A friend of mine who recently celebrated her birthday did a blog post of 38 things she’s learned in 38 years. I’m sure I must have learned at least 61 things, so I’m going to give a whirl as concisely as possible, so as not to be TOO wordy (there’s a big difference between 38 and 61!!!) But just in case, you might want to snuggle in with a cup of coffee! Now, please remember, these are MY lessons, and in no way do I expect you to embrace them. Or, as Mr. Tattered would say, your mileage may vary.
1. Old age is not for sissies (my new mantra – you’ve heard it here before, you’ll hear it again!)
2. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Of, course, most of it is small stuff. So I try not to sweat. Unless I’m exercising, then it is advisable or I’m wasting my time.
3. Speaking of wasting time, I try not to waste my time being mad at my spouse. I get mad if I need to, but get over it fast. If I don’t, I’m burning daylight, or moonlight. We don’t get enough of either even in the longest of lifetimes to waste it being angry.
4. We survived our parents, our kids will survive us. We take too much credit for them turning out good, and too much blame when they don’t. I did the best I could, and when I knew better, I did better. Most of it is up to them anyway. You know, you can lead a horse to water…Each of these critters are different, and they don’t come with instructions.
5. Keep at least a tiny part of your life for yourself. It’s important to be a good spouse, and a good worker, and a good parent, but you need to keep a space to be a good you.
6. Don’t depend on anyone but yourself for your happiness. If you do, they can take it away from you. Learn to recognize what makes you happy, and do it as often as possible.
7. We don’t raise children, we raise adults (Courtesy of Dr. Phil) so you’d best teach them what they need to know to excel out there in the world. But remember, you can provide the info, the roadmap – they have to choose to live it. Once they reach adulthood, it’s on them if they choose not to do what you taught them.
8. Habits are hard to break. Try to form good ones from the beginning.
9. Never stop learning. New technology, new words, new games…it all aids in keeping your brain working properly.
10. Stay active. The more time you spend on your backside, the more you’ll want to be there. Given enough time sitting, you’ll never leave your recliner.
11. Don’t live in a bubble. There are lots of wonderful ideas out there. If you surround yourself only with people who see the world exactly as you do, you’ll never hear them.
12. Eat to live. DON’T live to eat. Unless you are one of those disgusting people who can eat whatever they want without gaining an ounce, it is imperative that you have a healthy relationship with food. The older you get, the harder it is to get the weight off, let alone keep it off.
13. Try not to judge others. You never know if the crabby cashier at the bank is just crabby, or she just found a lump in her breast, has no insurance and is both pissed and scared to death.
14. The greatest happiness is found in being of service to others. Make it a priority in your life and it will be hard to be miserable.
15. Be on the lookout for the “broken windows” in your life. There is a theory that when broken windows are tolerated in a neighborhood, the neighborhood will go downhill. The same is true with our own lives. Tolerating unmade beds, messy closets, and dirty toilets, pave the way for the whole house, even your whole life to be a wreck.
16. Be in the present as much as possible. If you live in the past, you invite depression. If you live in the future, you’re courting anxiety. Joy is found in appreciating the present moment.
17. Spanking your children, even yelling at them, is an admission they’ve gotten the best of you. All children have currency. Figure out what it is, and use it to your advantage. Anger and violence do not promote the growth of healthy people. I wish I had known this when my kids were young. My biggest regret is that I spanked them.
18. Balance is hard to find in every day. When passion takes you in a direction, go for it. You can balance it out tomorrow, or next week, or even next month.
19. Don’t compare yourself to others. If you find yourself better, you’ll become vain. If you find yourself lacking, you’ll be depressed. Just be the best you you can be.
20. Marriage works better if you go into it with eyes wide open, then spend the rest of your life with them half closed.
21. Time flies whether you’re having fun or not, so have fun. Lots of it. Turn anything you don’t like to do into a game, or share the load – do whatever you need to do to make it fun.
22. Being smart is not a bad thing.
23. Learn to accept that what is, is. There are some things that just cannot be changed. So if you can’t change it, and you can’t accept it, change how you THINK about it.
24. Attitude is the only thing in this world we have complete control over. You can’t always control what happens to you, but you CAN control how you react to it.
