Friday, December 30, 2016

Advice from My 60-Something Self to My 20-Something Self


The Clock is Ticking

There comes a time in life that you must admit to being greater than middle-aged. You recognize you have spent more years on this Earth than are left. You know it is time to start cleaning out the closets and holding garage sales so that your children are not left with a 3,000-square foot house full of stuff to dispose of after you die.

As I reflect on the advent of a New Year, I am thinking of those things today.

This is Not a Post on How to Organize Your Closets

Many magazines feature articles on how to organize the rooms in your house. Entire bookstore shelves are devoted to self-help books on removing clutter, avoiding hording, and simplifying your life.

This post is not about those things. I will not be telling you what to donate, dedicate, or dispose of.

This post is about what others might call regrets. I prefer to call them “life thoughts”.

God has allowed me to spend six decades on this planet. It wasn’t an easy journey, and considering how I started, I think He must have a master plan for me. My parents were in their 40s when they married—both had been married before, had children, and divorced. God led them to the same time and place—they met, they fell in love, and the rest is history—and me.

Honestly, my mother did not at first recognize that she was expecting a baby. She thought that menopause had begun. And, with her oldest and youngest surviving children being 26 and 16 years of age, that is an easy assumption to be made. However, at the age of 44, my mom became a new mother once again. And there was not much time to make plans for this new arrival—labor began at week 28. The standard is 40 weeks, and 28 weeks at a bit shy of that, isn’t it, especially if the first 12 or more weeks were assumed to be merely a hormonal shift?

And in the early 1950s a baby delivered so early and so small (under 3 pounds) had very little chance of survival. If that baby did survive, it would doubtless have physical and neurological challenges—deafness, cerebral palsy, developmental disabilities. But, I beat the odds; all senses and body parts are pretty much operational.

So, what did God want me to do with this life that He gave to me? I have gone to college, had a successful career, married, created a lovely home and garden, and raised two beautiful human beings. I have no regrets.

But, if I had a chance to live my life over again, I believe that there are a few more things I would or should add to my inventory of accomplishments—things that when I was in my 20's were relegated to the list of “not important," "doesn’t matter," or "I’ll wait till I’m older”:

Traveling

Of the fifty states that make up this vast nation, I have visited only 15. What a dismally small number is that. And of foreign countries, there are even fewer—Canada, England, France, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, and Slovenia. That’s it.

I can honestly say that every place I have traveled has had something unique and beautiful and magnificent to offer. To my twenty-something self I would say travel more—as the years pass the cost of travel will only increase. Travel not just to “see”, but to “do”. When you visit places other than home turf you meet new people, gain new perspectives, you discover, and you grow.




Reading

Read every day. Cookbooks don’t count. Tabloids don’t count.

Read outside of your comfort zone, explore beyond what you already know. Read to gain a better understanding of places (science, exploration, travel), time (history), and people (biographies). The library is a treasure chest. Stored within the Dewey decimal system is a universe of information just waiting for you to open the cover and turn the first page.

Read to learn. Read to grow.


Relationships

Human beings are so simple and yet so complicated.
As infants we operate in a world that is pretty much black and white.

No, I’m not referring to color-blindness. The life of an infant is pretty simple and there are only two variables, just an on- and off-switch.


I’m hungry, I’m fed
I’m wet, I’m dry
I’m sleepy, I’m rested
I'm bored, I'm happy.
Such is the existence of an infant.

But as children age, learn a language, and begin to interact with those around them, they eventually discover that they can manipulate their world.

Seemingly overnight the beautiful happy baby becomes a terrible-two toddler--totally irrational, completely self-centered, and absolutely convinced of their own omnipotence.

And eventually, they discover that they can even say something that might not be completely, honestly true, and they will be believed! …and then they become adults.
So, who do you trust? There is an often-quoted saying:
Fool me once, shame on you; 
fool me twice, shame on me
********************

My Thoughts on Relationships

  • Trust everyone—the first time. Trust people until they give you a reason not to.
  • Not everyone will like you. That’s OK. You must also give yourself permission to not like everyone you encounter. However, that does not give you a free pass to be rude. Treat others as you would want to be treated.
  • The people that you befriend are the best and worst thing that will happen to you. Some will lift you up. Others will pull you down to their level.
  • Most of the people that you meet are average. Some are excellent. A few will change your life forever.
  • You don’t need a lot of friends or people around you. You need amazing people who do for you as you do for them.
  • You can feel totally alone in a room full of people. Comfort and security is not measured in numbers but in value. You don’t need 500 Facebook friends. One or two or three really special people will make the difference in your world view, in your perspective, in your life. Treasure them. Quality trumps quantity.
 ********************

Time

Respect the value of time. Value your time on this earth. Don’t
  • waste time on people who you don’t trust.
  • waste time with lovers who cheat on you.
  • waste time with friends who don’t treat you the way you treat them.
  • be late.
And please, value other people’s time
  • Arriving late, whether for work, a meeting, a date with friends, a family gathering, or a church service means that you don’t care.
  • Unless there was major “stuff” on the freeway that could not have been predicted, you had a flat tire, or the cat or dog deposited something nasty on your carpet just as you were leaving your house, by arriving late you are announcing that you are more important than anyone else.
  • A late arrival means that it’s all about “you.”


Failing

I have failed in so many ways—at work, in being a friend, at being a wife, mother, sister, aunt, and daughter. Why? Because I am not perfect, and I am not perfect because I am human. But failing isn’t bad. Failing is falling down, knowing that you made a mistake, and getting back up on your feet and trying again.

On the other hand, there is failure. Failure is refusing to acknowledge wrong. Failure is to not learn from mistakes. Failure is falling down and not even trying to get up again.
When you fail, look back at what went wrong and strive to make it better next time.

Perspective

Just as Rome was not built in a day, so your life learning is not completed when you are twenty, or thirty, or even ninety. Never stop thinking, planning, striving, growing, being more today than you were the day before.

Be patient. Plan in decades. Think in years. Live in days.





6 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Oh Lu, if only I knew then what I know now. Would I have done anything differently? Perhaps, but perhaps not. I'd like to think that the bumps and bruises acquired in like have made me the person I am today.

      I wish you a Happy New Year to come.

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  2. I thought I read and commented on this. Oh well....yes, the clock is ticking. Very quickly, it seems. Sigh! Happy New Year, my friend.

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    Replies
    1. Bill, Happy New Year to you and Bev as well. I'm over the hill and with the downward descent on the other side I feel I'm picking up speed.

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  3. I love your advice, Linda. Your first bullet point regarding relationships is exactly the way I go into any new relationship, whether possible new friend, coworker or lover. I always trust until that person breaks it.

    My sister has a cool philosophy: don't expect anything of anyone. That way you'll be surprised (in a good way) more often than not.

    Happy New Year, Linda! I'm late in visiting, but I think this is one of those exceptions to the (late) rule.

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  4. Shauna - Never late. I'm glad you stopped by today. I feel that I still have a bit of catching up to do myself. Hoping you have a wonderful New Year.

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