that lists are easy to write and are frequently just lip service, but these are things that I actually try to practice in life.  Of course, there are many other practical tips for surviving life such as "don't eat something out of the refrigerator if you don't remember putting it there," but I thought that a list like this might actually serve a purpose.  It seems like fewer and fewer people today are living by any kind of credo at all.  Remember when we, as a nation, had a moral compass?  Do we still have it, or are we too busy living life like we post Tweets: in short, random bursts?  Anyway, philosophizing aside, here are some concepts that I have found helpful.  I have failed more than I have succeeded in following them, I think, but I still try because they're worth it.  I hope they mean something to you, too.

  1. When people around you are whispering, don’t assume they’re whispering about you.  Not everything is about you.  In fact, very little is about you.  Once you realize this, you can get on with being concerned about things that actually matter.
  2. Never enter a business arrangement with a close friend or family member.  Money can be the cause of the bitterest disputes, and a few bucks aren’t worth losing a relationship over.  Don’t believe it?  Watch one episode of The People’s Court or Judge Judy.
  3.  As an adult, before you ever decide to get married and have kids, you should have at least one pet and a house full of plants.  If you can keep the plants and the pet alive for at least three years, then maybe you’re ready to consider becoming responsible for the life of another human.
  4. Good friends are like precious stones.  The really good, valuable ones are hard to find.  Once found, you should try to never lose them.  True friends understand that you’re not perfect.  If you have friends who criticize and make you feel small, they’re not really your friends.
  5. By the way, your friends aren’t perfect, either.  They’re going to screw up once in a while and disappoint you.  Be the friend you’d want if you were in their shoes and love them through it.
  6. If a friend asks you for money more than once a decade, you might want to reevaluate whether that person is really a friend.
  7. Learn how to fix things.  You don’t have to be a master mechanic or licensed contractor to save hundreds, maybe even thousands of dollars a year on routine maintenance on your car and home.  Learn how to change your oil, perform an engine tune-up, fix a toilet, refurbish or replace a faucet, hang a ceiling fan, unclog drains, and put sliding doors back on track.  Teach your kids the same things.
  8. Stand up for yourself.  Don’t be a jerk about it, but say “no” when you need to.  Being nice is one thing, but being a doormat is something completely different.  If your needs suffer because others are imposing on you to fulfill their life obligations, it’s time to make a change.
  9. On a related note, be responsible for your own life.  Pay your own bills.  If you’re over 18, you should be able to handle many of your own responsibilities.  If you’re out of college and are still living with your parents, you’re being irresponsible.  Get a second job, if you already have a first.  You do NOT have a right to do whatever you want; you have a right to the pursuit of happiness.  Sometimes that means that you give up some of the things you want now, to have happiness later.  It’s called being a grownup.  Deal with it and move on.
  10. If you have spent more money on entertainment than on investing in your future, don’t whine when you’re not able to retire until you’re 75.  A membership-driven online game, no matter how fun or compelling, is not worth thousands of dollars.  Investing thousands of dollars now will pay you TENS of thousands of dollars in the future.  Think about that.
  11. No matter how badly people treat you, always take the high road and treat them well.  Our actions are always repaid in kind.  Always.  The Golden Rule isn’t just a cutesy saying; it’s a valuable guideline for everyday life.
  12. If you’re going to buy something, take the time to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth.  Saving a few hundred dollars on a major purchase now isn’t worth it if you have to shell out another few thousand to replace that item two months after the warranty runs out.
  13. Listen to your elders.  They’ve been where you are.  You may think that they haven’t, and what you’re experiencing is different than they did, but that’s hogwash.  Most likely, they made it through what you’re facing with even fewer resources than you have available.  Less talking, more listening.  It’s a good rule of thumb for much of life.
  14. Try not to gossip, even to your best friend.  Life takes interesting turns, and alliances, sadly, sometimes change.  Try not to say anything that you wouldn’t mind the whole world hearing.  Likewise, don’t listen to gossip.  Even if it’s true, which is highly doubtful, it’s not your business.  You have enough problems of your own to deal with; you don’t need to invite those of others in, too.
  15. Assume the best of everyone you meet until they prove you wrong.  Some will tell you that this is na├»ve and foolish, and you’ll most likely get burned once in a while, but you will find that most people react much more favorably when they feel they are respected and trusted.  We all tend to want to live up to others’ expectations.
  16. Learn how to survive without modern conveniences.  Technology is wonderfully helpful, but it’s worthless when there’s no power.  Don’t believe it?  Ask someone from New Orleans about what they thought was important after Katrina hit.  You most likely won’t hear people whining about how they didn’t have access to wi-fi.  Get a high-quality water purifier.  Buy a propane camp stove.  You don’t have to be a survivalist; just aware and ready.  Nature has a way of knocking us down a peg or two when we get too smug, and it helps to be prepared.
  17. If you’re a newlywed, don’t think that you should start out your new life with everything that your parents have now.  They didn’t start out with that much; they worked for years to get where they are.  Beginning a new relationship is hard enough as it is.  Throwing a mortgage and two car payments on top of that, along with loans to fill up your house with nice things just compounds stress and anxiety.  You have all the time in the world, and stuff is just… stuff.  Enjoy each other.  The stuff will come in time.
  18. Exercise.  Nothing else works.  Just get up and do something.
  19. Learn how to take compliments.  Repeat after me: “Thank you, that’s very kind of you to say.”  See?  That wasn’t hard, was it?  Saying things like “No, it’s not that big a deal” and “Please, it was awful” makes you seem ungracious and unappreciative of other’s opinions of you.  Saying thanks and leaving it at that lets others know that you’re grateful for their praise, but not arrogant.
  20. When someone you know is hurting, words aren’t always necessary.  Sometimes, just being there to sit alongside them as if to say “I hurt along with you” does far more than all the words in the dictionary could ever do.
  21. Try to learn something new every day.  This keeps the mind sharp and can even help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.  It also helps you to be a more interesting conversationalist.
  22. If you think you’re an interesting conversationalist, you’re probably not.  You should most likely work on your ability to listen.  The old adage “we have two ears and one mouth for a reason” is pretty right-on.
  23. Give.  It doesn’t really matter what the cause, but find a way to give back.  Chances are that you’ve been the recipient of someone’s kindness, and now you have the responsibility to be kind to others.  Even if you’re broke, you can still give of your time and your talents.  Somewhere, a charity needs an accountant or a baker or someone who knows how to organize a thrift store.  Somewhere, a family could use a dependable car or a roof repair.  If you have a family, make them part of it.  Show your kids what it really means to be a part of the community.
  24. Laugh.  Nothing makes you feel alive like laughing until your sides hurt. Go to a comedy club, listen to one of the comedy stations on satellite radio, or watch the comedy network on TV.  Discover a great humor writer.  If you don’t have at least one friend who makes you laugh on a regular basis, find one.  It will make you healthier and keep you young longer.  We all need whimsy from time to time.
  25. Don’t be afraid of new opportunities.  Sometimes change can be good for you.  Taking calculated risks can result in big payoffs.  It can also result in failure, but so what?  We all fall on our faces once in a while.  If there’s something you’d like to try, go for it.  When you’re old, your regrets will be for those great things that you didn’t do, not the lousy things you did.
  26. Don’t lie.  No matter what the situation, when the chips are down, your reputation and self-respect are precious.  Lying demeans you and those around you, and causes stress that will eat you alive.  Why try to keep track of complicated lies (and they all become complicated, eventually) when the truth is so much simpler and healthier?
Well, there they are.  It's by no means a comprehensive list, but felt pretty solid to me.  What other rules of thumb do you follow that you feel are missing?  Feel free to comment, and share this if it affected you.  Thanks!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Guy Stuff

