OLDER…AND WISER?

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

GratitudeThis month I celebrated a milestone birthday. I am not unhappy about celebrating another birthday. In fact, this past year has given me reason to be especially grateful that I’m adding a candle to my birthday cake. And not just because it was the Costco All-American chocolate cake or because I got to spend it with my brothers and their wives.  In the past ten months my best friend passed away suddenly, an old friend succumbed to cancer, three acquaintances died, a close friend’s grandson was killed in an auto accident and another’s husband was diagnosed with ALS. Two more friends’ husbands were told they have Alzheimer’s. I don’t even want to discuss the people who have had the ubiquitous Senior Citizen joint replacements.

At one point I thought “Enough!” I don’t need any more signals that I should appreciate each day and every person in my life. I get it. But all of these events got me to thinking about what else – if anything – I’ve learned along life’s highway. I reflected on those philosophies or words of wisdom that have stuck with me. Some I learned as a young woman, some with gray in my hair. There are lessons I learned that are serious and some…well, not so much. Here’s what I came up with – “Life Lessons” if you will – in no particular order:

Do-Gooders

Do-Gooders

People who repeatedly tell you how wonderful they are – aren’t. My first job out of college I worked as the head of marketing and advertising for an upscale condominium developer. One of my first clients told me incessantly about her Christian faith and how devout she was. She then proceeded to deal with everyone in an underhanded manner six ways to Sunday (when, presumably, she was on her way to church). It was a good lesson to learn early in life – beware of self-promoters.

Duct Tape and WD-40 are the answers to all home repairs. I read this at least 30 years ago and thought it was a joke. Turns out it was pretty good advice. If it sticks, grinds or squeaks, spray it with WD-40. If it’s cracked, split or fractured, slap some duct tape on it and you’re good to go.

You choose your destiny. Many years ago I read Wayne Dyer’s Book, “The Sky’s The Limit” wherein he states that we have a choice in how we approach our lives, and that choosing to be happy is, in the long run, far easier than wallowing in misery. He’s right.

Perspective is key. I love Robert Fulghum’s philosophy on this:  “Life is lumpy. And a lump in the oatmeal, a lump in the throat, and a lump in a breast are not the same lump. One should learn the difference.” Wise words.

I need more light and magnification each year

I need more light and magnification each year

A woman’s best friends after age 50 are tweezers and a high-powered magnification mirror. ‘Nuff said.

Enjoy the process. Twenty years ago I was putting together a big conference at work, hosting more than 1,000 people.  It was months in the making and I was stressed out to say the least.  The event planner finally looked me in the eye and said, “You’d better enjoy the process because the actual event is only 8 hours.”  It was good advice that has ended up having broad application for life in general.  Since then I’ve tried to enjoy the journey.  Except during a root canal.

When given the choice between being right and being kind, choose to be kind. This was another great lesson from Wayne Dyer that I heard just last year.  I wish I’d heard it 30 years ago.

Let it Go. Long before Disney turned this phrase into an annoying song, it was a great philosophy for dealing with anger or frustration. It has taken me too long to learn this lesson, but I now think twice before getting mad and saying something I might regret. And I’ve learned that after writing a snarky email if I wait a day to hit “send” it results in 99% of them getting trashed. My Irish ancestors would be proud of my temper control!

That’s it. I’m sure I’ve learned more than this, but my memory isn’t what it used to be. I’d love to hear what your “Life Lessons” are unless it’s “Buy low, sell high”.  I’m apparently incapable of learning that.

LIVING IN THE AGE OF “TMI”

 

Let Me Have SomeBy Suzanne Sparrow Watson

This year marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of a wonderful little book, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten”, by Reverend Robert Fulghum.  For those of you too young – or too old – to remember, it included an essay proposing that the basic rules we learn as children teach us everything we need to get along as adults.   It contains a list of 16 suggestions for a better life, ostensibly gleaned from the copious notes   Fulghum took while still in elementary school.

I re-read his essay the other day and had to admit that there were some real gems on the list:  play fair, clean up your own mess, and a current favorite of mine  – take a nap every afternoon.  All in all, I think his essay has held up pretty well after 25 years.  With one notable exception.   Reverend Fulghum’s #1 piece of advice was “Share Everything”.

It would appear that this particular tidbit has been taken a bit too literally.  At some point between 1988 and now, it has become fashionable to SHARE EVERYTHING.  Been in a public place lately?  I’m betting that people on cell phones have “shared” lots of information with you.  I’ve heard conversations about cheating husbands, women who neglect their children, steamy dating details and so many medical updates I could write for Web MD.  Put a cell phone in someone’s hands in the public square and suddenly no detail is too intimate to share with the world.

Facebook is so enamored with the notion of sharing that it has a “Share” button, which makes it easy to delight our friends and family with an up-to-the-minute status of our activities.  Personally, I love seeing pictures of my friends and Facebook Sharetheir kids and animals.  I even enjoy vacation pictures.  But like everything else, some people have taken it to excess.  I’ve read about colonoscopies, induced labor and ear wax.  One particular bugaboo of mine is people who take pictures of their dinner plate at a restaurant and immediately post it on Facebook.  Frankly, I could care less that some chi-chi chef has curled radicchio around a terrine of goat’s liver.  I don’t even care about seeing a triple bacon cheeseburger, although that’s more to my liking.  Here’s my take – if I wanted to see food on a plate I’d subscribe to Gourmet magazine.

But the most flagrant offender of over-sharing  is Al Roker.  He recently released a book outlining his journey through gastric bypass surgery.   I have nothing against Mr. Roker or even gastric bypass, for that matter.  But in the course of an interview Mr. Roker cited a passage from his book about the White House dinner he attended shortly after his operation.  He then proceeded to tell the interviewer that – well, I won’t go into detail here but suffice it to say that he soiled his pants.

Talk about TMI!  Why in the hell would someone go on national TV and admit that?  I can tell you one thing based on personal experience:  you will never look at Al Roker in quite the same way again.

But back to Reverend Fulghum’s book.  The “share everything” bit notwithstanding, I do think there is a lot of common sense in his list and God knows that is something that is in short supply these days.  So in the interest of sharing and promoting common sense,  here is his list:

  • Share everything.
  • Play fair.
  • Don’t hit people.
  • Put things back where you found them.
  • Clean up your own mess.
  • Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
  • Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
  • Wash your hands before you eat.
  • Flush.
  • Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
  • Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
  • Take a nap every afternoon.
  • When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
  • Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
  • Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die. So do we.
  • And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned – the biggest word of all – LOOK.

And while we’re thinking of sharing, why not share this blog with your friends and ask them to subscribe?  Thanks!