Timeless homilies for health and happiness

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You might have heard of a quirky song-ish-type recording called Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen, by Baz Lurhmann, better known as the director of films like Moulin Rouge and The Great Gatsby. I hadn’t realised until today that it is based (heavily) on an essay by Mary Schmich, published in the Chicago Tribune (hopefully not an example of a great idea created by a woman and credited to a man, but possibly so). Lyrics in full at the end of this blog post.

It’s a series of homilies on how to navigate life with happiness and health, many of which I agree with — gems like “Do not read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly” (although I would qualify the sunscreen advice with the caveat that not all sunscreens are created equal, and I’m very selective about what substances I want to absorb into my body).

The essay/song inspired me to come up with a few of my own sunscreen-type pieces of advice, which I offer to you here. And I’d love to hear yours, if you’d like to post them in the comments.

Things are rarely as good or as bad as you expect them to be.

When you think back to the events you anticipated most eagerly, did they always turn out to be the highlights of your life? Likewise, did the prospects you dreaded always turn out to be as bad as you feared? Humans are notoriously terrible at anticipating how we are going to feel about a particular outcome ( Dan Gilbert’s TED Talks are really good on this), so it’s far less emotionally draining to just take life as it comes — and appreciate the nice surprises when they come along.

No such thing as coincidence.

Or maybe there is, but for me, personally, life feels a lot more magical when I choose to attribute meaning to seemingly serendipitous sequences of events, even while being aware that this may be choice rather than objective reality.

Embrace pronoia.

If paranoia is the belief that life is out to get me, pronoia is the belief that life is conspiring to make me happy. In other words, I believe that life is happening for me, not to me, so when things don’t go as planned, I trust that it will all turn out in the end. Speaking of which….

It all turns out in the end, so if it hasn’t yet turned out, it’s not the end.

Or, as Winston Churchill put it, if you’re going through hell, keep going.

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Life never gives us more than we can handle.

This cuts both ways. When everything is going pear-shaped, it helps if I tell myself the story that life is simply challenging me to grow, rather than allowing myself to become a victim of my circumstances. But it can also mean that, if I’m not getting the results I want — prosperity, love, security — then maybe I’m not yet ready to handle all that good stuff, so I need to do some work on the inside if I want to create good things on the outside.

Choose what you want, and pay for it (with credit to my lovely wise friend, Ellen Petry Leanse).

Nothing is for free. Even the things we want have an opportunity cost.

There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so (with credit to Shakespeare’s Hamlet).

We can label things as good or bad, comfortable or uncomfortable, but that is our judgement, not objective reality. What if we chose to reframe the “bad” stuff as grist to our evolutionary mill? Then if personal growth is a core principle (as it is for me), this attitude turns the “bad” stuff into “good” stuff… in other words, it makes all the stuff into good stuff.

The truth lies somewhere in between.

One person says this, one person says that. Chances are, they are both somewhat right and also somewhat wrong.

(On a separate but distantly related note that I just have to share, speaking of truth… my jaw dropped when I was listening to the Guardian podcast during my morning walk the other day. That train wreck of a Trump interview with Jonathan Swan of Axios? Turns out that the information being handed to DT is being edited to reinforce his worldview that he is doing a great job, e.g. give him a graph of COVID death rates around the world, excluding all the countries that are doing better than the US. Seriously?! Probably because he fires anybody who gives him news he doesn’t want to hear, so of course the survivors manipulate the data to keep him believing that he is the best president ever. But when you have a delusional president + spineless lackeys who filter reality to maintain his delusion, no wonder he seems to be living in a parallel universe. Anyhow, I digress…)

Courage is a result, not a prerequisite.

And the same goes for any other resource — creativity, energy, connections, opportunities… even money. These things don’t arrive while you’re sitting around on the sofa waiting for them to show up. You create them by taking action that demands that they come into existence. My mental image for this is that I’m in a bubble of my existing resources, and I want to do something bigger, braver, more audacious than my existing resources allow. So I push on the bubble to increase its volume. At first there’s nothing to fill that extra space, so there’s an uncomfortable moment when the bubble is trying to snap back to its original size. But nature abhors a vacuum, so pretty quickly it fills that space with more of whatever it is I need, and the size of my bubble has now grown.

If you liked these, you’d probably also like one of my favourite books, The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz (also mentioned in last week’s blog post on indigenous wisdom).

Please feel free to share your own life-learned wisdom in the comments below!

Other Stuff:

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TEDxStroudWomen is progressing apace, although of course we wait to see what COVID has planned for us towards the end of the year. All week the committee have been working individually on reviewing the 84 applications, and yesterday we had a 3-hour Zoom meeting to agree the final lineup, which we will be announcing shortly. It has been an enormous privilege to connect with the hopes, dreams, and life stories of so many passionate people, and I just wish we could put them ALL on the TEDx stage!

We are now moving into the sponsorship phase of our preparations, and are particularly interested in finding a tech partner who can help us with livestreaming the event. If you have any relevant contacts, please let me know!

Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen

Ladies and gentlemen of the class of ‘97
Wear sunscreen

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it
A long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists
Whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable
Than my own meandering experience, I will dispense this advice now

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth, oh, never mind
You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth
Until they’ve faded, but trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back
At photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now
How much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked

You are not as fat as you imagine

Don’t worry about the future
Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing Bubble gum
The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind
The kind that blindsides you at 4 p.m. On some idle Tuesday
Do one thing every day that scares you

Saying, don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts
Don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours

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
Remember compliments you receive, forget the insults, if you succeed in doing this, tell me how
Keep your old love letters, throw away your old bank statements

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life.
The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives
Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t
Get plenty of calcium
Be kind to your knees
You’ll miss them when they’re gone

Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t
Maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t
Maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the ‘Funky Chicken’
On your 75th wedding anniversary
Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much
Or berate yourself either
Your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s

Enjoy your body, use it every way you can
Don’t be afraid of it or what other people think of it
It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own
Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your own living room
Read the directions even if you don’t follow them
Do not read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly

Brother and sister together we’ll make it through
Some day a spirit will take you and guide you there
I know you’ve been hurting but I’ve been waiting to be there for you
And I’ll be there just helping you out whenever I can

Get to know your parents, you never know when they’ll be gone for good
Be nice to your siblings, they’re your best link to your past
And the people most likely to stick with you in the future

Understand that friends come and go
But a precious few, who should hold on

Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle
For as the older you get, the more you need the people you knew when you were young
Live in New York City once but leave before it makes you hard
Live in northern California once but leave before it makes you soft

Accept certain inalienable truths
Prices will rise, politicians will philander, you too, will get old
And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young
Prices were reasonable, politicians were noble
And children respected their elders

Don’t expect anyone else to support you
Maybe you have a trust fund, maybe you’ll have a wealthy spouse
But you never know when either one might run out

Never mess too much with your hair
Or by the time you’re 40 it will look 85

Be careful whose advice you buy but be patient with those who supply it
Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past
From the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts
And recycling it for more than it’s worth

But trust me on the sunscreen

Brother and sister together we’ll make it through
Some day a spirit will take you and guide you there
I know you’ve been hurting but I’ve been waiting to be there for you
And I’ll be there just helping you out whenever I can

Everybody see it oh yeah yeah

Everybody see it oh yeah
He want you to feel good!

Originally published at https://www.rozsavage.com on August 20, 2020.

Written by

Former management consultant who stepped out of the ordinary to row oceans solo. Currently writing at https://www.thegiftsofsolitude.com/ and www.rozsavage.com

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