Today is my birthday, and this much I know is true:
I know more today than I did in my early 30’s and I knew more in my early thirties than I did in my twenties, although I am still wrong sometimes, probably much more often than I know.
I don’t believe in regret. Not really, The only thing I have ever regretted, truly, is the anger and the yelling. I have spat my ugly vicious anger at the people I love most in this world and I will never have the opportunity to take it back. It’s there, like a scar, you can remove the nail, but the wound remains. Bad decisions? They make great stories. Failure? You get over them. You learn. Having my daughter too young? Still to this very day the best thing I have ever created in my entire life. The wrong boy? Well, it was fun at the time, and I got my daughter out of it, so I can never regret that. Not that he was the only wrong boy. There were many. Financial mishaps? You can always make more money, and make better decisions next time. Missed opportunity, well. Yes. Do try to be more daring and brave and serendipitous, but you can’t be two places at one time, and I still think I’ve done damn well for myself. Loving too much, giving too much? Well. Yes, that stings, but not nearly as much as not loving too much, not giving too much.
I still haven’t found my tribe. Yes, I have friends, and some of them are long time friends and some of them are close friends and know almost everything about me. But, I have lost many friends along the way for no particular reason I can think of. I used to think it was me, that I had done something wrong, had rubbed them the wrong way, was not good enough, or “too good”. But now I am learning, that is not it at all. I just have more people to meet. In my late late 30’s having had most of my friends most of my life and having lived within a 20 mile radius my whole life, I still have only one friend that I can think of that would show up for me, really show up, if I were dying. And I don’t spend nearly enough time with her.
Friends who hold your hair back so that you can purge the contents of you stomach on the side of the road on the way home from girl’s night out are not the same as friends who will hold your hair back as you are dying. Not that I am any where near close to dying, but the realization I had this year that I have but ONE friend I can trust to be there for me in that time, has me at a point I can never come back from, this is not my tribe, and therefore I must continue to put myself out there, so that I can meet them, I know they are out there.
You don’t know that you are with the wrong boy until much later. Not even at the break-up do you really know. It’s years later before you know. There are red flags, but you blow straight past them. Try to focus on them, though. To save yourself some heartache. The wrong boy will have you second guessing yourself all of the time. You’ll keep trying to make it work, but it just won’t. The wrong boy won’t connect to your family, your friends will have some things to say that you won’t want to hear. The wrong boy will feel like the right boy all the way until you are well into the next stages and phases of your life. Until you are with the one who IS the right one, and you would have bypassed completely if you had stayed with the wrong one. That makes it tough to know.
My husband is far from perfect. But, really, how awful would that be? Can you imagine the suffocating pressure of being with the perfect man, how you would never measure up? To be quite clear, I am far from perfect as well.
I drive him crazy. Just ask him, he will tell you, in all things, good and bad, I drive him completely mad. And then back again to pretty darn near perfect.
My husband lights me up in ways that I have never known before. When all is right with him, I feel a lightness in my step, a lifting in my chest, an airiness that all is right with the world. When things aren’t right with him, all else goes dark. Even good days aren’t even remotely okay. I wear the darkness over me like a cloak. I’m working on this, and have gotten better at it, but I also have been learning – I am an empath who takes on discomfort felt all around me, and when it is with someone I am close to it can be debilitating. I need to remove myself physically and mentally from the present. I need to take a long walk, I need to journal, I need to work on a project that envelopes my thought processes. And I need to trust, that this is a valley and tomorrow or the next day or the next week will be a mountain top. It will all be okay eventually.
