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‘Ain’t Life Grand’ Category

  1. One Good Reason to Stay Alive

    February 12, 2017 by Diane

    Praying Woman

    On Twitter, I saw this plea:

    Could someone please suggest reasons it’s a good idea I should keep being alive?

    Reasons to keep being alive. In 140 characters.

    This was a challenge I couldn’t pass up.

    Chocolate. If you’re thinking of checking out, you won’t be taking your taste buds. So stick around for chocolate.

    Okay, I didn’t tweet that. There was nothing humorous about the tweeter’s question, although sometimes humor can be the lifeline we need when drowning in despair.

    I knew of a comedian who worked the suicide prevention hotline, and when asked “Give me one  good reason I should stay alive,” he told the caller, “Give me a break. You called me.”


    Isn’t it interesting, the plea is always the same? Give me a reason to stay alive. Because being alive, in and of itself, isn’t reason enough. Being alive, for the person pleading, has become too horrible to endure.

    What we really want, when we’re that desperate, is a reason to endure the pain.

    I heard Bruce Lipton, the author of The Biology of Belief, say: we live in order to experience life through our senses, for God. (Or something along those lines. I jotted the phrase in the back of the book, but the book is stashed away, along with about a hundred others, in storage.)

    If indeed it’s our duty to experience what God can’t, that seems like a pretty swell reason to stay alive.

    Provided you believe in God.

    And provided you accept that experiencing life sometimes involves the sense of pain.

    I read recently: to strengthen and build muscles, we need to tax them, break them down a bit, give them time to recuperate, then tax them again. That’s how they grow.

    It’s the same with people. We’re given circumstances that tax us and break us down. If we take time to recuperate, then we build our strength and grow with each new challenge.

    Now, I could come up with a long list of good reasons that are meaningful to me and don’t mean squat to the person on Twitter. But somewhere in her vast file cabinet of life experiences there’s one thing that matters. Deeply.

    If I had more than 140 characters, or we were talking on the phone or in person, I might have said: “Instead of thinking about ending it all, sort through your memory banks, or take a look around you, and track down that one thing that matters. By the time you find it, whatever brought you to despair will have shifted. Just enough, so the light can shine in.”

    But this person chose to plead for her life on Twitter. So I replied:

    Don’t choose a permanent solution to a temporary problem. The pain will pass. You’re meant to contribute something positive to this world.

    Last I checked, the tweeter did find a good reason: she chose to start painting again. That one thing, painting, helped crack open the darkness.

    If you ever find yourself backed into a corner feeling like your only option is to throw in the life towel, please please please remember this: that one thing—whether it’s your spouse, your kid, your parent, your sibling, your friend, your cat, your art, your dream, or that philodendron in the windowsill—it needs you.

    Then drive down to See’s Candies, pick out a luscious piece of chocolate, and savor it. For God.

  2. What Clock Will You Follow This Year?

    January 1, 2017 by Diane

    Fig leaf

    January 1st is a day like any other, the sun rises and sets, but we make it into something more. We make it into a day to pause and reflect and plan ahead and resolve to be better humans. We greet it as a freshly washed sheet, a brand new haircut, a blank page to color as we choose. We give it a name.

    New Year’s Day.

    As we turn over a new leaf, outside the window, the Fig tree releases its last. There is nothing, yet, to replace it. No tight bud springing forth. Just bare branches, perches for the crows, highways for the squirrels.

    The animals know. They’ve prepared for the long dark days, hiding their acorns, keeping watch for dead things to peck at. It’s instinct and hunger that drives them. If you and I were hungry, we’d pad to the refrigerator in our socks, and gaze at the selection within: the cold cuts and wilted celery and milk, the leftover chicken and cold beer, the rice and beans. Our way of filling our stomachs is to sit behind a desk typing into a computer for eight hours, then stopping at Safeway to forage.

    We’re civilized.

    Animals live by instinct. They do what’s necessary. They don’t have leisure time in the wild.  They don’t punch a clock. They hunt, they mate, they sleep, they attack, they sing their songs.

    New Year’s Day isn’t for the birds. It’s for humans, who can’t afford to live by instinct. We plan our days to the last minute.

    But even for humans, instinct kicks in. The resolutions fall away like the last leaf on the Fig tree. No longer do we drag ourselves awake at five a.m. to run on the treadmill. No longer do we put in thirty minutes at the keyboard. No longer do we divide our food into smaller portions, what’s healthy and what’s not. Instinct tells us to sleep when we’re tired, eat what we desire, mate with the blank page when the sap rises.

    But we can’t even allow ourselves to do that.

    Humankind lost the rhythm of animals when we hacked away nature to build skyscrapers, divided the days into minutes, and formed the capacity to dream. Our goals drive us now. Instinct is a cousin we rarely visit, who complains loudly.

