Letting God Laugh at Us (is probably a good idea)

“If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans”
– Woody Allen

I started teaching Sunday School this year. A group of 5 or 6 wonderful, wonderful wide-eyed girls (age 7 to 12) stare expectantly at me in our small church clubhouse, every week. Every. Week.

I don’t know why they’re all girls. It just worked out that way. Since my siblings are all capital-D Dudes, this is definitely new territory.

For better or for worse, I can be a wishy washy teacher. I know it, and so do the parents. I’m a goofy, guitar-strumming, United-Churchy-Half-Agnostic-Historian-Jesus-Feminist, so honesty and nuance rule the day: I can teach biblical literacy. I can teach general values. But, no, I don’t know what exactly really happened, or what exactly we’re supposed to get out of these stories. I have no indoctrination-esque end goal, not really. I just teach what I understand, whatever that means. And maybe the girls will be inspired and Jesus it up and light a candle. Or maybe, they will raise their hands and shout “Shauna, that’s craziness.”

As long as they’re using their minds and their hearts at all times, it works for me.

And so it goes: Insert life lesson here. Insert scripture here. We make thank you cards. We celebrate holidays (and normal days, too). We laugh and we read and we use way too much glitter. Money is raised for charity. Songs are written.

And sometimes the lesson doesn’t quite work. Sometimes there’s apathy, or chaos, or I am overshadowed by the air hockey table. (Why is there an air hockey table, you ask? I don’t even know. Because Canada.)

“Okay girls, I’m going to turn away from you for 10 seconds. When I turn back I want to see you all sitting calmly on the couches. 1…2…”

Last week, we were starting the Christmas story. Yeah. I was worried. The whole “Mary” narrative is a difficult subject for a United-Churchy-Half-Agnostic-Historian-Jesus-Feminist (who really doesn’t want to explain the word “virgin” to your 8 year old). My carefully-crafted plan was to talk about how our plans and goals are good, but God is great—basically, it was this article steeped in Bible-talk.

Yeah, my plan was to talk about how shaky plans are. I’m an irony whiz, clearly.

I pulled out the markers and paper, suggesting that the girls draw pictures of their lives 20 years from now. They took to the project immediately, drawing themselves as Olympians, doctors, zoologists, geologists, rebel graffiti artists… the works. Some of them were very careful, drafting their dreams in pencil first. One was hyper-detailed and ambitious, another was just plain goofy. By the time I was ready to explain the point of the exercise, they were too excited by their dreams to really care about my message. I wrapped it up quickly:

“You guys get what I’m saying, right? No? Yes? Good. Okay.”

My plan hadn’t really worked. Their plans were strewn around the classroom in bright, goofy marker.

And somehow, it was all perfect anyways.

“If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.”  I used to see these words as an invitation to avoid plans altogether.  But as I felt my classroom shake with the joy of best laid possibilities, I reconsidered.  

What’s wrong with making God laugh, exactly?  

God probably likes to laugh. Laughter is good. Silliness and vulnerability and hope are good.  

Plans are not bad in and of themselves. They’re actually kind of beautiful. Those dream-fueled drawings in my Sunday School classroom were beautiful.  Same with the laid-back, loving lesson plans. Same with your fallible to do list, daydreams, and drive for the future.

Plans happen when our gifts and dreams and brainwaves and feelings manifest into a motivational timeline. And when those plans don’t totally come to fruition, that doesn’t mean they were wrong. It just means something else became right.  It means that life is beautiful in a very different way than plans are beautiful. 

If you can be idealistic enough to plan something, but reasonable enough to not be debilitated by disappointment when that plan doesn’t work out, then do it. Do it. And then change it.  And then change it again.

For my part, I’m going to continue making and breaking lesson plans. The girls are probably going to keep dreaming and suggesting.  We’re all going to keep changing. And that’s okay. That’s okay.

We’re just making God laugh. I’m sure (S)He doesn’t mind.

 
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What Does it Mean to be a “Woman with Values,” Exactly?

“I’m looking for a woman with values.”

Whenever I hear these words, I cringe.

I thumb the crosses on my bracelet and clutch my beer.  I talk about charity, then I tell a dirty joke.  Do these things cancel each other out?

