I’m coming up on a landmark birthday, and at first I thought I’d share sixty events I’ve seen or experienced.
I quickly grew bored with that endeavor. And, besides, who really cares that I am one of millions who lived through 9/11 or the first moonwalk?
Instead, I’m going to share sixty lessons I’ve learned in (nearly) sixty years on this earth.
The caveats are: I may discover I don’t have sixty pieces of wisdom to share, and if I do, you may not care about those either.
That’s okay. No one is forcing you to read my posts. Close the tab, and go back to watching football, reading your email, or whatever else you were doing before my blog flashed up on your screen.
1. It’s important to be kind. Some say it’s more important than being truthful. I don’t think that’s always the case. Sometimes you have to tell the truth, even though it might be painful, which raises the question: Painful for whom? And which will cause more pain in the long run? Which leads to #2.
2. As much as feasible, it’s also important to tell the truth, and think hard about the above questions before choosing not to.
3. If you choose to have children, it’s possible to avoid the mistakes your own parents made because you’ll be too busy making your own. Or maybe that was just me.
4. On the subject of children: Not everyone wants/needs them, and it’s not up to us to tell them otherwise. And, no, we don’t get an exemption from this rule for our children.
5. “Remember then that there is only one important time, and that time is now. The most important one is always the one you are with. And the most important thing is to do good for the one who is standing at your side. For these, my dear boy, are the answers to what is most important in this world.” — From Jon J. Muths children’s book, The Three Questions, based on a story by Leo Tolstoy
6. While we’re talking children’s books, here are three of my very favorites. All three are lovely stories, and each has something to say about life.
Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney — When Alice was young, she wanted to see faraway places and live by the sea when she grew old, just like her grandfather. But her grandfather taught her she must do a third thing. This is the tale of how she did all three, becoming Miss Rumphius, and then the Lupine Lady in the process. How could I not love this book with its librarian heroine?
7. My Great Aunt Arizona by Gloria Houston, illustrated by Susan Condie Lamb — Based on a true story, Arizona is born in a log cabin in the mountains. Like Alice, she also dreamed of visiting faraway places, and though she never made it, she was confident the children she taught would. My father’s family came from the mountains, and my grandmother taught in a one-room schoolhouse. When I read this book, I think of her. I’m also reminded it’s possible to inspire others to achieve what we have not been able to.
8. The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes — Written in 1944, this book is a lesson in compassion and empathy as taught by a little girl named Wanda Petronski.
9. Learning your family’s history can enrich your life and can, I believe, teach us resilience. Unfolding the story of Sarah Jane Daugherty Feathers Scott (also this post) taught me that those who came before us also lived in divisive times and sometimes suffered loss almost beyond comprehension, yet still managed to somehow continue living. My family’s history includes other tragedies, as well as some tawdriness, and wonder, all adding to my own sense of who I am and where I came from. This leads to one more children’s book, which I bought for my father after he began to succumb to Alzheimer’s to remind him of where he came from. Written by Cynthia Rylant, one of my favorite children’s authors, who also came from the mountains, it’s called When I Was Young in the Mountains, and the prose reads like poetry, ending with
“When I was young in the mountains,
I never wanted to go to the oceans, and I never wanted to go to the desert. I never wanted
to go anywhere else in the world, for I was
in the mountains. And that was always enough.”
10. One of my favorite quotes, attributed to Ghandi: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
11. Most of the times, when I didn’t get or achieve the thing I thought I wanted most in the world, it led me to a path that turned out to be better for me in the end.
12. Also, the stupidest and most painful mistake I ever made opened my eyes so I could appreciate it when someone better (The Engineer) came along.
13. That said, nothing is a complete mistake if you learn from it.
14. And, if you can, it’s better to be able to learn from others’ mistakes than to make all of them yourself.
15. Loving someone doesn’t mean you always like their behavior.
16. Family members sometimes make choices you may not agree with. They are still family. Robert Frost said, “Home is the place where, if you have to go there, they have to take you in.” I think that’s probably the best explanation of family I ever read. However, if that family member is addicted and/or abusive, all bets are off.
17. The older you get, the more important it is to try to be open to new experiences.
18. The older you get, the more important it is to learn new things — a language, a skill, a hobby.
19. Being outdoors can soothe, heal, and bring joy and contentment.
20. Exercise can also soothe, heal, bring joy and contentment. If you can exercise outside (#18), even better.