Tag Archives: Lifestyle

Best Town In The World

The sign reads: “Welcome to Newtown*, the best town in the world.”

We are driving cross-country, moving from one small town out west to New York. We pass this little town in the middle of the Wyoming landscape and I have to read it twice. Or I don’t because a few minutes later there’s another sign on the water tower: “Newtown, the best town in the world.” Just to make sure we noticed.

Really? The best?

Now how did the Chamber of Commerce come up with that? The best in the world?? It wasn’t even making that claim for, oh say, the state, which was perhaps believable. What’s the goal here, people? To make the community there have pride? To get new people to move there where there really is no obvious economic incentive? Or just to get motorists to stop and spend money at the world’s best Exxon?

The world’s best pizza. The world’s best cherry pie. The world’s best coffee. These we take as cute, maybe, or buy the tee shirt cuz it really was the best pie we’d ever had. But best town – and we’re talking out of all the small towns in France with the best croissants and 100% employment, or the best tidy town in Ireland with that incredible pub overlooking the bay where Mick and Sean play music every Friday from 10pm til drunk-driving-home time.

And here we are, after 17 years of living in “The Last Best Place,” moving to New York, “The City.” No need to say which one. We all know.

So what is this obsession with competition? Why do we only feel proud of something if it’s the best? How about if it’s unique, quirky, or simply ours?

But, I have to admit, I’m a sucker too. I am completely convinced Montana is just that, truly the last best place. (Although Wyoming and even Newtown are pretty damn beautiful, too.) Our new life will be split between our work in The Last Best Place and our work in The City. The implication being that a city can’t be the last best place, though it can be the greatest city in the world. And the last best place implies that it’s still unspoiled, though reading between the lines it means we’d better enjoy that while it lasts.

So in a few minutes I’ll check out of my room at the “Best” Western in Wyoming  whose slogan is “Like No Place On Earth,” and drive away while keeping one foot in The Last Best Place, and head to New York where we will be performing our show in the city whose new slogan is, appropriately for us, “The World’s Second Home.”

And yup, I’m already starting to blindly believe, it’s the greatest city on earth.


*(Okay, I changed the name because I don’t want to be an asshole to this cute little town.)




Last week I asked the wrong question in my blog: What is your definition of success? I wondered about happiness and about accomplishment and how the twain shall meet. But my real question was how do we have a basically fulfilling life. And I think the answer is that “meaning” is what leads to a sense of fulfillment and happiness. This is not exactly a news flash, so why do we spend so much of our time in the land of accomplishment, comparing ourselves with the competition, working toward a raise or promotion, and simply trying to just get shit done?

I started reading Martin Seligman’s new book Flourish. So far it answers the question of what leads to “well-being.” Interestingly, happiness is relegated to just one piece of the pie and this he calls Positive Emotion. Ya know: smiling a lot. The others pieces are Flow or Engagement, Relationship Building, Love, Meaning (which is something bigger than the self), Gratitude, and finally Success or Mastery for it’s own sake, which he calls Accomplishment. This is a much clearer picture of what it takes. It’s a nice check list. You can look at it and say, oh that’s why this month sucks: no relationship building. Or, what am I missing? No mastery. Got it.

Last week I was in a bit of a funk and for no apparent reason, it seemed. I was getting all kinds of accolades and juicy bits of success, which were meaningful because I love my work, and I was having terrific lunches with friends (relationship building), and my health was good and I appreciated it (gratitude). What was missing? Ah! No flow! Flow is a big part of my life when I’m writing – it’s about being so caught up in what you’re doing you don’t notice the time fly by. When mid-week I started writing 2 new comedy songs, things turned around.

One of the things Seligman talks about is how much energy many of us put into accomplishment, but it’s often pursued even when it brings no positive emotion, no meaning, and no positive relationships. There is a piece of this that is important and that’s mastery. This looks like winning for the sake of winning. This is a part of well-being, but in our culture of winner-takes-all it can become our main focus, swallowing up all our time without our stopping to notice that it’s not doing much for us in a big-picture-am-I-happy sort of way.

But how do we stop? The addictive nature of achievement is supported by the culture. Yeah, there’s meditation, there’s vacation, there’s really good and surprisingly cheap Chardonnay, and of course sex. And sometimes all together. But the next morning, many of us just pick up where we left off, go to work and spend the day grasping for more “success.”

A check list like this might help. Separating the bits of one’s day, week, year, life with a look at the pieces of the pie is helping me step back and see if I’m giving enough time to each part of the Well-Being cocktail. Like a Long Island iced tea, mixed properly, you won’t wake up each day hung-over, wondering why you’re depressed.

But one other thing I noticed in this plan is that almost all of it involves other people. Gratitude is often about others: Better Relationships and Love are (duh), “Meaning” which is caring about something bigger than yourself can be about saving the planet which is in part about caring for people and our future, and Accomplishment has something to do with what others think of you, or at least offers an opportunity to gloat/share/wonder with others. So I’m taking a look at what each of these on this checklist has to offer my life in connection to other people and to give that some weight and attention.

It’s the people, stupid.

Right now I’m on a plane with my cute kid (Gratitude), on the way to a Memorial Day vacation (Positive Emotion), to see family (Relationship Building, Love), writing this piece and finishing a song (Flow), and tackling my new music software (Mastery), while trying to figure out the formula for well-being and writing this song that satirically criticizes the upcoming federal budget cuts (Meaning).

Check, check check, check, check, check, check. With a flourish.