ron padgett’s advice on how to live well (+ a summer blog break)


To me you are already perfect, but I thought I’d leave you with Ron Padgett’s advice while I’m on summer blog break.

Nibble a little here and there, or inhale in one fell swoop. Either way, enjoy Padgett’s wry humor and words of wisdom on how to live well. Playful and profound, even the smaller, more obvious suggestions ultimately address the bigger picture.



“Evian” by Andrรฉ Beaulieu (2011)


by Ron Padgett

Get some sleep.

Don’t give advice.

Take care of your teeth and gums.

Don’t be afraid of anything beyond your control. Don’t be afraid, for instance, that the building will collapse as you sleep, or that someone you love will suddenly drop dead.

Eat an orange every morning.

Be friendly. It will help make you happy.

Raise your pulse rate to 120 beats per minute for 20 straight minutes four or five times a week doing anything you enjoy.

Hope for everything. Expect nothing.

Take care of things close to home first. Straighten up your room before you save the world. Then save the world.

Know that the desire to be perfect is probably the veiled expression of another desire — to be loved, perhaps, or not to die.

Make eye contact with a tree.

Be skeptical about all opinions, but try to see some value in each of them.

Dress in a way that pleases both you and those around you.

Do not speak quickly.

Learn something every day. (Dzien dobre!)

Be nice to people before they have a chance to behave badly.

Don’t stay angry about anything for more than a week, but don’t forget what made you angry. Hold your anger out at arm’s length and look for it, as if it were a glass ball. Then add it to your glass ball collection.

Be loyal.

Wear comfortable shoes.

Design your activities so that they show a pleasing balance and variety.

Be kind to old people, even when they are obnoxious. When you become old, be kind to young people. Do not throw your cane at them when they call you Grandpa. They are your grandchildren!

Live with an animal.

Do not spend too much time with large groups of people.

If you need help, ask for it.

Cultivate good posture until it becomes natural.

If someone murders your child, get a shotgun and blow his head off.

Plan your day so you never have to rush.

Show your appreciation to people who do things for you, even if you have paid them, even if they do favors you don’t want.

Do not waste money you could be giving to those who need it.

Expect society to be defective. Then weep when you find that it is far more defective than you imagined.

When you borrow something, return it in an even better condition.

As much as possible, use wooden objects instead of plastic or metal ones.

Look at that bird over there.

After dinner, wash the dishes.

Calm down.

Visit foreign countries, except those whose inhabitants have expressed a desire to kill you.

Don’t expect your children to love you, so they can, if they want to.

Meditate on the spiritual. Then go a little further, if you feel like it. What is out (in) there?

Sing, every once in a while.

Be on time, but if you are late do not give a detailed and lengthy excuse.

Don’t be too self-critical or too self-congratulatory.

Don’t think that progress exists. It doesn’t.

Walk upstairs.

Do not practice cannibalism.

Imagine what you would like to see happen, and then don’t do anything to make it impossible.

Take your phone off the hook at least twice a week.

Keep your windows clean.

Extirpate all traces of personal ambitiousness.

Don’t use the word extirpate too often.

Forgive your country every once in a while. If that is not possible, go to another one.

If you feel tired, rest.

Grow something.

Do not wander through train stations muttering, “We’re all going to die!”

Count among your true friends people of various stations of life.

Appreciate simple pleasures, such as the pleasure of chewing, the pleasure of warm water running down your back, the pleasure of a cool breeze, the pleasure of falling asleep.

Do not exclaim, “Isn’t technology wonderful!”

Learn how to stretch your muscles. Stretch them every day.

Don’t be depressed about growing older. It will make you feel even older. Which is depressing.

Do one thing at a time.

If you burn your finger, put it in cold water immediately. If you bang your finger with a hammer, hold your hand in the air for twenty minutes. You will be surprised by the curative powers of coldness and gravity.

Learn how to whistle at earsplitting volume.

Be calm in a crisis. The more critical the situation, the calmer you should be.

