Part II of my column from last week:

Becoming emotionally born again required help from family and friends. My kids urged me for years to take better care of myself. Now I regularly undergo physicals and immediately address health issues. At my most recent check-up, I received a good report and learned my minor ailments are directly caused by stress.

I made another change. After many years of skipping it, I resumed eating breakfast. I feel satisfied throughout the day, instead of “hangry.” I also changed my sleeping habits. I’ve long been a late-sleeper who felt sluggish in the morning. Suddenly, I’m springing out of bed at 6 a.m., brimming with energy. I didn’t realize how exhausting it was to feel stressed out.

I received another piece of advice from a therapist friend of mine. He said we invest in certain behaviors, even if they’re not healthy. I was invested in feeling bad for not visiting friends. Now I drive to their homes and we hang out. 

My wife gave me another important piece of advice: We can respond to stress, rather than react to it. I was raised to react, or over-react, to any adversity that came my way. Responding is a totally different way to face setbacks. Rather than yelling or slamming things, we can calmly respond.

Responding is especially important when people say hurtful things. Rather than immediately taking it to heart, we can evaluate. Is the criticism valid? Does the critic even know us well enough to make the judgment? Was it constructive, or just meant to hurt us? If someone is simply being hurtful, I call them out.

I no longer think the best of everyone, which is not realistic and leads to a lot of heartache. We are primarily self-interested beings. It’s not a bad thing but a survival mechanism. Some take it into the realm of selfishness. I’m no longer blindsided by selfish behavior or put-downs. Criticism bounces off and praise sticks, completely the opposite of the old pattern.

This doesn’t keep people from trying to bring me down. It’s like being a recovering alcoholic but your buddies won’t stop texting you to join them at the bar. They can criticize me, but I laugh it off — or give it right back. The old ways don’t work on the new me.

I’m no longer reacting to unreasonable demands. I added a tiny but powerful word to my vocabulary. “No.” It’s so liberating to say no. It feels great to live a self-directed life, rather than putting everyone’s needs first. 

I also switched from being “nice” to people to being “kind” to them. Nice is what got me in trouble in the first place. Being kind sometimes calls us to confront a loved one about their behavior. I recently read the riot act to a relative, who was destroying her health by watching TV all day. 

She needs to be emotionally reborn. I know many people who are being reborn. Most are in my age range. They finally realize they’re playing the back nine of life. Some can even see the clubhouse. I know a young woman from Forest Park who left her high-paying corporate job because she was miserable. She’s starting a career-coaching company.

Forest Park is filled with businesses founded by entrepreneurs like her. They took control of their lives and are pursuing a passion rather than a paycheck. I’m also a small business owner and will no longer let my clients run my life. 

So watch the Sox (or Cubs) on TV, or stare at your phone. 

I’m going to live my life regardless.

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.