Look, Mom! Wisdom!

Or Nine Favorite Nuggets From Fifty Years of Living

 

When I was in my twenties, my mom said to me more than once, “Kristine, all you seem to do is chase after fun. I pray that you get some WISDOM!”

I would shrug and wonder what was so bad about having a good time. I still went to work, paid my bills, and dabbled at my Master’s Degree. Wasn’t fun what made the world go ‘round?

Party Pops (2)Purple Satin Jeans (2)

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About six months ago, it struck me that I was turning fifty soon. I planned on flying under the radar, hoping nobody outside of my family would recognize the significance of the date when it came. You see, I’m an older mommy. I was 42 and 43 when my kids were born. Most of my peers with kids my sons’ age are beautiful ladies in their twenties and thirties.

I sometimes forget all the fun and adventures I had living overseas and dating all the wrong guys while most of my friends my age were married and starting families at home. Instead of remembering how much I have LIVED, I often get stuck in a train of thought that says I’m a clueless newbee to parenthood and these younger women are so cool in their roles as moms.

I was eighteen when my dad turned 50. I thought it was an accomplishment worthy of exalting, so I told EVERYONE.

“No, really, you don’t have to tell people,” Dad pleaded kindly.

“Are you kidding?! You need to be celebrated, Dad!”

Now I know how he felt.

1989 grin

I had a sort of epiphany this fall and decided to embrace my age. Arriving at this vintage age might give me enough clout to share what I’ve learned along the way.

20181226 Cruise Steve Me silly

So here I am, arriving at fifty, and I actually have some wisdom to share! 

I have 9 nuggets of wisdom for you.

Here’s the list before I elaborate:

  1. People are doing the best they can.
  2. Have friends of varied world views.
  3. Shut down gossip.
  4. Tears are prayer.
  5. God is bigger than your faith tradition.
  6. Cater to your strengths. (You are a gift.)
  7. Follow your joy.
  8. Evolve
  9. Practice thankfulness.

*          *          *

  1. People are doing the best they can.

I learned this from Brene Brown. I thought it was a load of crap at first. After all, I have willingly brought my B-game and my C-game places.

Two Christmases ago, I was so busy teaching at the local community college that I brought my C-game to decorating the house and doing pre-Christmas activities with my sons. Because of this, I believed that, if I was willing to not do my best at times, then I was living proof that people aren’t always doing their best.

Another example would be the times my college students turned in assignments that they didn’t give their all. I knew they could do better. Again, Ms. Brown’s statement was proven false.

Or was it?

Maybe my students and I were willing to do less than our best because that’s all we had to give at the time.

That Christmas season, while I was giving a sizeable part of my heart and my energy to students, I wasn’t willing to expend 100% of my energy on Christmas decorations. My husband and I are probably the only ones who knew that the Christmas décor was simpler that year. While I left my silver tumbleweeds in their boxes and put out fewer nativity scenes, I knew that my kids had a good Christmas. They didn’t miss out on any of the magic.

Maybe my students had bigger things going on, and they were okay with turning in a B or a C product. It’s better than not doing the assignment at all, right? I bet that’s all they had to give at the time.

So, even though those students and I were capable of more, maybe there was another factor: we chose to allocate our energies elsewhere, dividing things up as best we could.

Brene Brown’s husband told her that it helps his peace of mind to treat each person as if they are giving their best. I realized that adopting his mindset helps me treat people with respect and value. I completely buy into it now because it honors people. It has improved my quality of life and my peace of mind to assume they are giving their best.

If I haven’t convinced you, let Brene Brown tell you herself. Go here to listen to her chapter on “Sewer Rats and Scofflaws” from her book Rising Strong: https://brenebrown.com/downloads/

 

  1. Have friends of varied world views.

Love them for who they are, with no objective to change them.

Listen to their opinions. Let those opinions either strengthen your own opinions or adjust them.

Be fully present to them. Let them grow your horizons.

