A few years ago I re-joined the ‘Critically Facing Your Mortality Club’. It’s an event that can sort of become semi-normal when you’re challenged with a chronic health issue; in my case, a rare disease that defies prognosis attempts. I know to prepare for some difficulty from time to time, but I wasn’t ready for the words that this time, my life was down to literally, minutes.
Just before I was wheeled into surgery, I was allowed to call my mother to let her know what was happening and to potentially say goodbye. She told me later, she was too shocked to do anything, but slide to the floor. I was good with just being put under -anesthetically.
Clearly I made it through, but at the time, along with an urgent need to update my will, I was desperate about the still very real possibility that I would not be around long enough to teach my then 8 yr. old son about the facts of life.
I had so many plans in store to show him how to navigate this world using shortcuts I’d earned through many moments of angst, sweat and heartaches. How could I spare my baby even a bit of this painful journey? ‘Cause, there it was – that in-your-face reality that I couldn’t take for granted the kind of time I thought I had, to show my boy how to live life a little more successfully than me.
True to form, I immediately tried to take notes of my thoughts. I went for the sort of inspiring fashion of ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’ by Mitch Albom or ‘The Last Lecture’ by Randy Pausch. Unfortunately, I was seriously impaired by heavy narcotics, a web of wires and myriad tubing, and some seriously constricting leg compression things from ankle to hips. I’m sure I could have written something under the influence, but writing while prone did me in. Figuratively, that is.
Following two months in the ward, my panic induced lesson outline was further inhibited by long recovery, and then distracted by the less galvanizing daily details of getting back to raising my boy and making a living. Also, it’s really not easy to write like, nor as well as, Mitch Albom and Randy Pausch.
Eventually I did fill out my notes and I’m sure that I will keep adding to this list of hard won wins, at least I certainly hope so. I now consider myself a member of the ‘Don’t Take Life for Granted for Real Club’. I am more hopeful that I will help my son and perhaps someone else to shorten a bumpy ride to success. Maybe someone will smile in remembrance of also winning one or more of these lessons.
If I don’t make it to the end date that I have in mind, my son will have a small record of what I would like for him to succeed at. True, it may not be as eloquent as my inspirers, but if it makes the point…
29 Lessons Learned Over & Over a Lifetime
1. Make your life as big as possible – create for yourself many areas of interests and friends. If one piece of the pie breaks down, it’s not the end of the pie. Don’t worry, the missing piece will eventually get filled in, usually in a better way.
2. READ – please always find out what’s happening around you. Learn something new regularly. Reading is decent, enlightening, uplifting &/or heartrending entertainment.
3. You will often be judged, or more likely misjudged, by the way you spell. So learn this and grammar, as much as you can. Spelling & grammar nazis are dying over this post, this very minute.
4. It’s a fact that helping someone else seriously chases away your serious blues. Volunteer for anything. Often.
5. Laugh. Laugh as often as you possibly can – yes, even at a funeral, & especially in a hospital. Know funny.
6. It’s OK to not know something. Don’t be afraid to say I don’t know, (don’t overuse it either, that’s laziness). You can’t learn anything if you spend your time pretending that you already know it. You don’t make great friends doing that either.
7. Don’t lie too big or too often. Let’s face it; we all lie at times to some degree, (yes, your new crazy paisley suit does look um, interesting, boss). If it is indeed relevant, tell the truth. Your heart will know when.
8. You have nothing if you don’t have your word.
9. Behave honorably. Live with integrity. You don’t have to believe in Karma to receive it.
10. Believe in something. Whatever you decide it is, it must be something bigger than you. Universe, God, a cause, a calling to be better in any and all ways.
11. Try to keep your thoughts to yourself for a bit before blurting out something questionable. Oh yeah, sometimes this one hurts – especially if you have to bite your tongue hard. Bite it anyway and reward yourself with a piece of chocolate later. Definitely tastier than crow. Or tofu.
12. Keep any promise you make, so please, don’t make promises lightly.
13. Did I say you have nothing if you don’t have your word?
14. Make sure that you are the friend, lover, spouse, boss, employee, in-law that you want those people to be to you. (If you honestly are and they aren’t, wish them well and walk away – far away if necessary). Both of these steps take practise. Keep practising. Forever.
15. It’s not your job to change anyone. If someone likes how you live, they will follow your behavior and/or adapt it to their own needs if and when they want to.
16. Be very careful about what you say about someone you don’t know. That stranger you just talked to about the jerk down the street is often a friend of the jerk; that twit you flip off in traffic could quite possibly be sitting behind the desk to conduct your next job interview. We say it’s a small world for a reason.
17. Fact check! Make sure you know what you’re talking about. Otherwise preface your statements with, “I heard somewhere”. It turns out that ASS.U.ME saying is absolutely true.
18. Ask for help. You can’t do it all on your own – even if you insanely think that you’re supposed to. That drowning sensation is an accurate cue to ask for help.
19. When you are really stressing, really upset, check yourself to see if this is something that really matters. Really!
20. Apologize when you mess up-which you will if you remain human. Don’t beat yourself up, at least not for too long. Fix what needs fixing. Learn how to not do that again. Carry on.
21. Admit when you are wrong. Own up to it, apologize; gain respect.
22. Don’t try to act cool. You may think you’re getting away with something through some fast talking, but the people around you are definitely employing point #11. Trust me.
23. Deal with what is, not what might be, what may be, what could be. Use the mights, mays, & coulds for emergency or event planning.
24. Be thoughtless… for 10 minutes a day, be still in mind and body. It re-sets your brain. It calms you, and opens up your creativity, sound judgment, and perception abilities. This could be the most important lesson of all.
25. Be wary of appearances. Especially true today with the changing principles of appropriate daily wear. That skateboarder could very well be a Facebook creator and the biggest thieves and crooks wear designer suits.
26. Treat everyone with courteous civility, but wait for them to earn your respect.
27. Eventually, the burned rice marks will fade from the bottom of the pot. Same with scars and fears – if you face them. If needed, hold someone’s hand through that too.
28. Not everyone will like you. Doesn’t matter. That’s OK. You matter. Just continue to live as upright as possible. You will attract people with mutual character. That matters more than popularity. Character will have your back. Popularity will run for the hills the minute your world has some clouds.
29. Read ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’ by Mitch Albom or ‘The Last Lecture’ by Randy Pausch.
30. OK, I lied, there are really 30. Say I love you every day. I love you, son.
Postscript: Said son informed me that he liked this note, that it was: “A good job mom, almost as good as my goodbye card that I made for Eric”. I see that I am doing well on the esteem building side of child rearing. Lesson learned.
Written in response to the WordPress Daily Post challenge to re-write our first posts.