Today is my birthday! Normally, I wouldn’t bother to mention it here since that seems narcissistic, but as I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching and reviewing of the past lately, I thought I’d share some lessons I’ve learned during my 30+ years on this planet. Some are bitter, some sweet. And most changed my life forever.
1. Destiny does exist. As I look back on my life, I can see a clear, shining thread moving through my years starting from college. So many of my decisions were made based, at least in part, on some divine inspiration. And paths I didn’t think would lead anywhere (but that I walked because of this divine inspiration), more often than not led to the biggest changes and opportunities of my life.
2. You are what you eat. Seriously, this one is huge. This lesson has only come recently – since I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and since I realized I may have undiagnosed celiac disease. But the food we eat effects every process in our body and can have unforeseen consequences. Even if you are not dieting/trying to watch your calories, it is a good idea to keep a food journal to assess whether you are having toxic reactions to food.
3. Your body is not in stasis. Related to #2. I never used to have food allergies. When I was an adolescent I never even had seasonal allergies. But you body changes over the years. Sometimes, you wake up one day and it seems like a stranger’s body.
4. Just because you love someone is no guarantee they will love you back. I use the word “love” here in a universal way, not merely romantic or filial. I’ve learned this lesson from friends, would-be romantic partners, and even immediate family members. Love is not always a two-way street. Sometimes you walk it alone. But when you get to the end of that street, turn the corner and don’t ever go back that way again.
5. And related to the above, true reciprocity is rare. Just because we do nice, considerate things for others does not mean they will do similar things for us. In fact, it’s unlikely they will. So, make sure you are being a good person for your own reasons and not to get something. It will only end in bitterness and disappointment.
6. Unexpected avenues are sometimes our destined paths. In 2005 I took a job at a county library for a job I was NOT experienced enough to even apply for. Afterwards, I often looked around and wondered what the hell I was doing there. But, that job led me to meeting my husband. Without it, he and I would have drifted right past each other.
7. Good sleep improves your outlook almost every time. That whole “never go to sleep angry” argument is pretty bunk. If you’re tired and stressed, continuing an argument is sure to lead somewhere ugly. Often it’s best to step back and get some rest so you can think more clearly and come back to the conflict from an attitude of calmness and rationality.
8. A good meal cures all ills. Recently, the term “hangry” has become popular. But it is a real thing. And it is terrible. Then you eat and you feel 100% better. Sometimes, all we need is to take a chill-pill and eat a decent meal.
9. We don’t always do what is best for us – even when we KNOW exactly what is best for us. I can’t tell you how many times I have eaten something I’ve known for a fact would make me sick. Or didn’t exercise when I knew it would make me feel better to do so. Or written when I knew not doing so would leave me emotionally cramped and irritable. I think humans are kind of lazy and self-destructive. We do things we know are wrong for us and ignore/avoid behaviors that will strengthen us. WHY?!
10. Dogs are true stress relievers. Even though my dogs frustrate me sometimes, all it takes is one of them snuggling up to me and giving me a lick on the chin to get me to smile.
11. Small and simple are almost always better than big and lavish. This lesson was brought home to me when I got married. Mr. A and I had a tiny, tiny ceremony in my aunt and uncle’s garden. My mom and I prepared all the food while my aunt and uncle worked tirelessly to clean up leaves and make their garden (already a wonder of Indiana) as gorgeous as possible. We spent less than $1,000 on the whole she-bang, including my dress, and it was magical.
12. Dreams do come true, as long as you are willing to work your ass off to make them reality. Destiny, like imagination, only takes you up to a certain point. In the end only hard work and dedication gets you across the finish line.
13. There are all kinds of addictions in the world, and no one is safe from them all. I’m not a gambler, alcoholic, druggie, porn/sex addict, or adrenaline junkie. But something I’ve learn in life is there are millions of demons haunting the world disguised as addictions. They take on slightly different forms but they all come down to one thing: our insecurities, our fears. Those are the gateways that allow addictions to take hold. And they’re the glue that make them so hard to discard.
14. Be very careful when choosing people to trust with your hopes. Human belief is an amazing thing. We can trust so easily, placing our expectations for the future in questionable hands. What I’ve learned is you have to look out for own dreams and hopes. No one will advocate for you better than you.
15. Poetry saves lives. I suffered from depression a lot as a teenager and through young adulthood. Writing poetry – as bad as it was – was like a valve that kept me from exploding and doing something terrible. I know it’s helped a lot of people in the same situation and could help more if poetry was more mainstream.
16. Adulting is hard. The napping concept alone means being a kid is WAAAY better than being an adult. Then you add in bills, romantic relationships, voting, work, and the cleaning the house. But hardest of all is behaving like an adult in the face of others immaturity. And, God, the naps! What were thinking when we said we didn’t want to take a nap as kids?
