I have friends who dread birthdays, getting older, losing vigor and youth. They forget that there is a reason we celebrate birthdays: they bring experience and wisdom, the stuff that gives our lives purpose; the stuff that is so valuable that it can only be earned, not bought or sold; the stuff that, unlike youth, we will never lose. As I blew out my candles this year, I reflected on these vital truths that my 49 years have taught me:
1. The day of the week should not determine the level of your happiness.
If you spend your week counting the hours until Friday, get off your toxic roller coaster as soon as possible. You are wishing your life away. Mondays should not bring anxiety. Wednesdays should not be called “hump day.” Change your life, get out of the job you hate, chase your passion, do whatever you need to do so that every day you are doing what you love, so that instead of wishing for a Friday, you are thanking the universe for every glorious minute you are alive.
2. No amount of money or financial security is worth time with your children.
This planet is full of an endless supply of cash. It will not grow up, move away, and start a new life. Your children will. Spend every possible minute you can with your children now. You can make more money later (after your children grow up, move away, and start a new life). Believe it or not, your children want your time more than they want the stuff you can buy with the money you make while you are away from them.
3. No amount of money or financial security is worth the joy of being in a healthy relationship.
If you are in a relationship that has broken your spirit, that has forbidden you from being you, get out (no matter how great the financial consequences are). Rediscover life. You will survive. And you will love again.
4. The most critical decision you will make in your life is whether or not to be a parent. The second most critical decision you will make is whether or not to get married.
You can’t choose the children you create, but you can choose your life partner. Choose carefully! Before committing to someone, consider ALL the experiences you have had with this person. Then, honestly answer this question: If, in a different universe, instead of you, your child decided to marry this person, would you be thrilled? If the answer is anything less than an ecstatic “Yes!” walk away. If the person is not stellar enough for your child, the person is not stellar enough for you.
5. People’s criticisms about your life choices, especially when it comes to how you raise your children are worthless.
No one (not even your closest relatives) completely understands your needs, your family’s needs, your challenges, your strengths, where you have been, where you are going, and the power of your spirit. Follow your heart. Be true to yourself. In the end you will prevail. And, when you do, although external gloating is quite unbecoming, you can relish your “I TOLD YOU SO” victory by celebrating internally. On the flipside, do not criticize others’ life choices, especially how they raise their children. No matter how close you are to them, you do not completely understand what they are facing.
6. Your body, the vessel for your spirit, which you receive at birth, is your most valuable possession.
You get only one. You cannot, at any point, trade it in for a newer/better model. Nothing you own deserves more attention than your body, not your house, not your bank account, not your car, not your computer, not your TV, not your phone. If you are spending more time sitting in front of your TV or phone than you are engaging in healthy activity, you are neglecting yourself. If you fill your body with toxins, you are abusing yourself. Physical weakness and lack of health considerably limit your options in life, no matter how smart or wealthy you are. A strong, healthy body will take you everywhere for a very long time. Your great grandchildren need you. If for nothing else, stay healthy so they can benefit from your love and wisdom (and you can benefit from theirs).
7. We all have a limited amount of “space” in our lives.
We fill our “space” with people, pets, material possessions, passions, hobbies, and activities. On a regular basis, check your space, take inventory—an honest inventory—and remove anything that is not serving you in the most positive manner. Stuff in your space should make you happy, enhance your life, enable you to become a better person. Stuff that does not do this is just creating a barrier that prevents good stuff from entering your life. When you get rid of the junk (a dysfunctional relationship, an unsatisfying job, a destructive habit, an overrated luxury item), you will be amazed at the positive effects that naturally replace it.