December is traditionally my month of reflection – not just because it is the end of the calendar year, but also because it is my birthday month. I use this month to rest and reflect on the past year and explore what I want to focus on in the coming trip around the sun.
As I mentioned in my last post, I was having a difficult time coming up with anything super spectacular about 2018. In many ways it has been a challenging year for me. So I expanded my reach and began to think of what lessons I have learned in my first 50 years.
Here they are:
10. Naps Are Underrated: Not to brag, but napping is my Superpower. I know some of you can’t sleep, and I can not imagine what that is like. It helps that I have a napping partner, but I can nap at any time.
If you are a mom, you likely received the advice to “nap when the baby naps” after the birth of your child – wiser words were never spoken and I would expand them to say – Nap when you can! #VivaLaSiesta
9. It’s ok to fall as long as you get up: My career as a 100-meter hurdler prepared me well for this one. No matter what, get up and finish the race, even if you are bruised, bloody and embarassed. Trust me, I have fallen many, many times (both literally, on the track, and figuratively, in life) and the most important thing is to get up. It’s difficult to do sometimes, but you can’t let the bastards get you – and keep you – down.
8. Feel all your feels: I attribute this lesson to my mindfulness/meditation practice. Essentially, the idea is that if you stuff what you are feeling, and don’t let it out, it festers and ultimately poisons you. OK, that’s a pretty dramatic and graphic analogy, but I think it is true. Bring that dark, scary thing you hide from yourself and everyone else and look at it in the bright light of day. (Perhaps with a professional there to help you.)
It has been my experience that if I can coax it (whatever “it” is) out, prod it, poke it, and let it breathe it can be dealt with much more easily. Once I know what it is I can decide to keep it or let it go. Sometimes it even teaches me something about myself in the process.
7. Write thank you notes This one is so important. I know it’s a lost art, but it is one of the best things you can do – not just for another person, but for yourself as well. There is a certain magic that happens when you pick up a pen or pencil and write the tale of your gratitude for someone. It is good for your soul. And theirs. (And no, sorry, a text or email is not the same thing.)
6. It’s not always about you. In fact, 99% of the time it’s about them. Learning how to not take things personally is a key lesson in life.
When I taught elementary school kids this one was lesson I tried to teach my students – if nothing more to introduce the concept that they are not the center of the universe and not everything bad that happens is about them.
As adults this is a tough one to grasp too – it is so easy to assume that the person who cut in front of you in traffic was doing it to you. That the person who said that stupid thing was doing it purposefully to hurt you – when in reality they said that stupid thing because they are to scared to do/say/wear what you did/said/wore and it’s their fear they are voicing. Which leads me to #5…
5. If it’s not your circus, they ain’t your monkeys.
This one is a tough one, but you must learn to let others live their own lives – even if you don’t “agree” with – or understand – what they are doing. Let them be the ring leader of their own three ring circus.
Practice this mantra, “If you like it, I love it.”
Really…because who are you to say what someone else should do or how they “ought to” live. I’ve grapples with this one with family who make choices I struggle to accept…but they aren’t my monkeys, so as long as they are happy and safe in thier choices, then all I need to do is love them. #blesstheirhearts
4. Silence is as important as sleep. I know, easy for me to say. I once slept in an outdoor stadium seat during a Metallica concert (yes, I was sober.) But I learned about the incredibly restorative power of silence while on retreat.
I have gone on several silent writing retreats and each time I do I think, “Oh, I can not wait to catch up on my sleep. I will sleep for hours and hours…” However, what ends up filling my cup more than hours of shut eye is the silence. No music, no television, no constant chattering. The only noise is the sea below (where I go is perched on a mountainside above the Pacific) and the birds above. It is divine.
Inevitably I find I rise earlier each day, refreshed, energized, and clear minded.
May I suggest you listen for the silence in your day? The silent space between words or phone calls or the pinging of a text?
Try it – see if paying attention to the smallest of silent spaces makes a difference for you.
3. Money isn’t everything: This is a tough one that I hesitate to even write about – mostly because I feel like since I don’t come from – or have – money, anything I say may seem like justification for my situation. However, I really believe this to be true.
What is the most important, the most essential to a life well lived, the thing we will reach for at the end, that will comfort us when we need it most is – connection to others. For most of us, this is our framily. Friends that are family and family that are friends.
When we are sick, or sad, or crying with tears of joy or pain, this is what we rely upon. When we are dying, stripped of all the accoutrements of a lifetime of material accumulation, what matters is the ones who are there to wipe your brow…and your ass (for real, I’ve been there, on both ends #nopunintended).
The ones who hold your hand, stroke your forehead, and whisper in your ear that it is all going to be ok.
That is not money. That is not a big house, an expensive car, a fine watch, or the biggest diamonds. That is not expensive vacations, or Kobe steak, or wine that was bottled in France decades ago. That is love, respect, shared experience, devotion, and profound connection….that is priceless, and not for sale.
2. Anything is possible: This goes for the good and the bad.
Nothing surprises me anymore. People are capable of miraculous feats of good and horrific examples of bad. The neighbor you chat with every day could be involved in unimaginably horrific things.
And on the other hand – amazing things can happen to you or for you in any given moment.
Learn to be open to the possibility of anything at any given time.
1.Learn to listen to your gut – and trust it! This.
So. Much. This.
Honestly, if you can learn to tune in to your intuition, your gut, your inner voice, whatever you want to call it – and then pay attention to what it tells you, then you are onto something big. And super helpful!
As I look back on my first 50 years I think of the mistakes I’ve made, the less than stellar choices, and can see so clearly how I didn’t listen to my gut. For a variety of reasons I didn’t heed my intuition (I wanted to be wanted, I thought it was the “right” or “smart” choice, I figured I could “make it work” or it was “worth the trouble”) and ended up having to extracate myself later. Sometimes I was able to do so gracefully, other times less so.
So if there is one thing I can say (and this is not my original idea, it’s been around for a while) it is this: if it is not an enthusiastic yes!, then it’s a no.
I’m working on this one in year 51, that is for sure! If I don’t get all the positive feels from someone I am thinking of working with, then I ain’t doing it – no matter how much they “want” me or are going to pay me. Seriously, it’s not worth it.
And my gut knows before my head or heart do.
So there you are, a little gift to you from little ol’ me….take it or leave it and do what you will with it!
With love and a (hopefully) little bit of wisdom,