17. Lists are great! I think making lists is a type of coping/relaxation method for me. There is something supremely satisfying about making a list, be it a reading list, grocery list, to-do list, goal list etc. Making this list here is like getting a massage for me.
18. Parents don’t always love their children. Another lesson learned from my wedding. My dad disowned me two weeks before my wedding and in the wake of that final abandonment, I realized that he likely never loved me, not really. It was a startling thing to learn, but one that has allowed me to leave him behind, where he belongs.
19. Someone out there has it WAY worse than you. In college I spent 3 months in Indonesia. One day while I was riding the bus to go to school, I saw a man in his 50s or 60s walking down the street wearing noting but a torn pair of cotton briefs. Other days I passed whole families sitting on the sidewalk begging, including toddlers. So, yeah, that put a lot of things in perspective for me.
20. And you should never say #17 (or any of its variations) to someone who is going through a bad time. Nothing makes a bad situation worse than to tell someone they have no right to be upset. If a person close to you is going through a bad time, even if it doesn’t seem bad to YOU, listen to them and let them know you care.
21. Empathy and sympathy are not the same thing. I think this is best explained through the video below.
22. Physical letters mean much more than emails. I absolutely LOVE, LOVE, LOVE getting personal mail in my mail box. It is an amazing high. It is made more amazing when it’s unexpected and brings with it someone else’s love and caring. Let’s save the US Postal Service: write and mail a letter today!
23. You never stop learning. Even if you’ve left school far behind, if you keep yourself open and receptive, you can learn something new and life-changing every day.
24. Bitterness is it’s own addiction. There is a peculiar pleasure/pain that comes with bitterness and self-pity. It’s like when you were young and had a loose tooth. It hurt, yes, but there was a weird pleasure to it as well that compelled you to keep poking at it with your tongue. Bitterness is like that loose tooth. We know it hurts and needs to come out, but we’re strangely reluctant. We become fascinated by our own pain, fixated on our masochistic need to keep it throbbing in our gums.
25. A sense of humor is THE most important trait to possess or look for in others. When all else is faded away – money, looks, intelligence eroded by age, strength, skill, and talent – all that’s left is your ability to laugh at the fact that you are wearing diapers and have just shat yourself. Even better if you have a buddy or lover who has also shat in their diaper and joins you for a hearty guffaw at what old farts (pun intended) you both are.
26. Macs are better than PCs. This is a charged subject and tends to get people up in arms. But, in my opinion, it’s true. Mac trumps PC. No need to install and update anti-virus software, more intuitive, faster, longer-lasting, and has better creation tools (Garage Band, iMovie etc.).
27. Religion is a human construct that often kills authentic spirituality. I’ve learned this only recently through a variety of experiences. I’m not advising anyone to leave their place or worship or become agnostic or give up on their god. Quite the opposite. Learn the truth about your own individual spirituality and then let THAT, rather that dogma, lead you in terms of worship, conscience, and behavior towards others.
28. No one will listen to you better than your own journal. I think we would have a lot less anger in the world if everyone kept a personal journal. Just vent on those blank pages all the crap you usually vent on others. I think you’ll see a big difference in how you feel and react towards others.
29. A life’s passion will keep you sane. You don’t have to make money at something to love it. Find a passion that frees your mind and soul and you’ll always carry an inner light that keeps you safe and sane in the darkness.
30. Just because someone professes to believe/fight for what you believe/fight for doesn’t mean they have your (or anyone’s) best interests at heart. The forefathers of the United States knew their stuff. One of the basic tenets of the Constitution is that our government is to always be questioned. John Adams said, “Because power corrupts, society’s demands for moral authority and character increase as the importance of the position increases.” But this necessity reaches far beyond government and politicians. We should question ANYONE who stands up to lead us. Not in an annoying, heckling way but to ensure that the people who would guide our struggles for change and our innovations are genuine and do not stray from the original goal – whatever that might be. Too many “leaders” use our hopes and dreams and fears against us in their quest for power.
31. Taking care of yourself doesn’t mean you’re self-centered or selfish. In fact, it is probably the most unselfish thing you can do. To ensure your own strength and well-being allows you to look after those most in need of caretaking (children, the elderly, the sick and injured, and those in grief).
32. A hug can be the greatest gift you receive. A hug given from a genuine wish to comfort is probably the most healing touch ever. There is nothing sexual, demanding, or selfish in a hug. It is a moment of simple communion between two people.
33. Un-biased education is the key to world peace and the end of poverty. Many might see this as idealistic and unrealistic. It isn’t. A basic education, unhindered by political and religious bias, opens the world and is the first step towards teaching people to better themselves and their situation. The natural extension of that is to better the world and people around us.
34. Just because something is celebrated, doesn’t make it worth celebrating. Learn the difference between popular and quality. They are rarely the same thing.
35. We all have poetry inside us. And, no matter who tries to stop us, no matter what difficulties we face, we have a duty to share it worth the world .