And here’s something I need to heed better myself: be second to share your views.

 

  1. Shut down gossip.

Speaking of friends, make sure you acknowledge the need for confidentiality when someone shares with you. Ask for it. Offer it. There’s value in being straightforward. This is the ticket to a healthy relationship.

Do you share things that aren’t your place to share?  That diminishes my trust of you.

If you share other people’s business in order to connect, then you’re creating a counterfeit relationship.

Know the difference between sharing to care and sharing to be a vulture. If a mutual friend needs you both, then share with this end in mind. Then bring the casserole, call to check on her, or whatever is appropriate. If you’re sharing a juicy tidbit because it’s the latest fodder for conversation, consider consuming a brownie instead. It will look far better on your hips than having the reputation of a vulture.

 

  1. Tears are prayer.

One day, I wept for what a friend was facing.

It was going to be a busy day, and I had to pull it together, so I needed to pray for her and leave it in God’s hands. As I dried my tears and fought to form words to petition God, the Holy Spirit showed me in a vision that I had already prayed. THE TEARS WERE THE PRAYER.

God didn’t need words or formality. I didn’t have to address it to him because my very being had already done that. Heaven had heard the tears and was acting upon them.

Before you think this idea absurd, I found out later that it’s Biblical: Psalm 56:8 says, “You yourself have counted up my sorrows, collect my tears in your wineskin.” Romans 8:26 also applies here, “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words…” The part of us that was made to cry is able to share the “groan” with God directly.

If tears are prayer, and all human beings cry, then we were made to pray.

If tears are prayer, and all human beings cry, then everybody has prayed. Even atheists. Even people of a different religion than yours or mine.

If tears are prayer, then everybody has been heard in heaven.

Every human being is worthy, is enough, is loved, and is heard by God.

 

  1. God is bigger than your faith tradition.

Hold on to the truths you’ve learned in your faith tradition.

Stand on God’s promises in Scripture, but don’t use your traditions to box him in. Or people, for that matter.

God is almighty, all powerful, and infinite.

He is bigger than a faith tradition.

Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “’For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.’”

Your job is to love. Let God handle the rest.

 

  1. Cater to your strengths.

You are a gift.

You bring so much to your world, and much of it was built into you from the beginning of time. Your personality type, your intelligence types, your love language, your learning style, your preferences and interests…Nobody has quite that same combo as you. They all combine to create this amazing person unlike any other. Your life intersects with other people, and you are a gift to them. In being that gift, and living your truest self to the fullest, you are simultaneously fulfilled.

If you want to bring your A-game and to be fulfilled by your pursuits, then do the things you’re best at. Your organization needs a volunteer? Volunteer to do something within your favorite skill set.

Until I started teaching First Year Seminar at our local community college, I thought my main intelligence type was spatial intelligence. While I have that, it’s not my main way of processing the world. My #1 type is WORDS. Go figure. I’m a writer and an English teacher. My other two strongest intelligence types are tied for second place: Interpersonal (how people interact…I know which of my loved ones will click with each other), and Intrapersonal (self-reflection and knowing what makes me tick and how to improve upon that). Applying this self-knowledge has made me a better person.

Your love language is part of your strength. Do you like to serve others behind the scenes as a way to show how much they mean to you? Do you like to affirm others with compliments and encouraging words? Is spending time, fully present, a gift you give others? Does physical touch show you care, such as rubbing your child’s back while waiting in line, or holding hands with someone? Do you buy tokens of your love to show somebody you’re thinking of them?

One of my main love languages is touch. The best thing I ever did for myself while single was to get a dog. She stopped me from being such a workaholic. I had to come home to walk her. She needed me more than I needed to grade papers. The unconditional love and constant affection of this Lab puppy stopped me from feeling needy, which stopped me from dating jerks and fools because I wasn’t so lonely. I started being choosier in who I dated, and eventually made the best choice of my life in dating and marrying my husband.

