Another LLL (Lessons Learned in Life)

Life is short, too short to waste time on negatives. I’ve learned to feel no ways about people rather than expend the energy and effort to hold grudges, hate, feel bitter. I find it takes up more energy to carry a grudge around. I tell my girls all the time to take the crap out of their backpacks when they don’t bother to empty the junk they accumulate, and yet people walk around with thousands of pounds of hate and hostility on their backs. Good for chiropractors and pain relief drug companies, but that weight will break you eventually, no matter how many aspirins you pop. I know so many people that dwell on the negatives in life, real and imagined slights, rather than focusing on the good. They seem to be cooking up a pot of toxicity – one-pint tears, two cups anger, dashes of spite and hate. Season to taste with hostility and rage. All around them, people are laughing, loving, living, but they’re sitting there watching the pot simmering, wondering if they should add a dollop of bitterness.

I admit, there are some hurts that I can’t let go. But rather than cook them up and stir, I file them away, and try to pile a whole lot of good stuff on top of them so I can’t be bothered to pull the bad out of storage. The rejections, the hurt feelings, the betrayals – all are in little cardboard boxes in the corners of my mind. I pile the good stuff on top. Every now and again, they get opened by accident, but if they’re taking up too much headspace, I sift through why I’m letting them live there. I can’t control who likes me. I can’t hold a grudge because grudges multiply and take over. If someone hurt me so bad that it took me a long time to smile again, I assess why I’m giving them power, giving them free rent in my head. Why would I make room for someone who doesn’t care about me? I admit, I am the type that doesn’t even like the word hate, let alone feel the emotion. I guess, ironically, I hate the word hate. I reserve the emotion for evil. I find it empowering to assess the individuals who have created the negatives I’m feeling. As I told a friend a while ago, who was thinking of making a “voodoo whore doll” (she’d caught her husband cheating with another woman) – Why hate her only? Look at them both, long and hard, and send her a thank you note for sacrificing her own happiness by taking him off your hands. The negative stuff that will come to them eventually will be handled by Karma, and you can just move on with your life. Deal with your feelings on the whole thing, how the situation affected you, get any help you might need, but don’t waste the energy on hating them. Wash your hands, free your mind, and focus on yourself. He’ll cheat on her, too. Or he won’t. Maybe she’ll cheat on him. Or she won’t. Walk away, let Karma do her job, and focus on whatever it takes to get you and your kids through the transition. She settled for revamping herself, body and mind, and is now dating a man that treats her and her children better than her ex ever did.

There are not enough years in the average lifespan to dwell on who no longer cares about you. I’ve got a long list of family members and friends that I’ve categorized as People I Used to Know. Friends get lost in the shuffle all the time, but often, you can pick right back up with them if you wanted to. I’ve got some family like that too. You still care about them, but it’s not part of the daily life, and that’s normal. The ones that hate me? Filed away in tiny boxes beneath the stacks of bigger boxes full of people who care about me. They’ve been snuffed out of my mind, really. If they didn’t cross the street to avoid me, I could smile and say hello the way I would if I bumped into an old acquaintance. My heart won’t squeeze, my mind will stay happy, and my life will go on. They’re just somebody I used to know.

The people that matter most know they matter. I try to tell them often. I don’t hire airplanes to carry banners, but I do make sure I’ve told them how I feel. Love shouldn’t be hard to say. I try to wrap my head around people that have trouble saying they love a person but will knock people out of their way to get to something they love. Like at Costco, when there’s a free sample of chocolate. They shout about how much they love chocolate, yet can’t tell their partner they love them? Treat the people you love with the same enthusiasm as you feel for your brand new <insert name of your favourite electronic, ie iPhone, car, or whatever prized possession here> and you’re golden.

Life’s too short to deny yourself treats. Someday might never come, so try the thing you keep saying you’ll try. Prioritize the things in your life, if you’re a procrastinator. Don’t put off seeing someone you love, doing something you love, making something you love. Procrastinate the other stuff – if it’s on your list to commit a crime, I strongly urge you to keep putting that one off. Weigh the happiness – if making a huge dinner will make you happy to eat later but depresses you because you’ll have to use every pot and pan in the house, spend hours cleaning up after, and know in your heart of hearts that you’ll end up green binning the leftovers, I’d suggest asking someone else to make the dinner and invite you over to eat it. Or have children, because I think it’s line 37, page 300, section A in the parenting handbook that states “Children must be taught to do the dishes, it’s the only way they’ll ever be able to survive on their own once they leave the nest.” Might’ve been section B. Then make the kids eat the leftovers for a week straight, because the law simply states you must feed your children, there’s no clarifications stating that a variety of meals must be provided.

