The Second Half: Handbook for life–part three

Editor’s note: The following is the third in a four-part series. Part one appeared as an Online Exclusive in the April 21-27, 2010, issue at Part two also appeared as an Online Exclusive, in the April 28-May 4, 2010, issue online.

By Kathleen D. Tresemer

My Second Half pal Kate sent me “The Handbook,” a guide for living with four areas of focus: health, personality, society and life. I don’t know its origin, but the guidance seemed appropriate and a nice way to address the urge for renewal many of us feel in springtime. Here is your third installment:

The Handbook on society

1. Call your family often. Research tells us that family ties are important to our happiness and overall well-being.

In the article “For Happiness, Seek Family, Not Fortune” by Salynn Boyles of WebMD Health News, we are told: “Money might buy happiness for some, but for most people, having strong family ties is a much bigger predictor of contentment than income…” (Read the complete article at

The concept seems to be global, too. The Health Promotion Board of Singapore did similar research and found: “A safe and happy environment at home is the key to both good physical and mental health. In today’s busy society, it is important to remember that the family is your main pillar of support and love.” (Found at HPB Online

However, some family members make you wish you were an only child. I think it all depends on who you call “family.” My very wise 60-something pal Tom says, “Many of my closest family members are not even related to me!”

2. Each day, give something good to others. The Scouts were on to something with their “helping an old lady across the street” routine. The Inquiry Net Boy Scout Web site explains it to the scouts this way: “Just do something to help the other fellow, and the joy of the service well done will be its own reward.” (Read about the history of the “Boy Scouts’ Good Turn” tradition at

The Random Acts of Kindness movement is based more on healing an unhealthy culture, and is epitomized by the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, partner to the Foundation for a Better Life (the creators of those inspirational billboards with the efforts of famous people illustrating values such as Determination, Excellence and Compassion). These folks offer a monthly calendar suggesting good things you can do each day, just in case you forgot how to be nice for no reason. (Read more about the Health Benefits of Kindness on this site:

On the other hand, Mark Twain gave this insight about those who make much of their do-gooder efforts: “Few things are harder to put up with than a good example.” Just a reminder…

3. Forgive everyone for everything. Forgiveness is not an act of letting someone off the hook. It is a much more selfish act, a way of getting rid of toxic resentments so you can enjoy life again. Forgiveness returns control to the forgiver and does not mean you have to embrace the jerk who did you wrong. By saying, “I forgive you, now don’t let the door hit you in the ass!” you’ll be healthier, too.

The Mayo Clinic lists the health benefits of forgiveness: healthier relationships, greater spiritual and psychological well-being, less stress and hostility, lower blood pressure, fewer symptoms of depression, anxiety and chronic pain, and lower risk of alcohol and substance abuse. (Read the entire article at

When it comes down to straight talk, however, author and TV host Dennis Wholey puts a different spin on it: “Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you are good is like expecting the bull not to charge because you are a vegetarian.”

So, get over yourself, and let go of resentments…you’ll live longer!

4. Spend time with people older than 70 and younger than 6.  Emotionally healthy people older than 70 tend to care less about what others think and more about making the most of each day. And what could be more fun than blowing bubbles or swinging on swings with a child? Their focus on pure enjoyment is an example to all of us.

Stop waiting for the next shoe to drop! Have fun!

5. Try to make at least three people smile each day.  Refer back to No. 2.

6. What other people think of you is none of your business.

“I don’t know the key to success,” Bill Cosby is quoted as saying, “but I know the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”

In any case, taking care of your own business is a skill many people need a lifetime to learn. Our cultural obsession with worrying about what everyone else thinks is only enhanced by the barrage of information about virtual strangers guised as “entertainment”—yes, I mean reality television! We are so concerned with what other people think, do and say that we forget to mind our own business.

The following story either highlights my point or confuses the issue…you decide:

There once were four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. An important job had to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it; as it turned out, Nobody did it.

Somebody got angry because he thought it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it and that Somebody should do it. But Nobody realized that Everybody thought Somebody would do it; that’s why Nobody did it.

In the end, Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

Next column will have the final installment of The Handbook—see you then!

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 May 5-11, 2010 issue

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