“Affairs are easier of entrance than of exit; and it is but common prudence to see our way out before we venture in.”
For some time now one of my challenges is being asked to be somewhere that provides little return on the time investment. Going to a party and then listening to folks who have more opinions than knowledge is just not for me. Making appearances at organization events, dinners and the like just for the sake of being seen does not thrill me at all. I am not at all turned on by organized events that in the end provide no knowledge or opportunities to meet and interact with interesting people. It is not that I think I am anything special, it is just that I feel I have reached a point where my time is too precious to spend it doing penance by sitting through a boring speech when I could be out watching a flower grow or talking with an imaginative child.
In truth I often wonder what value I bring to any meeting, for years now I arrive early for events and then sit at an empty table rather than impose myself on a group already seated. The habit has paid off for me as I have made many lasting friendships began with a conversation with a tablemate I just met.
Here is what the wise Gretchen Rubin has written about preparing for a graceful getaway from places you don’t want to be.
“Let me tell you one of my personal secrets for happiness,” he said. “Control your exit.”
“’Control your exit?’” I asked. “What exactly does that mean?” “It means, always be able to leave when you want. Drive yourself to a party instead of getting a ride, so you can leave when you’re ready. Try to go to someone else’s house, or a public place, instead of having people over to your house, because there’s nothing worse than seeing someone lean back and cross their legs when you’re ready to go to bed. Or else have people over to your house before some event – before a dinner reservation or a movie – so you have to leave by a certain time.”
My husband would certainly agree with this advice. He never agrees to go to a party on a boat, or to go on a bus tour, or to put himself in any situation that would prevent him from leaving whenever he wants. He feels trapped and unhappy if he knows he’s stuck.
It occurs to me that “Control your exit” is advice that’s figuratively true, too. For me, one of the most memorable pieces of advice from Stephen Covey's classic The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is “Begin with the end in mind.” That is (if I remember correctly), know where you want to go. When you start or do something, maintain a vision of where you’re headed – especially important for people who are considering law school! Friends, don’t go unless you know where you want to end up!
My newest Secret of Adulthood is that “The opposite of a great truth is also true.” It occurs to me that in some situations, not controlling your exit would lead to happiness. There’s a lot of happiness to be gained from spontaneity, impulse adventures, and unpredictable undertakings. Even in those cases, however, I imagine it’s better mindfully to embrace this idea of uncertainty – to know that you’re deliberately choosing to give up control of your exit – rather than to have it take you unawares.
Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.
A fellow was talking to his Irish buddy and said, "I gotta stop drinking that Irish whiskey."
"How come?" asked his friend.
"Because every Saturday night I go out and drink a fifth of the stuff, come home, make mad passionate love to the wife, wake up Sunday morning, and go to church."
"What's wrong with that?" the Irishman asked. "A lot of good Irishmen go out on Saturday night, drink a fifth of good Irish whiskey, come home, make love to the wife, and go to mass on Sunday."
"I know," said his friend, "but I'm Jewish!"
"Of those who say nothing, few are silent."
A frantic mother told the pediatrician's office, "My baby has a high temperature!"
"How high is it?"
"How are you taking it?"
"Oh, I'm holding up pretty well!"
"I can remember when the air was clean and sex was dirty."
It was a typically busy day at the bank. After a glance at the line of waiting customers, a harried looking man came up to the side counter and demanded, "What do I have to do to change the address on my account?"
Without missing a beat, the clerk replied, "Move!"
"Grown-ups never understand anything for themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them."
Antoine de Saint-Exupery
A gentleman was returning home after a lengthy trip, and was met by his butler at the station. The following conversation took place on their way to his home:
"So, has anything happened while I've been away?"
"No, sir, I can't think of anything at all worth mentioning."
"Come now, I've been away for months. Surely something must have happened in all that time."
"Well, sir, come to think of it, your dog died."
"My dear Clyde died? How awful! Still, he was getting on in years, and I suppose it had to happen some time. How did he die?"
"The vet said it was probably from eating the rotten meat."
"The rotten meat? Since when do we leave rotten meat lying around for the dog to eat?"
"Well, it was the horses, sir. They'd been rotting for some time after the barn burned down."
"Good Lord! How in the world did the barn burn down?"
"It must have been some embers that blew over from the house, sir."
"The house? The house burned down, too? How did the house burn down?"
"Well, sir, we think someone must have knocked over a candle."
"Oh. A candle? Wait a moment - we don't use candles anymore to light the house! What were the candles doing there?"
"They were there for the wake, sir."
"The wake?!? Whose wake? For pity's sake..."
"Actually, your mother's, sir. She passed away quite suddenly."
"Oh my Lord. Mother is dead. The house is gone, along with the stable. Even my dog is dead. What did Mother die of?"
"It must have been the shock, sir."
"Yes, sir, the shock. When your wife ran off with the handyman the day after you left, sir.
But aside from all that, it's been fairly quiet while you've been away, sir."
"A man thinks that by mouthing hard words he understands hard things."
Most people hate to parallel park. The other day, I saw this woman trying to get out of a tight parking space. She bumped the car in front, then backed up and hit the car behind her. This went on about two minutes.
I walked over to see if I could somehow help. My offer was declined.
She said, "Why have bumpers if you're not going to use them once in a while?"
"The fountain of content must spring up in the mind, and he who hath so little knowledge of human nature as to seek happiness by changing anything but his own disposition, will waste his life in fruitless efforts and multiply the grief he proposes to remove."
Stay well, do good work, and have fun.
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The editor is somewhat senile.
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