Those words are powerful. They transform me into a little, obedient, people-pleasing ladytype. It doesn’t matter whether I’m actually interested in the person who wants a “woman with values” (usually, I’m not).  It doesn’t matter how confident I am in what I stand for or what I do on any other day. There is a person in the room ready to judge if I am a good woman. If I would be a good mother. If I would be a good wife. And I don’t like that I respond to that by melting into conformity, but I do. I drip with semi-sweet small talk. I rarely seek approval, but the “woman with values” thing always hits me hard.  No, I don’t want to have your babies. Yes, I do want you to think I would be “worthy” of that.

So I sit up straight. I make jokes that are edgy, but not too edgy. I remain mysterious and unspecific with the topics of sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll. If my guitar comes out, I strum a G-rated country song. Save the vulgar rapping for another day; this person wants “values.”

Isn’t that disturbing?

Even if I don’t know a single thing about the person judging (let alone their personal “values”), I know exactly what they mean by “woman with values.”  And what they mean, frankly, has very little to do with what actually makes me a good or interesting person.  They don’t want to hear about my internship in DC, read my blog, or discuss my half-serious plans to buy a ukelele.  They couldn’t care less about what makes my eyes light up.

Instead, the concerns are simple, and in many ways stupid: Does this girl do one night stands, or make out with strangers, or watch porn? Does she drink or smoke? Does she “take care of herself”? Did she grow up in a nice home?

In other words, the universal definition of “woman with values” is almost entirely based on what a Lady consumes, or lets into herself, rather than what she creates. 

How weird is that? After all, women are born with epically creative bodies (see also: having babies).  Women’s brains are typically wired for articulation, so we certainly have a lot of great things to say.  It seems peculiar that to prove my worthiness to create (read: to be a good mother-and-wife), I need to prove the worthiness of what I consume.

The definition of a “man with values” is far less universal, as far as I can tell.  It’s also quite different.  Usually, when I seek a “man with values,” I am looking for the opposite–not what he consumes, but what he produces. What he offers to the world and its people, and how he offers it. How actively he loves and cares about things.

Now, I can totally understand wanting a partner who has a similar worldview and value system as you. If drug consumption or diet or sexuality enter your personal value system, I think you’re allowed to consider it with partner-choosing (though, pretty please, don’t use sexstuff to judge a person’s human value outside of that).  You’re allowed to prefer partners with lots of experience, or prefer partners who have chosen to wait for marriage.  You are also allowed to have a thing for blondes or Catholics or tattooed arms or, you know, “people I have things in common with.”  I don’t see having preferences in partners, even silly ones, as overly oppressive.

I do, however, see the cross-your-legs-and-smile definition of “women with values” as oppressive.  I don’t like that I immediately know “woman with values” means purity, or consumption control, rather than what I have to offer the world.   I don’t like how it makes me act: Smile nicely. Share more about what you don’t do than what you do do.  Sip slowly.  Mention that you go to church, but don’t actually get into theology or make a smart historical reference.

“Girls with values” can read the Bible and teach Sunday school, but they shouldn’t be thinking too hard about it.

Of course, some people I know would have the opposite response to a person “looking for a woman with values.” They would not people-please.  They would make it clear that they don’t fit into this box, loudly joking about their liquored up love affairs. They would swear. They would proudly pronounce their feminism because, well, fuck the system.

But that’s messed up, too. It’s messed up that they could be categorized as “women without values” for that.  These friends do have values–values that are perhaps stronger mine, since I apparently hardcore crumble under the pressure of judgement. They’re women of valour. They answer the phone when someone calls, they care about their fellow human beings–whether or not they end up in bed with them. They respect relationships, their families, and themselves (though, like all of us, they fall down occasionally).  They vote, pay taxes, recycle and help people. Most of all, they try not to judge others, which is a HUGE deal.

I think it’s time to redefine the term “woman with values.”  Let’s try this out, shall we?

I am a woman with values not because I am chaste, but because I respect peoples’ bodies and emotions, regardless of the relationship we have.

I am a woman with values not because I am quiet or docile, but because I speak up when I see injustice.

I am a woman with values not because I go to church, but because I use the brain God gave me to consider the big questions in life.

I am a woman with values not because I “know what I stand for,” but because I recognize gray areas and am compassionate.