I like guy stuff.  Which is good, since I'm a guy.  But being a "word" guy and somewhat artsy-fartsy, my friends are sometimes surprised when I tell them that I changed my brakes or fixed the mower.  This bothers me a little, because while I don't pretend to be a testosterone-laden Cro-Magnon, I also take pride in the fact that I have never been referred to as a "metrosexual."  Not by anyone whose opinion on these matters I respect, anyway.  Ahem.  So when someone is surprised that I do have some mechanical acumen, I have to do a re-check to make sure that I'm not too sissified.  But my actions just this very day have reaffirmed to me, if no one else, that I'm a Man, make no mistake about it.  Here is a snippet of my day:

1. Googled images of Coop art.  If you do this, be warned.  These are images that you'd see on the wall of a garage specializing in hot rods or as flash in a tattoo studio.  Coop draws pictures of curvy ladies, usually as devils, sometimes as aliens, but always naughty, and always provocative.  I'm not providing a link because many would consider it offensive.  It's not pornography, but it's not something that you'd want sitting out on your desk at work.  Coop apparently appreciates a more voluptuous female figure (smart man), and he also apparently has no qualms about what others think of his artwork.  This is one of the reasons I was Googling his art.  I found it through another art link I visit sometimes, and it intrigued me.  I am often amazed how an artist can make a few carefully rendered lines look like something alive and sensual and beautiful.  Also, I Googled it because I'm a dude and can't help it.

2. Bought a new tool bag.  When I say tool bag, let me clarify.  Here is how I described it in a message to Jen, my beloved bride (who, for the record, thinks the Coop art is pretty cool): "It looks like it was built to be used by Ultimate Fighters from the Scottish highlands who are working on an oil rig with TNT."  If Batman were a carpenter, he'd have this bag in his Bat-truck.  It is my understanding that Chuck Norris once said that he hoped that he never got stuffed into one of these bags, because he feared that it would be the one thing that he wouldn't be able to roundhouse kick his way out of.  This is a serious bag.  If you explore the site, you will see that CLC Toolworks makes much more serious bags than the one I purchased.  This shows that a) I have limited funds and b) while I am a man, I'm not over the top about it.  Pretension just isn't my bag.  No apologies for the pun.

3. Moved a couch.  Mother-in-law got a new living room suite, gave the old one to someone.  Called me to move it.  'Nuff said.

4. Unclogged our bathroom sink drains.  I know, you're probably saying that any ninny can unclog a drain.  But who does it with a product with the brand name "Liquid Fire?"  You got it.  A guy, that's who.  The warning label on this stuff is longer than the directions.  Oh, and the directions are pretty much a warning label, too.  Know why?  Because the manufacturers know that their product is being used by dudes who ignore warning labels.  They also mostly ignore directions, but there are a few out there like me who want to make repairs on their homes without having to replace their homes.  Sure, they may have to replace their drain pipes, but at least they end up with clear drains.

5. Replaced my drain pipes.  Just as a general principle, dear reader, it is not wise to use a drain opener called "Liquid Fire" on pipes that are older than you are.  I'm just saying.  At least no beasts or humans were harmed in the unclogging and subsequent replacing of the pipes.

So there you go, A Day In The Life.  I may not be the burliest, most manly man in the world, but I'm no nancy-boy.  Apologies to my friends named Nancy.  I didn't make up the term, I just love using it on guys who don't know how to fix anything on their own cars and have never unclogged a drain (or replaced one).  Suffice it to say that occasionally, I revel in guyness.  For some silly reason, I used to think that was a bad thing, probably because Hollywood seems to ridicule anyone who tries to be him or herself, while claiming that everyone should do that very thing.  Nowadays, I say go ahead, let your testosterone level show once in a while.  You're not hurting anyone, and those shirt buttons can be replaced.