Below is my WHAT I HAVE LEARNED list.
Number One: You were meant to be happy!
Make the decision to be happy. Think happy thoughts. Be with people who are positive. Be good to yourself. Watch more comedies and learn more jokes. Laugh at life’s absurdities. Take walks and long baths. Participate in good conversations. Travel. Eliminate people who are unkind from your life. Learn the value of being an existentialist. There is nothing you can do to change your history. Worrying about tomorrow is a waste. Focus on the people, places and experiences in the NOW. Energy will increase and new friends will be made. Happy, sporadic moments become living well.
Number Two: Recognize that life is fluid.
The end of a marriage, broken friendships, betrayal, job loss, death of loved ones, illness, financial issues, and the craziness in life passes and becomes memory. Take a deep breath, put one foot in front of the other, walk out on the other side, and finally let it go!!! Take the life lessons and do not carry the baggage of resentment and hurt forward.
Number Three: Always be kind to children.
Talk to children in grocery store lines. Buy Halloween and Easter treats. Give hugs to your children, nieces, nephews, friends and grandchildren. Find something positive to say about every child you meet. Make an effort to make children feel more valued after meeting you than before you entered their presence. All children belong to all of us. We are obliged to care about their educational development, emotional well-being and physical safety.
Number Four: Support other women.
Encourage and celebrate the successes of others. Leave good tips—start at 20%. Women, share your stories and laughter with one another. Be sure your girls know they are part of the sisterhood. Remember how short our history is in the role of political participation, women’s rights, and laws to protect women in the work place and in our own homes. Never relinquish what your foremothers won for you.
Number Five: Respect good men.
Good men do not objectify women, acknowledge a woman’s intellect, and live with integrity. Whether in the workplace, worship center or at home, women have worth, as does he. Equals. Eyeball to eyeball. Media has belittled us all with stereotypes and caricatures depicting men and women in mind-numbing, foolish roles. We can do better.
Number Six: Have courage.
Some people live their lives in fear and cower behind bolted doors, locked minds and steel hearts. To be open and love requires great courage. Caring is risky and sometimes causes us pain. Better to absorb the pain than to never know love, fulfill a dream or travel into the unknown. Be an emotional risk-taker.
Number Seven: Be grateful.
Be grateful for the smallest gifts, wildflowers, the smiles of strangers, lessons pain taught you, your own mistakes and the insights that followed, elevator music, peanut butter sandwiches, sunlight and rain, inhaling and exhaling, memory, words, a thousand other things that you see or hear each day.
Number Eight: Not all acts or attitudes are to be forgiven.
This will be the most controversial item on my list. We put too much pressure on ourselves to forgive everyone for everything. People tell us it is for our own good to forgive rapists, back stabbers, abusers, and drivers who risk our lives by cutting in front of us at high speeds in heavy traffic. Let God, the universe or the courts forgive. Victims do not have to forgive. You must accept, grieve (if necessary), and move beyond the pain. Relieve yourself of the burden of forgiveness. If forgiveness works for you, go for it! If not, find another way to walk away from the hurt. My personal way of handling heavy hurts is to take life lessons from the events. The negatives become positives. I do not dwell on the person who caused the pain, so they become inconsequential. I focus on ways to use the lessons to make myself or the world a little better.
Number Nine: Be open.
Great things happen when we are open to change – a side trip down an unfamiliar road, a moment with a stranger in the store, a compliment given a person alone at a restaurant table, eat new foods, experiment with a new hobby, buy a bright, patterned shirt, take a chance by bidding too high in a card game, challenge your own prejudices by volunteering or making new friends outside your comfort zone. No change – no growth.
Number Ten: Love yourself.
You are the only person who knows who you really are. Be the person deserving of your love. While you are becoming a higher, mature self. Be patient with the changing, growing you. No one is perfect. Even when discouraged, something beautiful lives inside you. Your capacity to love and receive love is everything.
With all the noise from neglectful or abusive parents, caregivers, attorneys, judges and teachers, how can a child hear their own thoughts over the sound waves bombarding their senses? Throw in emotions and fragile dreams. Breaking through all the noise to be heard is overwhelming and requires the bravest of young souls. Root for children without voice! Vote! Volunteer! Speak kindly!