How To Be A Better Person

Did you realize that TODAY is March 1? How did that happen? Well, time keeps on ticking and meanwhile it keeps snowing…but I’m not going to go there today.

What I was thinking about is that today – MARCH 1 OMG – marks two months from traditional New Year’s Resolution beginnings. Did you make any resolutions this year, and, if so, how are they going? My own resolutions ran the gamut from the somewhat vague – focusing more on single tasks, practicing more patience and mindfulness, being grateful every single day for the amazing gift of LIFE – and the concrete – squeeze in more movement every day, read more, play the piano once a week – and I’m happy to report that I am doing all those things. Well, the piano doesn’t always get played weekly but I did learn how to play the theme song from Cheers, which has been a goal for a long time and, frankly, is not very difficult. I could have done that years ago!

My resolutions, such as they are, are a work in progress. This isn’t like the time I resolved to learn how to bake bread or use my decorator tips or how to play Where Everybody Knows Your Name – it’s not a One and Done thing. I think that one of the great benefits – and part of the appeal – of New Years Resolutions is that they make us BETTER. Whether our resolutions have us paying better attention to our physical health and wellness, or to attaining or honing a skill, or to becoming better equipped emotionally to make the world a happier place, there is generally a common theme: we want to be better people. We want to be better, we want to do better.

This is the premise of my friend Kate Hanley’s latest book: How To Be A Better Person. You may remember that Kate is the author of Stress Less, which I reviewed last April with an anecdote about becoming curious instead of furious when a delivery man became incredibly angry with me. How To Be A Better Person is similar in format to Stress Less, and reads like a combination self-help book and checklist for life. There are over 400 simple ways to make a difference in yourself and the world, each with a little box beside it so you could, presumably, check one off each time you achieve them. I did not do that, but I did dog-ear each page when I thought hey, that’s what I can write about. Don’t judge me! It’s my book, I’ll dog-ear if I want to. But there were so many good little nuggets in there that my book is now one big dog-ear. I could write a whole blog series on this book! I’ll try to be succinct.

The book is broken up into eight sections: See the Positive, Connect With Your Feelings, Be Healthy, Show Love, Give Back, Stay Committed, Work Well, and Let Go of Your Stuff. I will admit that I liked the Be Healthy section the best, because I was already doing literally everything in that chapter: eating lots of fruits and vegetables, drinking lots of water, doing yoga, moving more, getting outside no matter what the weather (thank you Barkley for the motivation on that one). But I think the other chapters, that felt more difficult when it came to self-awareness, are more helpful.

For example:

If there ever was an Important Parenting Reminder, it would be this. We are all walking our own paths, and no one can do it for us. This is HARD though, when it comes to parenting, but so very important. This reminds me, a bit, of that famous “Your children are not your children” poem from Kahlil Gibran, which you can read in its entirety here. “And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.” How often do we think of our children as extensions of ourselves? Their failures become our failures, their successes are our successes. Sometimes we may even find ourselves living vicariously through them, through our own dreams and visions, and those dreams and visions may not have any import to them. Of course we must show we care and give them tools to make good choices, but those choices are theirs and theirs alone. This is so difficult, particularly when our children are different from us. Actually, it’s difficult when our children are similar to us too, as we can really take to heart their experiences and way of thinking. Their lives are their lives, and they must live them. I mean, think back when you were a teenager – you had choices to make and consequences to live with, and those decisions were yours and yours alone. We must let our kids do the same – even if it kills us!

Which brings me to this:

Sometimes my kids will be telling me something about their day, and I will become panicked about a small detail, whereas they are calm and cool. Clearly, this is my own issue and I’ve made it about me, and not them. Triggers – we have to learn what sets them off and how to deal with them. Just like I know that I cannot eat even one potato chip or else I will be scarfing down the entire Costco sized bag in minutes, a trigger can lead to regrettable outcomes.

But, it can also lead to good outcomes if managed properly. I was at Costco on Monday and as usual, the parking lot was a disaster; not only are there giant snow piles taking up parking spaces, but the usual “corral, what corral?” mentality was rampant. My friend Janet (HI JANET) always says that weekdays at 2:00 are the Magical Costco Times in terms of lineups and general busyness, but unfortunately 2:00 means that there are four hours for people to leave their carts willy-nilly all over the place, and on Monday there were many carts scattered throughout the lot, taking up parking spaces and generally destroying my sense of Parking Lot Feng Shui. Do I talk about shopping carts too much? Probably. But clearly this is a trigger for me; I can stand in long lineups with patience, I can let people go ahead of me, I will take a spot farther from the door to free up others for people less mobile, I will smile and chat happily with the staff.

But when it comes to seeing people walk their carts over to where ten other carts are scattered in the parking spaces and leave them, when the CORRAL IS RIGHT THERE, OMG, IT’S TEN STEPS AWAY, well.

I weep for humanity.

But as Kate says in the book, use it as a reminder to do something nice for yourself. For the amount of time I spend grocery shopping, I will be able to do many nice things for myself when I see disasters like this. Maybe I should book a pedicure. As it was, I put my bins in a cart – when you can’t do a lot, do a little, says Kate – and I practiced my ujjayi breathing as I went into the store. I bought two packs of my favourite cherry tomatoes, I smiled at a cute baby and his mama, I practiced gratitude for the ability to buy healthy and delicious food for my family.

And then I glared at a perfectly-able person shoving his cart in the direction of a bunch of other errant carts, causing a pool-table ripple effect of carts, some coming close to hitting parked cars. I glared and glared, and then, like a crazy person, gave a giant smile to another person who was actually returning his cart to the corral. GOD BLESS YOU, SIR. I hope he felt my positive vibes and I hope he had the best Costco Karma ever.


  1. What gives me that shopping cart feeling is when there’s a trash can next to a recycling can and people put trash in the recycling and vice versa when the two cans are inches from each other. When what’s on top is not too gross, I’ve been known to reach in and put things where they belong.

  2. p.s. Happy March! It’s getting closer to spring even if it isn’t spring yet.

  3. Favorite parts:

    1. “Well, the piano doesn’t always get played weekly but I did learn how to play the theme song from Cheers, which has been a goal for a long time and, frankly, is not very difficult. I could have done that years ago!”

    2. “…each with a little box beside it so you could, presumably, check one off each time you achieve them. I did not do that, but…”

    3. just basically the whole shopping carts left all over the parking lot thing, because OMG



    *deep breaths*


  5. The shopping cart photo makes me feel like I’m going to hyperventilate. WHY????

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