Hello Dear Reader!
For the last twenty years, I’ve sat down and written a post every year on, or around, my birthday, detailing those things that I’ve learned (with exception to my 41st birthday, but when your best friend passes away one week before your birthday, you give yourself a pass on certain things). These lists have often been an excellent way to reflect on my life, as well as mile markers in seeing how much I’ve changed over the years. The year I was forty, after multiple requests from readers, I finally compiled the more striking of each into a collection that was released later that year. The book was entitled “Practical Life Advice… or some $#!+ like that”, the subtitle being inspired by the fact that I have no real idea what they hell I’m doing. More often than not, I’m in various moments in my life thinking “I have no idea how to handle this…” and I end up winging it, going from the gut, and then in the aftermath, I’m looking at it thinking “Well, that blew up beautifully”.
The difference is that me at age twenty-two, me at age thirty-two, me at age forty-two, my reactions to those blowups, those less than stellar results in life, have less of an emotional slam on me. I’ve learned to stop putting so much pressure on myself. To take that which is painful and doesn’t go very well as a lesson. And when I fuck it up, which I and every other human on this planet is going to do, I let it go.
If I’ve learned anything, most especially in these last three years of my life, snug in the mid-life section of what will hopefully be a long life, is that if we were perfect, there would really be no purpose of living. What’s the point if we’re not learning, growing, evolving, moving forward and becoming better versions of ourselves? I bear a scar on my chin, proof of this very fact. Age seven, a neighborhood kid left a toy on our front lawn. My Dad asked me to take it down to their house and leave it in their yard. Almost to their property, having recently spent time with my older cousins, all boys who could do some awesome tricks on their bikes, I decided to attempt my first trick, hooking a U-Turn on my bike while throwing the toy into the neighbor’s yard. This resulted in me falling and busting open my chin, which led to my first experience with stitches.
I learned to throw before turning the handles of my bike after the painful experience of a needle being shoved directly into my split skin.
So we fuck up. We learn. We grow. Then we fuck up again, maybe in the same way (doh!) or maybe in a new way. Either way, we’re human. And that’s damn beautiful.
So here they are: forty-three things I’ve learned in forty-three years of living. Take them as advice. Or leave them. Your practice, not mine, as we say on the mat.
1.) People will tell you who they are, either with words, actions, or both. Listen to them. Honor what they’re telling you.
2.) Unconditional love is one of the most beautiful gifts you can receive.
3.) Don’t be afraid to say no.
4.) Don’t be afraid to say yes.
5.) Contrary to popular belief, men and women can be friends, without there being anything more in there. Some of my greatest friendships have been with men I’ve had zero romantic interest in, nor they in me. And I am beyond grateful for those friendships.
6.) Re-evaluate often. Work, hobbies, relationships, faith, food. Look at what you’re doing, what you’re consuming, who you’re spending time with. Like our breath, release what’s no longer beneficial, no longer serving you, and don’t remain with something or someone if it’s simply habit.
7.) Anything worth having in this life won’t be easy. Anything worth having in this life is worth the hard work it takes not only to achieve it, but keep it in your life.
8.) If you truly want it, nothing will keep you from it.
9.) Stop letting fear keep you from living your life.
10.) Find what brings you joy. Embrace it, don’t apologize for it, don’t explain it. Just DO IT.
11.) The right people for you are the ones who accept you as you are.
12.) Related: if a person asks you to give up your passion, they’re not your person.
13.) Time doesn’t heal all wounds. In fact, there are some hurts that are impossible to recover from. But love can make them tolerable, and can ease the hurt.
14.) You are not the things you have survived.
15.) If something or someone is taking more from you than you’re receiving, it’s time to walk away.
16.) I’m not horribly invested in if adults like me or not. But when a child or animal doesn’t like me, I start doubting my self-worth.
17.) It might not make sense to you. It might not work for you. It might not be something you’d ever be interested in. But don’t negate the joy and contentment it might bring to another person.
18.) “Fat bitch” and “Skinny bitch” hurt equally as bad to hear.
19.) It’s never a mistake to love.
20.) Celebrate the small things in life. Sometimes those little things are all you got to get through everything life throws at you.
21.) You can have as many procedures done as you’d like. It won’t change your birth year.
22.) Allow yourself your imperfections.
23.) I no longer apologize for not wanting to talk on the phone.
24.) Step outside your comfort zone as often as you can.
25.) It’s okay to cry.
26.) Never underestimate the power of a hug.
27.) Which is greater: the fear of saying I love you, or the regret of not having said it before it was too late?
28.) What are you allowing fear to keep you from?
29.) Don’t let your past impact your future.
30.) What are you not hearing?
31.) I love hearing people’s stories. Finding out what brought them to any one thing that brings them joy, watching their face as they tell their story is beautiful.
32.) The amount of make-up I have on at any given moment is directly related to the amount of time I had before leaving the house.
33.) Raising my children has retaught me the joy of discovery.
34.) I’m never going to say no to chocolate cake, really good conversation, and hugs. Bring ’em on, most especially at the same time.
35.) Blessed be the individuals in my life who never question the leaps of faith I take and only offer me support.
36.) Grief is never a straight line. It’s gonna come out of nowhere and bitch slap you when you do and don’t expect it.
37.) Learn to ask the why of someone’s wants, needs, and reactions.
38.) When I say, “I love you more”, I’m not competing with you. I’m simply letting you know that I love you more than time, distance, disagreements we might have. I love you more than all the crap that comes with letting someone into your life and heart.
39.) The most beautiful moments of my life can’t be found on my Instagram or Facebook pages.
40.) If I actually spend time with you, remember this: you’re up against my insane schedule and my need for “me” time. That right there should tell you all you need to know about how I feel about you.
41.) Compliment frequently.
42.) Smile, dammit!
43.) All I’m gonna be when I grow up is content. And contentment does not equate with happy. Contentment does equate with the knowledge and the acceptance and the faith that happy gives way to sad, easy to hard, beautiful to ugly; and then back again.
Much love Dear Reader. Keep swingin’.