10 things I’m (re)learning in 2019

Why am I still working on this?

I’m not sure how it’s already March (yay for spring!), but I’m doing my first self-care checkup for the new year. See if any of these epiphanies resonate with you. And please add yours in the comment section. I certainly don’t have the corner on wisdom.

These are largest to smallest, at least today:

  1. I can say “no,” and I should. No to people’s expectations of me, no to random invitations, no to time-suckers, regardless of how important they seem. Saying “yes”to things I am called to do is the reason I must say “no” to the things I feel guilty for not doing. Wisdom is the great differentiator here. Sometimes, I need to ask people I trust what they think I should say yes and no to. Nobody is wise all the time.
  2. Forgiveness is a necessary part of life. At times I’ve reached out to friends who have disappeared from my life (to my disappointment) and said I love you and miss you (“Why can’t we be friends” is echoing in my brain right now). When a relationship goes south for no apparent reason, it’s easy to get mad and move on. Cut that tail off and grow a new one. There are plenty of other fish in the sea. The problem is that bitterness doesn’t move you forward, and bitterness is what happens when you don’t forgive people or yourself for being hurtful (i.e. being human). I find that forgiveness is a regular action that I must take to stave off bitterness, grief, and hurt. I do it by note-writing and making apologies. And reading Psalms. And baking cookies.
  3. Most things are not worth arguing about. I have an active debate gene. I’m confident that I am not one of those people who argue about everything, yet I find myself in constant debates with people who also have this gene. Everyone else in my path is apparently a latent listener or the nicest people on the planet. Debate is not usually a great character trait; I’m not proud of it. I am constantly reminding myself that in the grand scope of things, there are very few points on which I need to have the last word. Maybe none. If I were doing better in this category, it might be #1 on the list.
  4. Art is intrinsic to happiness. I’m in a class called “Art as Philosophy and Religion,” which has threatened to kill my artistic spirit because I’m having to consider art in light of philosophies, theologies, and worldviews, and of course, I’m doing homework on it (which can kill just about interest). But aside from that, I have been reminded how artistic expression and natural creativity is the spark of life, whether you’re a data-cruncher or a painter or a machinist or a designer. We make art naturally if we are enjoying life. We are drawn to beauty, and beauty is art. The other day, I flew into Richmond as the sun set. I was thrilled and amazed to see so many people staring out the windows or taking pictures on their i-phones. Beauty makes us feel alive. I embrace it daily.
  5. Love is about acceptance not expectation. What I’m re-learning this year is that being with my family is more important than how my family is turning out (i.e. how many issues they have). This might seem really obvious now that I don’t have young children, but for any parent who has adult children, you know that you can’t turn off the parenting channel. You change it; you turn hard on that knob, but you have a million panic attacks on the inside watching and waiting and praying for your kids who are now making choices beyond your control. My kids don’t realize that I’m working on this. That’s how hard this is. This probably should be #1 on my list, but if I obsessed over what they were doing every minute of the day, I’d need a straight-jacket. Giving grace and love also applies to spouses, siblings, parents, and anyone else on whom you have expectations. Frankly, we like people better when they behave like we want them to.
  6. Beauty is a state of mind and spirit. My mother was right: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, Beauty is only skin-deep, Handsome is as handsome does,and It’s what’s on the inside that counts. (She was a great one for proverbs and maxims.) As my body becomes increasingly difficult to control in terms of fat tissue, energy, wrinkles, age spots, hair color, etc., I become less and less obsessed with it. I’m middle-aged. So what? That’s a good thing. I’m becoming someone, albeit someone who doesn’t weigh 110 pounds anymore.
  7. You only need a few good friends. When I was young, I didn’t believe or accept that people had circles of friends with 2-3 at the center, 5-6 in the next layer, and so-on. I considered myself the nucleus of a very large orbit, and I labored to stay connected with everyone equally. Time, heartache, and ministry has proven the original paradigm true. When you go through the valley for longer than a few weeks and several casseroles, your orbit will shrink to the few people you really need to make time for. (Refer to #1 again.) I can say “no” to a lot of other obligations if I believe that a few deep friendships are enough.
  8. Diet and exercise really do affect how I feel. My energy, body image, and concentration are closely linked to what I eat and how much I exercise. I think clearer after a brisk walk or jog (look up jalking for a clearer picture of the perfect work-out). I feel better in my clothes when I eat right—I’m more comfortable in my own skin and personality. Here’s the eureka idea: if I eat and exercise as fuel for living rather than for coping with living, I can establish and maintain a proactive approach to my life and my calling. But when I diet and exercise out of stress or panic because summer is coming, I have really only lengthened my daily to-do list and increased my stress.
  9. Social media is a life-sucker. One, it distorts our understanding of close friendships. Two, it decimates—not elevates—our self-esteem and self-perception (See #6). Three, it steals hours of the day that could be spent face-to-face with #4, 5, and 7 of my list. Four, it’s addictive. Nursing an addiction will eventually take over everything in your life, either through time, affection, and/or perception. There, I’ve taken a whack at our cultural giant. And only minutes before publishing this on it.
  10. My calling may not be to greatness, but it takes greatness to follow a calling. My word for 2019 is “calling.” Mostly because I work really hard and am nearly always dissatisfied with my progress. I’m trying to focus this year on doing what God has called me to do—be the person God has called me to be—and worry less about where that takes me. I’ve always told my kids that I don’t care what they accomplish in life; I care about the kind of person they become. It’s a little harder to say that to myself. I’m realizing that I am always in a process of becoming. It’s not an option to cease growing into my calling as a daughter of God.

That’s me in March of 2019. Hopefully, the next time I check in, I won’t be saying the exact same thing. Doing hard things in itself is a worthy goal.

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Becoming is a process, not a result.