5. Get someone else to help.
This may require a phone call, so put a phone near your Barcalounger. Then arrange for a third party—not yourself—to help the person whose day you're trying to make. Ask her what she needs: groceries delivered? a cleaning person to detail the kitchen? You needn't bankroll these services. Just be the one who makes the call.
Many are the days folks have made for me by enlisting help on my behalf. And I didn't have to feel guilty about burdening them, because I know that getting help for someone else is way less arduous than asking for help yourself. So go ahead, tell a nutritionist about your husband's constipation. Schedule a massage for your tightly wound best friend. Use that phone! Make that day!
6. Gossip positively.
To praise people to their faces is to be disbelieved. Most of us doubt or discredit positive feedback, chalking it up to politeness or brownnosing or other social convention. But what people say behind our backs really sticks. My life changed in an adolescent moment when I picked up a phone extension, not knowing the line was in use, and heard a conversation about me, me, me! I don't know what had gotten into the speakers—perhaps a great deal of what can only be called alcohol—but they were saying nice things about me. This not only made my day; it served as a foundation for emotional survival during some tough times thereafter.
Today, "mistakenly" copy someone on an email about his best qualities. Leave positive comments about your children on notes "accidentally" scattered around the house. Admire people loudly to third parties when you know the admired are eavesdropping. Praise be.
7. Help a loved one play hooky.
This is an ethically gray area, so I would never say you should do it. I'm just hypothetically floating the crazy idea that one day you might happen to call in sick for someone you love ("Well, I think she'll keep the hand if the bacteria isn't antibiotic resistant, but it may be airborne..."). Once she's freed from school or work, you could do something that would enrich her life forever. If that's the kind of thing you'd ever do. Which I would never suggest.
One day my friend Allen called in sick for his girlfriend Jenny, then took her scuba diving to a coral reef where he'd previously planted an engagement ring (okay, the diving involved getting up, but the calling didn't). Now Allen and Jenny are married. Does she regret the memos she failed to receive that day, the emails that waited 24 extra hours for an answer? She does not. Go figure.
Now, I realize all of this is a lot to take in. If I were you, I'd sleep on it before trying any of these methods. Just lie back and let all this advice float out of your head. The information will return should you ever need it. Relax, relax, relax. That would really make my day.
Martha Beck's latest book is The Martha Beck Collection: Essays for Creating Your Right Life, Volume One (Martha Beck Inc.).
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