Quality time is a big deal to me. I love giving and receiving it. If we meet for coffee, I am grateful that you gave of your time.

To serve others is one of my husband’s main love languages. Let me tell you, being the recipient of this love language is awesome. I mean, the man does dishes, mows the lawn, and does tasks I don’t like. I feel so loved! It’s not my own love language, but I’ve found a way to speak it by tapping another one of my strengths. Cooking is a creative outlet for me, and he hates to cook. So, in preparing meals, I get to de-stress, and he feels loved. It has broadened who I am to learn to speak his language.

Love languages are very handy keys to having healthy relationships. Knowing yours plays to your strengths.

[Scroll to the end of this blog post for some resources on finding out your unique traits and strengths.]

 

  1. Follow your joy

Sometimes life hands you options. Sometimes those options look equally good or equally iffy. Try this as a solution:

Ask yourself which one would bring you the most joy.

I have discovered this key to decision making in recent years, and now it’s a deliberate part of my process.

Last fall, I found myself with two part time jobs in addition to wanting to finish editing my current work-in-process one more time before searching for a literary agent and publisher. Two part time jobs were too much when added to parenting and editing. I was overwhelmed, and realized I had to choose. I couldn’t do both jobs.

One option was to teach First Year Seminar at the local community college. I adore the content and the students. The course teaches how to be a successful student by tailoring your study style to your personal strengths. We address Myers-Briggs personality types, learning styles, and intelligence types. We also build community and build relationships in the class. I love seeing their faces as they discover their strengths.

The online job paid slightly better. It was related to teaching. I would be helping ESL (English as a Second Language) students with their college papers. Grammar is my least favorite aspect of teaching English. I prefer literary analysis and life application. I love building relationships with students, but this job meant giving grammatical feedback to strangers.

At first, the options seemed equal. When I asked myself which would give me the most joy, I realized I didn’t care that the online job could follow me when my family moves. I didn’t care that the money was better. I wouldn’t enjoy giving grammar tips to strangers. Seeking the joy helped me realize that the in-person job was the right one for me. I’m still enjoying that choice.

 

  1. Evolve

There’s no shame in evolving. In fact, there’s shame in not evolving. Learning is inherent in living. I defy you to find no issues on which you’ve changed your mind.

People who are unteachable and inflexible don’t make very good friends.

We tend to judge politicians who voted one way early in their career, but they’ve changed their vote now. I know that politicians are famous for selling out. But what if they simply learned some things that changed their minds?

My opinions and my tastes have evolved. Here are three examples of my own evolution:

On a small scale, pumpkin is a new love. As a Daddy’s Girl, I’ve always believed that my opinions would line up with my dad’s. He has always hated pumpkin pie, and we were never around other pumpkin products growing up. When I lived in Okinawa, I tried pumpkin tempura and loved it. So, when I moved back to the States in my late 30s, I decided to try a slice of pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving. Guess what?! I loved it. That summer, I tried pumpkin juice at Harry Potter World in Orlando. I loved it. I wondered what other pumpkin products I’d like. I’m kind of a pumpkin spice junky these days.

On a greater scale, I used to be uncomfortable with same-sex couples raising children. Since then, I’ve gotten to know some same sex couples better. I’ve had a few people I love come out to me, and they are people I trust and adore. I have no doubt they’d make great parents. Since then, I’ve come to see some statistical evidence that same-sex marriages are as stable (if not statistically slightly more) as heterosexual marriages. (I’m sorry that I don’t remember the source. Do your own research.) As an adoptive parent, I’ve become more aware of the need for adoptive families. Kids need love. Loving couples want to love them. I’m sold.

