I was listening to a speaker on TED talks yesterday. The woman speaking was in her 60’s and was also a writer (Anne Lamott “12 truths I learned from life and writing”). She said she was surprised that she had been contacted to speak at TED. She wasn’t sure what she was going to say…. Listening to her made me think about what I’ve learned over the years.
My Top 15 Things On Life
- Life really is short. I still can’t believe that on my next birthday I will be 50. My son will be starting his senior year of college this Fall. My niece, who will be a high school senior this year, has already started visiting colleges. The late 80’s and early 90’s doesn’t seem that long ago to me……and yet, three decades have come and gone since I started college. Some days it is difficult to wrap my mind around that fact.
- Do something every day that brings you joy. On some days that joy will come from hugging your child, or telling your spouse, “I love you”. Maybe it will be eating a scoop of your favorite ice cream on a hot summer evening or reading a good book. Other days it will be the sweet but simple things. Yesterday evening my husband and I took a short jaunt to Meijer’s after dinner. I got a new shower curtain and new rings for the curtain. That seems crazy, right? To be excited about a new shower curtain. It will be white, and crisp and clean (for all of 5 minutes) but, I’ve been wanting to get that and now I did and it is something to check off my list. Checking things off my to do list brings me simple joy. Not every joy has to be monumental.
- My words should bring life to others. The older I get, the more mindful I am that what I say does matter. Not everything that I think needs to be said. I don’t want to be that person that hurts with words. Words have power, and the one who understands that point is wise with what he/she says. Besides, people hear negativity far too often anyway, and some even begin to believe it. I have the opportunity to be life giving, not life draining. Be someone’s encourager.
- I don’t have to agree with everyone, and neither do you. It is okay to disagree. It is not okay to act like a fool when you disagree. Stand up for what you believe in, but be willing to give that same courtesy to others.
- I can’t please everyone. That might seem obvious to most, but it was an epiphany for me. I do not enjoy conflict and confrontation (does anyone?). I have always tended to be more of a “pleaser”, which isn’t really a great thing. It is okay to say “no” to things. The world isn’t going to end.
- I am a follower of Jesus Christ and everything else I do in this life should reflect that. Being a Christian is not something I detach from because knowing Jesus is a relationship, not just a religion. Christ is as real to me on mundane Monday mornings, and Thursday night’s at the grocery store as He is on Sunday mornings. I believe the God of the universe knows me and loves me. Although on some days I might feel small, I never go unseen by Him. (For more on this, see The Greatest Gift of All at the top of my blog’s home page.)
- It is important to listen. This is a crucial skill, that I wish more people were adept at doing. Instead of always wondering about how I am going to reply to someone, I need to listen first, and truly think about what is being said. So much can be learned if ears are turned on and the mouth is kept shut. I also need to remind myself that listening with the heart and mind is just as important as listening with one’s ears.
- I can do anything for a short amount of time. Life can be, and often is, difficult. There have been many things I have gone through in my almost 50 years, things that I have no desire to ever go through again, but I made it through. Sometimes it is me telling myself, “I can do this thing for 5 more minutes” or “I will get through this by the end of the semester”, or “This is hard, but I need to finish”. Sometimes it is mind over matter. I was widowed at 32, with a 5-year-old son. Those first days of widowhood, I just needed to get through the day. I couldn’t concentrate on anything else besides the fact that I was still breathing, and I had a little boy to take care of. Sometimes the things we go through are so hard. Keep going. It will get better.
- It is okay to cut your losses. There are times and situations in life that one just needs to say, “I gave it a chance and it isn’t working”. I often ask myself, “Is this worth it?”. Is this going to make a difference next week? Next year? Five years from now? If it isn’t really important. Let it go. There is a feeling of liberation that comes from letting stuff go. It can be freeing.
- Death is not dying. As a Christian, I believe the actual literal act of “dying” is very brief (although the leading up to this, can be long and drawn out or short and unexpected). One of my most beloved authors of all time, is C.S. Lewis. He wrote some excellent papers/books on grieving and death, but one of my favorite quotes of his is, “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.” We have a body. Bodies don’t last forever. We were made for more than this world. Ponder that.
- There is almost nothing better than the laughter of a child. Our 14-year-old grandson is visiting this week from Texas. Watching him play with his 11-month-old cousin, and watching the joy on their faces is so much fun. And how can anyone listen to the laughter of a baby and not smile themselves? In my opinion, there is nothing better. If I am having a rough day all I have to do is pick up my baby granddaughter. She effortlessly makes moments happy.
- Time is valuable. It is a precious commodity, that most of us treat in far too cavalier a manner. Once time is wasted, there is no going back. Another favorite author of mine, Ann Voskamp, reminds us that “life isn’t an emergency”. We don’t need to waste our time running around in circles doing mindless things. Instead, take the necessary time to savor the moments. Make a conscious effort to enjoy them. If you do, you will look back over your life and smile.
- Be kind to others. Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” or Luke 6:31, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” It has been my experience that those who come across as the most unlovable and most aggravating, are the ones that need to be shown kindness the most. It doesn’t cost one anything to show kindness. So be kind to others. It matters.
- I am an advocate for those who need a voice. The young. The disabled. The elderly. If I don’t speak up, then who? It is not okay for me to say someone else will do it. That might be the very reason I am here at this time. To be the voice for those who need to be heard. I am in their corner.
- Love your family. Share memories. Laugh a lot. Hug. Enjoy holidays together. Goof around. Get mad. Show forgiveness. Make up. Be there for each other.
***What are some of the things you’ve learned? Share your wisdom. ***