Last Year’s Wisdom

*What follows is a birthday post from 2020 that I shared on my Facebook page but never posted here. I didn’t realize it until I began working on a piece for this year, so here you go. Forgive me for my disorganization. Often I think too much and then sometimes hardly at all.

55. Double nickels. When I was younger, birthdays were dressing up, collecting the people that made you laugh, and heading out to celebrate. Now, for whatever reason, they’re cause for reflection. Rumination begins about 6 months out and I jot down little bits of things I think about, so that I don’t forget them. It’s a habit that began in my 20’s. I routinely find parts of poems, paragraphs, or just words, scribbled on pieces of papers and stuck in books, old purses, or coat pockets. The end result is my birthday list that you can peruse or just quickly scroll past. The beauty of life is that you always have a choice. This year we have an eclectic collection of random thoughts.

1. Always, always open a bag of sugar over the sink.

2. One of my greatest regrets. When my kids were young, they were very involved in athletics. Our weekends became consumed with tournaments and competitions; the weekdays with practices. On the few weekends we were in town, I didn’t want to get up and get dressed. I just wanted to relax and enjoy them. I prioritized athletics over faith. Don’t do that. Life is hard. From the teen years until the end, we have times when we ride the wave and others when we swim for our lives. During those times when we’re struggling, a church family gives you a feeling of love and acceptance. Faith can help you take the next step on the days you don’t know how. It teaches you how to let go of things you can’t control. Strength of faith is a tremendous gift to give your children. Prioritize it.

3.  You can’t have it all. I took several Econ classes. None of them were as interesting as Malcolm Gladwell’s books, and I understood very little that the nice Asian man said, but I did manage to retain one concept: Opportunity Cost. When you choose one thing, you forgo the potential gain from another thing. Imagine potential outcomes of the choices you make. Don’t just wing it.

4. Marry whomever you like, but be extraordinarily careful about who you have children with. I think I’ve told you that before, but it bears repeating.

5. When my children would be bothered about something someone said about them, I would say, “Why do you care what they think?” That’s a stupid thing to say. Of course, they care what people think. None of us want to be misjudged or misunderstood. The right response is, “I’m sorry, honey. I know that hurts and hurts badly. Let’s have a good cry about it, go for a walk, and then let it go. This will pass, you are loved, and the only thing you can control is yourself.”

6. There is no way to divorce and it not affect your children. No amount of money can fix it, no amount of love fills the void. Children of intact marriages have a sense of security that children of divorce never have. They will, at some point, struggle. Be ready for that. I was so naive.

7. Instead of relegating exercise to practice, learn to exercise for mental health and stress relief. Teach that to your kids when they’re very young. Add meditation to it. As little as 5 minutes a day can make a miraculous difference. There’s a free app called Headspace. Try it.

8. Long-term happiness is mostly determined by how we process the world we find ourselves in. Only about 10% is generated by our external environment. That’s why some of the happiest people you know don’t have squat. I didn’t make that up, either.

9.  Stop beating your kids up psychologically for underperforming. I’ve never met a kid who wanted to make a D or strike out. I’ve never met an adult who wanted to let their family down. Behind every behavior there’s a feeling. Meet people where they are and ask questions from a place of love. Anxiety and depression make it nearly impossible to focus. And anxiety and depression in teens doesn’t look like it does in adults.

10. Plant stuff. The smell of dirt, sunshine, and sweat heals lots of stuff. Some of my best memories are being in the garden with my Daddy Steve.

11. I have learned over the course of the last year that I have very mixed feelings about social media. I see it do a tremendous amount of good, simply by presenting people with opportunities to rise up. I also think it is full of pitfalls, particularly for kids. When we were in school, there were a few people we felt woefully inadequate beside and they didn’t have the benefit of “filters.” Our kids are bombarded with fake stuff all the time and they don’t have the emotional maturity to process it. Until we tire of it, don’t type things to people that you wouldn’t say to them at a cocktail party. Would you walk up to a stranger at a cocktail party and tell them they’re an idiot because they think differently than you? If you answered “yes,” I bet you’ve had more than one real life, well-deserved, ass whoopin’.

12.  I’m really starting to show my age and I’m surprisingly ok with it. I had my moment of cuteness and now it’s someone else’s turn. It’s freeing in a weird way. Make the most of every stage of life.

13. At 55, we lost my Uncle Mack. He was well-loved as a coach and a man. He taught me a great deal about what’s important in life. I was not a loveable teenager. I was hardheaded, unfocused, defiant, and generally exhausting. He never acknowledged that in me. He always made me feel loveable, even when I was excelling at being unlovable. He made a big difference in my life. Be someone’s Uncle Mack.

14. Interruption is the archnemesis of creativity. Carve out time for yourself. You have a gift, whether you’ve recognized it yet, or not, it’s there. Thanks to Scott Eagle for that reminder.

15. There is no substitute for hard work and sacrifice. I realize that more and more. Every single person who has done something extraordinary, worked their asses off for it. And there’s a difference between having money and doing something extraordinary.

Thanks for the birthday wishes. You all make a 55-year-old feel like a 25-year-old. As long as I don’t look in a mirror, I should be able to ride that wave for a good 24 hours. Cheers, love, and light ❤