Wednesday, November 11, 2015

My Best Life Advice

As I wrote in a post earlier today, most of the emails I receive are from young people.

Recently, I heard from a couple young people who asked for what I would call “life advice”–that is, advice not necessarily related to being gay, at least not directly.      

After giving their requests some thought, I realized I’m now old enough to be, in most cases, a parent to these young people. And maybe they don’t have the type of relationships with their parents where they feel comfortable asking them what they asked me.  Or maybe they don’t even have parents to ask.    

So, it's in the spirit of being helpful that I offer my best life advice–twelve points that have taken me fifty-six years to learn.  I only wish I’d learned them much sooner.  For the most part, I ignored them, because I didn't think they applied to me, or I'd have time later on to pay attention to them.  Later on is right now.          

Here are the goods, then.  If you’re serious about learning these, and making them a part of your life, I guarantee they’ll make a difference.  On the other hand, if you’re like me, you’ll wait until you’re much older.  Then you’ll realize that Rick, from “This Gay Relationship,” may have known what he was talking about, after all.  

Take them or leave them.  The choice is yours.  

1).  Recognize your self-worth.  It all starts with this one.  If you don’t get it, then you probably won’t get any of the others, either.  And, if you don’t value yourself the way you should, there's no time like right now to start working on that.  Do whatever is necessary to know and accept how valuable you are, just by being here.  After all, there is no one like you on earth, and you are here to do something no one else can.  Recognize your self-worth, and finally get on with the business of being you.  

2).  Eat properly.  I look at it this way.  Your body is a bank account.  Everything you put into it, or do to it, that’s good and healthy is a deposit (deposits are good); everything you put into it, or do to it, that isn't good and healthy is a withdrawal (think of withdrawals as bad).  If you eat nothing but greasy fast food, never exercise, smoke, drink excessively, take drugs, etc., you’re constantly withdrawing from your account.  Eventually, there won’t be anything to withdraw from.  Then what'll happen?  You better believe everything you do to yourself, good or bad, makes a difference.  When you get older, the reality of that really hits you in the head.  Why wait until you’re older to figure it out?

3).  Exercise regularly.  See #2). above.  Ideally, you should try to do some form of exercise (that is, get your heart rate up for an extended period) every day.  If everyday is too often, then three or four times a week, minimum.  Remember, exercise is a deposit, and deposits are good for you.  Put the phone down, get off the couch, and move.  The more you move, the better.

4).  Get adequate sleep.  I can’t stress how critical this is to good health.  There is no substitute for getting between seven or eight hours of uninterrupted sleep a night.  Without it, your body cannot heal itself properly, and you won’t be able to function at your optimal level. I know what I’m talking about.  I suffered a period of insomnia a number of years ago and became a total mess. I never want to go through that again.  

5).  Believe in a higher power.  I don’t care who or what that higher power is–God, the universe, whatever.  Believe something is in control of everything that’s happening right now.  Have faith there’s a master plan, that your life is unfolding exactly as it should be (because it is).  Belief in a higher power will get you through the stuff of life, will help you believe what you’re going through, good or bad, is for a reason.  Learn from it.  When it passes (as all things do), you’ll be stronger than you are now.  And you’ll be in a better place to help someone going through the same thing.

6).  Practice mindfulness.  Live in the moment.  The bottom line is, you and I have this one moment only, right now.  So use it.  Get everything out of it that you possibly can. Stop obsessing about or regretting the past, and stop worrying about the future.  Believe you have only this moment, live like you do, and you’ll be so far ahead of the game.

7).  Create something.  The soul’s food is creativity.  It doesn’t matter what that creativity looks like–from coloring in one of those new adult coloring books, to writing poetry, to cooking, to whatever.  Creating not only feeds the soul, it says you were here, and your being here mattered.  Don’t deny your soul what it most needs to make you feel fully alive.  You know in your heart what you've always wanted to create.  Now, go do it.

8).  Be grateful.  I can’t overemphasis this.  When you’re grateful, you focus on what you have, not on what you don’t have.  And, believe me, you have a lot.  If you have food in your mouth, clothes on your back, and a roof over your head, you have more than many millions of people around the world do.  Gratitude is free (it's also freedom).  Gratitude is a way of life.  Gratitude tells you that you have enough.  Because you do.  Don’t underestimate the power of gratitude.  It’ll transform your life.

9).  Focus on the positive.  This one goes hand-in-hand with being grateful.  How easy it is to get caught up in the trap of negativity, to be brought down by the many minor inconveniences known as everyday life.  Resist that temptation.  Don’t let the negative get to you.  Don’t let negative people to get to you.  Don’t let any of it control you or how you feel. You’re much stronger than that.  

10).  Breathe.  If you are drawing breath right now, you have so much to be grateful for.  Sometimes, when things are really bad, all you can do is breathe.  Stop yourself.  Quiet down your body and mind.  Focus on your breathing.  Take a deep breath in through the nose, and let it out slowly through the mouth.  Do that several times, or as many times as necessary.  Release the stress.  Take back control.  Put your life back into perspective.  

11).  Be kind.  It’s so easy not to be kind, particularly in the cyber world, where some people, their identities unknown, criticize other people all the time–what they say, what they do, their creative efforts.  Practice the tried and true maxim:  “If you don't have anything kind to say, then don't say anything at all."  Look for opportunities to build people up, not to tear them down.  Don’t forget karma.  What you put out comes back to you, ten-fold.  Wouldn’t you rather have kind things come back to you?

12).  Share what you know.  We’re all in this together.  What did Charles Dickens say–all of us are fellow passengers, on our way to the grave?  Then, that being the case, we all have the chance to make each other’s journey a little more pleasant and enlightening and worthwhile by teaching what we learn.  Don’t hold back; give it away, readily and happily.  Someday, someone will do the same for you.                                            

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