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Opinion

The rural life: April foolin’

Have you been pranked today? Are you planning to play a prank on someone else? April 1st is celebrated in many parts of the world, including ours, with practical jokes and hoaxes. The idea is to prompt someone to believe something that isn’t true, thereby making that person feel like a fool.

Kind of silly, but fun.

I’ve had April Fools’ jokes played on me, and I’ve crafted a few myself. I do find, however, that I don’t need the festivities of this particular day in order to feel like a fool. Simply pondering some of the ridiculous things I’ve believed over the years gives me plenty of opportunity to feel foolish.

Such as:

Those junk phone calls will eventually stop. I know — pretty naive. But I thought refusing to respond to them, plus putting my number on those “do not call lists,” would eventually do the trick. Apparently not. Now come the robo-calls, which don’t even give you the pleasure of expressing your displeasure to a live person. Arrrgh.

Worrying is noble. I guess I believed it made you seem mature or responsible or something. “I’m a worrier,” I’d always say, thinking it gave me gravitas. Then my mother set me straight. “It’s nothing to be proud of,” she said. And of course she was right. Now I strive to fix the things I can fix, accept the things I can’t, and distinguish between the two. (I don’t always succeed, however. This worries me.)

Mr. Sun is your friend. Yes, I was one of those idiots out there in baby oil and a bikini some 30-plus years ago. Now I know better. I don’t mess around with Mr. Sun without the right kind of protection. Ever.

You can argue with your parents. I remember attempting to do so, on occasion, when I felt the situation merited it. Now that both my parents are gone, I can’t imagine what I was thinking. What’s the point?

Polyester blends are as good as cotton. They definitely are cheaper, last longer, and hold their color better. But they sure aren’t as comfortable, are they? I’ve finally given up on synthetic blends, though finding all-cotton apparel — especially socks — has become like seeking the holy grail.

Dreams come true. Some do, of course — if you work hard and are smart and lucky and deserving and never give up. But dreams don’t necessarily come true, despite what popular culture tells us. What I wish we emphasized instead is that the pursuit of a dream, done properly, will grow you into someone you and others will be proud of. And that’s whether you achieve the actual dream or not. You may never win that gold medal, but the character you’ll develop in the attempt will have been more than worth the effort. That is the sure thing, not the realization of the dream itself.

A PG-13 rating means a decent movie. Not! So often it just means they’ve figured out how to slip all the “good stuff” (sex, vulgarity, filthy language, gratuitous violence) into the film without crossing that ill-defined R border. Fortunately, the wealth of information now available online (especially parents’ comments — check them out on Netflix) can help you suss out the worst offenders in advance and avoid them.

White lies are free. This one is tricky. Outright lying is bad — we all agree on that. (Though a casual observer might find that agreement surprising given how lying is practically celebrated in popular culture. It’s not whether you lie that matters, but how cleverly you do it, and to what self-benefit.) Anyway, compared to baldfaced lying, I’ve always believed innocent white lies told to spare someone’s feelings (“It looks fine”) are OK. What I’ve come to realize, though, is that white lies told out of convenience (“I’ll be out of town”) are more insidious and can leach away your integrity over time. Better to stick closer to the actual truth. Say less, perhaps, but don’t make stuff up.

A mouse can harm you. It can’t, actually. I know that now, but that’s surely not how I felt through most of my life. Today, after years of living in the country and thinking it through rationally, I know that although they can run really fast, they almost always run away from you, and that should count for something. Plus they’re not carnivorous — at least not so that I’ve noticed.

You can prompt people to change. No, you can’t. You can only change yourself, and sometimes that’s a better option anyway. Change must come from within the person in question. Badgering will bring change, but not the sort you’re after: It makes the badgeree resent you. And, speaking of change…

Toyotas don’t need their oil changed. It’s true they run virtually forever on minimal TLC, but an oil change once in a while is a good thing, trust me. My Avalon — and its former engine — convinced me of that.

Anger is empowering. It feels strong but is actually weak. I’ve learned to trust my anger less and less over the years. Now I believe how you respond in a disagreement with someone depends ultimately on whether you care more about your anger (and being right) or about your relationship with that person. If the anger, then you’ll stand your ground and defend your position. If the relationship, then you’ll find a road to common ground that enables the two of you to come back together. One way leads to alienation, the other to reconciliation. One feeds your ego, the other feeds your true, loving self. One leads ultimately to sorrow; the other, ultimately to joy.

And that, my wise friends, is no fooling.

Jennifer Forsberg Meyer is a biweekly columnist with the Mountain Democrat. Share your thoughts with her at[email protected].

Jennifer Forsberg Meyer

Jennifer Forsberg Meyer is an award-winning journalist and author with three published books to her credit. Currently she is a senior editor with Horse & Rider magazine. Jennifer lives in rural Latrobe with her husband, Hank; their daughter, Sophie Elene; and the family’s assorted animals.
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