10 minutes of gratitude

Jim Carrey, the Hawaii false alarm, gratitude, and 7 other things worth your time.

lI hope you had a great weekend. As for me, with the temperature here in New Jersey closing in on 100 degrees, let’s just say that my “buy a bunch of above ground pools” idea from a few months back paid off.


Actor/comedian Jim Carrey has a new memoir out, and he was on The Tonight Show to talk about it.

What pulled me in was Carrey’s description of what he did when he thought he had only 10 minutes to live.

I know that sounds like hyperbole, but I wrote about it at the time. Carrey was in Hawaii on January 13, 2018, when every cell phone in the state was pinged with a warning:

“BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”

Perhaps you remember? They made the announcement via television, too. Here’s what it looked like:

The message turned out to be a false alarm — a massive mistake — but it was in the middle of heightened tensions between the U.S. and North Korea, and people quite seriously thought that they were about to die.

Among them: Carrey, who was apparently hiding out there while writing the very book he’s currently promoting.

The story came up when Jimmy Fallon asked Carrey where the photo on the cover of the book came from, and Carrey revealed it was a photo of him during the false alarm.

Carrey said he called his daughter immediately after hearing the alert, and realized that if it were true, he was likely to die within minutes. I’m just going to let him tell the rest of what happened:

“We had to say goodbye. And I sat on the lanai, and looked out at the ocean. … I started going, OK, what can I do with this last moment of time?

And I just decided to go through a list of gratitudes. Honest to God, I could not stop thinking of wonderful things that have happened to me, and blessings I have had.

So, it was lovely. And I got to a point of grace, with about two minutes to spare when I found out it wasn’t actually happening.

And all I was planning to do was close my eyes and be thankful. Because it’s been a ride.”

Fallon asked him what he did when he found out the alert was a false alarm.

“THEN I GOT PISSED OFF! AND HEADS ROLLED!”

Of course he ends with a joke — this was Jim Carrey on The Tonight Show, after all. But, I suppose we’d all like to think that we would face death with that kind of grace and gratitude.

If something happened to me now, I might pull it off, but I must admit that I know I wouldn’t always have been able to say that.

This is because I had my own version of a false alarm. Basically, I passed out in my house a couple of years ago, and while it turned out to be nothing serious — just a weird combination of stress, asthma, and exhaustion — I didn’t know that at the time.

So, when I went to the ER to get checked out, and I let my imagination run about how bad it might have been, I vividly remember that my reaction was a lot less Jim Carrey and a lot more Dylan Thomas. “Rage at the dying of the light,” if you will.

I remember anger, frustration, and disbelief, like:

“ARE YOU KIDDING ME? It took me 18 years to find my wife, we finally have a family, at long last I figured out more or less how to be a professional writer, and now? Like, THIS MIGHT BE IT?”

It went on and on like that in my head. Of course, I read it now, and I realize it’s all a matter of attitude, not narrative — a litany that could easily be converted from griping to gratitude.

Anyway, I’ve tried this before and didn’t stick with it, but the thing I’d like to take away from all this is to try to spend a few minutes a day focused on thankfulness.

There are only about a kazillion studies out there talking about how good it is for you as a practice.

So here’s to gratitude, and to false alarms. And to getting the idea from a clip on The Tonight Show—as opposed to having something happen that leaves you really thinking that you’re almost out of time.

7 other things worth your time

  • Do I have readers in Portland, Oregon? I’d love to hear your take on what’s happening with the protests there, including the unidentified federal agents reportedly detaining protestors without warrants or probable cause, the 53-year-old U.S. Naval Academy graduate who was assaulted, and the group of suburban moms who apparently formed a wall to protect other protestors. There’s a lot going on. (The Independent, Buzzfeed News)

  • I wrote over the weekend about how Walmart and other retailers are asking customers not to use cash, because there’s a shortage of coins in the United States. Now, here’s the first bank I’ve heard of offering a 5 percent premium on coins to its customers who turn them in for paper money. (Inc.com)

  • The federal government resumed executions over the weekend, with two convicted murderers put to death. A single reporter wrote about witnessing both executions. (Associated Press)

  • A California woman is charged with having pretended to have cancer for six years, and benefited from scams, donations, and a fundraising dinner. She was allegedly outed when she revealed she was pregnant, after claiming she’d had all reproductive organs removed as part of her treatment. (Fresno Bee)

  • The New York Times and The Washington Post each had devastating articles over the weekend, looking back at how the United States has so badly bungled the coronavirus pandemic. The sad takeaway from both: this is just beginning. (NYT $, WashPost $)

  • Rep. John Lewis, last of the living speakers at the March on Washington in 1963, died over the weekend. (The Washington Post)

  • How ‘doomscrolling’ feeds anxiety. (NPR)

    Bonus: If you haven’t seen the president’s interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News on Sunday, you might find this 4-minute summary useful. (YouTube)

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