So often we struggle with life, wrestling it triumphantly to the ground only to have it redouble its efforts and throw us off the cliff. This lovely, funny, warm mother gives her daughter some excellent advice.
The main thing is just to try to be nice. You already are – so lovely I burst, darling – and so I want you to hang on to that and never let it go. Keep slowly turning it up, like a dimmer switch, whenever you can. Just resolve to shine, constantly and steadily, like a warm lamp in the corner, and people will want to move towards you in order to feel happy, and to read things more clearly. You will be bright and constant in a world of dark and flux, and this will save you the anxiety of other, ultimately less satisfying things like ‘being cool’, ‘being more successful than everyone else’ and ‘being very thin’.
One of my favorite quotes of all time is from the movie "Harvey" when James Stewart is explaining the first rule of life. "Years ago my mother used to say to me, she'd say, 'In this world, Elwood, you must be - she always called me Elwood - In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.' Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me."
The fact that this rule of life completely eludes me is of no importance. It is still the first rule. But because the Rule of Nice consistently dances out of reach, my mouth always able to easily slip the bonds of good manners and deliver the direct hit before I even realize I've taken aim, this advice is especially pertinent to me.
Second, always remember that, nine times out of ten, you probably aren’t having a full-on nervous breakdown – you just need a cup of tea and a biscuit. You’d be amazed how easily and repeatedly you can confuse the two. Get a big biscuit tin.
I think I may just start drinking tea and eating biscuits. It might go a long way to keeping me out of trouble. Wine hasn't helped.
This is brilliant. Everyone memorize this.
Four: choose your friends because you feel most like yourself around them, because the jokes are easy and you feel like you’re in your best outfit when you’re with them, even though you’re just in a T-shirt. Never love someone whom you think you need to mend – or who makes you feel like you should be mended. There are boys out there who look for shining girls; they will stand next to you and say quiet things in your ear that only you can hear and that will slowly drain the joy out of your heart. The books about vampires are true, baby. Drive a stake through their hearts and run away.I am a fixer. I am constantly getting involved with people that - right up front - I know are complainers, whiners, disappointed in life, unhappy with themselves. I'm not really sure why, but I think it is rooted in the fact that generally I find life pretty easy to navigate and always believe I can just tell others how to do it and -- PRESTO! -- they will be happy. So far this hasn't worked. Ever. I'm going to start carrying stakes.
But this is the advice that is near and dear to my heart, because it is exactly what I have always said and always remind everyone every time.
This segues into the next tip: life divides into AMAZING ENJOYABLE TIMES and APPALLING EXPERIENCES THAT WILL MAKE FUTURE AMAZING ANECDOTES. However awful, you can get through any experience if you imagine yourself, in the future, telling your friends about it as they scream, with increasing disbelief, ‘NO! NO!’ Even when Jesus was on the cross, I bet He was thinking, ‘When I rise in three days, the disciples aren’t going to believe this when I tell them about it.’
The best experiences and the worst experiences are the ones we remember with the most emotional energy. They are the ones that most directly shape our lives and give us shared memories that create our history. There are the peak moments -- the weddings, the births, the graduations, the birthdays, the promotions. Enjoy them; celebrate them! But the god-awful catastrophes are just as meaningful, just as powerful in teaching us how to live life. The Thanksgiving when the oven door fell off with 12 guests arriving, the storm that blew out the power for seven days, the moments of embarrassment, disappointments, failures, and screw ups. These moments add meaning to our lives. If we let them. And we should. We allow them to add meaning to our lives by laughing at them...remembering incidences that were once horrifying with humor allows us to embrace our frailties and humanness, and the silly, impossible, messiness of life. People who struggle with depression are often those who can not find the humor in the awful moments; they cling desperately to the initial feelings of frustration or humiliation or disappointment, relieving them until they define how they view life.
Laugh at the mess. It's a better way.
Read it all, the way she wrote it. It's great.