To 18 Year Old Me

While at the grocery store today, I passed a newspaper displayed with an article in which graduating high school seniors were asked about where they thought they'd be at age 30.  At first, that made me laugh...  When I was 18, 30 DID seem like an awfully long ways away.  Practically dead, you know.  But now that I'm on the other side of it, well I'm not dead yet, anyway.

But it got me thinking of the things I'd want to say to my younger self, if I could.

1.  Your bucket list will change.  What you want today may seem silly 10 years down the road.   Change with it.

2.  Kindness matters.  Don't miss an opportunity to exhibit it, even if it's inconvenient.  Even if you think you'll look like an idiot.  Kindness matters.

3.  Humor at someone else's expense provides a satisfaction that lasts about 10 seconds.  It is never worth the months of guilt that follow.

4.  Who you spend your time with influences the person you are, so choose your friends wisely.  If there is a quality you'd like to develop in yourself, find someone who exhibits it well, befriend them, and hope to God they haven't already learned this lesson.

5.  Missteps are just that.  One does not equal your failure.

6.  What you think matters today will probably not matter so much tomorrow, so relax just a little.  Tomorrow will take care of itself.

7.  Apologize.  Yes, I know it sucks.  Yes, I know it's embarrassing.  Yes, I know it involves admitting that you were wrong.  Do it anyway.

8.  Ask for help.  Accept help.  At the end of your life, you do not get a bigger trophy if you've done it all by yourself.

9.  Think first.  Act second.  Oh, darling, if you could learn this one, how many less scrapes would you find yourself in?

10.  You should have three types of friends.  A.  Someone who mentors you.  B.  Peers.  C.  Someone you're mentoring.  All three are crucially important.  If you're missing one, you're doing it wrong.

11.  You cannot change anyone.  That is their call and their call alone.  If you cannot accept them for who they are right now, accept that and let them go.

12.  You also can't please everyone.  It can't be done with honesty.  Look around...  worry about your relationship with those you are in close relationship with.  The rest...  let it go.

13.  Change. Grow. Create character.  But do it for the right reasons.  Don't let bitter unhappy people change who you are.

14.  Enjoy it.  Stop and take in your surroundings once in a while.  This isn't a race.

I don't have this all figured out...  somehow I thought that, at 30, I would.  That when I was really an adult, everything would fall into place, make sense, and life would be somehow easier.  It's not.  But maybe that's just life...  What would we do if we had it all figured out?  and maybe sometime soon, my 55 year old self will call up with a little advice to get me through the next 20 years...

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1. Your bucket list will change. What you want today may seem silly 10 years down the road.   Change with it. 

I like lists.  I like to make lists.  I like to brainstorm lists.  I like to organize lists.  Lists make me happy. (I'm sure there is some psychological anomaly mixed up in that, but I don't care enough at the moment to figure out what it is.)

Yes, I've made bucket lists...  that list of everything you want to do and accomplish in your life.  Like checking off each experience somehow brings you closer to having lived the life you wanted to live.  I'm not sure it quite does, and maybe provides an illusion of accomplishment.  But, I've still made them...

But, by necessity, they change.  We grow, we change, we mature.  Our life circumstances turn upside down from what we thought they'd be. The things I wanted to do at 20 years old are definitely not the same things I want to accomplish now.  Indeed, there are many things on that 20yo's list that I never finished.  Some of those could still find a place on a current list.  But, for many of them, I just laugh and think "Oh darling, why did you ever want to that, you silly child?"

It occurs to me that I really haven't thought about my bucket list in a long while.  Most of my 20s were spent surviving young parenthood.  Accomplishing anything lofty was not on the list.  Making it to tomorrow filled most of it.  I'm not in young parenthood anymore.  The stress of having three toddlers has been replaced by the stress of having 3 pre-teen girls... but it's a different stress.  More mental, less physical.  Maybe I'm just older because I feel far more equipped to deal with this than I did with young parenthood.  Well, maybe that's not right.  The beginning of puberty tells me that it's a long road ahead...  but at the same time, I am doing more than just making it to tomorrow.

