No, I did not know her, and yes, she has only been dead for two days, but still I’m sorry, because it feels like there’s a little less goodness in the world now.
After I found out she was dead, I spent a few hours watching old interviews with her, hoping to soak up some of the joy, humor, and wisdom she shared during her nearly 100 years with us.
Her advice made me think and inspired me to examine other people who have lived long lives who, at least from the outside, seem to have been happy and satisfying. I wanted to gather the secrets I could from their experiences.
Below is what I came up with. It’s a mix of others’ insights and some things I’ve learned during my own time on this planet. This list is by no means complete, and hopefully you may have a few tips or tricks to share in the comments section to help us through 2022 – and how many years we are lucky enough to live by it (even if it means we have to continue without Betty White).
- Be curious about the world and the people around you. Never stop learning or asking questions. Be willing to admit that you may not have all – or any – of the answers, and that the answers may be different depending on who you are or where you are in your life.
- Look for the bright side where you can.
- When faced with the dark side, look for what it can teach you while you are there, and then take these things with you back to the bright side.
- Forgive when you can (including yourself), but if for some reason you can not, do not.
- Say you’re sorry when it’s required, even if (especially if) it’s hard. Recognize that you probably could (and should) say it more often than you do.
- Find something you love to do – cooking, traveling, reading, visiting a children’s zoo, arm wrestling, watching 80s cartoons, making outfits for your chihuahua out of old sweatpants – and do it when you can for no other reason than you can and it brings you joy; it calms you down; or it makes you feel at home in your body or your head.
- Love something or someone every chance you get, but understand that love comes in all sorts of forms and no one is necessarily more worthy than another.
- Allow yourself a few vices, whether it’s Betty White’s aforementioned hot dogs or Hallmark Christmas movie or an occasional handiwork from a stranger, and enjoy them without remorse or apology or explanation to anyone, even yourself.
- Say yes to scary things that you suspect will make you grow or learn or be happy.
- Say no when you need to say no and do not feel guilty about it.
- Find out who you are and what you believe in, and then be that person, and believe in the things when you can, even if it scares or shocks or disturbs other people.
- Understand that even if or when you find out who you are and what you believe in, you can (and hopefully will) change. Acknowledge and welcome the fact that who you were 10 years ago is not necessarily who you are today and who you are today is not necessarily who you want to be in 10 years. Be kind to your past self and expect great things from your future self.
- Learn what and who to hold on to and what and who to let go of, and do not kick yourself if and when you make a mistake.
- Do not compare yourself or your life with anyone else, for it is just asking for the worst kind of trouble. You are not them. They are not you. And you have no idea how gnawing their demons can be.
- Give what you can when you can without expecting or needing anything in return.
- Take it easy on yourself. Take it easy with each other. But do not take any shit from anyone – and it also means from yourself.
- Laugh when you can, cry when you need it, remember what you can, forget what you have to. And order french fries instead of salad every chance you get.
Noah Michelson is the head of HuffPost Personal and hosts “D Is For Desire”, HuffPost’s love and sex podcast. He joined HuffPost in 2011 to launch and monitor the site’s first vertical dedicated to queer issues, Queer Voices, and continued to oversee all HuffPost community sections before switching to creating and operating HuffPost Personal in 2018. He received his MFA in poetry from New York University and has served as a commentator for the BBC, MSNBC, Entertainment Tonight, Current TV, Fuse, Sirius XM and HuffPost Live. You can find more from him Twitter and Instagram.
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