So my self-prescribed one week hiatus from technology turned in to a little over a month.
Allow me to explain why. Upon our return from vacation (which, by the way was fantastic – there are stories and pictures of majestic, free roaming horses, making stoves out of hollowed out tree stumps and being chased by wildly territorial billygoats to come, I promise) I found out that the company I worked for was closing up shop and that I would be losing my job.
Officially unemployed, with my 40th birthday looming, I felt it was time for some introspection.
So I’ve taken the last month to reflect upon where I’ve been, where I am and where I want to be. I’ve been scribbling random notes in a bunch of notebooks and I’ve distilled it all down to 25 at 40. No, Ponce de Leon, I’m not trying to look 25 at 40. I’m sharing 25 things I’ve learned about life in 40 years.
Some or maybe even all of this may be common sense to you or they might be things you already practice in your everyday life. If so, kudos to you! I’m not under the impression that I’m reinventing the wheel or bestowing the secrets of life upon you, but if there is even one small thing from the list that is helpful to you, then I have done a service to at least one soul, and that feels pretty darn good, y’all. In typical fashion, this list is no particular order.
“Wisdom isn’t taught – it’s not a science. Wisdom is a tattoo carved in to the mind after a lifetime of failures and achievements.” ~Jason Bacchetta
1. Love and forgive.
Personally, I’ve had to work through a lot of childhood trauma to finally understand that I am worthy of love. This has been really tricky for me. I spent far too many years in abusive relationships because a) that was my model growing up and b) subconsciously it’s what I felt I deserved. Outwardly one may say they desire real love – but when you are broken inside, your self worth suffers or is non-existent, which can lead to some really bad choices about who you spend your time with. Real love requires that you make yourself completely vulnerable to another person, and to be honest, that scared the living daylights out of me. I wasn’t comfortable exposing myself to someone that way because I didn’t want to be hurt. It was only when I offered forgiveness – to myself and to others that I learned to love myself. I <3 ME.
2. People aren’t disposable, things are.
However, if you happen to be the type that uses and abuses, don’t be surprised when someone else sees what you’ve tossed away, brushes away the dirt and recognizes the brilliance beneath the rubbish. All people have value, whether you recognize it or not.
3. Make your world a smaller place.
Eliminate toxic people who drain your vitality. This can often be difficult and most likely feelings will be hurt. Approaching the situation from a point of love and respect (for yourself and the other person) is all you can do. You have no control over the reactions or behaviors of anyone but yourself. Putting distance between yourself and a friend, coworker or neighbor can be difficult enough, but when it comes to family, it can seem almost impossible. They (whoever they are) say that you can’t choose your family, and while that is true, you do have the right to draw a line in the sand and create some boundaries. I choose to no longer give pieces of myself to abusive and negative people. I can no longer afford the drama…in sales terms, there is no return on investment. To quote a very wise Polish proverb, “not my circus, not my monkeys.”
4. Time is a commodity.
I’ve given far too much of mine to less than ideal situations, and as I stand at the precipice of the second half of my life, it occurs to me that time is one of my most valuable commodities. I choose to no longer waste it. This can mean different things for different people, but for me it comes down to this: I want to surround myself and spend my time with amazing people who bring joy to my life and make me want to be a better me, to continue to learn and to grow. The type of folks who raise you up instead of bringing you down, who believe in you when you don’t believe in yourself.
“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions, small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you too, can become great.” ~Mark Twain
5. Be present and disconnect from technology now and then.
Most of us lead busy, technology filled lives…phones, tablets, computers, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest….the list goes on and on. And while technology is certainly a necessary part of our lives – heck, I’m writing a blog for goodness sakes – it is VITALLY important that we disconnect from technology and reconnect with one another. Take a break from the virtual world and join the real one once again…and make your kids do the same (they will survive, I promise you) and talk to each other. Like, for real and face to face. Turn your phone off. IT WILL NOT KILL YOU. Remember many moons ago, before cell phones, when you called someone and they didn’t answer it meant….gasp!!!! ….that they weren’t home. Or they didn’t answer because they didn’t feel like talking. Just because you have a phone does not mean that you have to answer it every single time it rings or you get a text or Facebook notification. If you call someone and they don’t answer, leave a message. That’s what voicemail is for. Calling back 10 times in a row to try to get the person to answer is flipping insane. Now, if you want to get really, really, crazy……leave the house without your phone. Breathe. It will be ok.
6. Use your senses.
This sort of goes along with disconnecting, but since I kind of went on a rant about cell phones I felt it deserved its own place of honor. Pay attention to everything around you….the belly laugh of a child, birds singing outside your window in the morning, the beauty of a sunrise or sunset or the smell of autumn leaves. God is in the details. Stop and smell the roses every now and then.
7. Be impeccable in your word.
No explanation needed, honestly 😉
8. Be unapologetically you.
Stop making excuses for who you are and honey, let your freak flag fly. You are an amazing, beautiful and perfectly imperfect creature of the universe. Recognize your gifts and talents and know that you are gorgeous and brilliant, just the way you are. It takes courage to not follow the flock. Be brave and be you. Personally, I am actually looking forward to becoming the crazy cat lady in our neighborhood….you’ve gotta have goals, people! Self acceptance is absolutely essential in leading a truly joyful life.