25. Surround yourself with beauty as often as possible, even if it is only a single flower now and then, or a picture in a discarded magazine.
26. A few really good friends is better than scads of close acquaintances. Friends will be with you for life. Close acquaintances will ditch you when the going gets tough.
27. It’s just as easy to believe in a Heavenly Being that created the world and everything in it as it is to believe this is all just some random happenstance. However, the consequences for believing one way or the other are vastly different.
28. The older I get, the more I feel like me. We spend too much time when we are younger, worrying about what other people think. Aging provides us with the cover to be ourselves. I think we should do it sooner. Another Dr. Phil-ism – You’d care less about what people think about you, if you knew how infrequently they do. Just be yourself. Unless yourself wants to run through the streets naked. That’s probably not a good idea. Fun, maybe, but it could scar people. Forever.
29. We have an obligation to all of humanity to protect the planet. We cannot continue to abuse it and expect it to recover from our exploitation.
30. Nice matters.
31. I’ve tried with all my might to embrace the thought that “stuff” doesn’t matter. But I like my stuff. Someday I might not. But right now I do. So although there is something to be said about living an uncluttered life, it’s not my cup of tea. Or coffee.
32. Happy kids are more important than a spotless house. I like the saying “my house is clean enough to be healthy, but messy enough to be happy.” You can have a spotless house when they’re gone. If you want one. Or if you can afford a maid.
33. There are only so many hours in a day. You really have to prioritize. Getting the mortgage payment in the mailbox before the mailman comes is more important than playing with the kids. If you don’t, you may not have a house to play in. Making the bed every single day – not so much.
34. Having pancakes for dinner every now and then won’t kill anyone, and it may be one of your kid’s favorite memories when they grow up.
35. Often times you can be right or you can be happy. Happy is better, ALMOST always.
36. Marriage is hard. When I was young I thought when you got to a certain point, you could relax and assume you’d be together forever. It’s not true. It is something you have to work at every day. Forever. But the rewards of being able to share a lifetime of memories is worth every drop of the blood, sweat and tears.
37. You can forgive almost ANYTHING if you work at it and want to badly enough. I say almost because I haven’t had to live through every bad thing there is to live through, but I’ve lived through a lot, and forgiven a lot, so I know it is doable.
38. Grandchildren are way more fun than your own kids. Trust me on this. By the time grandkids come along you’ve made most of the big mistakes and learned from them. You are more patient, have a better feel for what battles are worth fighting and which aren’t, and a greater ability to nurture who they are, rather than who you want them to be. I highly recommend it. But then we don’t get to choose if we get some or not. If you don’t, “adopt” someone elses kids. The older you get, the more you appreciate seeing the world through a child’s eyes.
39. The world won’t end if you stay in your pajamas all day once in awhile.
40. Homegrown veggies taste so much better than store bought, it’s like they are a totally different thing. Find a way to have at least a tiny garden if you can!
41. If you don’t have a servant’s heart, try to develop one. Seriously. Waiting on others is far more rewarding than being waited on. Although it is nice once in awhile.
42. Nothing tastes as good as being thin feels. I’ve heard this is true, but, really, it’s been so long since I was thin, I’ve almost forgotten how it feels. Don’t let yourself get fat and you won’t have to find out. One of my biggest regrets is that I let the pounds pile up. If you are young and overweight, get it off now. It only gets harder the longer you wait. You truly need to love yourself in spite of your weight, and being judged for it really sucks, but it isn’t about how you look, I promise you. Our bodies were designed to carry a certain poundage – exceed that and you WILL have skeletal issues at some point, and they aren’t fun.
43. Try to live your life with as few regrets as possible. No matter how hard you try, you will have some, but the fewer the better.
44. It takes a village. Really. Most of us are not designed to live a solitary life. We are pack animals. This world throws a lot of crap at you, and it is easier to bear if you have someone or someones to help you through it. We NEED to pool our resources. I know socialism is a dirty word, but I like the idea of safety nets and doing what’s best for the whole. Anything else seems selfish to me.
