“How To Be Perfect”

English: Logo of NPR News.

English: Logo of NPR News. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wednesday morning, driving to the gym and listening to NPR.  At that hour of the morning, Garrison Keillor presents ‘The Writer’s Almanac‘ providing interesting factoids about authors that would ensure victory in a game of Trivial Pursuit, if only I would remember them.  He then reads from the ‘Poet’s Corner‘ – and I literally had to pull over to listen to his gentle voice intone excerpts from Ron Padgett‘s poem “How To Be Perfect”.  Given my post yesterday, the juxtaposition was almost eerie and definitely surprising in the best of all possible ways.  I wanted to share it with you, for in keeping with the belief that we could be a bit kinder to ourselves in many areas and more honest with ourselves in others – there is no one who can communicate this like Ron Padgett.

Excerpts from “How To Be Perfect”

Get some sleep.

Eat an orange every morning.

Be friendly.  It will help make you happy.

Hope for everything.  Expect nothing.

 

Take care of things close to home first.  Straighten your room

before you save the world.  Then save the world.

Be nice to people before they have a chance to behave badly.

 

Don’t stay angry about anything, for more than a week, but don’t

forget what made you angry.  Hold you anger at arm’s length

and look at it. as if it were a glass ball.  Then add it to your glass

ball collection.

 

Wear comfortable shoes.

Do not spend too much time with large groups of people.

Plan your day so you never have to rush.

 

Show your appreciation to people who do things for you, even if

you have paid them, even if they do favors you don’t want.

 

After dinner, wash the dishes.

Calm down.

Don’t expect your children to love you, so they can, if they want to.

Don’t be too self-critical or too self-congratulatory.

Don’t think progress exists.  It doesn’t.
Imagine what you would like to see happen, and then don’t do

anything to make it impossible.

Forgive your country every once in a while.  If that is not

possible, go to another one.

 

If you feel tired, rest.

Don’t be depressed about growing older.  It will make you feel

even older.  Which is depressing.

Do one thing at a time.

 

If you burn your finger, put ice on it immediately.  If you bang

your finger with a hammer, hold your hand in the air for 20

minutes.  You will be surprised by the curative powers of ice and

gravity.

 

Do not inhale smoke.

Take a deep breath.

Do not smart off to a policeman.

Be good.

Be honest with yourself, diplomatic with others.

Do not go crazy a lot.  It’s a waste of time.

Drink plenty of water.  When asked what you would like to

drink, say, “Water, please.”

 

Take out the trash.

Love life.

Use exact change.

When there’s shooting in the street, don’t go near the window.

 

Lots to think about, lots more to smile about.  Please let me know if this struck you as wonderfully as it affected me.  Here’s to a fun-filled, thoughtful Thursday!

 

It’s Beautiful The Second Time Around Too

I have to say, it’s really cool to receive this award again.  You may not know this but when Sally Fields won the Oscar and shouted “You like me! You really  like me!”, I was the one who suggested she say that.  No I didn’t – just teasing.  But I do understand how she felt.  Thank you to Olo O’Matthew for the shout out.  His blog boblobslaw.com is a testament to his joy-filled art and loving musings about life.  Please check out his posts – they’re terrific.

This is the part I enjoy the most – paying this forward.  You recipients are obligated to do the same…

Shut Up Dad.wordpress.com

Dr. Bill Wooten.wordpress.com

Girl On the Contrary.wordpress.com

Letlifeinpractices.com

truthletsandthoughtbits.com

shoesonthewrongfeet.com

newsofthetimes.com

I’m following many more and with a little luck I’ll get one of these awards again, and I’ll applaud the efforts of others as well!  Thank you again – if I could draw, I’d post a very happy face.

 

An Exercise In Good Thought

I’m not sure how many of you remember the Saturday Night Live skits with Stuart Smalley.  His tag line was “I’m good enough.  I’m smart enough.  And doggone it, people like me.”  A somewhat insipid character in a blue cardigan and bad toupee routinely talking to himself in a mirror.  Somehow in retrospect it doesn’t sound very funny, but it became part of our social lexicon for a while.

When I was in grad school learning the ins and outs of various therapeutic interventions, I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. David Burns – one of the pre-eminent practitioners of cognitive therapy.  Although his lecture listed towards the yawning, he was a delightful person to speak with one-on-one.  I was nervous; he was not.  My tendency in these situations is to be as self-deprecating as possible – far better that I expose my multiple flaws before anyone else does.  And as I was tripping over my tongue with phenomenally irrelevant bits of personal data, I stopped and said, “I guess you’d suggest I change the tape in my head, huh?”  At which point he laughed and nodded and moved on to less neurotic company.

Our ability to self-criticize is legendary.  People have written about it for years.  Woody Allen made his fortune exposing various elements of his imperfect self-perceptions to his audiences.  We can repeat certain tapes in our heads throughout our lives – never considering their veracity, shelf life or relevance.  I can hear certain voices in my head (relax, I’m not talking delusional here) that have asserted themselves on my self-image ever since I was a kid.  They still carry weight and define how I perceive myself.  I know on some level that it’s fiction.  I know it isn’t healthy.  And on some level I know I have to change the tape.  It hasn’t done me any good since I hit the ‘play’ button.  I mean come on, tapes are obsolete – what the hell am I doing with a cassette recorder in my head!!

There’s an element of ‘fake-it-til-you-make-it’ to cognitive therapy.  Changing the message that you have reacted to for years, replacing it with one that is more accurate, timely and of your own design sounds relatively benign.  The hard work comes into play as you exercise your mind (that sounded a little like Timothy Leary, didn’t it?)  – recognizing what thoughts promote feelings of insecurity and negative self-worth – and having the wherewithal to change them.  The theory is that we react emotionally to what we think, not vice versa.  You have to get into the habit of telling yourself the truth – and see how your heart responds to that reality.

This isn’t a paean to cognitive therapy, Dr. David Burns or Stuart Smalley.  It is a paean to you – for chances are good that some of what you react to through the course of a typical day has little to do with the moment itself and everything to do with some antiquated message that is integrated into your thought patterns.  You are smart enough and good enough and I’m pretty damn confident that people like you.  What are you going to do to like yourself?