9. Stop being so serious.
Seriously. Laugh, dammit. Life is funny and ridiculous. Laugh until you cry…or cry until you laugh. Either way, it’s good medicine.
10. It’s okay to cry.
Even if you’re a boy. Especially if you’re a boy. Feelings need to be expressed. There shouldn’t be a gender assignment attached to weeping for crying out loud.
“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not a mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition and of unspeakable love.” ~ Washington Irving
11. Don’t judge.
Everyone is fighting their own battle and most likely you know nothing about it. We all have skeletons in our closets whether we want to admit it or not. Hypocrisy is just plain ugly. I mean really, who do you think you are? Try this: the next time you have judgemental thoughts about someone or something, ask yourself why? The truth is, your thoughts and words about other people have more to do with you than them. So ask yourself why. And then stop.
12. Stop complaining.
Try it for a whole day and see how much better you feel. Life happens, roll with it. You have so much to be thankful for …..start talking about your gratitude instead. Stop griping about things that are beyond your control – mostly this will be other people – and if it’s something you have the ability to change, change it. Otherwise you have no right to complain, right? My granny used to say that there was only one person on the face of this planet who can honestly say that no one has it worse than they do, and sugar, you’re not that person.
13. Apologize, and mean it.
If you made a mistake or hurt someone’s feelings, apologize. Genuinely. I hate to tell you this but you will not always be right about everything, and there is no weakness or shame in admitting you were wrong and offering up an apology. Arrogance and ego? Weak, weak, weak. Oh, yeah….it’s not essential to have the last word, either.
14. Be gracious.
Please and thank you are still magic words. Use them. While we’re at it, excuse me, may I and just plain being polite are pretty awesome too.
15. Stop comparing yourself to others.
Physically, financially or otherwise, there will always be someone with more and someone with less. May I share a secret with you? The truth is the only person you are really in competition with is yourself. It’s all in your head. Stop worrying about what the Joneses have and focus on your own life instead. Be happy for others’ success and accomplishments.
16. Be kind, in thoughts, actions and words.
“Make the words you speak today tender, one day you may have to eat them.”
Besides, crow tastes horribly bitter. Ask yourself this:
“If the words you spoke appeared on your skin, would you still be beautiful?”
17. Be grateful.
This life is a gift, and you should have gratitude for everything in it, the good, the bad and the ugly. Even mean people. They suck, yes, but be grateful that they are giving you an example of how you don’t want to be. Be grateful for your decisions, the good ones and the not so good ones, because they have brought you to where you are now. A singular choice made differently would have set you on a different path. Thank your younger, stupid mistake-making you for all of that self inflicted pain. You wouldn’t be who you are without that dummy.
18. Be humble.
I know I quote my Granny a lot, but she was a wise woman. She used to tell me not to “strut around like a banty rooster.” That means cocky. Pun intended.
19. Cook great food.
Stop wasting your money eating out and learn to cook really good food. Why? One, it’s delicious. Two, it’s way cheaper and three? Food is a social binder and there is true joy in seeing the people you love enjoy something you have prepared with your own two hands. Most people I know relate at least some part of their childhood to a favorite dish or meal. “My mom makes the best __________ fill in the blank,” sounds way better than “My mom orders the best happy meals.” Start cooking up some memories.
20. Take naps.
A lot of folks consider naps lazy, which to me is just plain crazy. When your rechargeable batteries run out of juice, do you admonish them for their laziness? Of course not, yelling at inanimate objects is a little wacky. Instead, you just throw them on the charger. The batteries need a nap in order to be refreshed. Rest your body when it needs it. Everyone needs recharged now and then.
21. Give without expectations.
Although not an exhaustive list, time, money, gifts and love come to mind. You are giving to give, not to get something in return. It is, after all called giving, not getting.
22. Reflect backwards, but look forward.
We all make mistakes, but not all of us learn from them. It’s okay to try and to fail. It’s what you do afterwards that really matters. I don’t want to sit on my front porch and regret the things I could have done.
23. Age in grace.
Instead of lamenting the passing of your youth, embrace it! It’s true, I am going grey (I’m currently working on a righteous skunk stripe in the front), I’m not as thin as I once was and father time has bestowed me with some wrinkles and laugh lines. But he has also bestowed upon me the gifts of wisdom, compassion and the feeling of finally being comfortable in my own skin….and I wouldn’t trade any of those things for a pair of size 6 jeans any day.
24. Happiness is a choice, and it comes from within.
“Happiness is a butterfly which, when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp but which, if you were to sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” ~Nathaniel Hawthorne
25. You are strong, and you can do this….whatever “this” may be.
Stop being the victim, that only places the power in another person’s hands. Find your passion and go live it.
“You’ve always had the power my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.” ~Glinda The Good Witch
Peace, love & blessings to all,