Here’s a list of ten things you can do to live longer:
- One, learn to vacation in your driveway. Yup, just pull up outside your house after work and sit there for a minute. You’ll be surprised at what you’ll suddenly start noticing. I saw a squirrel chasing another squirrel around. I saw birds were pecking at the berries off that hawthorn tree so fast, whole piles of them were landing on the ground – where those same squirrels were collecting them up faster that movie theatre ushers between shows.
- Two, on the highway, choose the tollbooth staffed by a live person now and then. Toll takers get as lonely sitting there as you would get driving all day by yourself. Take a minute to be human with them? Who are you, some CEO rushing to his private jet? No, you’re not.
- Three, talk to these people, or to anyone behind any counter as you pay. You’ll learn things for sure. Ask, “How’s it goin’?” and wonder of wonder they’ll tell you. The other day at the discount drug, the lady behind the counter told me she couldn’t WAIT ‘til that full moon stopped monkeying around making everyone so crazy.
- Four, just take a chance generally with people. Smile at that stranger coming toward you, if only because in this one moment your paths are crossing. Sure, there’ll be a little hiccup in his gait and his face will say, “Wait, I don’t know you,” but eventually he will recall the dim long ago: “Oh yeah, civility! We used to practice that once!
- Five, think of the person whose habits annoy you the most and practice what in the recovery movement they call “the turnaround.” This means, imagine him as every bit the same precious, unique, valiantly striving individual your momma always saw you as.
- Six, try doing this on yourself, setting aside that invisible shield of self-contempt we carry around with us always.
- Seven, go back now and give Number Four another try. See if it isn’t easier to look that person in the eye and smile.
- Eight, put away your I-Pod and stash those ear buds with their long white tentacles. Listen to the music in your head. Spin up your own podcasts as you walk, or try for a quick Q & A with the person beside you.“Do you remember your babyhood?” I asked the woman bedside me at Airport Security last week. (We were both looking at a little child in a stroller.) “I certainly do!” she said and off we went comparing notes. I myself remember having my diapers changed, even though in the era when I lay on a changing table, kids were all potty-trained at 18 months. I figure a little more practice and I can remember clear back to my arrival day.
- Nine, while you’re at it, press the ‘Off’ button on that smartphone of yours.
- Ten, Remember the advice “Only connect!” as E. M Fortser once famously wrote.
Do these things and you’ll learn to have a good time even the DMV; even waiting in line at the pharmacist’s window. All it takes is engaging with others. Make that creative leap of imagination that puts you in the other guy’s shoes and soon enough you’ll be able to make a friend and ally out of every stranger; to take even loss and learn to turn it inside-out like an old sweater to reveal its silver lining.