Next week I will be facing two major milestones in my life. I turn 55 ...and the next day I take my only son to college. These simultaneous occurrences have led me to some soul searching. At times like this I often turn to my favorite authors/speakers for insight and wisdom. I found that many of these have developed various lists: Oprah has her "Things I know for Sure" at the end of each magazine, Anne Lamott just presented a TED talk on "12 things I"ve learned from life and writing", and even Ali MacGraw wrote an article "10 things Time has Taught Me". I thought it might be a therapeutic exercise for me to attempt a list of my own as a way of processing the changes that are occurring in my life right now. Here goes:
10 things I’m learning
- Everyone is a mess behind their mask – and social media is NOT HELPING. It makes me sad when I think of the time spent coming up with the perfect tagline for a Facebook/Instagram post - must be equal parts casual/witty/etc... so as to give off the perfect effortless vibe... “Don’t compare your insides to someone else’s outsides” (Anne Lamott).
- Boundaries are really REALLY important. Learning to set healthy boundaries in relationships is a a very complex skill, and one it has taken every bit of my almost 55 years to master. The concept of boundaries can feel a bit ambiguous – so my best explanation is that boundaries are whatever is “OK” or “Not OK” for you in a relationship. The clearest example of that is saying “No” – which can be incredibly difficult and even threatening to those of us who have been raised to be nice and take care of everyone!!
- No one is looking at you. I have the good fortune to have a celebrity in my family (my brother), which affords me the opportunity to go to Hollywood once in a while for an awards ceremony or some other fabulous event in which I get to live in an unreal world. During one of these events, I was in the midst of feverish preparation, dress, shoes, makeup . . . !!! My sister in law took me aside and said (kindly) “Remember Kim, no one is looking at you – they are all way too busy worrying about how THEY look”. It was an incredibly freeing moment, and it has stuck with me.
- We all have at least one super power. I think mine might be cookies . . . no seriously, I like to think I am quite good at connecting others - and often do this through food, and I have come to realize that this really is a special skill (or super power, as I like to think of it). I have a particular kind of magical healing power cookies that I make for all number of occasions: new baby, recovery from surgery/illness, etc. Find your super power, and own it!
- Families are relationship school . . . and some lessons need to be unlearned. We all grow up in some variety of a family, and this setting is where we learn to interact with others, some of us in healthy positive ways, some of us not so much. It often takes many years to realize that our family dynamic is not (nor should be) the norm.
- Exercise is not overrated, unfortunately. My colleague Lisa wrote a blog a few months back in which she reminds us to “be grateful for the body you woke up in” and I have tried to be mindful of this (also, see #1) I do the best I can to take care of this body I’ve been given, which means I’ve got to drag it out on a regular basis and do some kind of a work out. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you (although I’m getting ready to) about the numerous benefits of exercise and its relationship with overall well being.
- Find your tribe. My definition of tribe is that small group of people that ‘get’ me and that have my back. That’s it. I interact with at least one person in my tribe at least daily. It is so important to find people that support you AND that bring out the best in you. I am not sure to whom to attribute this quote as I’ve heard it in several settings, but I think this sums it up: “You are an average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Choose carefully.
- Forest bathing is a thing. Despite my best efforts, I have never been any good at traditional meditation – as it involves sitting still, which I’m terrible at doing. I much prefer to get outside and walk (see #6) but always felt it was a little bit like cheating, so learning about this was a bit of a revelation! “The aim of forest bathing is to slow down and become immersed in the natural environment”, according to Melanie Chakous-Bradley, certified Forest therapy guide. My regular walks outside have taken on new meaning! I stretch the notion of "forest" a bit, as long as I get outside to look at trees, I feel there is a benefit.
- Listen more than you speak, and silence is ok. Along with my difficulty sitting still, I am a bit of a chatter box. Listening has been a life long challenge, and I was very uncomfortable with silence. However, in my social work training I learned the skill of “active listening” and it is a muscle that I have continue to strengthen throughout my life which has proven invaluable. I have also learned that when I am able to allow for silence in a conversation, I am struck by how much more I learn.
- “Be kind whenever possible. It’s always possible” (Dalai Lama). I know we are all aware that it seems kindness is in short supply in our nation and our world right now and many of us are feeling a sense of despair and helplessness in the face of the recent tragic and appalling events. I was listening to NPR “Dinner Party download” of all things, and Anne Lamott (clearly one of my heroes) is promoting her new book “Hallelujah Anyway”. She explained the notion of “radical kindness” – which is when we begin with self care, putting our oxygen masks on first, and then with small acts of kindness for others. These small acts can be healing and even transformative in ways that are out of our control. For me, when I am overwhelmed, getting out of my head in some way is the best remedy for despair. It can be using my superpowers to bake cookies for a friend; or perhaps purchasing school supplies for BackPack buddies, but simply focusing on someone or something else other than me can be radical self care.
Thanks for reading – would love to hear from you!