I'm embracing things that I haven't for a long time....  parenthood, marriage, friendship, reading, writing, music, history, beauty, growth, travel. Maybe it's time to think about what I want to do and be in this stage of my life... and go after it.

Besides, I'll have an excuse to make a list. :)

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2.  Kindness matters.  Don't miss an opportunity to exhibit it, even if it's inconvenient.  Even if you think you'll look like an idiot.  Kindness matters.

Kindness is not about being nice.  They seem the same, but they are not.  There's a line from the Sondheim musical, "Into the Woods," where the Witch is trying to get the rest of the group to do something, and I always think of it when this topic runs through my head.

"You're so nice.  You're not good.  You're not bad.  You're just nice."

It's not a complimentary thing, this nice.  Even allowing for it coming out of a witch's mouth, we know that.  And we know she's right.  Nice makes us polite.  Nice means we play by the rules and we say the things we should to the faces of those involved.  But being nice does not make us good... or kind.  For this, we must dig far deeper than nice ever will.

Nice is easy.  Nice maintains appearances.  But KIND requires us to give something of ourselves.  It asks us to go beyond nice.  It asks us to sometimes step out of our comfort zones.  It asks us to be the one to give when no one else is doing it.  That sounds simple, but it isn't.  Ever been in a group where they're all talking down about someone?  It's awfully easy to play along, isn't it?  Even if we don't agree... it's "nice" to not argue because then there is no conflict.  There is no risk. There is no boatrocking.

But Kind says something.  Kind speaks up for the one being talked about.  Kind leaves the group and goes to speak good words into the ear of the Shunned one... even when doing so makes you the next Shunned one.

Being nice means little.  Anyone can be nice.  But being kind... Go on and ask the one who's been kind to.  Kindness matters so much.

Don't fall into the trap of settling for nice.  Have the courage to be Kind.

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3.  Humor at someone else's expense provides a satisfaction that lasts about 10 seconds.  It is never worth the months of guilt that follow.


4.  Who you spend your time with influences the person you are, so choose your friends wisely.  If there is a quality you'd like to develop in yourself, find someone who exhibits it well, befriend them, and hope to God they haven't already learned this lesson.

A lifetime love of reading has left me with a vocabulary that likes to be used.  A small talent for writing and a sense of humor has always combined to result in an ability to use that vocabulary to come quickly with cracks and jokes.  Not a bad thing, inherently.  I've always enjoyed being able to bring a smile or a laugh through something I've said or written.  And there is inherent good in this...  being able to use my own talents to make someone's hour a little brighter.  But, there is a flipside of the coin, too.

I'm impatient.  And I'm really impatient with stupid... or even just with whatever thing is bugging me.  I can take deep breaths and determinedly resolve to ignore it for awhile.  But there often comes a time when I snap.  I  don't think through what is about to come out of my mouth, and I quip.  I do so knowing my audience.  Knowing that there are people there who feel the same way I do, and that what is about to come out of me WILL be met with laughter.  But it's laced with sarcasm, and it draws its humor from poking not-well-meant-fun at whoever is being stupid, whoever is bugging the crap out of me.  THIS is not inherently good.

I will be honest...  when I do it, there is a momentary relief.  Hours or days or weeks or months of not saying what I really think... and there is a feeling of release.  Of not holding it in anymore.  On top of that, there is the satisfaction of the laugh.  There is a community camaraderie amongst people who feel the same way, even if the same way is just plain mean.  And there is a satisfaction, and perhaps too a smugness, in finally giving voice to what a group of people think.

But it doesn't last.  Because this kind of humor always draws its humor from criticizing a person.  From putting them down, from calling attention to where they lack.  And it always results in hurt to them.  When the satisfaction fades (and it always does), the only thing that is left behind is their pain and the guilty knowledge that I am responsible for it.  At that point, there is nothing really that I can do to fix it.  I can apologize.  I can try to change how I relate too them.  But it changes nothing about what I've done.  It changes nothing about their hurt.  And it changes nothing about my responsibility and culpability in that.

And this is why I've combined #3 and #4 together...  for me, they are linked.  I have learned that I often allow myself to be influenced by those around me in not-positive ways.

