Time to take a deep breath — a deep breath, then pause.
There. Feel better already, don't you? Close
your eyes. Tight. Count to 10. Slowly.
Afterwards — eyes still closed, mind you — think of a
particularly upbeat something that you did this
year. Call up an image of this episode. Why is
it memorable? How long will you remember?
You say this hear hasn't been an especially upbeat year
for you? That happens. No problem. Go
back two, three years — more if you need to — until
you come upon an image that makes you smile. The
important thing is to stay in the game.
When in doubt, feed the birds.
Write a letter. The exercise will benefit your
immortal soul and absolutely floor the recipient, who
probably hasn't received a letter from anyone since Earl
Butz was secretary of agriculture. Teach yourself to
tie a few good knots. While you're at it, knit up the
raveled sleeve of care. Allow ten minutes extra for
everything. When worried, just remember the words of
Bernard de Clairvaux: "Hey, babe, chill. Things
could be worse."
Feed the birds.
as the tea kettle whistles. Watch it steam up the
Write down Grandmother's recipe for
potato pancakes Parmesan, before you lose it again.
Avoid throngs. Laugh out loud when you feel like
it. For one day, leave your wristwatch at
home. Learn to whittle; throw shavings into the
fireplace, where they will do some good.
Break the mold.
Drive a different route to work. Say "good
morning" to those glowering faces in the elevator
(don't worry: Most people don't bite). Be
aware of the fact that that rock salt on sidewalks can
kill grass. Watch dawn arrive; see how many colors
the sky turns.
Take a deep breath.
Count your blessings.
Harboring a grudge against someone? Has it
helped? (Didn't think so.) Sing, if only in
the shower. Get older family members to tape their
reminiscences. Wiggle your toes. Next time you
make chili, add extra spice. Whistle while you
work. Go for a good long walk; stretch those legs,
including those important Achilles tendons, so easily
forgotten in the hectic pace of today's living.
Take the dog.
Remember what my father used to say. When I was a
boy, and about to head off somewhere or other, my father
always used to say, "Don't do anything dumb!"
Remember to feed the birds.
Take a chance now and then. Look for a new
Telephone an old friend. Seize the moment.
Believe in yourself. If you keep kicking yourself,
you're going to fall down. Davey Crockett, he of the
long rifle and wild frontier, said: "Make sure
you're right, then go ahead," which put it nicely.
A carpenter says: "Measure twice, cut
Take your choice.
Breathe deeply. Let your memory slip back to that
summer when you were quite small, at the beach with your
family, and your father hoisted you onto his shoulders and
waded into the lake until his knees were covered.
You had never seen so much water. You trusted your
Close your eyes. Squint hard, relax. How long
ago was that first date with the person you later married
— 25 years? 30 years? More? Certainly a
long, long time. Just as certainly, a very short
time. How can it be both?
I've no idea. But it is.
Smile. Give a loved one a good, strong hug, just on
general principles; because we never can tell, can we?
Don't forget to feed the birds.
Think about this for a moment. Humans are said to be
the only creatures with a time sense, including an ability
to contemplate such a thing as the future. Does it
follow that humankind is the only species able to deal
with the concept of hope? I suspect that we are. I
do believe that the capacity for hope can help us meet
Open the bedroom window a crack at night; sleep in fresh
Take a time-out now and then as a way of reducing stress.
It works for sports teams, long-distance truckers and
troublesome toddlers; so why shouldn't it work for you?
Seize the moment. Make it your own. One never
has quite enough moments, although we don't know this when
we are young. Then, if we look ahead, we see an
endless stream full of moments, so many that we could
never count them, and all of them ours for the
taking. Before we know it, though, the stream has
shrunk dramatically and the available moments are growing
scarce; and we wish that we had gone after them more
assiduously when the stream was full.
So, we say again: Seize the moment — while you
As long as you are seizing moments, use the opportunity to
divest yourself of all that residual guilt you're carrying
around. Guilt gives us warts and yellow teeth, among
other things, and never did anyone any good. Gather
up your guilt, wrap with care and send it Federal Express
to my cousin Pearl in Bayonne, who can never get enough of
Forgive. Smile. Walk. (Oh, do walk when
you can.) Share. Reach. Laugh.
Teach. Learn. Run. Believe.
Lift. Climb. Understand. Explore.
Give. Appreciate. And, since you can never do
it all, savor the small moments that, aggregated, become
great. Stay in the game — oh, and do remember to
look after the birds.
* * * *
Dickinson was a Providence Journal editorial writer
who stirred thousands of readers with his masterful,
elegant columns long after Lou Gehrig's disease left him
with the control only of his eyes. He died at the
age of 64. For
nearly a decade, helped by a series of remarkable computer
devices, an array of medical machines and the constant
attention of his family, Mr. Dickinson worked at his
writing daily, even though he could neither speak nor move
his arms, hands or fingers. To read a feature on
Dickinson written during his last days, click