A man goes to the doctor and says, “I feel like a bottle of champagne that’s been left open and lost its fizz. You know, a little stale and flat.”
The doctor says, “I prescribe a daily dose of zaniness.”
That’s the prescription in today’s excerpt from The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart, edited by Robert Bly, James Hillman and Michael Meade:
“The gift of zaniness is one of the great gifts that human beings have…How stale and flat the day when nothing zany happens. How badly we need jokes: the old Sunday funnies; the comic strips and cartoons; Krazy Kat; Buster Keaton; Stan Laurel; Harpo Marx under his curls and hat squeezing his bulb-horn honker…The spirit wants to leap with the joy of young kids—both goat and human—to change direction in midair. It is as if the spirit at its freshest and most free is zany.”
It’s true, our spirits can go flat like that champagne. So, this week—in the interest of keeping your spirit fresh and free—you have permission to do something zany.
Look in the mirror and laugh at yourself.
Break into a dance to break up an argument.
Share some (appropriate) jokes at work.
Take someone to lunch that you would never think of taking to lunch. Listen to their story and make them laugh.
Sing in the tub.
Have an extended, involved conversation with a three-year-old.
As William Saroyan, the playwright wrote:
“Try as much as possible to be wholly alive, with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell…Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.”
As we move into a new year, I like this simple, little reminder from Robert Service:
“Be master of your petty annoyances and conserve your energies for the big, worthwhile things. It isn’t the mountain ahead that wears you out—it’s the grain of sand in your shoe.”
It’s true: there will always be little things that try to erode our joy and energy.
Someone has said that long-term relationships usually don’t fail because of a big blowup. It’s more because of the little things, day by day. The death by a thousand cuts.
And job satisfaction? More often, that gets eroded through the little annoying things, the petty office politics, the daily stresses.
That’s life, right? A lot of little stuff is going to happen this year.
But here’s the good news: we can fight back! We can say:
“Yes, I will have to deal with a lot of little things. But I am not going to let the little things keep me from getting to the ‘big worthwhile things’ in my life!”
Which raises a question: what are the big worthwhile things in my life?
What are the things that will enhance my relationships, enhance my personal growth as a human being, and enhance the quality of my daily experience?
What are things that will matter most on my last day? (Because you can count on it: those are the things that matter most today.)
Maybe, once in a while, we should take some quiet time to empty the sand out of our shoes…and think about that question.
Ever wish you’d gotten a better education?
Maybe you could still be the best-educated human being.
Think about these words from Hellen Keller (who, as you know, could not see, hear, or speak):
“The best-educated human being is the one who understands most about the life in which he [or she] is placed.”
That’s different way to think about “education” isn’t it? In this school…
Every problem or challenge you face: part of your education.
Every person you meet: part of your education (especially the one who gets on your nerves).
Every success and every failure: part of your education.
Every day: part of your education.
This is a school for no fools: it challenges us to seek wisdom in the here and now…to keep our eyes, ears, minds and hearts open each day.
According to Keller, life itself is my teacher and I am already sitting in the best classroom right where I am.
Which raises the question: What is life trying to teach me?
And what am I learning?
“Sometimes I think my weaknesses are holding me down.”
Have you tried soaring with your strengths?
Jonathan Swift wrote,
“Although men are accused of not knowing their own weaknesses, yet perhaps few know their own strengths. It is in men as in soils, where sometimes there is a vein of gold which the owner knows not of.”
What would it be like to find and mine your “vein of gold”?
In their book, Soar With Your Strengths, Clifton and Nelson tell the story of the Chinese Olympic Table Tennis team. Their key player was a man with a very powerful forehand but a weak backhand. The coach tried to help him strengthen his weakness, but the more they worked on the backhand, the more discouraged the player became, and the worse he played.
Finally, the coach quit working on his weakness and encouraged him to simply focus on the power of his forehand shots. And he won the gold medal!
Sometimes a weakness is actually a strength in disguise. Mark struggled for years as a standup comedian. He was very self-conscious about his looks. He had virtually no chin and big ears that stuck out like satellite dishes!
One day a friend suggested that, for a comedian, his looks were actually an asset. So he started talking about his looks in his standup routine.
He would stand in front of the crowd and, as they giggled, say:
“I know what you’re thinking!” (Nervous laughter.)
“I’ll have you know I was once a model!” (More laughter.)
“I modeled socks!” (Even more laughter.)
“On the radio!” (Great laughter.)
After he started using his looks in his routine, his career took off. He had discovered that what he thought was a weakness was actually his “vein of gold.”