I am a woman with values not because I don’t drink or smoke, but because I respect peoples’ autonomy over their own bodies.  Because I act in moderation, and pray for those suffering from addiction.

I am a woman with values not because I eat well or work out, but because I don’t make anyone else responsible for my happiness and I care about my physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.

I am a woman with values not because I “don’t swear,” but because I speak honestly and with respect to those around me.

Yes, that is what a “woman with values” should be. Occasional f-bomb and all.

People are Trees, Not Timelines

It was 2011.  I suppose that wasn’t so long ago, really, but it feels like forever now.

I was sitting in the basement of a local Unitarian Universalist Church, surrounded by regular attendees. I hadn’t been to any kind of worship in at least a decade, and felt like a fetus surrounded by middle aged church goers. I watched as the Minister passed around markers, telling us to “draw our spiritual journey.”

(I realize this may seem strange, but trust me–it’s business as usual at the UU.)

I drew and labeled tentatively across the page. When we finished, I partnered up with the woman across from me to go over the designs.  She showed off her intricate, curving  pathway–marriage, born again Christianity, yoga, Wicca, kids.  It was a beautiful timeline, and I smiled back at her story as she scanned my drawing curiously.

I hadn’t drawn a timeline.

I had drawn a tree.

I don't actually have original tree drawing, so I ran outside and took this blurry picture. Just for you. You're welcome.
I don’t actually have original tree drawing, so I ran outside and took this blurry picture. Just for you. You’re welcome.

A group show-and-tell circled around the room.  One by one, everyone began revealing their timeline. Curves, corners, arrows, paths, this-thus-that. Even the Minister illustrated his journey with thick, chronological lines.

And there I was, with my frizzy short hair and limited life experience, clutching an image of twisted branches while everyone poured out their major life events.

On some level, it probably had to do with my age.  When the Minister said “spiritual journey,” all my young mind could think of were moments and relationships, good meals and great ideas, quiet places and loud families. These were the things that made God seem just a liiiittle closer than usual.  So I drew roots. Branches to represent friendships, leaves to represent moments.  Some of the leaves were falling off of their perch; others were growing flowers. Text and little hearts explained (or refused to explain) what it all meant.

Basically, it was hyper-symbolic. It was not so simple –> as –> this.

And maybe it was a little strange, maybe it wasn’t quite what the Minister was looking for, but…I was proud of my tree. I liked the openness.   There were “big life” events on the tree, of course, markers of birth/death/love/war.  But there were other things, too.  The tree represented my life as a work-in-progress, with multiple facets. One big, bright leaf reflected a long, peaceful silence I shared with a close friend. Another represented the first time I got absolutely engrossed watching a play.

The tree let those things matter.

Looking back, my favourite thing about the tree is that it was strong, but not rigid.  It was alive. Parts could grow, or break and fall right off, and it would all be natural. As a young person, that was important. I think it might stay important as I get older.

(It’s also possible that I’m just kind of a hippie. Feel free to raise an eyebrow.)

By nature, timelines present our memory and our identity as rigid. They present our lives as one big story, instead of millions of imperfect experiences. I don’t know if that’s fair.  I don’t think we should restrict our identity to the things that “count” as milestones.  We aren’t necessarily tragic heroes with a beginning-middle-end. Nor are we self-aware folks on a direct journey through life.  “That was a really hard time in my life,” or “That was the happiest I’ve ever been.”

Too simple. That’s just too simple. We aren’t timelines. We can’t stop at chronology. I don’t want to compartmentalize your life, or my life, not like that.

Yes, yes, I realize all this might sound odd coming from a History student.

Let me be clear: Timelining is a great way to establish context.  It’s not a crime to treat events as “things that took place,” or even to consider people as empty, reactive vessels that “things happened to” at first.  I absolutely devour the nothing-but-chronological unfolding of the world through the lens of time.

But I also don’t, and can’t, stop there.

Even in History, reality often comes in trees. Family trees, for example. Essay outlines. Complex international relations maps.

Family tree with fingerprints from the extended fam. Can't get much more meaningful than that!
A family tree from our last reunion, with fingerprints from the extended fam. See? Trees are awesome.

We have to branch out. Timelines are great at telling base, simple stories…but they’re not so great at telling the whole truth.