Enjoy sex, but don’t become obsessed with it. Except for brief periods in your adolescence, youth, middle age, and old age.

Contemplate everything’s opposite.

If you’re struck with the fear that you’ve swum out too far in the ocean, turn around and go back to the lifeboat.

Keep your childish self alive.

Answer letters promptly. Use attractive stamps, like the one with a tornado on it.

Cry every once in a while, but only when alone. Then appreciate how much better you feel. Don’t be embarrassed about feeling better.

Do not inhale smoke.

Take a deep breath.

Do not smart off to a policeman.

Do not step off the curb until you can walk all the way across the street. From the curb you can study the pedestrians who are trapped in the middle of the crazed and roaring traffic.

Be good.

Walk down different streets.


Remember beauty, which exists, and truth, which does not. Notice that the idea of truth is just as powerful as the idea of beauty.

Stay out of jail.

In later life, become a mystic.

Use Colgate toothpaste in the new Tartar Control formula.

Visit friends and acquaintances in the hospital. When. you feel it is time to leave, do so.

Be honest with yourself, diplomatic with others.

Do not go crazy a lot. It’s a waste of time.

Read and reread great books.

Dig a hole with a shovel.

In winter, before you go to bed, humidify your bedroom.

Know that the only perfect things are a 300 game in bowling and a 27-batter, 27-out game in baseball.

Drink plenty of water. When asked what you would like to drink, say, “Water, please.”

Ask “Where is the loo?” but not “Where can I urinate?”

Be kind to physical objects.

Beginning at age forty, get a complete “physical” every few years from a doctor you trust and feel comfortable with.

Don’t read the newspaper more than once a year.

Learn how to say “hello,” “thank you,” and “chopsticks” in Mandarin.

Belch and fart, but quietly.

Be especially cordial to foreigners.

See shadow puppet plays and imagine that you are one of the characters. Or all of them.

Take out the trash.

Love life.

Use exact change.

When there’s a shooting in the street, don’t go near the window.

~ from How To Be Perfect (Coffee House Press, 2007)


“Nectar Search” by Camille Engel



I was relieved to learn I’m already doing some of these things: reading and rereading great books, drinking lots of water, keeping my childish side alive, learning something new every day, walking upstairs, staying out of jail. ๐Ÿ™‚

I’m still working at keeping calm and not going crazy a lot (it would help if I stopped watching cable news).

I think he forgot:

Adopt a teddy bear.

Eat pie whenever possible.

Have dinner with Colin Firth.

Grow a mustache if you can.

Believe in blue.


“Window at Xyloporta, Early Morning” by Anabel Gosling




What would YOU add to Padgett’s list?





by Ms. Dumpling

Turn off the stove.

Put away the dishes.

Stock up on ice cream.

Tuck the bears in for a long nap.

Thank your blog readers for being perfect in every way. ๐Ÿ™‚




The lovely and talented Laura Shovan is hosting the Roundup. Be sure to zoom on over to check out the full menu of poetic goodness being shared around the blogosphere this week.ย  ๐Ÿ™‚




We’ll send you off with vocal perfection by J.D. Souther, who co-wrote this song with Eagles Don Henley and Glen Frey in 1974, and then recorded a more intimate, stripped down version on his album “Natural History” in 2011. Crank it up!




๐Ÿ’™ ๐Ÿ’™ ๐Ÿ’™



Copyright ยฉ 2019 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

53 thoughts on “ron padgett’s advice on how to live well (+ a summer blog break)

    1. I don’t think I’d heard the word extirpate before reading this poem. It sounds like something you’d do in a dentist office.


  1. I laughed at some, will take others very seriously! That bear on the beach is going to be me very soon and I’m headed for key lime pie every time I can order it! I’d always add, “Always say ‘yes’ to time with family! Thanks for a beauty of a list and happy summer, Jama.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. He really covers a lot of ground, even hitting your finger with a hammer. Glad you included pie (how did he miss that?) I would add “blow kisses liberally” and “if a child hands you a pretend phone, answer it.” Have a perfectly lovely summer!

