The Delights of Distraction No.41: Hundred tips for a better life

We love lists. If Buzzfeed and every copycat listicle media spinoffs’ success is anything to go by - so do you. We love ticking them off, for the dopamine-spark of accomplishment; we love writing them out in a brain-dump to externalize and minimize our internal anxieties, we love handing them out as prescriptions to make our lives better in little ways: wish lists, shopping lists, guest lists.

But most of all, we love lists if they promise to unlock easy mode on daily living, doling out life hacks that claim to dial down suffering. Because deep down, we all kind of feel like the Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s character in Fleabag: on her knees, asking the hot priest to tell her what to freaking do with her life:

"I want someone to tell me what to wear in the morning. I want someone to tell me what to wear EVERY morning. I want someone to tell me what to eat. What to like, what to hate, what to rage about, what to listen to, what band to like, what to buy tickets for, what to joke about, what not to joke about. I want someone to tell me what to believe in, who to vote for, who to love and how to tell them.

"I just think I want someone to tell me how to live my life, Father, because so far I think I’ve been getting it wrong — and I know that’s why people want people like you in their lives, because you just tell them how to do it. You just tell them what to do and what they’ll get out at the end of it, and even though I don’t believe your bullshit, and I know that scientifically nothing I do makes any difference in the end anyway, I’m still scared. Why am I still scared? So just tell me what to do. Just fucking tell me what to do, Father."

So when Conor Barnes shared an eclectic list of 100 Tips For A Better Life, we were keen (even though, like Fleabag, we secretly know deep down that there is no secret sauce.) Nevertheless, here are a few pointers that we thought resonated:

3. Things you use for a significant fraction of your life (bed: 1/3rd, office-chair: 1/4th) are worth investing in.

(Yes! And yet, I think we can count on our fingertips (using just one hand) the number of friends who have spent more on their wedding lehenga, than their mattress.)

27. Discipline is superior to motivation. The former can be trained, the latter is fleeting. You won’t be able to accomplish great things if you’re only relying on motivation.

46. Things that aren’t your fault can still be your responsibility.

48. Keep your identity small. “I’m not the kind of person who does things like that” is not an explanation, it’s a trap. It prevents nerds from working out and men from dancing.

56. Sometimes unsolvable questions like “what is my purpose?” and “why should I exist?” lose their force upon lifestyle fixes. In other words, seeing friends regularly and getting enough sleep can go a long way to solving existentialism.

88. Remember that many people suffer invisibly, and some of the worst suffering is shame. Not everybody can make their pain legible.

91. Human mood and well-being are heavily influenced by simple things: Exercise, good sleep, light, being in nature. It’s cheap to experiment with these.

It seems like a lot of life’s problems can be largely helped with either a snack, a nap, a chat, a hug, a walk or a cup of tea. Of course all these “pearls of wisdom” mostly apply to a few charmed circles, whose problems stem mostly from the existential, and not deeply structural and systemic - problems that 90% of people living in this country must endure. And to be fair, Barnes’ acknowledges the limitations of generalized advice:

97. The best advice is personal and comes from somebody who knows you well. Take broad-spectrum advice like this as needed, but the best way to get help is to ask honest friends who love you.

And now back to our weekly agenda: a list of our faves, perused from the internet this week:

To Read: David Perell takes a look at contemporary minimalism. By comparing it to late-stage modernism, minimalism has reached its dead end, he writes. “A friend once told me that depression isn’t feeling negative things; it’s feeling nothing at all. If that’s true, we shouldn’t be surprised that minimalism is the aesthetic of our age of depression.” (And which is why at TWC, we always like to maintain our joyous, maximalist outlook on the aesthetic!)

To Learn: Thank you millennials, for introducing us to the world of ghosting - something we have experienced intimately in the last year, that has left us hurt, confused and seeking closure. Being ghosted is a traumatic experience and with the compounding stressors of pandemic isolation, ghosting can haunt your sense of worthiness as a friend and partner for a while. So, how to cope with being ghosted? According to this guide by The Cut, don’t go seeking answers (or apologies), allow yourself to wallow, and then reflect. Did you ignore any red flags? Is there anything to learn? Then, move on.

To Explore: We’re getting a kick out of where you can find “unsucked” definitions for corporate speak, or as it's called on the website “douchey jargon.”  We wish the suits would just say “you’re fired”, instead of : “as a plan for personnel surplus reduction we are re-engineering the staff to maintain internal efficiencies and suggest that you find a career alternative enhancement.”

To Joy Scroll: Renee Capozzola won this year’s Underwater Photographer of the Year award—making her the first woman to achieve this honour. It captures the sharks circling with the sunset and seagulls seen from below—underneath the surface of the French Polynesian waters. You can gawk at that ethereal image alongside all the other incandescent runner ups here.

To Cook: Okay - this doesn’t have to be said because it’s obvious, but we would like to maintain that as Gen x women, we are definitely NOT trendy. However, that doesn’t mean we are immune to Tik Tok cooking trends that emerge from the currently elusive app on to Instagram. This is a spin on a baked pasta that’s been going viral the last few weeks. It began with a recipe developed by Finnish food blogger Jenni Häyrinen called “Uunifetapasta,” which translates to oven-baked feta pasta. It’s one of the easiest, dump on a tray kind of pastas you’ll ever make, and possibly one of the tastiest.

To Watch: John D. Boswell, brings us a visually-stunning illustration of the things that can happen in a fraction of a second across the known universe. When we look up at night, the universe seems pretty quiet. But that perspective is an illusion; in reality, there are millions of world-shattering events happening every instant across the cosmos. This short film explores just how much is going on every moment in our ridiculously enormous universe.

“In the fraction of a second it takes to blink your eyes, thousands of stars will be born, hundreds will explode and die, millions of planets will form, and our universe will expand by half a million kilometers in diameter.”

And finally on that note, a poem on how the universe can seem to conspire to perfection in the 5 minutes before life begins:

to wake and find you sitting up in bed

with your black hair and gold skin

leaning against the white wall

a perfect slant of sunlight slashed

across your chest as if God

were Rembrandt or maybe Ingmar Bergman

but luckily it’s too early to go to the movies

and all the museums are closed on Tuesday

anyway I’d rather be here with you

than in New York or possibly Amsterdam

with our eyes and lips and legs and bellies

and the sun as big as a house in the sky

and five minutes left before the world begins

—Lesléa Newman, "Possibly"


We hope you manage to find and bask in perfect slants of sunlight through your weekend,

Viv & Ami

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