And when it comes to our own identity, our own History, we deserve the Truth.  We deserve to represent ourselves as more than a timeline–more than what happens to us, and certainly more than a few life events that people have decided are “important.”

Maybe, just maybe, we could use the wisdom of trees to start looking at that.

(I know, I know. Hippie alert, part two. You can raise your other eyebrow.)

Five Sentences That Changed My Life

I don’t want to throw clichés at you.

Clichés, my high school teachers told me, are worse than useless. They’re uncreative. They’re filler.  Usually redundant, always unimaginative.

They were right. Of course they were right. Even the things I live my life by have never really been “clichés”–my mantras and reassurances come from quotable places, but they matter because they caught me by surprise. Yes. That. That right there. Never thought of it that way before.  

Usually I consume words, but every now and then, words consume me. (sorry. that was cheesy).

Those are the rare, rare words that stick.

Here’s a peek:

Im-not-worried-about-you

I know, how simple and strange.   “I believe in you. I trust you with yourself.”

Obviously these are terrible words to say if you’re actually worried about someone. But if you have faith in someone’s survival skills, it’s a pretty great way to share the faith without demeaning their situation.  To say that it’s normal to be falling apart at the seams, rebuilding, laughing, crying, calling a friend at 3 am, insert lifeline here–they are going to be okay. At least, you think they are.

That seems to be worth something. It was worth a lot to me.

You-are-where-you-were

This is part of the poem “Transient” by Al Purdy…a great poem, though not overly relevant on the surface. But these words, these two lines–dude. The best way I can describe it is, they let me move.

It’s a weirdly big deal, and I can’t really explain it, but anyone who knows me well has seen these words written on something (my blackboard wall, my binders, in pen on my arm).  The words are honest, and make no assumptions: Yes, I was always headed to wherever I am. And yes, the dirt under my fingernails, the person that I am, this can be “home.”

These are lovely ideas.

Everything-might-happen

Here’s some tough love. Sometimes, it’s someone else’s turn. A person you love will leave, because they’re meant to be with someone else. A family member will die, because they’re in a lot of pain.  Your business will fail and you’ll be left with nothing, because society needs to move forward and economies change.

You can spend a lot of time and energy trying to figure out why that happened to you. Trying to figure out the reason. Thinking in a vacuum–something must have happened to you, so that something else can happen to you. Post hoc ergo hoc propter hoc.

Now, I’m a pretty religious person.  I believe that everything does happen for a reason, and I believe in resurrection–closed doors leading to more open ones.  But it’s silly to think that the exact reason for everything has to do with you, right now.

God has a lot of kids to look after.  At one point, you’re going to end up being collateral damage. We take hits for each other all the time, whether we know/like it or not. That’s the price we pay for balance, for the circle of life, and for the privilege of being so beautifully interconnected with each other.

Your fate does not only belong to you. But what you do with that fate? That’s all yours, baby.

Does-everyone-realize

The ladies down at everyoneisgay.com say awesome stuff all the time, but this line from Danielle really stuck.  So simple. So valuable.

Fact: If you worry things are going to suck, and you’re wrong, you’ve wasted your time worrying.

Fact: If you worry things are going to suck, and you’re right, you’ve wasted your time worrying. So you’re miserable twice as long–waiting for the thing, dealing with the thing, recovering from the thing.

Constructive concern is a go. Any other “worrying” gets served with this lovely question:

Who-am-I-today

This is my mantra.   I close my eyes and repeat these words in my head as I rock back and forth–because I’m totally sane, obviously.  It’s an every-other-day thing, at least, and I have no shame in my brief reality checks. These words bring a great deal of focus: “Who am I today?”  That’s all that really matters, in the end. Screw the coulda/woulda/shoulda.  Screw worrying.  Screw the fact that I do both of those things…until the mantra walks in and gives me a role to play. Today.

“Who am I today?”  A student. An employee. Sometimes a writer, always a sister and daughter.  I’m pretty alright at those roles, once I remind myself what they are–and who I am.  Right here, right now.

What phrases give you pause, comfort, or something-in-between? Which sentences shape your life?

Thursday Night Brainwaves: How DID I get here?

As I walked down the neon city streets on Thursday night, the words ‘How DID I get here?’ went through my head. And they stayed there. And repeated themselves, over and over and over.

