Is that you won’t get out of it alive! heheheh. No seriously, life itself is about learning, and everything I’ve been taught would take 33 years to describe. I’m still learning. I don’t intend to ever stop. But the lessons that have been most useful to me can be boiled down to these:
Live and let live.
I write about that here. Everyone is on their own journey. Respect that.
You control your happiness.
It is said that nobody can make you feel anything without your permission. You choose your reaction to things. And I do agree with that – but I also know feelings are automatic, and you can react to the circumstances and the way people treat you with fear, hurt, pain, anger, and feelings of rejection, which are things you think you’d never make a conscious choice to feel. The trick is to realise as early as you can that those reactions aren’t hurting anyone but yourself, and train yourself to recognise the signs that you’re about to be devastated and to try and minimise it. You can choose to deal with your reactions to others’ actions in a firm and positive way, rather than let them have control over you. Yes people are assholes, but you don’t have to let them get to you. You can’t change others, but you can change your expectations and your reactions to their actions.
The other thing that comes under this umbrella is your ability to change your life if you don’t like where it is now. Don’t wait on others to change. Don’t be a victim.
You wouldn’t be so worried about what others thought about you if you realised how seldom they did.
Oh Dr Phil, you’ve given me so many snappy catchphrases! And in your words, things get to be old sayings because they’re true. And they so are, including this one. I used to think that if I embarrassed myself somewhere at some time, then everybody would see, judge, laugh, and remember. And they might do those first few things, but remember? Nuh-uh. Once the moment is over, they go back to thinking about their own lives, just like you do. We can’t help it, we’re selfish creatures. I don’t spend half my day thinking about the woman whose kid was having a tantrum in Target, chances are I’ve forgotten it as soon as I’ve gone through the checkout. No need for that mum to burn in shame all day thinking we’re all judging her, because I’m too worried about making dinner and the fact that Pepper is trying to eat her bodyweight in PlayDoh again. I learned that not everybody is thinking of me all the time, and therefore I didn’t need to worry that what they were thinking was negative. And if they are, in that moment, thinking of me negatively – then that’s their problem. I might be hurt or embarrassed, but in the grand scheme of things, they mean zilch to my actual life. We’ll both forget in ten minutes.
My self-worth isn’t caught up in what opinion strangers have of me.
Dr Phil again, condensing a lesson to a soundbite! If I’m faced with someone who doesn’t like me or my work or has a poor opinion of me in whatever way, then that won’t impact on how I feel about myself. I am genuinely comfortable with who I am and what I do (except I am on the lazy side, which is just my cross to bear I guess! We all have something we’d like to do better), and if I’m not disappointing my family, my friends and myself, then anyone else with a negative opinion of me doesn’t count. I don’t need a stranger’s approval to feel good about myself. Chances are they’ve formed it on 0.01% of the facts anyway. The internet is awesome for that.
Fuel your body properly.
In whatever way that means to you. Because you only get one body, and it’s in your best interest if you look after it. I need energy to keep up with all that I do, and it’s not going to happen if I only eat 64 pieces of toast and three cups of tea all day. It’s gotta be a priority that I eat well and exercise. This too is a work in progress!
What you put out you get back.
I have seen this happen dramatically. Remember back in the day when I was a miserable little sod? I got nothing but misery back. When I started caring about myself, living in a positive frame of mind, and giving out good vibes to the world, life got so much more rad. Wonderful things started happening to me, and I met many amazing people. Opportunities opened up and I felt like I was on the right path. It feels good to be happy and to feel as though you’re right where you’re meant to be. Positivity and kindness will get you everywhere.
I don’t panic unless I need to. I didn’t like the way endless worrying was making me feel, and when I studied psychology, I could see the damage people were doing to their bodies if they lived in a constant state of anger and tension. Fear ages us, it makes us sick. I didn’t want to live like that. I didn’t want to overreact to things, to be the person sitting in traffic that I couldn’t do anything about but getting worked up and angry anyway. If I can change the situation, I do. If I can’t, then I try to be calm. I’m a free-range parent, and I worry only when I need to. I don’t make decisions based on fear, I just make good choices, try to create a safe environment, then live my life assuming everything will be ok. And if things go pear-shaped, I’ll deal with it then.
Be a good partner.
We’re in it for the long haul. It’s a priority to us to always put in the effort needed to have a happy, healthy and strong relationship. We’ve been together eight years, and married for six. We’ve had maybe one fight? I can say we have never once called each other a name, and I’ve raised my voice probably twice. He’s never made me feel angry although I’m probably more of an annoyance than he is, so I can’t say that he feels the same way! We treat each other with the utmost respect, and I think that’s maybe why we’ve never gotten truly angry. If there is an issue that he feels strongly about, like, strong enough to yell, then I owe it to him to listen and try and understand that. So we give each other enough room to share our concerns before they ever get to the shouty stage. We disagree, sure, but it’s not often, and when we do, it’s more of a rational airing of each side of an issue and a compromise where we both try to come out of it with equal fairness. We’re both polar opposites in personality, but we are both looking in the same direction, and have similar values, ideas and desires. My marriage is the easiest thing about my life, it’s not a thing I have to work at every day. In fact, I have to remind myself to never take it for granted, because it’s as natural to me as breathing. Dr Phil says he wakes up every day and thinks “what’s one thing I can do today to make my wife’s life easier, or to make her happy?” and I try to do that too. I mostly fail because it’s easy to fall into the taking it for granted trap, but I do know that when we both go out of our way to brighten the life of the love of our life, then home is a delightful place to be.
Parenting isn’t about you.
My kids have needs that should be fulfilled, and I need to do the right thing by them. Having said that, I’m all about mothers taking care of their own needs, and balancing those needs with that of their family. I never feel guilty for taking time out to replenish and recharge, and I never will. I can’t give to them the best mother possible if I’m worn down and out of sorts. But I wouldn’t hold them back from doing what is truly best for them because it is something I don’t want to do. Like discipline, for example – it’s easier on me if I let them eat cake for dinner and draw on the walls. But it’s not the best thing for them. And to be honest, it wouldn’t be easier on me in the long run. I don’t want to project my fears and worries onto them, and I want to leave the legacy of poor parenting in my life behind me and not bring it into my children’s lives. They deserve a mum who does her best and sacrifices a little. So giving my kids the life they deserve isn’t about me. It’s about them.
Never stop learning.
We can always be better and we can make better choices when we’re better informed. Plus it’s just really interesting.
Along with drink more water – the best thing you can do for yourself is to ensure you’re well-rested. I have to make it a priority, or it will seep into every single area of my life and create havoc.
Laugh even more.
I could not get through life without humour. It is my number-one fallback. Laughter makes everything better.
Be excellent to each other.
Even if you don’t want to. You’ll be surprised what will happen if you are a good human to other humans. And animals, and the environment and the universe. And always watch Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Party on, dudes.
What have you learned?