Yesterday was a special day to my parents. It was the anniversary of their first date. Maybe this is not an official holiday, but every year on that day, my dad would send my mom yellow roses, or they would have a special dinner or just spend some time together. This was the very first time in nearly 36 years that they didn’t spend this day together.
No one can fix that. But I didn’t want him to be alone. So, I got some takeout and made plans to hang out with him. I sent Helen Keller a text to ask her what movie would be the best to watch, something that would be funny and not bring up any unpleasant memories. She says, “The Goonies.” Perfect. Target had the Blu-ray, so off to his condo I went with an 1980s classic in one hand and Italian food in the other.
Some of the night was sad. But a lot of it was funny. There were laughs and times for him to share memories with me. It was the kind of night that you remember where nothing groundbreaking happens, but you know it will still go down in your memory as one of your favorites.
Over the past few months I have been re-evaluating and changing and re-prioritizing. A lot of things and people and events and beliefs that I used to place such a high price tag on have been symbolically donated to Good Will, if you know what I mean. As I’m finding out more about who I am and what I need in my life, I’ve started to consider what it is that I want my kids to know beyond the shadow of a doubt. Seeing my dad continue to celebrate his first date anniversary with my mom inspired the first one, but after thinking about it a little more, the list kept coming:
Marry someone who pays attention to the small things. I’m not good at this. I’m a big-picture kind of girl. But just like my dad remembered his first date with my mom every single year, I have a husband who does things like that for me. Thoughtfulness is highly underrated.
Don’t let the fact that something isn’t planned stop you from enjoying it. If you think dancing in the rain or swimming in your clothes will bring you joy, do it just for the sake of the joy. Not everything has to be planned or have great purpose. Seize every opportunity to make memories. There’s nothing like looking back on the memory of how it felt to throw caution to the wind and let yourself really live.
You don’t need a big circle, you need a small core. I have learned that 2 or 3 people who really understand you are more valuable than a room full of acquaintances.
It’s OK to set boundaries. It’s OK to say, “No, I’m not doing that.” Mom used to say, “Well, if I don’t go they’ll talk about me.” You should know that if you’re worried they might talk about you if you make them unhappy, they’re probably already doing it. You matter too. Not just “them.” As mom would later say, “Stop casting your pearl before the swine.”
Make time to do things that make you smile. Art may not be practical, but if it feeds your soul, it’s worthwhile. I love literature. I love to write. I love how the perfect poem or song can capture a moment. And while these things will never make you rich, they will definitely make you a better person.
Embrace the people who are different from you. Try to learn both sides. I have read books by both Samantha Power and Nikki Haley, Barack Obama and George W. Bush. I’ve read the Bible and I’ve listened to friends who are convinced God doesn’t exist. And I have decided that if I believe we are all made in God’s image, then I also believe we should all try to understand each other. Loving your neighbor does not know political or racial or religious boundaries. You either love or you don’t. Period.
Don’t just know what you believe, know why you believe it. My Friend has said to me that maybe some of the things I’ve accepted as the gospel truth came only from the opinions of those around me. My Friend was right. So I am taking the time to investigate both sides of many issues because no one on their death bed ever said, “I wish I hadn’t taken the time to understand.” When all the chips are down, you can’t stand firm on rhetoric. You have to stand firm on truth. God is big enough for our questions, and He’s strong enough to pursue us while we run, and to heal our wounds when we fall.
Take pictures. Lots of them. No matter how bad your hair looks, or how fat you feel, or how tired everyone is. Some day it might be all you have left. And let people record your voice. It’s more important than you know for your people to be able to hear it after you’re gone.
Let your leaves fall. If there are people or relationships or situations that are hellbent on letting go of you, let them fall. You are a tree. Your life is in your roots not your leaves.
Choosing to wallow is a form of pride. Assuming that your pain is greater than anyone else’s is just your way of saying, “I’m the best at everything, even having bad things happen to me, and no one else matters.” Show the compassion you crave.
What other people think of you is none of your business. (Thanks Lexi Grey). There is such freedom to be found in letting go of your need for acceptance.
Find a job that inspires you. I have had jobs that I worked because I needed money, and I have had jobs that were perfect for me on paper but left me longing for more. And then I found the place where my talents come together for good. Where I can bless others while still growing in my intellect and feeding my soul. I wish that for my children. We spend a lot of our hours on earth working, and they need not be wasted.
Sometimes dandelions are better than roses. Roses are beautiful, but dandelions hold the promise of a thousand wishes. Don’t ignore them just because they’re not as beautiful as the roses. Beauty can take many forms. It’s not better, it’s just different.
Learn another language. Communicating with people who are different from you is a beautiful and valuable thing. It is an opportunity to go outside of your comfort zone and show other people that you know you aren’t the most important culture or language in the world. It shows you want to grow, that you want to challenge yourself, and that you have spent years preparing for the moment when you would meet them, just so the encounter would be a little more meaningful.
Read. A lot. Often. Hundreds of authors with thousands of different view points. It’s OK to change your mind. It’s OK to say, “Yes, I used to think that too, but now this is what I’ve learned.” Life is not about establishing a persona and living to fulfill it. It’s about living in such a way that you’re excited to discover more about who you really are. You are not chained to anything. Grow. Change. Evolve. And don’t let small-minded people put you back down in your box.
Enjoy naps. Daytime sleep when you’re supposed to be doing something more productive feels better than a full night. Don’t ask me why.
Small things matter. From a comfortable couch to a hot cup of dark coffee to a soft rug under bare feet. Take the time to savor every sensation because these simple pleasures can go a long way to change your attitude on bad days.
Never underestimate what date night can do for your marriage. Even if you’re mad at each other, the food is better. It’s win-win.
Make your life look like you. I used to think I had to fit into a carefully curated box that I imagined other people in my circle had created for me. But now I know what makes me happy is a Jeep, and a bean bag chair, Frye booties and Chuck Taylors. Expensive purses and cheap t-shirts. Audiobooks and tobacco scented candles. Hot baths with aromatherapy salts with a glass of something in one hand and my Kindle in the other. I don’t need drama. I like solitude.
And most of all, love your people. I’ve recently discovered about myself that many times I keep people at arm’s length out of fear. Why the two or three I have chosen to let in have broken through those walls I have no idea, but I am grateful for them and I’m trying to figure out how to love the others just as well.
I’m sure there will be more, but I’m off to a good start. My mom taught me to be me. So for better or worse, this is what I hope my kids are learning from me so far. And to be honest, some of it, I have learned from them. What else would you add?