When I was in middle school, I was good friends with this one girl for a long time.  Smart, very involved, clever, we were friends for a long time and she really pushed me to excel in school (in a good way).  But, she was not nice to her mom or sister.  Ever.  I would often spend the night or the weekend at her house, and when I came home, that tendency would follow me home.  I would spend the next few days being generally nasty to my sisters and mom, until I sort of got it out of my system and would revert back to normal.  Though I think my mom saw it for what it was very early on, it took me a really long time to understand the connection and to see how the friendship affected my other relationships.

This has followed me into adulthood, as well.  People who tend to exhibit a lot of snark are bad people for me to be in relationship with.  Please let me be clear... they are not bad PEOPLE.  My actions are my own choices, not theirs.  And what I do after spending time with them is NOT their fault. But I understand my natural tendencies better now, and see that when I am around people who are naturally snarky, I am encouraged to be the same way.  It gives me encouragement and confidence to exhibit it.  At the time, I will think it's funny...  but it's in retrospect that I realize that truly being snarky isn't funny.  It's mean, and that isn't who I want to be.

On the other side of the coin, seeking out relationships with people who are good and kind encourage me to be more like them...  I need and want that.  I have a dear sweet friend who I have loved for years and years.  We met online when my children were yet very young... and I am blessed to still have Stacey in my life today.  She has always personified kindness to me.  Maybe she works at it harder than it seems, but she's always exhibited a natural grace and kindness to those around her that I have envied.  I look at her and think "I want to be more like that."  And the more I am around her, the more I see things through a lens of understanding and compassion.  She is my friend because she's funny and sweet and... well, because we love each other.  But, she is also my teacher and someone I look to for how I can be a kinder person.

I find myself looking for people like Stacey now.  Understanding the kind of person I want to be, and the kind of people that help to bring me closer to that person.  People who bring out the best in me, and not the opposite.  If you are one of those people (and if you're reading this, the chances are good that you are), thank you for taking me on.  Thank you for being my friend.  Thank you for teaching me.

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5. Missteps are just that. One does not equal your failure.

Oh, I like this one.

I've often been an "all or nothing" kind of girl.  When I decide to do something, I typically throw myself into it full-force.  And oh boy, I better do it right. I've had the tendency to feel that if I mess up some part of it, then the whole thing is ruined and I may as well just throw in the towel, admit total defeat, and try my hand at something completely different.

What a silly way to see things, really.

It's taken me a long time to understand that a misstep, a mistake... they don't equal the end.  They don't mean I've ruined the whole thing.  They really do just mean a mistake.  You can fix mistakes.  You can learn from missteps.  And you can keep going.

In fact, I think I might argue sometimes that mistakes are crucial.  Sometimes the mistakes slow the end product's arrival a bit... but in the long-run, when we learn from our missteps and apply what we've learned to that end product, it makes the end result so much better than it ever could have been if we'd gone along perfectly on an unbumpy road.

I recently said to someone, "Falling off the wagon doesn't mean you have to set it on fire and go home.  You can jump back on it!"  I think it took me a long time to learn this... but I'm glad that I finally have (in general).  It's still hard for me to accept my own failures sometimes, but I'm getting better at seeing those failures as bumps in the road, as opportunities to learn from my mistakes, as a bridge to a second chance.

Failure comes when you give up.  Not when you mess up.

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6.  What you think matters today will probably not matter so much tomorrow, so relax just a little.  Tomorrow will take care of itself.

Ah, if only someone had come back in time and told me this for real!

When you're going through something hard, doesn't it feel very encompassing?  Living in the present, that fight you're going through, that obstacle you're climbing, that relationship you're trying to save.  It all feels SO important, as if your very life and happiness depends on whether you can climb THIS hill.  It's upsetting, it takes all your concentration.  It's hard!  You fall down and have to start over.  You slip backwards.  You climb and climb and climb, and it feels like you aren't making any progress at all. And it is SO FRUSTRATING.