I don’t have a lot of clear, I-can-see-the-words-in-my-head thoughts, but these words were bold–big letters dripping with disbelief (sans serif letters, for you typography geeks).

‘How DID I get here?’

It wasn’t the defeated kind of ‘Ungh, HOW did I get here?.’  I know how that kind goes. That kind is behind the way-too-long minutes (hours?) spent sitting barefoot on the bed, ‘oh, I don’t even know. Maybe I should read a book or move to a different country or something.’   That kind has seen me walking uncomfortably to the edge of nowhere (which I have yet to find, by the way), face buried in cheap sunglasses. That kind powers searches for nearest place where it feels okay to cry out “Um, God? Hi. Can you or your kid or someone who knows what they’re doing please take it from here?”

No, on Thursday it was nothing like that.

But it wasn’t the excited ‘WOW, How did I get here?,’ either.  I have had a few of those moments recently.  When Sex, Lies, and Storytime started spinning around the internet and loading up with comments, I literally ran into the bathroom and freaked out in front of the mirror: “Ohmygod. Am I actually a writer now? I’m a writer now. People are reading what I write.” (<< that is the toned-down, less embarrassing version.).   Two weeks ago, I was sitting in my little DC room, practicing guitar and keeping up with some internship work, when I was suddenly overwhelmed by the power of music and ‘Wow!’ the fact that I was a part of it. I felt lucky. I felt good.  ‘How did I get here?’

Thursday night was fun, but it wasn’t profoundly exciting. Nor was it profoundly upsetting.  It was ‘How DID I get here?,’ a mix of amazement and…confusion, I think.  Not good confusion or bad confusion, just the genuine I need to place this moment somewhere in my brain. Where do I place it? Where does it fit?  

The thought wouldn’t budge.

‘How DID I get here?’

I haven’t faced those words a whole lot these last few years. I used to play the ‘How DID I get here?’ game all the time–when growing pains meet the travel bug, you rarely know completely where you are, how you got there, or what to think about it. But the last few years, I have just been living in Ottawa.  Ottawa, which feels so strongly like Home.  I never really had to consider my life there through the disbelief lens. It was just “adjusting,” and then “adjusted.”  There were times I felt a little lost in what my life looked like, but I knew exactly how I got there. And I knew exactly where I was going.

Except, I didn’t. Because it turns out, I was going to the United States. I just never knew it.

I didn’t know I was going to end up in Washington DC….I still don’t understand quite how I ended up here, really.  I know I applied for a  few internships. I know I got a position at the Smithsonian. My days are spent in an office across from the National Mall.  I eat breakfast every morning.  By 5 pm, I have usually overdone Diet Coke and brainpower. My Saturdays are spent at the Holocaust Museum.  My Sundays are spent spiritually addressing the fact my Saturdays are spent at the Holocaust Museum (easier said than done, but it’s important for me to be there).

It’s not a particularly mind-boggling lifestyle, but I can’t quite figure out how it ended up being my lifestyle.

I guess I’m asking you, then…Do those words (or something similar) ever go through your head? Do you ever go hunting for a comprehensive narrative as to why-how-why your life is what it is?

Here’s my theory: Most lives don’t fit into any sort of beginning-middle-end box.  Even if they do, most of us are probably just hanging out in the “middle” looking for reasons and analyzing our lives like it’s the “end”.  And most people don’t quite fit where they are, at least not all the time.

I think a lot of us look for timelines and reasons why-how-why when really, it’s not supposed to make sense. Not as much sense as we would like it to make, that is. And so I go back to this, as I always do:

“You are where you were always going, and the shape of home is under your fingernails.” – from the poem Transient by Al Purdy

IMG_0259

Dear “Away in a Manger”: You’re wrong. That baby totally cries.

I believe in crying.

I have lived through months where I needed to cry almost every day and night, and I have lived through months of only really needing to cry at movies (or songs…or commercials…). I cry when I’m overwhelmed, when I don’t understand, when things are just too much. My tears wash things away. I have been blessed with the ability make it rain a little bit every time I need it. And sometimes, I really need it.

I cry. And the things that make me cry, so often, are the things that make me pray.

I’m not trying to isolate all my readers who don’t pray. I know a lot of you don’t. But to me, prayer and tears go hand in hand. The things that make my eyes leak are usually the same things that bring me to my knees.

