Eleven hundred miles away, as I scribe these thoughts, my third grandchild is soon to enter this world. My daughter-in-law is in the throws of labor, and because life isn’t perfect, I am not there.
Armed with the beautiful voice of Marty Robbins softly singing from a downstairs speaker, I am up in my office feeling mostly joyful, and thinking about hard-earned bits of wisdom I have acquired in my 46 years on this planet that I wish to share with my grandchildren in the hope that they embrace it.
#1: Learn HOW to think, not WHAT to think. This one comes from my wise father-in-law Ed. He was raised in a small rural community and when he was in high school, attending a tiny private school, he remembers feeling like they were trying to teach him what to think, thus insulting his ability to think for himself. He left that school for the public school and never looked back. He and his wife raised three boys into highly successful men who contribute greatly to society.
I, on the other hand, was a very compliant child. I did what I was told, kept my head down, my mouth shut, and I bought-in to what to think! “Good girls don’t, ...pink is for girls, ...blue is for boys” …you get the idea! Although I have been thinking for myself for a long time now, it was a long and winding road to get here. When I was first married, my husband would ask me, “Where do you want to go for dinner?” He would not accept, “wherever you want.” He pushed me to have an opinion, and think about options. I love him for it! I am no longer self-imprisoning and I have been unlearning for years now.
You don’t have to be in the position to unlearn anything if you learn correctly in the first place. Think for yourself. Vet information. Pink is for whoever likes the color and so is blue. You have a perfectly good brain-- use it!
#2: Give what you can give lovingly. Thank you Mom for this one. And if my Mom borrowed it from you, then thank you! We are all asked to give of ourselves financially, physically, and in so many ways it can be exhausting. I have learned to give with a loving spirit that is free from judgment or expectation. If I cannot give lovingly, then I don’t!
I was an early adopter of website technology, and savvy friends didn’t hesitate to ask for free websites. Being a pleaser personality, I created many a free website back in those days, all the while telling myself that I was gaining great experience. The truth is that I was a pushover. I brainwashed myself that friends were doing me a favor, until the day I was expected by an eager friend to create "an additional 100 webpages or so” that would serve as a digital family photo album... with music! Really? I was living with a stiff neck, staying up later than I should have, and I was the one thanking him for the free work. I broke. I could no longer give my time and my knowledge lovingly.
This list is about acquired bits of wisdom, and not negativity, so my friends get a free pass on this. The gift this experience gave me was the ability to draw healthy boundaries. Boundaries are good. I hope you will keep your boundaries totally love-centered and free from expectation, yet drawn with your own peace-of-mind built-in.
#3: Everybody’s view is as unique as his or her individual fingerprint. We each have thousands of experiences by the time we enter school. As the years pass, experiences accumulate thus forming the lens through which we view the world. Do not assume that anyone sees the world through the same lens as yours. They do not.
Many years ago I attended a business conference in which a very powerful man also attended. “The Billionaire,” as colleagues coined him (I couldn’t resist!), was sitting next to me. At a break in the conference he asked if he could bring anything back for me. I immediately said no. From my vantage point this was a sign of respect. I did not expect this captain of industry to wait on me. I assumed that he would most certainly see this as a sign of respect. He didn’t. Fifteen minutes later, as people were trickling back into the conference, I sat down with a fresh cup of coffee and The Billionaire whispered, “Young Lady, I fear you have worthiness issues. Look into it!”
I was embarrassed and honestly quite confused. I spent the next days and weeks unpacking what had happened. The result of that encounter was a profound learning experience for me. The Billionaire was just a very kind man willing to get me a cup of coffee. I assumed he didn’t really want to, and that he was just being cordial. I assumed he would see me as strong, independent and intuitive. He didn’t. He saw a young lady with low self-esteem. Now the point here is not to delve into the ways he was correct or incorrect, nor is it about anything negative at all. The man gave me a gift. He showed me that he did not see the same image of the young lady that I saw. Period. His view was different.
So many times in life we assume that we are, or will be, understood by like-minded people. Wrong. And it’s okay. Understanding that another persons view is as unique as his or her individual fingerprint will help you frame how you communicate, and more importantly how you feel if an interaction goes badly.
#4: Learn your LOVE LANGUAGE and the love languages of those closest to you. I have a fantastic marriage, and a deep love for my husband, who sends me an “I Love You” text everyday, because he knows that I am a “Words of Affirmation” person.
It is so easy to misunderstand others. I remember my Mom and I having a bump in our relationship some years back when she called and said, “I’m sending you a new purse!” She gave an energetic soliloquy on the beauty, quality, and grandeur of the purse she was sending. I, on the other hand, had just purchased a new one and was not in the market for her gift. I didn’t want her to waste her money, much less shipping costs, so I said, “Mom, I just bought a new purse, I probably won’t use it, and I don’t want you to waste money on me. But thank you for thinking of me! I love you!” As I mentioned earlier, I am a “Words of Affirmation” person. I thought she would receive my grateful words with love. My Mom is a gift person. She loves to give gifts. My grateful words did not soothe the rejection she felt by my declining her gesture of love. Wow! Mom was mad at me and I didn’t have the wisdom to understand why… until I incorporated the love languages into my life.
Do yourself a huge favor and visit (http://www.5lovelanguages.com/
) to understand what makes you feel loved and what makes your important people feel loved. I credit this wisdom for the joy and delight I get everyday from a give-and-take marriage that fills my soul.
#5: Today is not that day. In 2006 my son Cody was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He passed away after a valiant 23-month fight. During those months he died a thousand deaths in my mind. My fear made me jump with every phone call, cough, strange equipment beep, you name it- I had him buried and gone. In case I’m making myself sound like a total loon, this was all an internal battle in my mind. I was able to function as a rational human being, only with the fear of pending death that made me feel very fragile.
I shared my fear with my Mom and her beautiful words of wisdom were, “Honey, he will only die once, and today is not that day!” Wow! Those fabulous healing words have stayed with me ever since.
Since Cody’s passing I have trained myself to say those words, today is not that day, when fear tries to own my thoughts. My friend Darren says, don’t pay interest on money you haven’t borrowed, and I agree with him. Fear is not your friend, and it will charge you interest like a loan shark! Find perspective in your battle and do not die a thousand deaths in the process. Today is not that day!
In the time it has taken to write down my hard-earned bits of wisdom, a sweet little baby girl named Alice has joined our clan. Cheers to family!