    There’s a balance to this tightrope of life. Work and play. Sleep and activity. Eating and digesting. Bonding and being alone. In these ways, we are no different than animals.

    People elevate living to an art when we allow creativity to propel us. As Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh said, (and I’ve expanded upon): Every empty page, every blank canvas, every new day holds the universe within.

    It’s up to us to form it, shape it, bring it into focus, so all can see. But to do so, we need to let go.

    What clock will you follow this day, and the next, and the next? Will it be the one that humans invented, that doesn’t exist outside our heads? Or the rhythm of your infinite soul? Will you fill your moments with what your brain insists you do, or what your heart longs to experience? Can you sit here, now, and let your creative self worm its way upward, a bud to the sun, blossoming into something the bees can drink from?

    On this day of resolving, try to allow for pockets where time doesn’t exist—not planning these pockets—just pausing periodically to listen, to feel, to catch that spill of sunlight, to let instinct and inspiration be your guides.

    Keep on creating. We need your truths, more than ever in the coming year. 
    -Alisa Clancy, Host of KCSM’s Morning Cup of Jazz

  3. How to Have a Midlife Crisis Without Breaking the Bank or Ruining Your Marriage

    November 6, 2016 by Diane

    It’s time for a midlife crisis.

    I haven’t had one. I think I’m missing out.

    For a proper midlife crisis, an exorbitant amount of spending is required, as well as some body alteration, a daring adventure, and an affair.

    But what if you’re broke, squeamish about nips and tucks, and don’t feel comfortable traveling far from home? What if you’re happily married, or committed to someone, and don’t believe in cheating?

    What if you want the crisis without the trouble?

    After some pondering, I came up with a handy manual on how to have a midlife crisis without breaking the bank or ruining your marriage.

    Are you ready?

    Here goes.

    1. Spend, spend, spend!

    I’m not talking about sinking your life savings into a red sports car or a trip to the Bahamas.

    I’m talking about spending time—in ways you’ve always wanted to, but never…well…had the time to.

    Like tap dancing. Dust off those old dance shoes, throw a sheet of plywood down in the garage, and tap yourself silly. Or write that novel you’ve thought about, talked about, done everything about except write. Yeah, that one. Spend the time. Go for broke!

    Do what your heart yearns to do, because Father Time is gaining on you. Whatever time is left is yours. Claim it. Spend it wisely. And with great gusto.

    2.  Have an affair.

    Not with the hottie at the office who’s half your age. Not with the unhappily married neighbor who’s looking for a little spice in their crockpot.

    Have an affair with yourself.

    Buy yourself flowers, and chocolates in a heart-shaped box. Treat yourself to a fine dining experience at home, or in a restaurant. Write love notes and tuck them in your pockets and under your pillow and in unexpected places where you’ll discover them later. Leave sweet messages on your phone, and do the same via email. Write the juiciest love letter of all time, and mail it to yourself. Pamper yourself, honor yourself, wear rose-colored glasses when you look in the mirror. Then give yourself a great big hug.

    3.  Get a facelift.

    Not the plastic-surgery kind.

    The free kind.


    Smile when you wake up. Smile while you shower and make breakfast and brush your teeth. Smile sitting in traffic, and smile walking down the street. Smile standing in line at Starbucks. Let everyone wonder what the heck is so darn amusing. Smile when you answer the phone and sit in a meeting and when you do the millions of things you do every day. And smile when you turn out the lights at night.

    4.  Get a butt tuck.

    Not the liposuction kind.

    I’m talking exercise. Put on some sneakers and take a walk. Lace up some hiking boots and climb a hill. Ride a bike, go roller skating, swim, ski, or do the conga. Play volleyball or basketball or dodge ball. Play duck, duck, goose. I don’t care what form of movement it is, just move!

    5.  Have an escapade.

    I’m not talking about hacking your way through the wilderness, surviving on bugs and urine.

    Treat every day like an adventure. Break up your routine. Take a different route to work. Eat meatloaf for breakfast and Cheerios for dinner. Eat food you’ve never tasted, and order something different at the coffeehouse. Hunt down a long-lost buddy from high school and give her a call. Apply for a job you’ve never considered. Test-drive a Tesla up mountain roads, seeing how it hugs the curves. Read genres you don’t usually read. Ditto for movies. Dance in the rain like Gene Kelly. Tell jokes at the water cooler like Groucho Marx. Sleep in the nude, and wear pajama bottoms to Safeway.

    You get the point.

    A crisis doesn’t have to mean trouble. It can be a turning point.

    You’re not a has-been. You’re a gonna-be.

    So live it up!