While the loss of Robin Williams is tragic, we must remember the innumerable lessons in happiness, cheer, comedy, and laughter that he taught to us, sometimes, as in Dead Poets Society, quite literally. He played some of the most iconic characters to ever have touched our hearts, like Peter Pan who taught us to never grow up, and Patch Adams, for whom laughter was the best medicine. Mrs. Doubtfire exemplified that our parents will always be there for us, but even Genie couldn’t bring people back from the dead.
“The most radical act anyone can commit is to be happy.” And I hope that you delight in stirring glee in someone else’s heart by making them smile, and laugh, and roll their eyes because, in his words, “you’re only given a little of madness. You must not lose it.”
“When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself.”
In the morning, light pours into my bedroom. It’s kind of a pain to fall asleep with the blinds open and the curtains pulled back, but it’s worth it to be greeted by light. Then, for me, it’s baked oatmeal and one shot of espresso. I’m not a morning person, and I probably haven’t had a single thought about anything worth remembering until I’ve begun to absorb some caffeine. A quick aside- I’ve never understood why people don’t drink more espresso, is it the whip cream thing? And then, a clean shave. I (almost) always use a sharp razor, not a Gillette, and have replaced that blue goop with fluffy and fragrant lavender shave soap applied by a badger hair shave brush.
I’m sharing my routine with you, because I’ve found that from the first ray of sunshine to the first bite of oatmeal, the last sip of espresso to the last bit of shave soap, I tend to concentrate on how lucky I am to enjoy these little luxuries. They are simple joys. When you appreciate your situation first thing in the morning, you start the day off right. And when you start the day off right, the rest of the day tends to follow suit.
If you’re a snooze button 12 times, rush out of bed and into the car to sit in traffic on the way to the job you dread kind of person, consider what you give up each morning. You’ve missed the chance to be gracious, to take a few minutes to yourself to think about your day, to think about what you can do for someone else today. By the time you’re expressing you’re road rage, you’ve given up the chance to work out that day or your opportunity to reflect in your journal. Approaching the beginning of your day differently might change your outlook on school or work, especially if you’ve taken a few minutes to give thanks that you have gainful employment and think about how you can make a difference at work that day. An improved outlook is often the key to improved performance.
So much of this blog is about having a positive and gracious attitude. The reason is simple- life is better that way. The time to establish that attitude is first thing in the morning.
–A Knight’s Tale
You might be knocked off your horse or take a lance to the face. Some days you might feel like a blind thatcher’s son, and some days you might think you’re living in the dark-ages. Pick yourself up off the ground. Let the lance roll off your armor. Embrace your father, and be inspired by your contemporaries.
“If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”
“Don’t waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself.”
This is from Elton John’s rock opera Aida, which I played a part in when my high school performed it in 2006. I’m the one second from the left dressed like Elton John’s dominatrix.
Personally, I am most comfortable when I can get into my routine. I am very careful to plan my week on a calendar, create a to-do list with sub-to-do lists just to make sure everything gets accomplished. And it’s the deviations from this routine that causes stress and makes me uncomfortable.
But is that really living life- commuting to work from 9-5, getting in a workout, and catching a few reruns of the Big Bang Theory before bed? Is that as good as it gets? Honestly, that’s the trap that Ben Franklin realized a lot of 25-year-olds (okay, I know you’re just pretending…) fall into. And, after all, isn’t that why we call it ‘the grind’?
Ben Franklin was definitely a character with many interests and hobbies. I think he encourage those of us who have sailed into the doldrums of life to bypass the Lethargians and find some ways to spice things up. It might not be a big life-altering decision, but maybe there are some little place you kind add excitement in your schedule. I’ll help you brainstorm.
Wake up early enough to enjoy breakfast in a new restaurant, or leave the lean cuisine at home and try a new restaurant for lunch. Cook a new recipe- autumn’s here so why not something pumpkin? Host a dinner party for some friends, or suggest a Friday night dinner outing at a new place. Switch out the Coors Light for a festive microbrew.
Try a new kind of workout- can you rent a kayak or a bike? Give a spin class or zumba or fly-wheel a shot. You could even change up the route you always run or just run it backwards. Find a mountain, and take a hike. Go fishing. Maybe you don’t work out- take a walk or a swim. Ben was an avid swimmer. Invite someone new to join you. Really not into working out? What about following a new sport- become the expert.
How long has it been since you read a book? What about a mystery or a new genre? What other hobby’s could you find interesting? Homebrewing? Ben’s recipe was called “Poor Richard’s Ale.” I just brewed my first batch last weekend. It’s not that hard to get into, and I’m confident you could do it. What about canning? Maybe it’s just an arrangement of fresh cut flowers on your desk.
Could you take a course in something you’ve always been interested in? Join a bible study or a small group? Join a book club or start an investment club. Meet some new friends. Travel. Take a day-trip or a long weekend. Find out what beautiful landmarks are around you and go photograph them. Then make a rainy-day hobby out of photo editing and make some art out of it.
I don’t know what it is that will make your life more fulfilling and exciting, what that something is that will make you excited to get out of bed. And honestly, one thing probably isn’t enough. If it’s just one thing, it’ll become part of your routine. But always be learning. Experiment. Live. These little things are what make life worth living.
Have a great week, everybody.