And a third example: I used to be neutral about Harry Potter, if not a teeny bit against the books. I liked that they fostered literacy around the world, but as a Christian, I was uncomfortable with the topic of witchcraft. Then I met a godly man who was a Harry Potter fan. I watched a few movies with him, then started reading the series. As a literature teacher, a good citizen, and as a Christian, I discovered that these books are powerfully good. They speak to our core needs. They teach values we’d like to see in all our communities. They model loyalty, and how to think for ourselves. And they are no more about witchcraft than CS Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe is about Turkish Delight. My conclusion: JK Rowling is the Shakespeare of our time because she brilliantly writes about timeless themes. Oh, and I married that man.

Again, I defy you to find no issues on which you’ve changed your mind.

 

  1. Practice thankfulness.

Thankfulness can heal wounds, improve self-esteem, and turn around the climate of a group. It’s even a stress management tool.

I have a practice that helps keep me mindful of thankfulness. It works for busy people, and it has improved my life. I used to save it for Lent, to combat my negative self-talk, but these days it’s a sporadic practice year-round.

  1. Get a piece of chocolate, or some other melty treat. I prefer two squares of white chocolate. For me, as much as I like dark chocolate, the bitter taste doesn’t work for a thankful state of mind. Go with your preference.
  2. Be alone. It will only be for a moment.
  3. Put the chocolate in your mouth. Close your eyes. Let the chocolate melt. No teeth.
  4. While the chocolate melts, still your mind and think about what you’re thankful for. If you’re a person of faith, direct the thankfulness to God.
  5. When the chocolate has melted completely, you’re done.
  6. For best results, do this daily or often for a specified period such as a month.

There will be days when you’ve done nothing but have a moment to yourself with a positive thought. But there will be other days when you have a profound epiphany thanks to the moment of meditation. Even the mundane times will add up their positivity. Gradually, a regular practice like this will increase your self-esteem and your peace of mind.

Note that thankfulness isn’t only a state of mind. It’s a gift you can give others. Thank people for things. You’ll find that giving thanks to others can change an environment for the better.

*          *          *

There you have it. Fifty years of wisdom in nine nuggets.

For what it’s worth, I’m happy with my living so far and I’m looking forward to the decades to come.

Look, Mom! It may have taken longer than you wanted, but your prayer got answered.

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Notes:

So how can you find out about your strengths, or affirm the ones you already know about?

  • If you’ve never had your Myers-Briggs personality typed, you can find quizzes online fairly easily. Explanations usually come with quiz results, or you can watch a few YouTube videos. There are plenty to choose from.
  • Here’s a free quiz to find out about your intelligence types. While it goes into depth on your top two, you really ought to understand anything you scored above a 3 on: http://literacynet.org/mi/assessment/findyourstrengths.html . Reflect on your quiz results. They show the way you interact with the world and the way you process things.
  • There are plenty of quizzes out there on learning styles. Here’s one I like to use: http://www.whatismylearningstyle.com/learning-style-test-2.html . Most sources will tell you that there are three types: Visual, Kinesthetic, or Auditory. I am a combo of Visual and Kinesthetic. Knowing this is how I process information helps me get things done. Don’t ask me to do something verbally unless you can wait for me to write it down. I simply don’t retain auditory info.
  • Here’s where I learned about the love languages: https://www.amazon.com/Five-Love-Languages-Heartfelt-Commitment/dp/1876825545/ref=sr_1_7/130-9646555-6345509?ie=UTF8&qid=1549486271&sr=8-7&keywords=love+languages+five However, the author has several topical books out there that might suit you better. You can also find online quizzes with the author’s organization, or similar knockoffs elsewhere. Google is your friend for this.

 

7 thoughts on “Look, Mom! Wisdom!

  1. One of the lessons I learned reaching middle age is that people need grace and space to grow up. I finally learned things in my 40s that I should have learned in my 20s… but at least I learned them. My first marriage was so codependent that there was no room to grow out of deep insecurity even though that was what I most needed.

    I avoided HP for similar reasons until my kids were into it. I discovered that it’s one of the few series in which some of the (early) movies are better written than the books. I kept the last book in my bathroom and read it over and over. It echoes the Christian narrative in several ways and is deeply satisfying.

    Like

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