March 17, 2017

What I've Learned - 2017 Edition

I was almost a St. Patrick's Day baby. Born just a day late on March 18, I've always wished for a March 17th birthday. The same way I've wished to find any sort of Irish ancestry in my lineage. I guess my pale skin and reddish hair have always made me long for some connection to the Emerald Isle.

In honor of the 35th anniversary of my birth, I thought I should share a few things that I've learned. I originally thought of calling it "35 in 35: What I've Learned in 35 Years on Earth." But then I tried to think of 35 actual good things worth sharing and it got super hard after about number seven, so I scrapped that idea.

Trust me, I still have plenty more to soak up and hopefully more years in which to do it. This isn't even for you so much as it is for me, to document and remind myself to be thankful when I look back on it later on.

Here goes nothing....In no particular order.

1) Always get there early. Not awkwardly early which I am wont to do, but just early enough that you have time to spare in case any unforeseen hiccups should present themselves. It shows people you value their time. And you never know who you might get to meet.

2) Along the same lines as number one...value people's time. It's your most priceless resource and wasting people's time is like smacking them in the face with a fish. Rude.

3) Don't get too caught up in long-term plans. It's not bad to plan and have goals, but sometimes this can cause you to miss out on the little moments that make up your life. Instead of trying to work toward something so far in the future that may or may not happen, focus on how you can make people feel in each tiny interaction you have with them. If you do this, it will add up to a pretty great experience. And people will like you. I'm not saying I always do a great job at this, but I have been lucky to encounter people who do and I'm trying to be more like them.

4) Drink more water. Always.

5) Memorize this phrase: "It's not about me." This applies at least 75% of the time, probably more. When someone is rude. When someone cuts you off in traffic. When your spouse is in a bad mood. Usually they are just doing the best they can and you happened to get caught in the cross fire.

6) Give yourself permission not to engage with people who bring you down. You can only do so much and your own joy and peace is too valuable. Don't throw your pearls before swine.

7) Wear the best quality shoes you can afford. Even if they are second-hand. Your feet will thank you.

8) The more stuff you have, the more stuff you have to take care of. This takes a lot of energy. I am far from minimalist, but I am learning that a cluttered house stresses me out and having a bit less is more peaceful.

9) Don't go to McAllister's (or any other busy lunch spot) and have a 48 minute call on speaker phone where you plan your Spring Break vacation menu. This is rude to other patrons who might not want to hear about it. And what do you mean nobody likes Oreos? Who are you?

10) Realize that the little spot cleared out for you in the world is small but important. Wiggle into it and figure out how you can make the most of what you're given, but don't take over or spread out too much to where you crowd somebody else.

11) Live in a way that would make your great-grandparents proud. This includes picking up cigarette butts that people have thrown out along the edge of your driveway.

12) Don't get in such a hurry. Refer to #1. You'll save yourself a lot of stress just by arriving early.

13) Honor the miracle of your body and all its many functions. You'll miss these when they don't work so well anymore.

14) Pay compliments and really mean them.

15) Don't huff and roll your eyes when you end up behind a slow walking person at the grocery store.

16) Live in such a way that it let's other people know it's okay to be [broken, sad, angry, lonely, whatever]. Don't be ashamed if you are in therapy, taking medication, seeking help.

17) Never pay retail prices for jewelry. Visit your local pawn shop. You'll be amazed at what you can get for a fraction of the cost.

18) Plan and take vacations. Your best friend might move to California and you'll mean to visit him for 14 years but if you never actually plan and do it, you will majorly miss out.

19) Practice standing in front of the mirror and trying to really love what you see. Don't just tolerate yourself. Celebrate the fact that you are a miracle.

20) Don't let someone who can't or won't acknowledge your pain cause you to doubt your own experience. If something bad happened to you, you can feel however you want about it. Be true to your deepest hurts. It's the only way they will ever have a chance at healing. Don't expect a drowning person to save you. Some people are drowning so deep in their own stuff, whether anger, guilt, sorrow, ignorance, etc. that they can't save themselves, let alone throw you a lifeline.

21) Recognize the beauty and glory of friendship. Just the word sounds trite because we've boiled it down and slapped it on every piece of craft fair home decor we could find. But the next time you feel like someone really sees you, really understands what you're going through, truly gets you...that incredible connection is something to be held in high regard.

22) Dogs. Or cats. Pets in general. Get some. So you say you're not an animal person. Maybe that's true. Maybe you have other ways of coping with what life throws at you. For me, it's dogs. My husband and I agree that our first year of marriage would have been much less stressful if we'd had a dog. It just brings me so much joy. After my Leon passed away, I didn't think I could ever love another dog again. But thankfully my heart felt ready the following year and now our bench is two dogs deep, with hopefully more on the way.

Always keep learning. Always keep loving. Especially yourself.