what matters most is how well you walk through the fire - Charles Bukowski
The other day I read a post about Charles Bukowski, one of my all time favourite prolific poets, novelists, short story writers, philosophers, legendary drunkards and general rabble-rousers. The man had a brain the size of a planet - a big planet. We're talking Jupiter here, people, not some piddling effort like Mercury. Unfortunately he probably killed off enough brain cells to cover half of Saturn, but hey, he probably wouldn't miss them. The man could think.
Anyway, this post was entitled 'Charles Bukowski's Top 10 Tips for Living A Kick-Ass Life'. And it's a great list. Follow it, and there's no doubting you will, indeed, live a kick-ass life, although hopefully with less damage to your liver than Mr B.
I have no pretensions to greatness. I know I am no Charles Bukowski, or Pablo Neruda, or Christopher Poindexter (swoon). I am not even Charles 'Chuck' Bartowski (fellow geeks across the planet will get this reference, although sometimes I do have fantasies that I am, in actual fact, Sarah Walker).
I do however have my own Top Tips for Living a Kick-Ass Life. Maybe it can be called 'Kate Stone's Top Tips for Not Falling In A Heap Too Often. Maybe. And Yes, There Is Champagne. Lots Of It.'
That's a bit long... so let's stick with:
KATO'S GUIDE TO KICKING DONKEY.
1. Read A Lot. Then Read Some More. Then Read Even More.
There is a reason why moveable type was invented. It was to stop people gazing at their own navels wondering if they were going to go to hell for thinking naughty thoughts about Lucy the dairy maid in the next village, and start them gazing at the inside of their craniums, and thinking about whether there was life outside their planet, and if the simplest explanation was probably the correct one, or whether something was rotten in the State of Denmark. Or perhaps if a rose by any other name would smell quite as sweet.
Granted, there's a hell of a lot still written about naughty thoughts and Lucy the dairy maid, but at least some of it is written in an intelligent way, and we can choose to read about Lucy the cow whose DNA is being used to find a cure for cancer if we feel like it.
Or stick with the dairy maid. It's your call.
2. Love Is The Law. The Law Is Love. Obey The Law.
A lot of people scoff at love. They say 'oh, I've never been in love. I don't believe in it.'
This is, quite frankly, utter crap.
Love is life. Love is happiness. Love is joy. Love is blindness. Love is often a deep well of misery and despair, which we feel we will never climb the slimy slippery walls of, and you'll probably wish you'd never gone there. Love is often confused with lust, and true love should have desire, but 'just' lust is not love. But what love really is - to me anyway - is that indefinable something, that kick galvanic, the knowledge that you can happily say nothing and everything to this person for a year and a day - for forever.
And don't think it can't happen more than once in a lifetime. Because it can.
And take the advice of the Dread Pirate Roberts - 'death can't stop true love. It can only delay it for a little while.'
So fall in love. Hard. It'll be worth it.
3. Don't Be Rude, Just Because You Can.
A lot of people who are lucky enough to be born into a society that now has its own hashtag showing just how tough life is when one's hair extensions get matted, feel that when someone slightly less - how can I put this - 'first world' than themselves, accidentally has the nerve to bump them/look at them in a funny way/mess up the third coat of their pedicure, they should be shot on sight.
You are incredibly fortunate. Karma is a bitch. Don't mess with her.
That sweatshop in downtown Kolkata? It's waiting for you, my friend.
Bet your reincarnation on it.
4. On Every Life, A Little Rain Must Fall.
OK, so maybe everyone knows this one already, and yes, it's a bit hackneyed. But it doesn't take away from the validity of the argument. Without great sadness, without pain, and loss, and all of the ugly human emotions, we are not human. We are robots. We are automatons, running on batteries, and not able to experience the other side of the emotional coin. Love. Joy. Laughter. The fizz of champagne when it goes up your nose because you're laughing too hard. Watching Zoolander and doing a walk-off. Looking across a room and seeing 'the one', and knowing that they have seen you too - and that grin... See? Take the pain, because it will bring you not only strength, but a greater appreciation for all that you have in the positive column of your balance sheet.
5. Bring Your Own Light To The Darkness.
To quote the man himself, don't rely on others to make your life work for you, or to make life better for other people. You have to bring something to the party. Life is a privilege, not a right. We humans are a complete stuff-up when it comes to our own happiness. We are brilliant at misery. So think of yourself as a candle. Maybe you start out as a tiny little tea-light. Your flame might flicker and almost go out at times when things are rough, and the black dog is barking loudly enough to wake the entire neighbourhood. But then it will grow. It will grow to lighthouse lamp proportions if you read, and dance, and love - both yourself and others - and read, and drink champagne, and listen to stupid 80s music, and Big Band bop...
...and you get the picture.
There are a million and one things I could put on this list. But you are probably yawning already, and Charles B is probably spinning in his martini lined grave. One final word - to both Bukowski and anyone who has made it all the way through this - make life your own. Grab it by the throat. Give it hell.
After all, you only have one.
Or maybe two.
And if the next one is as an ant, better make this one count.