Life’s lessons even come through e-mail

Published 10:35 pm Saturday, January 1, 2011

The sharp ding tells me that I have a new e-mail message, a common occurrence on my work account where I get hundreds daily.

As I look at the subject line, I cannot help but groan a little because it looks as if it will be one of thousands of chain letters, forward threads or “factual” news reports that the evil mainstream media won’t cover.

But, before I hit the delete button, I catch myself getting grabbed by the subject line of, “Things that Need Considered” and perusing through its content.

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I’m not normally a big fan because most of these types of e-mails are either some far-fetched promises of good fortune if I fill up the inboxes of everyone I know or some grain of truth wrapped up in a host of fabrications and falsehoods.

And I didn’t think I was far off base with this one — at least at first.

The e-mail started like this: “Written by a 90 year old. This is something we should all read at least once a week! Make sure you read to the end! Written by Regina Brett, 90 years old, of the Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Ohio.

“To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons life taught me. It is the most requested column I’ve ever written.

“My odometer rolled over to 90 in August, so here is the column once more.”

Well, this kind of got my attention and before I had read any farther I decided to do some fact checking.

See, Regina Brett is a newspaper columnist here in Ohio who now works for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. I’m somewhat familiar with her work because she is one of the best in the business and was a finalist for a Pulitzer a few years ago.

There’s only one problem: She isn’t close to 90. In fact, she is only in her mid 50s and doesn’t really even look a day over 40.

So I couldn’t help but read the words of wisdom, which I verified were in fact written by Brett.

I found myself nodding as I went along, offering an occasional “amen” and having mini epiphanies along the way.

Brett has authored or collected some of the best nuggets of wisdom or fortune-cookie advice that I have ever read. Here are a few of my favorites from the e-mail.

1. Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.

4. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and parents will. Stay in touch.

8. It’s OK to get angry with God. He can take it.

11. Make peace with your past so it won’t screw up the present.

17. Get rid of anything that isn’t useful, beautiful or joyful.

19. It’s never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.

22. Over prepare, then go with the flow.

23. Be eccentric now. Don’t wait for old age to wear purple.

26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words ‘In five years, will this matter?’

30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.

31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

36. Growing old beats the alternative — dying young.

40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.

43. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

Since she originally wrote these, Brett has revised and added to them. She even collected them and the stories behind each on in a neat little book titled, “God Never Blinks: 50 Life Lessons for Life’s Little Detours.”

So as I sat at my desk contemplating each of these and feeling kind of silly that I almost rushed to judgment on this e-mail, I tried to come up with one of my own.

Maybe “Don’t judge a book by its cover, or even the first 20 pages.”

Another idea was that, “Every success is sweet enough to overcome hundreds of failures.”

But I’m still an amateur at this so I may have to wait until I’m 45 to compile my own list. For now, I’ll just go with one more of Regina Brett’s.

“45. Life isn’t tied with a bow, but it’s still a gift.”

Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Tribune. To reach him, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at