Firstly, I am truly grateful to have got this far, sans major illness, but certainly with a few crises here and there.
Secondly, I am constantly reminded that I am older than my own mother, who died at age 46. Through my 40s I became her contemporary – that was an interesting experience – and now entering my 50s I begin the ‘youth of old age’ and am wholly older than her. I am sure that my mother remaining forever young has helped me stay young in many ways too.
Third – and VERY interestingly – being born in 1962 puts me at the end of the Baby Boom AND at the beginning of Gen X. My age group is an unusual connection between two generations, being born in the early 60s, growing up in the 60s and 70s and being a young adult in the 80s.
– I grew up with LP records AND was one of the first to use the internet.
– Our mothers went to nursing school and teachers college – we went to university.
– Our parents slowly stopped going to Church – we explored other Faiths and philosophies with great freedom.
– We did almost everything differently from our parents when raising our own kids: their fathers were present when they were born (and in a reversal of history they may have been born at home); we fed on demand; we didn’t smack/spank; our children were exposed to whole new kinds of entertainment with all the inherent pluses and minuses; our kids wanted, and got, so many more clothes, and “stuff” generally; our kids read more and had so many more opportunities for creativity and exploration; our kids were and are exposed to the horrors of alcohol and drugs unlike anything we saw as teens; we didn’t just take our kids to the beach for summer holidays – we took them to Fiji.
– Our generation started having therapy – is anyone surprised?!
– I remember clear as day watching Neil Armstrong step on the moon… but it didn’t seem so entirely out-of-the-ordinary to me at the time either, not like it did for my parents and grandparents.
– It was us that really got into ruining the planet with our consumerism. And then there’s our greed… but I’ll leave the negatives out of my celebration this time round.
Fourth, and most of all though, I’ve found myself thinking: “WHAT HAVE I LEARNT?” in this unique life span, 1962-2012. And I realise, with gratitude, how much there is. So for what it’s worth, here is some kind of list:
- Laugh as much as you can. There is no cure better than laughter; there is nothing lifts your spirits faster. When I think of the very best times in my life, it is entirely littered with memories of laughing with friends,
- Eat your greens. I mean, really! You will appreciate the difference in your energy and level of health, especially when you’re older. And of course, fruit too!
- Examine your life. Without being over-critical and down on yourself, regularly examine your direction, your purpose, your understanding of what is real, your strengths and weaknesses and how you limit yourself, the achievement of your goals and the development of your human virtues.
- Your emotions aren’t real. By which I mean they are no more able to be relied on than anything else impermanent in this world, (ie. everything). If you can react in two entirely different ways in the identical situation, then we must know that our thoughts and emotions are a thing to be taken with much less seriousness than we generally do.
- There are many measures of success. Rarely is wealth one of them, and generally your ability to build positive, kind, lasting relationships with those around you, is a significant one. There are many others.
- You have to play SOME parts of the game; some you don’t have to play. Neither of the black-and-white views of ‘you have to play the game’ or ‘you don’t have to play the game’ are right. Things aren’t that straightforward.
- You better sweat the small stuff; some of it matters a whole awful lot. You DO have to worry about a lot of the small stuff – it’s important to you and to your relationships and the things that are important to you. You just have to figure out which ones matter; that’s part of the job of life.
- Live with dichotomy – it’s the only logical thing to do. Life just cannot be approached on a single plain; if you accept a single thing as Truth, then you will be forced to totally deny other things that have Truth to them just the same. It is far more logical to accept seeming opposites as co-habiting in a Universe of multiple spheres, plains, worlds and dimensions.
- No one ever regretted exercise. Honestly, I will go weeks justifying why I cannot fit a 15-minute walk in my day; and then when I do it’s like ‘d’uh – how hard was that really?!’
- Making (un-rude) jokes about the opposite sex is not sexist; it’s good for our communication. We are different, and there is nothing lightens up the seriousness of our differences and constant potential conflict, than laughing about those differences. When we are mature enough to go beyond accusations of sexism, and comfortable enough with our differences, then we can accept each other in wonderful ways with humour.