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Enjoy your summer! I enjoyed all the advice–especially the ones that made me chuckle. What would I add. Listen to frogs singing.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. What lovely advice–funny and true (mostly). And I enjoyed your additions, though I’ll focus on donuts and cupcakes, thank you very much :>) Not sure what I’d add, except, “Take breaks when you need them!” Enjoy your summer break, Jama!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Happy summer break, Jama!

    Iโ€™d add pet or adopt a dog, look at owls and tulips, eat dark chocolate, and watch Bogie movies especially Casablanca.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Oh I love this, and your beary wonderful additions. I would add: Pick a flower. Pull a weed. Read a poem. Read it aloud. Write a poem, too.
    Now I’m off to make eye contact with a tree, look at that bird, and become a mystic. Have a wonderful summer, Jama!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Thanks for this post! Lots of great advice. I would add eat pizza as often as possible, and write something each day, even if it’s just a sentence. Naldo, visit as many Indie bookstores as you can! ๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜ŽHappy Summer! Hope it’s not too hot!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Love these additions, Joanne. Here I thought “Naldo” was a mysterious person or a new slang word. Maybe it should be our code word. ๐Ÿ™‚


  8. This line caught my attention: “Donโ€™t expect your children to love you, so they can, if they want to.” Now that our kids are adults, I hope some of that is true.

    I’d add to Padgett’s poem: Write a poem every once in a while.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I love this so much! Happy summer, Jama! Thanks for always giving us your best. Oh and I would just add to the list โ€œlet your dog lick your faceโ€.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. That list poem had me chuckling and wincing. I love your additions. Happy summer to you! I will try not to go too crazy too often in the heat.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Let’s hope the summer isn’t too humid — that can be the pits. It’s interesting how Padgett’s list seems so “normal” most of the time, and then he’ll slip in a zinger just to make sure we’re paying attention.


  11. Oh my! Thank you for all the wry ponderings in this poem, Jama – and for Ms. Dumpling’s reminder to stock up on ice cream. Wishing you and Mr. C. and all the alphabetty blog-keepers in this beautiful corner of the world a joy-filled summer break. You all always have “the best of my love.” XO
    PS – Do “Look at that bird over there” โ€ฆ lovely, isn’t it?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hope you have a joy-filled summer too, Robyn — with many birds and other happy creatures to inspire good writing. Don’t forget the ice cream! ๐Ÿ™‚ Mr C sends big hugs.


  12. Wishing you a wonderful summer Jama! Thank you for all your hard work and creativity. Every blog post brings so much joy & pleasure….all the delightful details, always something new to learn and the pure visual beauty of them. Happy summer & I’ll look forward to your return.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. There is something so soothing about the sound of water. Thanks for adding it to the list, Michelle. Enjoy your summer; hope lots of blues find their way into the pictures you paint. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Oh Jama, this poem is full of so many lines I want to cut and paste and never forget.
    I also love the many additions people have added here in the comments section.
    I would add, Pay attention to toddlers and marvel at how they grow.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. I like “Look at that bird over there.” I’m trying to learn to do that. Ruth,

    Liked by 2 people

  15. So many wonderful and funny things here (and yet I couldn’t help wondering if someone put the “blow his head off” line in by mistake–it seemed so incongruous and jarring). Enjoy your summer break, dear Jama. I hope you have countless opportunities to eat pie. โค

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Loved this, Jama. I would add only:

    Love coffee.
    When your doctor tells you to give it up, suppress the urge to strangle him.
    Switch to decaf.
    Enjoy the illusion of coffee.
    Cheat on decaf occasionally with the real thing.
    Be thankful for your doctor. He cares.
    Feel better than you used to.
    Love “coffee” in its new-to-you incarnation.
    Drop in on Jama, because she’s better than caffeine.
    Wish her a happy, happy summer.


    Liked by 2 people

  17. But I keep hearing that coffee is good for your health. Sounds like you’re sensitive to caffeine. Do you have to cut back on chocolate too (oh no!)?

    Liked by 1 person

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