As the end of 2013 draws near, we will be inundated with lists. The top 10 movies, the best and worst dressed list, the top selling songs, and of course, the very important list of celebrity breakups of 2013.
I decided to compile my own list called Terry’s Top Five Lessons for 2013. I was going to have a top 10, but for better or worse, I am not sure I learned enough for that long a list. However, I did find it helpful to take some time to reflect on the past year instead of putting it aside and leaping right into the much anticipated, but without much resolve, New Year’s resolutions. Let me say that the first six months of 2013 were not my most stellar and so they bore much of the fruit for my lessons learned.
Number one: Eleanor Roosevelt had it right when she said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Unfortunately for the first part of the year, I willingly gave my consent. It’s somewhat embarrassing to be well-placed in mid-life and find oneself being concerned that people are talking about you behind your back.
I felt very much like the left-out kid on the playground. It took me awhile to realize that only I had the ability to take my power back. Once I got back into my own body, instead of floating around in the airless space of my mind, I stopped being concerned about whether my ideas were good or bad or whether I would be perceived as being incredibly smart or a complete idiot. I just started saying what was on my mind and lo and behold I felt a whole lot better.
Lesson number two: “don’t believe everything you think.” This one is really hard, because I have a lot invested in thinking that I’m right. However, as a friend of mine often says, “the mind can be enemy territory.” I am giving a full faith effort not to assign perceived motives to other people’s behavior and also to frequently question my own assumptions about whether something is actually true or whether I am just invested in perceiving it to be true. This is very difficult for someone who thinks she knows everything.
Recently, I have found that when my mind is spinning elaborate storylines with plenty of intrigue about one of my own transgressions or that of someone else, it helps to ask the question; do I really know that this is true or do I just think it’s true?
Lesson number three: “Don’t be so hard on yourself.” Talk about easier said than done. This is a lesson that most of us will have to learn over and over. We are our own worst critics. We relive every dumb thing we’ve ever done.
That way, not only do we get to have the bad experience of it the first time; but we get to have it on instant replay to torment ourselves for years to come. Again, I must listen to the wisdom of my friend who often tells me that whatever event I’m chastising myself for probably isn’t even in my top 100 list of dumbest things I’ve ever done and if it is, I’ve led a boring life.
Lesson number four: let compassion and forgiveness be your guide. I realized the importance of this lesson too late to do justice to a valued relationship, but I hope that I will be able to keep it in my heart and mind today and in the future. Sometimes we get so caught up in our own sense of being hurt or being wronged that we don’t allow ourselves the opportunity to heal and move beyond what was into what could be.
As the world mourns the death and celebrates the life of Nelson Mandela, we must remember that he would not have accomplished all that he did without his incredible capacity for compassion and forgiveness. It is important to stand up for what you believe in, to fight against injustice in the world, but it’s an extraordinary feat to see those who you oppose as being no less human than yourself. If Mandela could do that, given all he endured, surely I, in my privileged life, can do a better job of opening my heart.
Lesson five: This too shall pass. When we’re in the middle of a funk, or when something bad happens in our lives, it’s hard to remember that the way we feel at our worst is not the way we’re going to feel forever. Unfortunately, the reverse is also true.
When we’re on top of the world, we want to believe that this the way it’s going to be forever, life will just be one straight line up of peak experiences to infinity and beyond. We don’t want to realize that this too shall pass. There are ebbs and flows in life. People we love will get sick and die. We will get sick and die.
We won’t get everything we want in life; we won’t even get everything we deserve. And yet, the sunrise will be beautiful. People will love us and be grateful to have us in their lives. There will still be so much goodness around us even in the depths of despair. And the wheel will turn. Soon we find ourselves enjoying life and feeling so blessed.
I wish you all a happy holiday season and may you embrace the many laughs, loves, and lessons of 2014. This is Terry Kendrick, thanks for listening.