Unless you can’t sleep at night if the house is in disarray, go to bed. Chances are, the mess will still be there in the morning, and the afternoon. Whenever you feel like dealing with it, really. Unless the mess is food on the table, and you have a dog. The laundry might not fold itself, but in the morning we all need to get dressed, so encouraging your family to dress out of the unfolded baskets actually helps the housework. Unless your kids are like mine and leave their nightclothes on the floor while putting on clean daywear. The older they get, the more I’ve learned not to sniff to see if it’s clean or dirty, everything on the floor is considered dirty now. Especially in the summer.

If we knew our expiration date, this would be a lot easier. We don’t know. We might have years, or we might have a helicopter fall on our house tonight. So live each day the best way you know how, file away the hurts and bask in the highlights. When it seems like you’ve got box after box of crap piling up on top of your head, find a reason to smile anyhow. You’ll still have to sift through the boxes, but if you keep the smile on your face, you can manage the bigger, harder tasks. I remember a friend going through some horrific stuff, all at once. Her parents died within a few months of each other, her husband left her and sued her for half of her inheritance in the divorce, and yet she smiled, a lot. Once I was sure she wasn’t in need of a hug-me coat and a drool cup, I asked her how she kept smiling. Her answer was so incredible to me a the time, but the older I get, the bigger the struggles, the more I understand. I’m paraphrasing here — “Every day, when the alarm goes off, I hit snooze. And I think to myself – is today the day I turn brittle? Is today the day I become breakable? Is today the day I become bitter? And I make a choice. Today is the day I’m going to find a dozen reasons to smile, a dozen reasons to feel good. How easy it would be to lie here and wallow, but there are more reasons for me to get up and face the day, offering smiles to others who might be asking themselves the same questions every morning.”

I’m not saying we should all be like Suzy Sunshine and forget our troubles forever. Some horrors in life can’t be filed away. But you’re still alive, so don’t forget to live. I know another woman who lost her child to cancer a few years ago. The darkest days of her life, so dark her marriage broke up, and her friends all faded away. I had no idea she’d endured all that, never knew she’d been married before, lost a little boy at age 8. She’s just like any other mother I know, lamenting that her young daughter refuses to tidy up her room, that her husband will drive her to drink, but before she can pour a glass of wine, he surprises her with something wonderful. She’s always smiling, even when she says these things, and you know she’s not truly bothered by any of it. And one day, she wrote a long message to a mutual friend who was going through some tough times. She told her story, and she admitted that she’d tried to kill herself during those dark days. Now she lives her life for the rainbows that come from the storms, and she counts her blessings every day. As long as her blessings outnumber the bad, she says she has no reason not to smile.

The blinder I get, the less I enjoy social functions in the real world. People still get hurt if I didn’t recognize them but recognized someone else. How can I explain that I recognize this one because she sounds like a bullfrog, or that one because he’s ten feet tall, six feet wide, and blocks the sun when he approaches? I get lonely, too, even in a room or yard full of fifty people. I can’t wander around and mingle, so I sit and wait for someone to approach me. Mingling is awkward when there are pets and small children around — I nod, smiling at what people are saying but have no clue what they’re talking about because I’m trying to make sure I’m not about to step on something smaller than three feet high. My anxiety escalates the darker it gets. So I avoid these things as best as I can unless I am attending with people I know will watch out for me. My husband will guide me, or whisper to me who I’m talking to. (“You do realize you’ve been talking to a tree for twenty minutes, right?”) My kids will tackle me to save the dog eating fallen hors d’oeuvres in the grass. I have a couple of anti-social friends, so they’ll sit with me and offer commentary. “There goes Libby, drinking another glass of water we all know is vodka. Her skirt is tucked in her underwear now. Her underwear is blue, or maybe it’s more grey. Hard to tell in the sun.” If none of these people will be there, I stay home and do the things that don’t fill me with anxiety. I’m happy, and so are the dogs whose tails I’m not stomping on. Anyone I didn’t see that might have missed me, or that I might’ve missed, will understand and get in touch with me another time.

Live, love, laugh. Put the negative things in the smallest boxes, and put those boxes in the darkest recesses of your mind. Take the trip. Dance. Eat the chocolate. Buy the shoes. Wear the shoes. Use the good China on Sunday, just because. Let your family use the good towels, because if your company judges you by your towels and not your character, then who cares if they come back? Smile at everyone, especially the people who look like they deserve it the least. Sing, the louder the better, unless your singing somehow summons snakes. Read the book. Tell someone you love them, even if you’ve told them before. Be the person who pops up in someone’s social media message box with a quick little note to tell them how much you admire them for the way they’re handling something. Don’t think you have tomorrow to tell someone they matter because you don’t know how many tomorrows either of you have.

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