Our kids will never know the depths of the love we have for them. The planning and orchestrating we put into juggling every available resource so that they could have what they want, we had wanted for ourselves, or wished we had had but didn’t get for whatever reason. The completely irrational pride we feel in seeing them hitting their stride. Yes, we know their life is their own, but they are bit and pieces of us walking around in this world, carrying out some parts and degrees of our own values and ethics, drive and hunger, mistakes and follies, and when things are going well for them – the sun and the stars align, and when things are even a little bit hard for them, we get so uncomfortable that it takes every ounce of will power we possess to not jump in and do it for them. Because that would rob them of the lessons and the experience they will need to succeed any further in life. For we are capped at our own potential, and if we do for our children as we would have done for ourselves, they may also be capped at our own potential so we must let them flounder through it, our hearts melting down the center of our chests.
All the best things in life have little to nothing to do with money. Yes, money is nice. Yes, I believe that managing your resources – time, energy, and money will make your life exponentially better – but money doesn’t translate into phone calls from your grown kids, or adoration from your grandchildren, or complete and utter joy of a beautiful glimpse in nature, or a fulfilled marriage, where you partner well together and things just flow. And when they don’t flow, one of you swoops in and fills in the slack. Because, you know, Goals. You have them, you know his goals, he knows yours. You give each other plenty of space to complete them on your own, but if something needs to be done, there aren’t any negotiations about it – just some communication about the situation, what you need, and when.
When you worry, you rob yourself of the mental capacity to actually be able to handle the situation. When you find yourself obsessively worrying over a problem, it’s time to walk away. It’s best if you physically get up and go for a walk. Outdoors, with sunshine, fresh air and heavy physical breathing.
There is always a means to get to where it is you need to be going. You might not get there today, or tomorrow or the next. But you will get where you need to be one day – if you put in the work. Stuff doesn’t just happen. It really doesn’t. Luck is opportunity that has been prepared. If opportunity comes by and you have not prepared, it will pass you by.
Judgement of other people has more to do with you than it does of them. When you catch yourself repeatedly judging, look internally for the answer. It’s there, but you have to look inside to find it. If you think someone is lazy and screwing up something over and over, is it possible that you are still kick yourself over missed opportunities, that you have your own regrets, that you are procrastinating yourself, etc. Seek ye first.
Jealously. Jealously is your wake-up call. Seething that someone else takes better vacations, has better hair, is employed in your dream job? That is your wake-up call to put in the work to get what you want. Do the work and thank them later. Be inspired to rise up, don’t pull others down.
The time is going to pass one way or another, you might as well be intentional about where you are going by organizing your resource – time, energy and money – by your priorities. Put the bulk of your efforts where they matter most to you . Time, money, and energy are all finite. Don’t spend them frivolously.
I know a lot now that I didn’t know before. I can’t wait to know what I’ll know next year that I don’t know now, but I won’t wish the time away because if I know one thing for sure, it’s that time truly does go by so quickly, and you can’t get it back.
This much I know is true,
ACTIONABLE STEP: Take time today to journal about what you know to be true – please send me your thoughts via email or in the comments.
Read Oprah’s What I Know For Sure Columns. Growing up as a little girl, as a teen, and as a young woman I watched Oprah. Oh, did I love me some Oprah, especially as I got older and I watched her evolve from the talk show host along side the Phil Donahue’s and Maury Poviche’s of daytime television to THE talk show. Period. She is wise, and kind, and thoughtful and discerning, she introduced me to mindfulness, to self-awareness, to personal development, and to Maya Angelou. I have always loved her ‘What I Know For Sure’ segments and her ideology that every person has a story.
Read Anna Quindlen’s book Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake. I love this book. I love it so much that I bought a copy for every woman in my life the year I turned 35. My friends got one, my book club girls got one, my mom, my sisters, my daughter, my niece. Every woman I care about, because this book is to me, like your best girlfriend throughout your life stages that you can flip to and learn from. Every year for my birthday, I get it out and skim through it. It is like sitting at the feet of a wise older friend who has lived many more lives than you have, who is willing to be introspective and go there with you. I appreciate and celebrate this memoir so, so much and I hope you enjoy it, too.
Watch Anne Lamott’s TED talk. Love her simple, straightforward wisdom with a hint of humor. In a way that things are funny because they are so innately true.