Life lessons to keep you from feeling sorry for yourself

This is the column in which I typically offer up my personal resolutions for the coming year, as well as the various reasons why I will not achieve them. I was all set to do so again today when I received an e-mail from my friend Clif containing an article written by 90-year-old Regina Brett, a columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Now, when it comes to forwarding e-mails to friends and family, I try to be selective. I pass along only those items that are really funny, really clever, intellectually stimulating, spiritually enriching or involve attractive women in skimpy clothing. My friend Clif, on the other hand, does not generally forward e-mails unless they are intellectually stimulating, spiritually enriching and feature women in skimpy clothing who are holding golf clubs or power tools, or both. So when I received an email from Clif that did not include skimpy clothing, golf clubs or power tools, I figured it was probably an e-mail worth paying attention to.

I was right. Brett’s column was a list of the 45 lessons life has taught her. Let me pass a couple of them along to you: 11. Make peace with the past so it won’t screw up the present. 13. Don’t compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about. 17. Get rid of everything that isn’t useful, beautiful or joyful. 20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don’t take no for an answer. 21. Burn the candles, use nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don’t save for a special occasion. Today is special. 24. No one is in charge of your happiness except you. 33. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn’t do. 37. All that matters, in the end, is that you loved. 39. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.

I’ve decided I’m going to adopt Brett’s list as my official New Year Resolutions for 2010. I know it won’t be easy. For example, it’s going to come as something of a surprise to Wendy tonight when I break out the candles and put on my fancy lingerie.

I for one won’t be sorry to see 2009 go. The economy. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Congress. The Seahawks. Glenn Beck. The tree that fell on our car in the driveway right after we had the dent in the fender repaired. The Yankees. Tiger Woods’ Skankfest. Did I mention the economy?

Everywhere you looked in 2009 there was something ugly and brutal and sad and whatever the opposite of life-affirming is. As columnist Mark Morford described it, 2009 was a toxic, parasitic worm of a year exiting the national body and leaving the country lost, adrift, a nation without its favorite fuzzy slippers.

If I put my mind to it even a little bit, I can begin to feel sorry for myself and bitter about the state of the world. I was just working up a pretty good head of steam in the self-pitying department when I got another e-mail from another friend about a kid named Jake Olson. If you don’t know who Olson is look him up on YouTube. You’ll be glad you did. It is a humbling lesson about courage and hope.

In the coming year, I have vowed that if I ever start thinking that life is too hard or unfair, I’ll remember Olson and the thousands of brave kids like him who are out there right now dealing with bigger challenges than I’ve ever had to face in my life, and are doing it with a quiet grace and dignity that doesn’t allow the rest of us to feel sorry for ourselves.

So thank you Clif and Rick for your timely year-end e-mails, and thank you Jake and Regina for helping me see my way forward into 2010. Happy New Year.

Tom Tyner writes a weekly humor column for this newspaper. This is from his “Classics” File.