Jesus wept, too. It’s the shortest verse in the Bible, it makes perfect situational sense, and it’s super powerful. Of course Jesus wept.

The Jesus I met at Christmas when I was a kid, however, apparently did not weep. You know, Baby Jesus. The one who had just been born. He didn’t cry. He was a special baby. He was a perfect baby. God’s son can’t cry.

I’m calling bullshit. Right now.

(…sorry, that scene still makes me giggle like a middle schooler. I digress.)

We try to paint Jesus’ birth as divine, thus peaceful, thus quiet. By that logic, He didn’t cry. But why? Birth is messy and loud and painful. Babies cry. Ironically, that crying baby is how we know that all is well. That is how we know that they’re alive.

Crying is a part of the gift of life–and it stays that way. Every now and then, I cry out to the world, to my mother, to God. I cry because I’m scared, happy, empathetic, in pain. I cry because I’m feeling so much I’m leaking. Through crying my feelings are legitimized, communicated, and dealt with. Through crying, I know that I’m alive.

So, why not let baby Jesus cry? Would that make his birth TOO real, TOO human, TOO chaotic? Calling bullshit once again. Come on. First of all, when have blessings or plans or love ever been anything less than chaotic? Love is chaotic. Life is chaotic. Jesus definitely shook things up. And birth?

God doesn’t make things easy. He makes them profound. And, as far as I can tell, nothing embodies that combination of chaos and love we call Life quite like the messy, painful, beautiful process of childbirth. That cry from the baby means he or she is alive. It means he or she is feeling. Why would we want to take that away from Jesus, of all people?

Maybe it’s because, for some reason, we have categorized crying as a weakness instead of a gift; Something we do because we just can’t handle life, rather than something we do to HELP us handle it. Tears equal temper tantrums. This is sometimes true (see also: my reaction to yet another computer glitch last week. erlack.), but not always. Sometimes, we genuinely need to react. We need to turn to faith, friends, family, ourselves–and sometimes, we need to cry. Certainly, we need to cry when our lungs capture that painful first gasp of air.

Isn’t that amazing? From our first breath, we can communicate through our cries. Tears are part of a complex universal language. It’s what we use to greet the world. It’s what many of us use to feel and to question it. And it is a huge part of the messy, messy reality of childbirth.

So, no, I don’t understand why we try to paint Jesus’ birth as less profound than a regular birth. I say “less than” because I think that to remove any element from the true birth process would just take away from it. It’s pretty friggin’ amazing the way it is. It really makes no sense to remove the noise and the tears, to remove that first moment that the baby cries out “I’M HERE. I FEEL THIS. I’M ALIVE.”

What Would Baby Jesus do bracelets from Community. Anyone? Anyone?
WWBJD bracelets from Community. Anyone? Anyone?

What would Baby Jesus do? He would cry. Just like adult Jesus cried. And don’t for a minute tell me that would make His birth any less divine–after all, what could be more divine than the first sound of a new life?

A Semi-Informed Guide to Surviving (or maybe even enjoying) Young Adulthood

I originally wrote this list in July.  The idea was simple: I was really happy.  I could kinda-sorta-maybe identify why I was happy.  I decided to list 100 things that I was doing in life that kept me smiling.  No, I’m not really into empty self-improvement rhetoric, but I do like it when lifestyle trial and error works out…and I really like it when I can sum that up in a list.  1, 2, 3. ‘Sup, early 20s?

My Semi-Informed Guide:

1) Drink chocolate milk.

2) Google useless things.

3) Grow plants.

4) Make sure your main pair of shoes is comfortable.

5) Happily respond to all correspondence (letters, texts, emails, calls).

6) Don’t expect others to always respond to you.

7) Say thank you – and mean it.

8) Use lots of pillows.

9) Play new songs on repeat until you’re sick of them.

10) Do things that scare you (BOO!).

11) If you need to cry, CRY.

12) Play air guitar.

13) Go to church.

14) Spend time with children.

15) Cheer loudly.

16) Do the dishes right away.

17) Share meals.

18) Always have an extra beer in the fridge.

19) Let hugs last at LEAST 3 seconds.

20) Write songs.

21) Appreciate travel time (ie. car/train/plane rides).