It is here that I have found it helpful to turn around and look back, to turn around and look at all the little hills I've climbed in my life's road in the past.  Each of them seemed just like this.  Insurmountable, impossible to conquer.  They absorbed every ounce of my energy, my thoughts, my emotions.  But, they were conquered.  Not only that, as I look back, maybe sometimes I realize that, in the grand scheme of my life, they really weren't that big of a deal.  Things that I allowed to take #1 importance, things that I got so worked up about...  with time and distance and perspective, they become so much less important.

When Joel and I were engaged, we were planning our move to Southern California.  We got married at home in Eugene, but after our honeymoon, we were driving down to California where we attended college... moving into our first apartment.  We needed a refrigerator.  We were pitifully poor college students, so we were going to find one Used.  Now, for some reason, I got it into my head that we needed to buy a refrigerator BEFORE WE MOVED.  I don't know why this seemed important, and please don't ask me. I was firmly in the midst of CRAZY BRIDE BRAIN. Joel was appropriately baffled by my insistence, and was just as insistent that I was talking crazy and we were not going to be getting one until we arrived in California (because that actually makes sense... but in my defense, he was not a crazy bride.... ok, that's not really much of a defense).  In the end, he won out, and we moved, and quickly found a refrigerator, and all normality was restored.  Sometimes I look back at that time, and just laugh at myself.  What on earth was I thinking and why was it so important?

The thing is, I can apply that to more serious situations too...  that break-up at 15.  That girl who made me crazy and gets ready to be raptured every September.  Lots of things...  some long ago, some more recent.  I can look back now and laugh at the things I let myself get so absorbed by...  things that I've grown past and away from, things I can see with perspective now.

And it helps.  Knowing that, five years from now, I will look back and laugh at the things I'm climbing over now...  it helps to keep them from being all-encompassing.  It helps to be able to see these things as bumps in the road, and not mountains I can't climb.

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7. Apologize. Yes, I know it sucks. Yes, I know it's embarrassing. Yes, I know it involves admitting that you were wrong. Do it anyway.

I really wish that I could say I have been better about this. I really wish I could.

I can't. But I wish I could.

If there is anything I regret in my life, it is probably that I didn't apologize more often. And actually, not so much to the people around me. I've usually understood that, in relationships I want to maintain, apologies are necessary. They smooth the wrinkles that exist within the friendships I want to keep, and they're necessary. For those, I think that I've usually been able to bite the bullet and make the apologies when they're needed and warranted. You make the sacrifices for the friendships.

But the ones I regret are the ones I didn't make to people that I didn't necessarily want to keep being in relationship with. People I'd hurt, but with whom I didn't really need to make apologies to smooth out the relationship either because there was never a relationship to begin with to smooth out or because they weren't relationships that seemed worth bothering over.

I always found those apologies harder... with friends, you know you're probably going to be forgiven. But with others? You don't really, do you? With others, it's a lot more crow. It's a lot more risk. It's harder to admit to those that you were wrong. Forgiveness is a lot less likely to come from those directions... and so apologizing is harder. And I truly do wish that I could sit here and say to you that I've learned that it's necessary to apologize because I've done it so much and everything is now all unicorns and fairies.

I can't.

I CAN tell you that I've learned how it eats at my soul to not do it... I CAN tell you that I believe it's important, even when I haven't always done it. I CAN tell you that I believe it isn't right to hurt others, and that when you do, I believe it isn't right to not-apologize for the wrongs you've done. And I CAN tell you that I wish I had followed my conscience more. I wish that I had taken the risks more. I wish I had done more to right the wrongs.

And I hope that I'm better at it in the years to come.

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8.  Ask for help.  Accept help.  At the end of your life, you do not get a bigger trophy if you've done it all by yourself.

I have a hard time with this.  A really hard time.

I'm first in the birth order amongst my sisters, and I'm sure that placement has something to do with my need to assert my own independence.  But, I think part of that is bred, too.  When I was 8 or 9, my parents split up.  My little sisters would have been about 5 and 2, at the time. Several months of "what the heck am I going to do now?" ensued, and then my mom decided to go back to college to get her teaching degree, so that she could support us.  You ever try to go to college at 35, with three kids, and no income?  Not so easy.

