(Published on The Huffington Post June 20, 2015.)
Some of you have been around the block enough times to know where to avoid the mud and dog poop or when to stop and smell the roses. Others, however, refuse to try a better path so they continue to trip over the same obstacles. And, then there is thatgroup — the ones who stand in the street waiting for a free ride and then can’t understand why they get hit by a bus.
My spirited and splendid journey through life has taught me that the secrets to survival can be condensed to five easy paragraphs. It’s short because so is life. Besides, we can’t remember more than five things at a time.
1. Use your common sense. Spend less money than you make or you’ll become a slave to debt which leads to misery, failure and regret. Don’t go on a zip line through the jungle if you have a bladder problem because there aren’t any restrooms on those wobbly platforms. If you regularly eat an entire pecan pie with ice cream, you won’t look good naked. See how it works? Our brains have the remarkable ability to make good or bad decisions and choices. My mature brain tells me to manage money, avoid zip lines, and not come within 10 miles of a pie.
2. Keep that pie image (and who wouldn’t?) and acknowledge that input should balance output. If you consume more food than you need to survive, you should use enough energy to burn off the unnecessary calories. Get and stay healthy because life has a way of instantly whisking you from the high school prom to your 20-year reunion. And then it’s just a few hours before you’re sneaking into the store for reading glasses and incontinence supplies. Don’t wait until you’re older and lack the physical ability to skip with your grandchildren or chase your handsome hunk around the house, at different times of course.
3. Love to be in love. As the years go by, there is a profound sweetness in waking up with someone who accepts your wrinkles, thinning hair and sagging body parts, and then says, “Good morning, gorgeous.” Love your lover every day, from a passing wink to a sensual massage serenaded by Luther Vandross. A steady, exclusive relationship can turn a slow dance on the patio into a romantic encounter worthy of an evening in Paris. (Paris is always an adequate option.)
4. Bad things happen. No one gets a free pass on calamity. During your life, you probably will experience flat tires, funerals, diarrhea, lost love, fights with family, flatulence during a wedding, at least one broken bone, and the world’s worst boss. So you get up again, adjust your armor and holler that you’re ready for the next challenge. Looking back at the assorted chaos in my life, I realize there were far more splendid times than bad. And the truly amazing adventures happened after I initially failed or took a risk.
5. Attitude is everything. Positive, grateful people enjoy the best of life. By midlife, the laugh lines around their eyes reveal countless smiles through the miles, and their journey is one to emulate. Crabby, cynical worrywarts suck the energy from everyone they meet. Avoid them.
‘Dear Abby’ Pauline Phillips died a few years ago at the age of 94. Her advice columns appeared in 1,000 newspapers around the world. She wrote in her autobiography that her demanding job was not work because “It’s only work if you’d rather be doing something else.” I agree with her, and so my advice is to choose wisely, get healthy, love intensely, combat calamity, and be happy. Finally, remember that life is short. Make it sassy.