6. What Younger You Would Like About Present You
Most of us know our disappointments by name, like nattering and unsightly neighbor children (as we just reviewed in item no. 6, for those of you playing along at home). But what about your life has turned out to be bigger, brighter, sparklier than you ever would have imagined? What would make 14-year-old you delighted, if not disbelieving? Maybe you have the job you never thought attainable, you prima ballerina/pilot/bakery owner/astronaut you. Maybe you traded in your station wagon for a zippy scooter. Maybe you have the greatest husband in the world, or seven cats, or a late-discovered but amazing faculty for acquiring new languages. Escribe, por favor.
7. That One Quote
You know the one—it's that line that makes even the worst day seem better. Capturing it in a special notebook or on an index card to tack up by your desk is a good idea not only for the reminder it creates but also for the very act of writing. When was the last time you took pen to paper, saw the distantly familiar scrawl of your own handwriting? The act of writing—as you knew when you were scribbling song lyrics in your copy of The Nothing Book—makes you slow down and think the words as you go, causes a quote (or poem, or song lyric) to enter your brain more viscerally, retracing the paths of your very own thoughts.
8. The Best Surprise You've Ever Had
Whether it was a 40th birthday party you never saw coming or a family member who joined the crew in an unexpected way, life always has a way of shaking us up when we least expect it. Big or small, what surprise has warped your life for the better?
9. The Hardest Thing to Forgive
This doesn't have to be the worst thing anyone's ever done to you, which may have, for whatever reason, been easier to forgive. It's whatever has been, if you're really honest with yourself, hardest to let go of. The mean prank in junior high that dismantled your self-esteem may have been eating at you longer that anything else. (After all, as forgiveness expert Fred Luskin says, "Forgiveness concepts are simple. It's the execution that's hard.") For extra credit, write down the story from the point of view of the perpetrator: the distant parent, the cheating ex, the nasty science lab partner. You never know what you might discover.
10. Your True Happiness
Without thinking too much about it, describe in as much detail as possible your perfect happiness. It can be a remembered instant of bliss or a ludicrous long shot, but whatever it is—a sunny picnic in a meadow, skydiving in Thailand—may offer a clue as to how to get happy in those moments when you really, really aren't. (As in, I know I can't nestle in a bed surrounded by books in the middle of a stressful afternoon, but maybe I can steal five minutes to reread a favorite paragraph of something.) And the act of lingering over each (possibly imagined) detail may just create its own tiny getaway.
Next: Your personal syllabus
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