There were times, especially at the end of terms, when my mom had papers to write or final exams to study for, and I would shepherd my sisters into the back bedroom and do my best to entertain them so Mom had some quiet time (or, I suppose, as quiet as it can get with three kids in the house) to get that work done.  On top of that, we had weekends with my dad.  I had it in my head that Dad was completely incapable of caring for three small children, and thus I appointed myself Mom #2 when we were gone from home.  I'm not sure this belief was entirely unfounded.  Sometime I'll tell you about the time my dad left Amanda at the park.  All in all, though, 9 years old was perhaps too young to grow up and be a mom.

These were also the lean years... motherhood and full-time student status doesn't exactly roll in the cash.  Money was tight... and I learned that if there were things I wanted to do, I was going to have to save up the money myself.  And that's not because my parents were stingy or anything... the money just didn't exist.  So, shopping, camps, etc... that's what babysitting money was for.

So between one thing or another, I just learned to be independent.  I had to be responsible... people were counting on me.  I had to go to college and I had to do well for scholarships.  I had to be an example for my sisters. Somewhere along the way, I equated independence and responsibility with... being perfect?  Somewhere along the way, my inner motto became "I can do it myself." NOT doing it by myself became my standard of failure.  No one put that on me... I did it to myself.

But it's a hard trap from which to break myself free.  Asking for help means admitting that I can't do it by myself.  And for me, that feels like failure.  It isn't failure, and I really do know that in my head.  I do.  But in my heart, I feel like I haven't measured up.

This has habitually been a problem in my marriage.  I run into problems.  Joel wants to fix them because he's a man and that's what men do for their wives.  His insistence that he needs to help runs right up against my stubborn "I CAN DO IT MYSELF I CAN DO IT MYSELF I CAN DO IT MYSELF" and oh, it's just not pretty.  I'm better at it now after almost 15 years...  but stepping back and letting him fix it is still something that's very hard for me to do.

This is a truth that I wish I could have told myself 20 years ago... before it become ingrained in my soul as the standard of success and failure.  I'm not really so sure I would have listened to myself, but if I had, I could have saved myself a lot of frustration and tears if I'd just been willing to say "I can't do this by myself.  Will you help me?"

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9. Think first. Act second. Oh, darling, if you could learn this one, how many less scrapes would you find yourself in?


"Think first; act second." "Look before you leap." "Sleep on it first."  All amazingly wise sayings.

All advice that I ignore on a routine basis.  Sometimes, folks, it's do what I say here, not what I do.

Really, really, I wish that I was better at thinking my actions out before I do them. But, the truth is that I'm obscenely bad at it. So often, an action will occur to me, whether by nature or external suggestion.  Before my mind can think it through to its logical conclusion and panic-strickenly object "Umm, Jo? Put on the brakes, kid," I've already gone ahead and done it. Usually, it's at this point that my mind catches up with the rest of me, and I'm left to look back at what I've just done and go "Oh. Crap." There are some things you just can't get back.

Every once in a while, I get it right. The desire to do something pops up, I jump to do it, and then I think "Wait." And I do!  Just a short while later, the impulse fades, and I'm so so glad that I listened. It makes me want to shout, "Yes! I did it!"-- But not out of pride, understand.

Have you ever taught a child to ride a bike? They keep failing and falling. Finally, they do it. They yell, 'I'm doing, it, Mom! I'm doing it!!" It's not pride the exclamation comes from, it's pure shock and amazement that it actually worked!

I feel the same way. I'm so utterly bad at this so very much of the time that when I actually do accomplish it, I'm so shocked and amazed that I made it work, I nearly run into the proverbial tree in my excitement.

But, I'm always left with the same knowledge-- that if I thought before I acted more often, I would get into so fewer scrapes. My relationships would surely go just a little less bumpy if I took a little more care with my impulses.

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10. You should have three types of friends. 1. Someone who mentors you. 2. Peers. 3. Someone you're mentoring. All three are crucially important. If you're missing one, you're doing it wrong.


