Things I learned While Trying not to Learn Anything

This previous weekend I threw a party.  It was a rather large event by my standards, involving a performance of a play written by me and an interactive large group game we named, “The Game Show Gauntlet.”  Much fun was had by all.  But even as I was trying to just relax and enjoy a moment with friends and family, stupid Life had to try to teach more stupid lessons to me in some vague universal conspiracy to make me a better person.

So I thought, “Why not share them with my infinitesimal number of blog fans and help improve his and her lives?”  You can, however, choose to stop reading right now and go on living in blissful ignorance.  Go ahead, I’ll wait.

(humming the Final Jeopardy countdown song)

Alright, have it your way.

Lesson 1:  I find it really hard to say, “No,” to a challenge.  My wife’s aunt, whose nickname is “Hot Aunt Stacey,” is running a triathlon at the age of forty-eight.  As soon as I heard that, some switch went off in my brain and instantly I said, “Guess I have to train for the next eight years for my triathlon then.”  But it didn’t stop there.  My annoyingly devious mother-in-law spouted off with, “Knowing you, you’ll do it seven years just to show-off.”  So now I have only seven years to train for a triathlon… and in case any of you don’t know or haven’t guessed, I am the picture of chubbiness and lazy to boot.  But damn that switch in my brain that makes me competitive… I’ve already begun exercising to lose weight as a first step.  And in 6 years and 363 days I have to transform from walking 7 miles in 2 hours to completing a triathlon.

How you can use this information:  Want me to do something?  Just make it into a competition with a reward at the end of it.  I’ll instinctively bend over backwards to get it done.

Lesson 2:  The normal state of humans is to be miserable.  People have learned to look for something to be upset about.  You can be surrounded by fun and games, food and drink, and yet someone will still be able to look grumpy over some water on the floor.  Or give vague statements like, “We’ll talk later,” when you say how lucky he is to have a great family.  Or complain about how the completely random and just for fun game is unfair because one team only earned 4 points for the Match Game portion, but the Price is Right portion was worth 1,000 points.  But then you see a four or five-year old little girl, scribbling away in a book, drawing pictures that in NO way look like the people or things she is intending to draw… and she’s happy as a dog with a bone.  It makes you realize the “normal” state of adult humans is to be miserable, but the natural state of humans is to be joyous and curious and without worry.  Which means the society we’ve created has beaten the joy out of each adult and it doesn’t have to be that way.

How you can use this information:  Act more like a five-year old.  If something bothers you or there’s some kind of “adult world” problem, don’t freak out.  Just take a breath, close your eyes, count to 10, and then randomly go up to someone and yell, “Found you!  You’re it!” and run away to hide.  All problems can be fixed, but not while you’re wallowing in the worry of it.

Lesson 3:  Another sad commentary on our society is that we have our priorities backwards.  If a family member or friend dies, we juggle everything to be at the funeral or wake.  The only acceptable excuses for missing a funeral are equally bad tragedies – like going through chemotherapy.  Even then, the cancer-fighter would probably force herself to be at the final farewell.  But when it’s a joyous celebration, like a birthday, almost any excuse is acceptable.  That is just so absurd to me.  “Peggy Sue was a great woman.  I couldn’t make it to her birthday party a few months ago because I decided I just HAD to buy a new bed the day before the party and when they said there was free next day shipping I was like, ‘Of course I want it delivered the next day instead of going to a celebration of my friend.’  But at least I’m here at your funeral, Peggy!”  Now, not all excuses are equal.  Taking time away from school or work to travel three or four states away can be inconvenient and not worth it.  And I certainly don’t have any animosity towards those who declined the invitation in advance for those reasons.  Yet sometimes I think we forget that our time here is finite, that these people we love and care about will be gone someday… and the sad fact is it could be tomorrow they are gone.  Random accidents occur every day.

How you can use this information:  The people you love, family and friends, they are your priority.  Sometimes even before yourself.  Repeat that every day.  Then, when one of them needs you or wants you to see them, move heaven and earth to be there.  Life might place an immovable object in your way, and that’s okay.  Apologize and arrange to see them as soon as possible afterwards.  But stop getting in your own way.  Sometimes, next-day free shipping isn’t free… it costs you a friendship.


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