The Second Half: Handbook for life–part two

Editor’s note: The following is the second in a four-part series. Part one appeared as an Online Exclusive at

By Kathleen D. Tresemer

My Second-Half friend Kate sent me this “Handbook for Life,” sort of her gift to me and my readers. Part one was a set of directives for taking care of our health in the Second Half.

This week, I will break down the next section, which contains guidance in handling our aging personality. I guess I could use the help on this one…at least some people think so.

The Handbook on Personality

1. Don’t compare your life to others. Yeah, but I do know other people are prettier, younger, richer, taller, thinner and more successful than I am. It is a frustrating weakness to overcome, especially since everything I learned in post-WWII America had to do with competition. The famous Yogi Berra said it best: “If winning isn’t important—then why the hell do we keep score?”

The most I can promise these days is to compete only with myself—at least then I can’t lie.

2. Don’t invest your energy in negative thoughts or things you cannot control—stay positive. I get an e-magazine every week called the Positivity Blog with a diverse set of uplifting insights, sources ranging from Stephen King to Winnie the Pooh. Check it out:

3. Don’t overdo. Dr. Seuss says it all:

Today was good.

Today was fun.

Tomorrow is another one.

4. Don’t take yourself so seriously—no one else does. To put it into perspective, I like this insight from zoologist Konrad Lorentz: “I believe I found the missing link between animal and civilized man. It is us.”

5. Don’t waste your precious energy on gossip.  I would like to add “Reality TV shows” to the “Don’t waste…” list. Even seemingly innocuous shows like Dancing with the Stars strive for the sensational. When a “star” mentioned the TV audience had seen only “her emotional side,” the interviewer asked, “So are you upset because the network deliberately showed you in a negative light?” Where there isn’t anything to gossip about, create something, right? American humorist Kin Hubbard put it another way: “There isn’t much to be seen in a little town, but what you hear makes up for it.

6. Dream more while you are awake… especially if you have trouble falling asleep like I do. My dreams, when I remember them, usually consist of excerpts from the sitcom I was watching to help me doze off, such as old episodes of Cheers or Friends. Nodding off to the news gives me nightmares, like George Bush appearing as a vampire and trying to suck the life out of an old Lincoln Town Car. Shudder!

7. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need. The book The Travelers’ Guide to Hell says envy is “the key behind every advertisement.” The Travellers’ Guide to Hell: Don’t Leave This World Without It by Dana Facaros and Michael Pauls is described as “the finest and most accurate tourists’ guide to the netherworld, updated to include all Hades’ must-see sights that you won’t want to miss as your flesh is eternally consumed in agonizing hellfire.” Hmmm… my reference source on this topic is, an amusing romp if I ever had one—they even sell T-shirts.

8. Forget the past. No problem. My tendency to forget why I walked into the room saves me from this concern. As Hubby says, “She wakes up in a new world every day!”

9. Don’t hate others. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone. I also recommend heeding this advice from Kris Kristofferson: “Never go to bed with someone crazier than you are.” It has served me well, but Kristofferson…not so much!

10. Make peace with your past so it won’t spoil the present.

Henrik Edberg, eternally positive writer, tells us in his essay “8 Ways To Return To The Present Moment” ( “There are more advantages to being in the moment besides being able to decrease mind-made suffering. Some of those advantages are Clarity (better focus)… Calmness (relaxed and fearless)… and Positivity (less fear means less negative emotions).”

If that doesn’t help you, refer back to No. 8.

11. Realize that life is a school and you are here to learn.

I seek out new knowledge and experiences, just for fun and to feed my head. And if I screw up, I try to remember that tomorrow will be better. To my Second-Half pals who want to stagnate…don’t take risks, don’t be silly, or loud, or have too much fun. You’ll just be in my way!

Mae West, the ultimate teacher, advised us: “When choosing between two evils, I like to pick the one I haven’t tried before.” Words to live by!

12. Smile and laugh more.

No problem there…I find so many things hilarious that some people won’t sit near me in public anymore.

Scientist Sir Robert May tickles my sense of whimsy in this observation about our fellow man: “We share half of our genome with the banana, a fact more evident in some of my acquaintances than others.”

A final thought: No one is in charge of your happiness except you.

Activist and author Allan K. Chalmers tells us, “The grand essentials of happiness are: something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.”

If you are skeptical, the great physician, philosopher, and musician Albert Schweitzer had an interesting take on it. He said, “Happiness is nothing more than good health and a bad memory.”

Coming next time: Handbook for life—part three: Society.

In her second half of life, Kathleen D. Tresemer is both a journalist and an award-winning fiction writer. She lives with her husband on a small ranch in rural Shirland, Ill. Kathleen can be contacted by e-mail at

From the April 28-May 4, 2010 issue

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