Life is a series of joy and sorrow, gratitude and despair, “this is hard” and also “this is beautiful.”
On the cusp of entering my forties I reminisce and hold space for the things I’ve learned.
I imagine that in another forty years some of these points will still be true, but possibly, some of them will not. I wonder what I’ll write about when I’m 80.
10 Things I’ve Learned
- I’ve learned that drinking water actually matters. Like, really, really matters. “They,” whoever “they” are, always say to do it, but now as I’m more aware of the years ticking by, as my body and brain are feeling the stress of my age, I realize it’s true. Drink a lot of water. Your complexion, digestive tract, and brain fog will all thank you.
- I’ve learned that pride is a deceiver. And maybe not the type of pride that puffs up or makes a big deal of oneself, although that too is detrimental. But the type of pride that makes us believe the universe will cease to survive efficiently without us. I feel this in my home, while I’m volunteering at my kids’ school, and I feel this as I ache with compassion for my community. Compassion is foundational, but I need to be reminded that I cannot and should not be all things to all people.
- I’ve learned that suffering is universal. It doesn’t always look the same for everyone, but because we’re all human, we all have stories of despair, displacement, heartache, and struggle. The degree to which we suffer doesn’t make us holier, worthier, more self aware or more pathetic. The degree to which we suffer reminds us that we are only human.
- I’ve learned that garden metaphors basically make sense for all of life. Have you ever heard the well known quote, “bloom where you’re planted?” As much as I understand and appreciate that sentiment, I tend to think it sets us up for an unrealistic set of expectations when we live in a world that’s marked by seasonal changes. Most living things go through seasons of growth and abundance and seasons of stress. Sometimes those seasons of stress look and feel like death and often they don’t produce a whole lot of blooming. But you know, sometimes when it feels like we’re dying–like we’re being stretched and challenged and torn apart in ways we never imagined possible–-sometimes when we wonder if the stress of this life will actually kill us–-I’m reminded that not all things bloom all the time. That’s not wrong. It’s simply a season.
- I’ve learned when friends or part of our community are experiencing hardship of some kind–whether that be a death in the family, loss of finances, or some other traumatic event–thoughts and prayers matter, but likely they won’t really remember who even offered them. What they will remember is our presence. How we checked in on them, brought them a meal, picked up their kids from school, sat with them and cried–our presence is profoundly impactful.
- I’ve learned that “I’m sorry” and “thank you” are possibly two of the most powerful phrases humans can say to one another. The first recognizes the fallibility of the human condition while the second acknowledges another person’s dignity.
- I’ve learned that smoothies and popcorn, a staple meal in our house, has been one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. When it’s hot and I can’t bear to turn the oven on–smoothies and popcorn. When it’s been a hectic day and I forgot to defrost meat and have no idea what we’ll be eating for dinner in 30 minutes–smoothies and popcorn. When I want something healthy(ish) and cheap(ish)–smoothies and popcorn. My kids are always thrilled on these days.
- I’ve learned that while it’s important to do things with intention and thoughtfulness, sometimes we dismiss “what we want” for “what we think we should.” This isn’t an excuse or license to abandon responsibility or commitment or what’s right, but I wonder sometimes if we get so caught up in surviving and doing the things we’re supposed to do that we forget it’s also okay to do the things we want to do solely because we want to do them.
- I’ve learned that snail essence is a real thing and I use it regularly on my face. I don’t care that it’s literally mucus from a snail that someone somewhere collected in some (possibly ridiculously, horrifying way). I use it and apparently millions of people all over the world do as well. Slimy? A little. Effective? Totally.
- I’ve learned that being present for my family doesn’t require a certain body type, that I quit my job, or that we have the money to experience lavish vacations. Being present for my family requires that I seek quality over quantity, connection over disengagement. And on some days a very strong cup of coffee.
What are some things you’ve learned too?