For most of us, life has been a pastiche of good and bad decisions. Some of us (like me) are probably still feeling the residuals of their bad decisions and faulty judgment calls. But, there is Balm in Gilead, and that balm is to be found in our good decisions. I’ve had a few of those. So have we all. Mine are as follows. As for the others, screw-em.
The best things I ever learned:
1. To read. I cannot begin to assess the value mastery of this skill has given me at so many levels. I once learned that one of my journalistic heroes, the ‘Sage of Baltimore,’ HL Mencken suffered a stroke in his later years and for the last decade of his life he was unable to read and comprehend a word on the printed page. I’d rather have died. Really I would.
2. Never to take up heroin or cocaine. Having been an addictions counselor I’ve seen the ravages firsthand. Not a pretty sight.
3. Don’t really like acronyms, but have come to fully appreciate the virtues of KISS as a mode of living life.
4. Like Jimmy Carter I have lusted in my heart (arguably too many times), but I have in later years come to realize that emotional infidelity is probably just as dishonest as actually doing the dirty. I’m not here to cause pain to those I love.
5. Realized we are the products of personal history. Personality quirks can often be explained. I have an inordinate fear of somebody I love dying in a traffic mishap. My beloved grandmother was hit and killed by a car. I now realize that incident has impacted me throughout my life. Such a realization was a good thing for me to arrive at. It made me understand myself a little better.
6. Learned (the rudiments at least) of a different language. It not only broadens one’s horizons, but it facilitates ease in dealing with services in a country where that language is spoken. The French might have regarded with curled lip my attempts at their language (they’re like that), but it made me feel good to have ‘tried’ at least.
7. Realized that whatever personality or even sexual quirks I might have are not particularly abnormal. Most people have ‘stuff’ that they wouldn’t necessarily want revealed if they were, say, running for public office.
8. The laughter of children keeps a fellow going at a time when life might be bogging him down. So does a good dog.
9. That my father had many virtues that I didn’t really come to appreciate, alas, until after he was gone. If yours still lives, make your peace with him. Unless he’s a complete prick, of course.
10. If you’re hosting a cocktail party or ‘at home’ and are planning to serve devilled eggs as one of your hors d’oeuvres, make twice as many as you think you will need. That still won’t be enough.
11. Everyone should know how to change a tire.
12. Every man should know how to change a diaper.
13. I know how to sew on a button and am proud that I can.
14. I know how to iron a shirt. It won’t look like when Wendy does it, but it’ll do.
15. I prepare the best damn potato salad on the continent (hint: It has something to do with horseradish.) Even my ex thought it was the best she’d ever tasted. And she wasn’t profligate with compliments directed at me.
16. I am by now prepared to concede an argument (even if I know I’m right) for the sake of maintaining domestic harmony. Nothing is that damned important.
17. If you suspect that you might drink too much; you do. I did and that’s why I don’t.
18. Don’t hold the gaze of an attractive stranger for more than three seconds unless you are planning to do something about it. If you’re married, don’t plan to do something about it.
19. Never eat ‘fresh’ seafood in Mexico.
20. Learn what the ‘stinkeye’ means in Hawaii and how to avoid it.
I could keep going with this for much longer, but I have also learned that everything has an optimum limit. It’s the lesson learned from the film It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Too many comic geniuses carrying on for far too long do not make for an uproarious movie.