Dirty Four Years Old!?

“The good news is that she is one of the nicest people in the universe. The bad news is, that’s because she always does exactly what she pleases. An Aquarius female is rebellious, headstrong, and contrary. She can be selfishly independent and exasperating, especially when she is running through the house screaming, “freedom!”
Hazel Dixon-Cooper

I love birthdays. I love any reason to celebrate someone or something. One of my favorite birthday messages was written to me in one of those “pass it around” cards. The message read: I’m glad you were born. I thought that was a wonderful thing to say to someone. So, I’ve since stolen the expression and I sprinkle around on other people’s birthdays. I was going to do one of those 34 things I’ve learned in 34 years but I don’t know that I could genuinely compile that many items. However, I would like to reflect on some of the lessons life has brought to the table over the years.

What have I learned in thirty four years on this blue orb? 

  1. Being a genuinely nice person makes all the difference in the world. In fact, people are more likely to listen to whatever you have to say if you are speaking kindly.
  2. You can’t get what you don’t ask for. This goes for anything and everything in life. Happiness in any form is not going to show up at your door. You must seek out the life you want. Be brave.
  3. And, hearing no is not the worst thing that can happen to you. It does sting. But, when the sting wears off, try again.
  4. Remind yourself that you’re doing the best you can and sometimes the best you can involves doing nothing. Seeking perfection is emotional self-harm.
  5. The key to healthy communication is listening. This involves really paying attention to what another person has to say. The next most important thing is to ask questions and be curious. Doing both of those things well, leads to healthy relationships.
  6. Slow down, especially when you want to speed up. Taking a pause between thinking and acting can change your life. 
  7. Say thank you all day. It trains your brain to be happier.
  8. People need people. We are not wired to do this alone (unless you are a sociopath). Take care of your relationships. You need them.
  9. No one has it all figured out. As a therapist, I see behind the curtain all day. We are all a mess and it’s fine.  There is no such thing as a grown up.
  10. Apologize. Genuinely apologize. Take responsibility. It may not fix the situation but it is important nonetheless.
  11. Smile, and not in the cat call kind of way. Smiling tells your brain to feel better.
  12. If you accept your life as it is, right now, you can change it. If you spend all your time thinking you deserve something better or you got a raw deal nothing will ever improve for you. Feeling entitled will make you miserable and lonely.
  13. Extending compassion to yourself and others is essential to a healthy life. We all struggle. We are all imperfect. Don’t make it a habit to beat yourself up.
  14. But, have boundaries. Do not let people treat you poorly more than a few times. After a few times, a precedent is set.
  15. Forgive yourself and others. It provides peace of mind. However, forgiveness does not mean you get to be part of my life again.
  16. Defensiveness and righteous indignation will destroy your relationships and make you miserable.
  17. Learn from your mistakes. It is best to suck it up and accept you screwed up than to deny responsibility.
  18. You don’t have to tell everybody everything. You are allowed to keep parts of yourself to yourself.
  19. People will gossip about you and it’s no big deal. When I gossip about parts of your life, I am actually sharing more about me. We make sense of ourselves and the world in relation to one another. For example, I own a hundred and twenty year old home and I know people have said “Why would they buy a money trap like that?” That statement says everything about the kind of house you want and nothing about my decision to buy that kind of home. Or, when people say, “I know she’ll regret not having children.” Again, this says that children are really important to you and maybe you couldn’t image your own life without them. The gossip about me isn’t really about me. 
  20. Tell the people you love that you love them. We are not mind readers. It needs to be said out loud as much as possible. Don’t take each other for granted. Water relationships with love like a thirsty plant. If you don’t, the love will die.
  21. Life is devastatingly and gloriously brief. So, let go of all that does not bring you joy.
  22. Answer the phone, respond to emails, and respond to texts. If you don’t respond people will stop reaching out.
  23. The world is scary from a birds-eye view but on a human to human level we are not so bad. I’ve been in enough classrooms, prisons and psychiatric hospitals to know that most people are not monsters. Most scary people are just scared. There are some monsters but not enough to lose sleep over.
  24. If Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia could be best buddies you can find common ground with most people.
  25. With that, some people will leave your life even if you really want them to stay. And that has to be okay. Sometimes they come back and sometimes they do not.
  26. Tell the truth or be quiet. At the very least, be honest with yourself. A lot of people end up living lives they don’t want because they failed to do this.
  27. If we want to change the world, we need to teach children to love and be loved. 
  28. Lastly and most importantly: Love always wins. 

Really, most of these lessons have been discussed on the blog before. This list feels more like a table of contents than a new post. I suppose I operate from some general themes.

What has life taught you?


“So there was this woman and she was on an airplane,
and she was flying to meet her fiance seaming high above the largest ocean on planet earth.
She was seated next to this man she had tried to start conversations,
but the only thing she had really heard him say was to order his Bloody Mary.
She was sitting there and she was reading this really arduous magazine article about a third world country
that she couldn’t even pronounce the name of.
And she was feeling very bored and despondent.
And then suddenly there was this huge mechanical failure and one of the engines gave out,
and they started just falling thirty-thousand feet,
and the pilots on the microphone and he’s saying “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, oh my god… I’m sorry” and apologizing.
And she looks at the man and says “Where are we going?” and he looks at her and he says “We’re going to a party.
It’s a birthday party. It’s your birthday party.
Happy birthday darling. We love you very, very, very, very, very, very, very much.”
And then he starts humming this little tune, it kind of goes like this: 1, 2, 1, 2, 3, 4″

Bright Eyes, At The Bottom Of Everything


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