For awhile now, my oldest daughter has been bugging me to write a book about “life advice,” which is very sweet. When she gets home from school, we often take a walk and talk. I kind of laughed it off at first, but she kept bugging me about it, so I will write my thoughts. It may not (i.e., probably won’t) be 30 consecutive days, so we’ll see how long it takes. And this way, I can record it here and then put it together for her. Because I admit, there are things I wish someone had told me earlier.
Life Advice #1
People overestimate how much they can control outside of themselves, and underestimate how much they can control within.
We all wish sometimes that life wasn’t so cruel; that people were nicer, that we had more money or better looks; we desire people to look up to us and respect us; we hope that the people we love will be around for a long time. Sometimes we get all of these things and sometimes we get none of these things, but wherever we are, it will change. Even if you win the genetic, financial, and social lottery, your prize for a fantasy life is to eventually die. And though you may delay or change certain aspects of life, it will keep flowing and you will never fully control all circumstances outside of you. Bad things will happen to you, along with the good.
But what you can control, far more than you may initially realize, is your inner self. What happens outside of us just is. What we attribute to it is us. Feelings are a part of who we are, but they are not all of what we are; something we forget when we say things like, “I am angry. I am sad. I am happy.” To be more accurate, you have angry thoughts or you have sad feelings or you are experiencing happiness.
As a parent, my greatest fear is losing one of you. I am very grateful I have not experienced that (and hopefully never will). But I wonder if it did happen, would I regret every having a child? Because the pain of losing that would be so awful? Would I prefer that you had never existed to spare me suffering? I would like to think that however long your existence is, the benefits of having known you, of having lived, loved, and grown with you, would outweigh the pain of saying goodbye.
So if I choose something far less traumatic, such as some of the actual “bad” things that have happened to me over time, I can see the power in reframing those experiences. It sucked to have my heart broken, but I’d like to think it made me more empathetic. It sucked to have a job where my boss hated me and tried to fire me, but it gave me the impetus to go into another field. It sucked to almost drown, but damn I have a healthy respect for water now. A lot of “bad” experiences can be parlayed into better character. Choose “I don’t know why this is happening right now, but I will look for the good” over bitterness. And if it’s really bad, accept that there will be sadness and anger for awhile. Just don’t give up on happiness down the road.