Sometimes we berate ourselves for doing certain things, or failing to restrain ourselves from doing others. But as we mature and grow in wisdom, we often find that there was no reason for such harsh self-criticism. Indeed, the seasoned, critical mind reveals that some deeds, once thought laudable or advisable, simply can’t be done. Herewith, a user’s guide:
1. Adhering to dietary standards in New Orleans, or anywhere in Louisiana. Repeated efforts have yielded no success. So why keep trying?
The food in New Orleans is just too good to pass up. If you have dietary issues that are truly harmful — say, diabetes — just don’t go. (That’s sad, and I’m very sorry.) If you simply like to eat hyper-carefully, you should probably also not go. It’s not nice to waste beignets. The delicacy you half-enjoy could be fully savored by someone who can free it up for a weekend.
Boudin, etouffee, jambalaya and crawfish are all there for a reason. The reason is unalloyed joy. Dive in.
2. Becoming, or remaining, annoyed at the laughter or singing of a child. Small children, geniuses that they are, laugh as much as they can at whatever they think is funny. There is no “heh” for a small child. There is only hysterics. That’s because laughing feels so good, and they want to do it as often as they can for as long as they can. Same with singing. It feels very good, so when they find a musical phrase they like, they tend to sing it over and over, like the proverbial broken record.
This can wear on adults, who may find the noise and repetition interferes with their worrying about the mortgage, Syria, and whether they’ll gain a lot of weight next week in New Orleans.
Poor benighted adults. If only they could remember what it was like. Anyway, once you remove the things being interfered with (at least for a little while), you will find that there is no sweeter music than the laughter and singing of children. If you can have a few dumb jokes or Mozart recordings on hand to encourage these activities, so much the better.
3. Going to an art museum and coming out worse than when you went in. Occasionally I will have pre-flight time to kill in a city I’m visiting, and I will spend an hour in a museum, gallery, or public garden. In the museums especially, I may see some works that are shocking, obtuse, or at first glance, just plain bad.
Yet this time is never wasted. Often I’ll see something good, and if I don’t, whatever I see will get me thinking about something else I saw some other time, which will remind me of a friend I was with, and how the coffee at the place around the corner tasted that day, and how the burnt orange shade in a Vermeer was kind of like a very good sunset….
4. Failing to lock in memories of simple moments. This must be done occasionally so that you remember that seemingly mundane moments aren’t. One late afternoon on the beach near Fort Myers, Florida, my wife and three-year-old son trotted along the waterline, hand in hand, in perfect silhouette — her shapely form, his curly hair bobbing and his chubby little legs pumping along, all gilded by a setting sun. I think about this every day.
5. Resisting making friends with a friendly dog. It hurts you both. The dog was put in your path for a reason. What he or she is saying with that smile is, “Yes, yes; I know it’s not easy being human. I even have some whoo-ee days as a dog! Just pat me on the head, and things will be a little better. Sure! Any time! I’m here most mornings.” (If you’re allergic, you get a pass.)
6. Being endlessly fascinated by the stars. I mean…seriously…c’mon. The light that is reaching you from some of them left the surface of the stars millions of years ago. Get your mind around that.
And pass those beignets.