Many years ago, Joel and I were leaders in our church's high school youth group.  One year, I remember we taught a bible study called Project 365, where we led the kids through the Bible over the course of a year.  As went through the Old Testament, we learned about Moses and Joshua and the unique mentoring relationship they developed as Moses prepared to pass the baton of leadership.


We talked this over for awhile, and how that was beneficial to both of them.  We developed a philosophy that it was important to be both Moses and Joshua...  That it was important to have someone wiser than you in your life, someone who could teach you, shepherd you, lovingly correct you.  But, we also came to believe that it was important to also be someone's Moses... to share what you've learned with someone who needs it.


"Who's your Joshua?" quickly became our study's catch-phrase as a reminder of the relationships to look for.


Even though I was the leader, that was a lesson that always stuck with me after that... even now, nearly 15 years later, the phrase pops into my head and makes me smile.  But, it also makes me examine my own relationships.  It reminds me to make sure I have people in my life who will lovingly guide and teach me, and also to make sure that I am pouring into someone else's life as well.


Who's YOUR Joshua?  And whose Joshua are you?


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11. You cannot change anyone. That is their call and their call alone. If you cannot accept them for who they are right now, accept that and let them go.

It feels like it goes against conventional wisdom. It flies in the face of what we're so often exhorted to do. Forgive anything of anyone. Support no matter what. Turn the other cheek. Never give up because what if...  what if it's your support that ends up being that which they need? What if it's your steadfastness that gives them the strength to become what they needed to become?  What if, what if, what if? What if you held on just one more time, buried the past just one more time, mended the pain just one more time, gave up your self-respect just one more time?

But, what if you didn't? What if, this time, you had the strength to let go? Not crush them, just let go. It isn't the conventional wisdom of holding on at all costs. But, I've come to understand that there is a wisdom to letting go, too. Sometimes it's more humane than clinging to something that will never heal.

Sometimes it's that you've inflicted far too much pain on each other to ever find your way back to healing and love. Sometimes truth comes out, and you just don't like who lives underneath the mask. Sometimes you both change, neither one in bad ways, but in ways that are simply different... and you lose the commonality that held you together before.

Letting go feels like quitting, like losing. We don't like to quit and we don't like to lose. Letting go feels weak, but I think we're wrong in that. I don't like to let go, but on the occasions, and there have been a few, where I have made the choice to do so, it has taken far more strength and courage than hanging on would ever have demanded.

But still, we have the compulsion to fight, to stay. I don't think that's a bad thing at all. But sometimes, it does more harm than it does good.

I have a hard time judging which is right when I'm in the midst of it. I get too close to the problem at hand, and my ability to see with wise eyes diminishes. It's here that I find wise counsel to be invaluable. People who are far enough back to see the big picture, but who love me enough to be honest-- even if it's honesty I don't really want to hear. I've come to appreciate and trust the wisdom of those in my life, learned to listen to it.

"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood." Sometimes you just take different roads. You can push and pull and scream to get them to go down yours with you. But every once in a while, you find it's wiser for you both to just say Goodbye and Good Luck, and to explore the road on your own.

Sometimes life and love and friendship don't work out. Sometimes you let go so you can be whole without regret. And there is wisdom in that.

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12. You also can't please everyone. It can't be done with honesty. Look around... worry about your relationship with those you are in close relationship with. The rest... let it go.

Until getting involved with CT, I didn't really realize how deep was my desire to be liked... by everyone.  And so, this is a lesson I've had to learn and relearn, a little bit more each time.  It's been a little like carving a figure out of a large piece of wood.  You start by hacking away at it... and then your shavings become a little more refined.  A piece here, a thin slice there...  With each pass at it, you get a little closer to finding the image that lies inside the wood.  Does that analogy work?  Perhaps not.

Initially, I wanted to make everyone happy.... cast, creatives, fans.  I laugh now to look back and think of the fervor with which I threw myself into attempting such. But, no one is on the same side as anyone else, and you can't make everyone happy.  There is an inevitable backlash, and it caught me by surprise.  I remember confiding in someone about it, and they told me I had to learn to let those things roll off my back... that I would drown in it if I didn't. Let's just say I wasn't very good at that. But, it was the first pass at learning the lesson, and that's okay.

