I was recently walking my dogs past a group of young kids playing basketball and my friend who was with me looked over at them and said, “Man, to be that young again!”. My reply was, “I wish I could be that young again but know what I know now!” With age comes wisdom, at least hopefully it does, and the whole interaction, as brief as it was, got me to thinking about a few life lessons I wish I had learned at a much younger age. More accurately, there are a few things I wish I would have learned to STOP doing much sooner than I did because I think it would have made for an easier, smoother possibly even more joyful existence. So in the spirit of trying to help out the younger generations, below are three things I would recommend becoming aware of if you are doing in your own life and why I have made a concerted effort to stop doing them in mine:
I used to be the queen of holding grudges. It was a bad look for real and something I am definitely not proud of now that I think back. I blame a lot of this behavior on immaturity of course but I also have a mind like an elephant and tend to remember every little slight that anyone has ever perpetrated against me....whether incredibly small or on a larger scale. Where the immaturity definitely used to come in is I would tend to bring up these slights, whether totally justified or completely blown out of proportion, over and over again because somehow I thought letting it go would excuse or let the offender off the hook. In the end, this caused a lot of unnecessary fights and even drove some people away that might not have deserved such extreme behavior. Having said that, and this might not be the most popular opinion I have ever shared here, I still don't quite subscribe to the old saying, forgive, and forget. I think forgetting often leads to vicious cycles where you allow yourself to be mistreated to the point that you might not even think what is happening is wrong or abnormal. Having said that, as I have gotten older I have also realized that one mistake, one bad decision, one wrong move does not necessarily define a person. I have made a ton of mistakes throughout my 40 years and I have no doubt I will make a ton more, and if other people can forgive me for my missteps I should conduct myself the same way. I think to find a healthy balance between forgiving when it is appropriate and cutting ties when it is necessary has come with the wisdom of age. After all, in the end, holding onto a grudge is mostly just unhealthy for the person holding onto it. Let it go and move forward with as much forgiveness and lesson learning as you possibly can!
Worrying about things that I can’t control.
Whew, this is a big one for me! I am a worrier by nature but as I have gotten older I have realized that so many of the things that used to keep me up at night obsessing over turned out to be either no big deal or such a small deal it definitely did not warrant the amount of time and energy I was spending on it. With the beauty of age, I have also come to recognize that more likely than not the worst-case scenario will not happen, and better still, most of the time the outcome isn't even close to the worst-case scenario.
What I try to do now is when an issue does arise that sends my little worry sensors up, I immediately force myself to think of the worst case scenario and then try to make peace with what that impact on my life would be. That somehow instantly reduces how severe something actually feels and drastically cuts down how much time I waste trying to analyze every little aspect of something that may or may not even happen. I have also found that sometimes talking out my issues or concerns with a friend or family member helps to put things in perspective. Getting an outsider opinion from someone who is not as emotionally invested often leads to realizing I might be overreacting or at least worrying a bit too much. Worrying about things that haven't even happened yet tends to suck the joy out of the present. I don't want to miss out on the beauty right in front of me today because I am worried about something that mostly likely won't even happen tomorrow. Stay present, take a couple deep breaths if necessary, and most importantly trust in yourself that you can handle whatever life may or may not throw at you!
Beating Myself Up.
I used to do this both literally and physically and I cringe now looking back at how badly I treated myself. The whole theme of my blog came around because two years ago I finally had enough. Something clicked in me and I realized it was time to stop fighting against both my body and mind and start to just listen and work with them. I knew enough to know that what I was doing was at best not working and even worse really, really unhealthy. For years I had an unhealthy relationship with food and probably even exercise too looking back. Food in the past was something I could control. When the rest of my life was out of control, I could control how much and what I put in my mouth and then in turn how much I weighed. The more out of control my life was the less I weighed. At one point I got down into weighing in the 90 or so pound range which for someone who stands at 5'5 is wayyyy underweight. Of course, I thought I looked fine and was even proud of myself for having so much discipline...yeah I told you it was cringe-worthy! I needed to be perfect in at least one area of my life and with everything around me going down in flames, I could create what I perceived as perfection by fitting into my size Double O jeans. Again, I know how convoluted that sounds now but that was my actual thought process back then. I was, in essence, beating myself, up, both mentally and physically because I couldn't beat the rest of my problems up so easily.
Ironically I have now found the exact opposite to be true. The more I focus on being as healthy and fit as I possibly can in the RIGHT ways, the more control I feel I have over the rest of my life. Making that one simple but oh so powerful decision to get my health back under control after so many years of treating my body and mind so terribly has translated into me feeling more powerful and on-track in every other facet of my life as well. I have bigger goals, more motivation and a true desire to live the happiest, healthiest most fulfilling life I possibly can. I also realize that while I am still a perfectionist in a lot of ways, perfection isn't my end goal anymore. I am so happy with myself just making a little progress everyday towards being happy and healthy, not skinny and obsessive.
While we can’t turn back the hands of time, we can make the most of the time we have and I think learning to go easier on ourselves, easier on others and only worrying about things that we can control will make life that much smoother and sweeter. Part of growing up of course is learning lessons, sometimes unfortunately the hard way and sometimes even more unfortunately the hard way over and over again. That’s just life folks, but if we are going to learn these hard lessons anyway, why not learn them as early as we can? Pay attention to what each success and failure in life has to teach you, because they both teach you valuable lessons, and just be kind. Be kind to yourself and be kind to others. Ultimately, that’s what it’s all about!