- Be kind every chance you get. Like exercise, you’ll rarely regret it.
- Be interested in everyone. You will learn so much.
- Do something creative. You must have some creative outlet, something, anything. You must provide yourself the opportunity to tune into the creative spirit in the universe – it is one of the most profound connections you can make.
- You have to do the stuff you have to do. You have to take care of people, you have to pay taxes, you have to take the rubbish out, you have to turn up for work, you have to do the dishes, you have to eat your veggies, you have to exercise, you have to do something nice with your hair, you have to sew your hems up, you have to get off the computer sometimes…
- There is always another way. Avoid assumptions that yours is the only way, nor indeed even the best way.
- God is actually okay about most of your shit. Seriously, I do not believe God is anywhere so condemnatory as some make out. In the grand scheme of things my crap is of little consequence to the Universe, notwithstanding that I do need to deal with it as well.
- Guilt is the most negative thing you can feel and a total waste of time. Not to say that we must not take responsibility, and even experience remorse, but guilt eats us up inside, destroys our organs, and in fact is a barrier to truly taking responsibility for our behaviours.
- Don’t nit-pick or split hairs; it’s truly annoying. Well, really, it is.
- Poverty is inexcusable.
- You do indeed have to be the change you want to see in the world. It totally starts with me. I cannot expect anything from others and the world that I do not entirely demand of, and manifest, myself.
- There is no good reason for a war.
- Courtesy is real strength. Rudeness is laziness and shows smallness and weakness.
- When you take action, the Universe does conspire to help you.
- Seek Beauty. The Universe is exquisite, with so much hidden inspiration and answers.
- The Sun is always there. Even on the darkest days.
- If you lose track of time when you’re doing it, that’s what you should be doing. Excluding sleeping and the like. Do what you love.
- Self-righteousness is really, really dumb.
- If there is any kind of truth, it lies in diversity. The best way is the one that offers and/or accepts a divergence of views, beliefs, colours, practices, philosophies and cultures; thus again, dichotomy can hold far more truth.
- No one ever died wishing they had more stuff.
- The primary path to happiness is in helping others.
- The centre lane is boring.
- Read unbiased news sources and good literature.
- Most proclamations of The Truth are wrong, but listen when someone tells you their story.
- There is no such thing as normal; definitely do not aim for it.
- Take time to reflect; sometimes take a LONG time to reflect. It is not the goal of life to have an uninterrupted career heading towards ‘the top’. Take time out from your chosen path to consider it from some distance, to review your strengths and weaknesses and acquisition of virtues, and be open to new paths in a quest to achieve greater virtue. This is real power and the thing you will never regret.
- Thinking well is a learned skill; acquire it. Too many people think badly: with bias, prejudice, ignorance and without questioning. Learn your own assumptions and how to step aside from them.
- Patience is not about waiting; it’s about still being happy while you wait.
- The biggest commitment you make in life is to live up to the Spirit that is in you.
- Be generous. If you have more, be more generous.
- All negative thoughts are dangerous; don’t have any. Seriously. None at all. I mean it. Which is not to say I don’t have any, but there’s not a single one of them has any value, and in fact they are all destructive. Don’t judge, don’t hate.
- The ability to not panic is a skill worth having.
- Measure your life by the moments that take your breath away.
- Teach your children kindness first and foremost.
- Clean up after yourself.
- Be honest.
- This moment right now is the best one.
- Romantic love is not real love. In fact that thing that gets you all excited and irrational and needy – it’s super exciting and loads of fun, but never ever fool yourself that it has anything to do with love.
- People come and go. Love them whichever direction they’re travelling.
- Exceptions don’t undermine the rule.
- Be grateful, especially in adversity.
And now, if you have to, read through the list again without thinking of the exceptions that you couldn’t help yourself but think of while you read through, because they mostly don’t matter.