I took several more passes at the lesson over the ensuing three years...  each time, I learned a little bit more about understanding that I couldn't please everyone, and more importantly, that not everyone needed to be pleased.  I learned to identify friends, and to focus my energies and emotions on those relationships instead of trying to make everyone happy.

I will never forget something my husband once said to me.  I was worked up about something that now seems silly...  but I was trying to explain the situation, and the backstories, and why I was upset over it.  I so clearly remember him shaking his head at me and saying, "I guess I just don't understand.  Why would you let people who are clearly bitter and unhappy change who you are?" That has stuck with me ever since. It was the comment that helped the most to wash away everything that was unimportant, and has helped me to focus energies on things that are.  Because, truly.... why would I do that??

I know I've talked a lot about this in relation to the CT fan community, as indeed I've learned some really important lessons from being involved there.  Sometimes, I've thought to myself, "If I could just go back and NOT hit the 'up' arrow, I could have saved myself so much hurt..."  But, I don't think I'd do it.  I've learned REALLY good lessons that I may not have learned otherwise, and I don't think I'd give that up.  But the great thing about the lessons is that you may learn them in one place, but you can apply them in other places, too.  This is one of those.

I'm actually delighted to find that this topic was the next one on the list.  I was just thinking yesterday about the people who are my friends.  I was laughing with Stacey and feeling blessed and delighted in our friendship. I was chatting with Diana and Lisa, and feeling grateful and full of love. I was at Weight Watchers this morning, and sharing in comfortable camaraderie with the friends I've made there.

It is these friendships, plus a few others too, that I've come to realize are important to me.  It is these relationships that I want to devote energy to, that I want to see grow and mature and come alive.  But the rest?  The rest I can let go. The rest I can let roll off my back.  I couldn't do that before.  But, I can now.

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13. Change. Grow. Create character. But do it for the right reasons. Don't let bitter unhappy people change who you are.

I told you that remark from Joel made an impact on me.

I am a fan of character growth. I am a fan of striving to be a better you.  I am a fan of identifying where you lack and working to fill in the gaps in those areas.  I think these are good things.

But, as I look backwards at the things I have sometimes worked to change in myself, I realize that some of those things I've tried to change have not always been bad things. I haven't changed them even because I thought they needed to be changed...  but because there were others that did.  They weren't even always people I cared about that much.  But, I just felt that changing was what I needed to do to make them happy.

The more I explain this, the more idiotic it seems.  Why on earth would I do that?

Change is good.  Growth of character is good.  But, go after it because it's something you earnestly believe needs to be changed in the way you conduct yourself.  Don't chase change just because someone else would like you better if you did.  If that's their basis for being able to love you, then they don't love you really, and they aren't worth your efforts.

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14. Enjoy it. Stop and take in your surroundings once in a while. This isn't a race.

And we're finally to the last one of this series... Next time I take it into my head to expound on every single point in a post, please remind me to do it with one with less points!  :)

I spent the better part of my 20s waiting for the next phase.  I was a young mom with three daughters, with just 17 months between the whole lot.  Every phase was in stereo.  Add to that premature and developmental issues, and I was just... tired.  And so I waited for them to get out of colic.  And then I waited for them to get out of diapers. And I waited for them to get out of the terrible twos. And I waited for them to get out of the "we can't talk yet and this is really frustrating" phase.  I spent so much of that time waiting for things to get easier that I never stopped to enjoy the things that WERE.

I look back now and think of maybe how much I missed because I was just hanging on until things were easier.  Maybe that was a survival thing... coupled with depression, there were some time periods in there that were REALLY rough, and for some of those, hanging on was the best I could do.

But, there was so much motherhood had to offer, and sometimes I feel like I missed some of that, trying to be the perfect mom... when I probably could have been a much better mom, and a much happier mom, if I'd just strove for "a pretty good mom" and enjoyed the ride a little more.

So much of the American life is rushed.... "the rat race"... it's about getting to the end first.  With the most prizes and conquests.  We forget to stop and enjoy the life we're given in our rush to have the best life there is.

Surely we're missing something there...

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