Life Lessons

As I said, I’m no Pollyanna, though I wish like Eleanor H. Porter, I could write a character who is so vividly portrayed that their name becomes a part of the language.

For those of you who don’t know, a Pollyanna is a person consumed with irrepressible joy and a tendency to find good in everything. This person is also someone who is often unreasonably and illogically optimistic.

I like to think that I can be just as sarcastic and cynical as the next person. I admit, I like to find good in everything and everyone, but not to a point of illogic. Sometimes things suck canal water, and that is what it is. As Alicia Hall (my brilliant daughter) says “When shit hits the fan, you have to accept the existence of both fan and shit and just deal with it.” She also says “You have to save the freak-out until it’s taken care of.” I find these very wise words to live by.

I’m also more capable than anyone I know to have a total, volcanic, hand-wringing, tear-laden, stress melt-down. Of course, up until now that has always been my secret.

For a full dose of optimism check out Pollyanna (1913) by Eleanor Porter. You can also find several versions of Pollyanna in film. I’m most familiar with Disney’s 1960 version starring Hayley Mills, but I just learned there is also a 1920 version with Mary Pickford. Now that’s a film I need to track down and watch.


So where does one find the balance between optimism and realism, humor and helpfulness? I could start quoting a whole array of philosophers here and many other wise people who have a much better grasp of the issues involved, but where is the fun in that? This is my version:

I often feel like my life is careening like an overloaded bus (you know the pictures of those that are five times past their capacity with people hanging off of every edge) making speed trials on a winding road overlooking ragged cliffs that drop off into a tumultuous ocean. I also sometimes envision a rowboat with two holes in the bottom in the middle of rough seas surrounded by sharks. Welcome to the rat race.

So my rat race might not equal the mind-numbing, exhausting, unremitting activity of the typical human in a pointless maze of commercial one-upmanship, but I think it all boils down to about the same angst.

IMG_0439 The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.” – This quote is how Lily Tomlin popularized the paraphrase of this quote from William Sloane Coffin – “Even if you win the rat race, you’re still a rat.”

 “Often, people work long hard hours at jobs they hate to earn money to buy things they don’t need, to impress people they don’t like.Nigel Marsh http://nigelmarsh.com/

I know I said I would not bring in any experts, but I found this talk to enjoyable not to pass it along.


And on to Ted Talks.  I have not yet waxed eloquent on these wonderful talks. TED is a brilliant, educational, global community of thinkers and doers. There are so many good talks by so many leaders in so many fields. It’s a cornucopia of learning.



 Back to the rat race and life/work balance. I hate that term. Okay, not supposed to use the word hate, but intensely dislike works too. This always makes it sound like the two are supposed to be polar opposites with no overlap. I’m all for overlap. Perhaps it is overly optimistic of me, but I like to believe that everyone can find work that so matches their passion, their sense of being, and their true calling in life that it no longer seems like work. That it is simply an extension of the whole of what their life is and integrates into all the other parts of their lives without having to choose. Okay, maybe I am a little illogically optimistic, but believing in things often makes them possible.

Lessons I have learned:

  •  Get out of bed and say “This will be a great day.” Don’t believe it? Change the day to where you want it to be.
  • Enjoy the coffee, tea or meditation with which you start your morning.
  •  Exercise: Even a little can improve your mood, and your health. Though first thing in the morning it often makes me more than a little cynical and cranky.
  •  Relax the muscles. Unclench the hands, unfurrow the brow, and breathe deep.
  •  Enjoy the little things: blowing dandelion seeds onto the grumpy neighbor’s yard, kicking fall leaves, writing/painting/composing something beautiful.
  •  Enjoy the cute: puppies, kittens, ferrets, cars, seaweed, whatever your fancy is.
  •  Use your senses: Listen to the laughter of children or the songs of birds, smell all the flowers and the exotic perfumes of life, or feel something as simple as the softness of a blanket or a cool breeze on a hot day.
  • Change what you can and leave the rest. You can always get to that tomorrow.

Today’s favorite FONTS: Traditional Arabic, Algerian, & Kalinga. Unfortunately I’m not yet skilled enough to portray all of them in their full glory on this page, but I do encourage you to look them up.

Another INSPIRATION is a man who most certainly found his calling: Sir William Osler.  I especially like the prankster part and the fact he wrote under the pseudonym “Egerton Yorrick Davis.”.  How can one not love that name?


QUOTE: “We are here to add what we can to life, not to get what we can from it.” – Sir William Osler.