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Column: Two billion heartbeats
by Lauretta Hannon
July 24, 2014 10:02 AM | 6499 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Lauretta Hannon
Lauretta Hannon
Q: I’m confused. Normally you are a proponent of hope and optimism, but you recently said the “Happy” song made you want to do violent things. That doesn’t exactly sound like what you usually promote. Aren’t you contradicting yourself?

A: First of all, the violent things I mentioned were in jest, and you’ll note the examples I gave were of actions that wouldn’t harm anyone. Anyhow, I’ll share an excerpt from my memoir that will hopefully explain my position.

“I’m an optimist, but not the annoying kind. One of those was ahead of me in jaw-clenching traffic once and had a bumper sticker that read, ‘Optimism — A Great Way Of Life!’

The nerve! I’d like to see his optimism when I rear-end him, I thought. Somebody should slash his tires for that, I grumbled out loud. As mean as the world is, and he’s riding around advocating optimism! He’d better be careful where he parks that thing. Somebody’s liable to hurl a brick through the windshield and it might be me!

Sorry, but mindless cheeriness leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I’ll never say, ‘When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,’ or ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff.’ Who am I to say your stuff is small? It just doesn’t work like that. And let’s remember sometimes you don’t even get lemons.

My optimism lies in what some would deem a depressing truth: All things go away. Knowing that everything, good and bad, will pass has enabled me to live in the moment, with joy and humor. The poet Elizabeth Bishop called it the “art of losing.” This notion has made me an optimist for the real world, with all its suffering, ugliness and pain. The fact that things fall apart, or die, is not depressing to me, for I see it as the most natural phenomenon, an organic cycle.

The understanding of the temporality of life grounds me — it brings the assurance that hard times will evaporate one day and be replaced with something new. That hope sustains me and forces me to move on. And it softens the blow when good times come to an end. This gritty optimism anchors my life. The people I’ve admired most are those who’ve lost everything but are still able to see the splendid possibilities ahead.

Several times a week I take walks through a cemetery. I’m usually listening to music that gets me energized and dancing among the headstones. I love the thought of being joyful in a place associated with sadness.

Similarly, for Halloween I decorate plastic skeletons by putting pink tutus around their waists and hanging them at different levels from the front porch. They twist and turn in the wind, appearing to be leaping and cavorting happily. Humor can strip the spookiest things of their spook.

When you’re aware all things go away, you take nothing for granted and acknowledge the urgency of living. Right now. Indeed, now is all we have. There’s no time to lollygag.

Even if you live to be 100, this very instant may be your only chance with the person standing before you. Every creature, whether human, buzzard, catfish or lightning bug, has about two billion heartbeats to spend in a lifetime. Time is short. Put tutus on your skeletons. Dance in the cemetery.

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Lauretta Hannon, a resident of Powder Springs, is the bestselling author of “The Cracker Queen — A Memoir of a Jagged, Joyful Life” and a keynote speaker. Southern Living has named her “the funniest woman in Georgia.” See more at

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