I have a secret. I want to share it. In fact, I kind of want to brag about it. Actually, it’s not bragging, like look at me, I’m so cool. My secret is that many decades ago, after a fairly tedious, isolated childhood, I grew up, got the hell out of Lansing, Michigan and rather rapidly discovered I like myself and life. A lot. It took a few years to let go of the reel-to-reel head tapes, that inner voice that’s always asking you “what’s broke?” and how can you fix it and “do better!” fer the love of Pete.
But then I got to Oregon, out of college, proof to me that there are angels. Here, I really decided there was no question about it: I’m rather delighted with myself and life. I didn’t just like myself. It was love. And the same applied to life and the world. Loved it. It’s been a great and passionate affair and won’t quit. I was conditioned as a Midwest kid not to say it, but the fact is, I wake up every day eager to get out there and just eff around with life and delight in my reaction to it. Since it’s so important to me to just eff around with life, I had to find the optimal place to do it and that was Oregon, then I found Ashland the very optimal place in Oregon to be effing around and when people call and ask me what I’m doing I just say effing around at my laptop or in the coffee shop or at the track or up on the beautiful trails above Ashland.
They always say, gee, you have the perfect life. You drink coffee, hike, write and eff around. They say they want to learn to do that someday. I just say, go ahead, the world likes it when you eff around and responds by showing you how beautiful it is.
These thoughts were inspired by a cute blog I stumbled on called, “The Complete Guide to Not Giving a Eff” (it uses the actual eff word if you Google it) and it’s all about, firstly, letting go of what people think and realizing that when you no longer care what they think about you, “nothing happens.” The world does not turn dark, you do not shrivel up like the witch in Oz, your brain does not replicate the Big Bang in reverse.
Not caring what others think about you does not mean you hate them; it just means you are free of this weird mutual psychic slavery that we cast over each other about the imperative of being liked and the idea that if you don’t have it, you are one isolated, unfortunate monkey. The author of this charming blog goes on to say that when you finally claw your way out of this situation, you find that, weirdly, many people may not actually “like” you, but they respect, even admire you, because, well, maybe they feel relieved that you don’t expect them to do that “liking” thing for you anymore and you are taking care of it by liking yourself.
From the moment I first heard it, I wanted to give an itchy-bay slap to the person who wrote “People Who Love People (Are the Luckiest People in the World)” because it expresses an ideal we can all warm up to but it violates a reality we all have to live with, so it creates stress. There may be people like this, but if I ever met one, I can’t seem to recall it. I love some people some of the time and I think that’s the reality for most of us. I like myself for saying that. It’s a lot less stressful now. I also like or love myself some of the time, most of the time, whatever. That’s less stressful, too.
But in the big picture, I guess I love myself and life a lot of the time and I think it’s because I’m kind of lazy and have shaped and nearly perfected this weird art of not giving an eff even about what I think of myself and whether I actually like myself. I sometimes don’t like myself. My yard looks like hell and I hate myself for it. But I’ll get around to fixing it up someday and will feel fantastic for a while. I also have math anxiety and hate looking at my bank accounts and I briefly hate myself for this character flaw, but then I take a deep breath, say a quickie prayer to The Goddess of Not Giving an Eff and look at the accounts and, hey 19 times out of 20, there’s tons of money in there and I go back to liking myself and go for a hike in this amazing nature around us in Oregon.
People are always yammering about enlightenment in Ashland and, hey, I would like to lower the bar and submit this philosophy as a candidate for an enlightened state. Accepting this as higher consciousness has made me like myself even more. It’s a new American style of enlightenment, like how we allow the hamburger and beer to pass as food and Netflix to pass as reading books.
A big argument for getting the life you can live with is this: The years before 25 take about a century to live. The years after that seem like a few months, especially if you have kids. I don’t know why. It’s a mystery, but they go faster each year. I think it’s because when we were young, especially pre-pubescent (puberty is when we really start caring what others think), we didn’t give a flying eff and, by some quirk of as-yet-to-be-understood mystic physics, it made time slow way down and, very frequently come to a stop and hang there in the air in all its eternal beauty and all there was, was complete love of it and we knew it without really thinking it and we were perfect.