22) Watch things that make you laugh.

23) Call home.

24) Send Christmas cards.

25) Celebrate people.

26) Don’t fear messes.

27) Find doctors who listen to you, and listen to them.

28) Tell the truth.

29) If someone asks you to grab a drink, say yes.

30) Keep your legs smooth.

31) Talk to God often, and candidly.

32) Find people you can be inappropriate  with.

33) Do things by candlelight.

34) Be shameless about puns.

35) Buy/eat local and seasonal.

36) Watch the game.

37) Dress for the weather.

38) Ask people how they’re doing – and care about the answer.

39) Take long walks.

40) Use fresh herbs.

41) Make a playlist of happy songs.

42) Laugh at yourself.

43) Keep a calendar, and keep it flexible.

44) Donate blood.

45) Don’t cut good conversations short.

46) Pay attention to the lyrics.

47) Answer the phone.

48) Know which old letters to keep, and which ones to throw away–be able to remember, and be able to let go.

49) Play games.

50) Use hand sanitizer.

51) Appreciate your parents.

52) Avoid making concrete decisions about the future – you have to consult your future partner/job/self/life first.

53) Watch the montages before Sunday Football.

54) Watch blooper reels.

55) Find a way to record memories.

56) Stand for the national anthem.

57) Sing every day.

58) Take that extra shift.

59) Talk to elderly people. Laugh with them. Listen to them.

60) Welcome questions, curiosities, and contradicting ideas.

61) Don’t underestimate “shallow” conversations.

62) ALWAYS offer to help someone move or renovate.

63) Embrace technology.

64) Compliment often and publicly, criticize constructively and privately.

65) Be receptive.

66) Play catch.

67) Find reasons to bite your bottom lip.

68) Listen to the radio.

69) Ask taxi drivers about their stories.

70) Care about your job.

71) Exfoliate.

72) Find a pen you really like and use it.

73) Make corrections in pencil. You could be wrong, too.

74) Trust your gut.

75) Know how to hold your liquor.

76) If a friend is experiencing a loss, be there. (Don’t try to fix them. Don’t be a hero, Just be there.)

77) Be a role model.

78) Take cold showers.

79) Watch TED talks.

80) Give lots of high fives.

81) Smile at people on the street.

82) Make eye contact.

83) Maintain a good gender ratio in social situations.

84) Give your seat to elderly, disabled, or pregnant people.

85) Have ambition.

86) Own a tool kit.

87) Dance at your desk.

88) Make secret wishes at 11:11.

89) Hold hands.

90) Hang out in the rain.

91) Give credit where credit is due.

92) Learn names.

93) Use seatbelts and a helmets.

94) Be compassionate.

95) Keep the energy in your home positive.

96) Decorate for holidays.

97) Go out and support artist friends.

98) Don’t let birthdays and Valentine’s day matter too much – just appreciate each other daily.

99) Be nice to service people.

100) Assume everyone has good intentions.

For all those who wonder where I get it, this is my family’s contribution to the list…
101) Bond with your famjam by recreating Epic Meal Time.

Why did I decide to revisit this list now?

First of all, because I’m craving chocolate milk.

Second of all, because I’ve been thinking a lot about what “growing up” means. My latest definition of “growing up” has been the process of realizing 1) how very alone and 2) how very not alone we are. Growing up means always playing with loneliness and interconnectedness, because life is a whole lotta both of them.

So, I decided to revisit this list.  Because, while blindly navigating that alone/not alone process, you sometimes pick up survival skills. 

These are mine.

Survival skills. At a haunted, jail specifically.  Go hard or go home? (see #10.)

I’m not perfect at seeing them through (see also: number 16), but I have noticed that when I do see them through, things feel better.  Essentially, these 100 points can be summed up in three rules:  Have fun. Be kind to others. Be kind to yourself.  My version of that means a healthy dose of pillows and hugs and values and pub nights and prayers. Your version could mean pretty much anything, I suppose, as long as you can be happy while following the 11th commandment: don’t be an asshole.

Also, my roommate complained to me that this list is too fem-centric, so I invite you to contribute some “bro”-centric points to even the score. Or just some you-centric points. This is just how I choose to roll, but I would love to hear how other people keep the positive energy high.

P.S. I am so serious about the blooper reels.