As I approach the “middle” of my one life, this is what I now know:
1) Friendship is worth fighting for. Preserving a good relationship is always more important than being right. Even if you feel like it should be the other person’s responsibility to apologize, reach out to you, or be the bigger person, if the friendship is worth saving, you should do your best to save it.
2) That being said, invest in friendships, but don’t chase them. I’ve learned that taking the time to notice my friends’ needs and priorities is worth its weight in gold. Pay attention. Be thoughtful. Reach out just to check in, even if you have nothing to report. But, by God, do not chase after someone. If you are doing all of the planning and initiating all of the contact, it might be worth considering being quiet for a while. If they care about you enough to miss you, they will realize and reach out. If they don’t then you’ll know that things were way too one-sided to flourish into a fruitful, long-term friendship.
3) Friends are put in our lives for a reason, and sometimes only for a season. Instead of viewing the fizzling or ending of a friendship as a “break-up”, treasure the good memories you made together and be thankful that the person was placed in your life for such a time as he or she was.
4) Rest assured that if something devastating hasn’t yet happened in your life that it will. You will be stretched until you think you will break. Instead of being constantly anxious about the inevitable, live in the moment and be grateful that you are experiencing a time of peace when you are.
5) Children are blessings. If you have kids, most days will likely be overwhelming and you will feel more challenged than blessed. Instead of making life harder on yourself for feeling guilty about that, just accept that parenting is not meant to be blissful. It is the raising of a human being, which like any work is going to require a lot of ups and downs and time investment, and will sometimes be less about joy and more about survival.
6) Having a spouse or a partner may very well be the hardest job you’ll ever have. Instead of fighting that fact, embrace the idea that being in a full-time relationship is a full-time job from the moment you decide to spend your lives together. That way, when the honeymoon is over and sh*t gets real you won’t be so shocked.
7) People get sick and die. If you live past 30 (or maybe even before), you will likely find yourself staring at your phone or computer in disbelief when you get word that the unspeakable happened. That your best friend’s infant was stillborn. That your colleague’s child committed suicide. That your pastor’s wife has breast cancer and has a very low chance of survival. That your neighbor’s toddler drowned in their pool. There will be no words. Don’t avoid those people because you don’t know what to say or do. Bake a casserole, go to them, look them in the eyes to show you care, and hug them. Just be there.
8) Family are the people that you choose to show your true self and who seek to love you unconditionally. Sometimes they might be related to you, but usually they aren’t. Be open to this possibility. Don’t buy into the “blood is thicker than water” B.S.
9) If you are connected to your family of origin, do not take them for granted. Don’t wait to say “I love you.” or “Thank you.” or “Can we work this out? You hurt me.” Your grandmother is still alive? Stop reading this and call her on the phone right now. Seriously. NOW.
10) A good housekeeper, nanny/babysitter, or therapist are probably the hardest people in the world to find. If you are lucky enough to have one, tip them often, thank them profusely, and treat them like family (or better). When they eventually move out of your life for one reason or another, you will be heartbroken. Don’t wait until then to let them know how much they make your life better.
11) Your body will fail you. Stretch marks, hemorrhoids, varicose veins, gray hairs, hernias, wrinkles, and worse happen sooner than later…and not just to other people. Take care of yourself, but don’t expect to be 20 forever. Embrace the body you have; confidence is 80% of being attractive.
12) Love yourself. Not just your body. Your soul, your mind, your entire humanly being. We have but just one life to live, so have a personal mission and vision and abandon anything that derails or erodes them. Write your own eulogy now and then take all the steps necessary to live towards a life that represents it.
13) Superstitions are nonsense.
14) Love someone else fully. The person you shower with your fondness doesn’t have to be a spouse or child. A dog, an elderly nursing home resident, or God count here. Whomever you love, just give them your all.
15) Serve. Do things for others without any expectation. Being grateful and doing good are the shortest routes to contentment.
16) Find a reason to laugh. Daily.
17) Believe in something. Sure, the Lutheran Christian in me hopes it will be the God I know who loves us all unconditionally and who provides grace through faith alone. But, no matter what you believe in, stay grounded by being certain it is something bigger and greater than yourself.
18) Take my advice and shove it if it doesn’t work for you…your life is your own to be lived in a way that brings a little bit of better to the world. Breathe. Love. Live.