45. There is nothing wrong with improving yourself. But at some point, you really need to slow down and enjoy the you you are. Or at least take a break from the constant attempts at bettering yourself. I haven’t figured out yet when enough is enough, but I’m hoping it’s soon. There’s a contradiction in there somewhere, but it just gets to be too much sometimes, never being satisfied that you’re “good enough.”
46. Be kind to yourself. This is an on-going lesson for me. I am my own worst critic and much harder on myself than I would EVER be on anyone else, and I need to extend the same grace to myself that I extend to others.
47. Speaking of grace. It is the most amazing thing. Thank God we don’t always get what we deserve. There is a saying that children need love most when they deserve it least, and I think it is true of all of us. I don’t think we can love too much, or forgive too much. I believe in redemption. I believe in the God of second chances (and third and fourth and fifth…) and I’m trying very hard to give the grace I hope to receive. I think I’m good at it most of the time.
48. You need to learn when to let go. You can’t make people like you, you can’t make them stay if they want to leave. I am coming to accept that not everyone you love will be there forever. They may have come into your life to teach you a lesson, or for you to teach them one. If people WANT to be in your life, they will find a way to be there. They will forgive you for whatever the rotten thing was that you did. If they don’t, you have to let go. You can’t keep beating yourself up. Well, you can I guess. But it’s not good. I’m still working on this one, too.
49. We have a lot to learn from dogs. Really. That is a whole post in itself. But I love the prayer “please help me to be the person my dog thinks I am.” Unconditional love. Important stuff.
50. Naps are highly underrated.
51. Too much of a good thing can be wonderful. Once in awhile. You wouldn’t want to live like that all the time.
52. Money is not the the root of all evil. LACK of it is. Or maybe the love of it is. Having money may not make you happy, but it can sure smooth off the rough edges of life. I’ve lived without enough, and with enough, and I can tell you, enough is better. Maybe knowing when you have ENOUGH is the key. Live frugally and save for the future. It is really worth it. Unless you die young, I guess. Then you could be pretty pissed. But then, I choose to believe that when I’m gone, I’ll be off to a better life, so who cares that I didn’t buy that red Ferrari?
53. If you lived every day like it’s your last, you’d never get anything done. But you need to love everyone like it is. Never miss an opportunity to let the people you love know how much. I don’t remember my mom ever telling me she loved me until I was well into my 30s. I remember it to this day. We were on the phone. And when we got off, I cried. Not for joy, but for how much I had missed having her say those words to me for all those years. How sad is that? My children and grandchildren will NEVER remember the day I first told them I love them. It is as much a part of their daily lives as the air they breathe. As it should be.
54. “If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough.” ” Shoot for the moon, if you miss, you’ll land amongst the stars.” “If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll never get anything different than what you have.” “If you don’t ask, the answer will always be no.” All good sayings, and all true. Identify what you really, really want out of life and go for it, regardless of whether you think you can do it, or have it, or accomplish it, or deserve it. If you don’t try, it is a sure thing you won’t. If you do, you might. You may not get your dream, no matter how hard you try. But if you don’t a new one will take its place. Maybe even a better one.
55. If you didn’t get the family you wanted, make your own. It isn’t blood that makes a family, it’s love.
56. It’s never too late to have a happy childhood. Skip rope, swim naked, ride a bike, play jacks, lay in the grass and find animals in the clouds, pick flowers, dream about what you want to be when you grow up – parent yourself if you need to.
57. The greatest gift you can give your children is to love their other parent. Think about this one. Seriously.
58. Know where your happy place is and go there often, even if it is only in your mind.
59. You can only make a mistake once. The second time it is a choice. Yowza!
60. Worrying about something you have no control over is a total waste of time and effort. If you can control it, do what you need to do. If you can’t, let it go. It’ll be okay in the end. If it isn’t okay, it isn’t the end yet. (I stole that from someone, but I don’t remember who.)
61. I’ve done life without God, and I’ve done it with Him. For me, it’s better with.
I’m sure there are many, many more, but those are off the top of my head, and in no particular order of importance. Random, kinda like me. Hope some of them resonated with you, or at least made you think. I am so far from being a perfect person, and no matter how hard I try, I will never be one. I am a work in progress. God will keep working on me until He takes me home, and THEN He will restore me to perfection.
Care to share a life lesson YOU’VE learned?