Ten Ways to Get a Life
Push yourself off the couch and/or out the door and get more out of single
by Janet L. Jacobsen
William James wrote, Most people live, whether physically, intellectually,
or morally, in a very restricted circle of their potential being. They
make use of a very small portion of their possible con-sciousness, and
of their souls resources in general. Great emergencies and crises
show us how much greater our vital resources are than we had supposed.
Many of us ultimately survived becoming single again with
the discovery that we were much stronger and more resilient than we thought.
We faced an incredible number of new challenges - and opportunities. But
for those of us whove been single for awhile, its easy to
settle into a rut of single life not unlike the rut of married life: not
each day as a new day, but each day as a repeat of the day before.
The current expression Get a life gets used in such a variety
of circumstances that its tough to give a thorough definition. But
one sure aspect is that someone thinks the person doesnt have enough
interesting stuff going on in their life.
If you suspect you are getting in a singles rut, and need to jump-start
your life, any combination of the following will serve as a jumper cable
to get you going again, if youre willing to make a little effort
and take a little risk.
1. Theres nothing wrong with him a library card wouldnt
fix, a friend of mine said about someone. To have a library card,
you have to go to the library. Once at the library, find something new
to read. If youre stuck on fiction, ask the librarian to suggest
a powerful nonfiction book. If youre only into serious
reading, ask for recommendations on something fun. If you dont much
read at all, sit down in the current magazine section with two youve
never seen, and dont leave til youve read them. (Flipping
through doesnt count.)
2. The average American spends 29 hours a week watching tv. Thats
17% of the only 168 hours any of us has in a week. Unplug the tv, put
it in a closet, sell it. If the thought is almost unbearable, do it for
just a specific period of time - a week, two weeks. (Two days?) If you
cant think what youd do with your time (or with your family)
if you didnt have tv, its time to rethink what youre
doing with your time!
3. Take a class. University, community college, parks and recreation,
special tutor, weekend seminar - the opportunities are endless, as long
as you make it something new. Stretch your brain.
4. Get a hobby. Hobbies are not just killing time, most hobbies are developing
a skill. As Dr. Laurence Peter put it, The best intelligence test
is what we do with our leisure. Learn karate, piano, gardening,
dancing, basketweaving. Anything! Of course you will not be good
at it when you start; youre a beginner, arent you? Forget
your ego and give yourself a chance to develop. Anything worth doing
is worth doing badly.
5. Go to some kind of gathering of people you otherwise dont hang
around with. Attend an ethnic event in your community. Go to a meeting
- Sierra Club, or the National Rifle Association, or the Republicans,
or the Democrats, or the City Council. Try a new church this weekend.
Expose yourself to some people, and ideas, you dont usually encounter.
6. Educator Susan Glaser notes, It is easier to act your way into
new ways of feeling than to feel yourself into new ways of acting.
Whats your usual way of dealing with strangers? Grumpy?
Silent? Watch their every move? Refuse to make eye contact? Experiment
with new approaches. Consciously make small adjustments; work at them
long enough to see how you feel about them. For instance, if eye contact
is hard, practice looking at peoples faces when you walk through
the mall. Make it a point to say something pleasant to at least two strangers
each day (the grocery clerk and the bank teller will do, if everybody
else seems too threatening). If you monopolize conversations, practice
asking good questions and then really listening to the answers.
7. Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty.
This saying, turning up on bumper stickers, falls into the do something
nice for someone who can never repay you category - goodness for
the sake of what doing it does for you. As British playwright Dodie Smith
put it, Noble deeds and hot baths are the best cure for depression.
Or consider the verse by Berton Braley: If you think that praise
is due him/ Nows the time to slip it to him/ For he cannot read
his tombstone when hes dead.
8. Make your world a safer place. A police officer friend of mine says
one of the best ways to increase your security at home is to know all
your neighbors. If you dont already know them, get out and introduce
yourself. If going door to door to say Hello, I thought we ought
to meet seems too awkward, then start by going over to say hi
when folks are out cleaning the driveway. Strengthen the neighborhood
by organizing a block watch, potluck, recycling drive, or even a group
9. Get to know your body. Take yourself in for a tune-up, especially if
its been awhile since youve seen a dentist, eye doctor, or
had your annual phy-sical. Knowing that all is well can increase
your confidence; finding problems while theyre still small
improves your life!
10. Brendan Gill says, Not a shred of evidence exists in favor of
the idea that life is serious. Lighten up! Do things just for the
fun, for the experience. Ride a merry-go-round, fly a kite, swing on the
swings, do more things with more friends just for fun. Anything you think
Ah, thats just for kids - do!
All this new stuff sound a little scary? Then remember the
words of Helen Keller, Life is either a daring adventure or nothing
at all. Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature.