Life lessons learned the hard way

 

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Moms are guilt-trip ninjas. They’ll bend over backwards to do nice things for you and will insist that they don’t want anything in return – and honestly, most of the time, they don’t. But miss one dinner or phone call, and they’ll whip out the “Fine. I mean, I did give birth to you, raise you, support you, and feed you, but seriously, it’s fine.” Essentially, before you decide to forgo that phone call or visit, stop and think about whether you will be able to handle the guilt-trip smackdown. I’ll answer that for you: No, you won’t.

You can’t depend on others to make you happy. Expecting others to bring you happiness almost always requires them to change something (or a lot of things) about themselves – your partner needs to be more romantic, your boss needs to be more understanding, your mother-in-law needs to stop meddling, etc. Don’t waste your time waiting for others to offer you a sense of fulfillment. Spend more time discovering for yourself all the things that fill you with joy.

Bending over backwards is for gymnasts. Some degree of sacrifice in relationships is fine. Supporting your partner financially (and maybe emotionally) while he or she goes back to school; uprooting from your home so that your partner can follow a dream job. If, however, you are constantly making sacrifices to make your partner happy (there it is again, the happiness thing), and it comes at the cost of your own happiness, it’s time to stop and take a good look at your relationship. It really is all about balance. There has to be some give and take; otherwise the giver will become resentful as well as physically and emotionally drained.

Take me as I am, or don’t take me at all. This was a particularly difficult lesson for me to learn. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t strive to change bad habits or bad attitudes – but I went out of my way to be the person my boyfriends wanted me to be. I dressed a certain way, acted a certain way (more feminine, less “crazy sports fan”), and I even changed the way I expressed myself because several of my boyfriends didn’t like the fact that I used big words they couldn’t understand (I wasn’t trying to be pretentious). I ended up becoming an airy, ditzy and giggly version of myself – and I hated it. You should be loved for who you are, not who you pretend to be.

The only moment in time you need to focus on is the present. Many sleepless nights and a whole lot of peace of mind have gone to waste reliving the past or worrying about the future. Regret is by far the most psychologically draining emotion. If you can’t change something in your past (e.g. ask for forgiveness, make some sort of amends), then you really must try to let it go. Easier said than done, but the more time you spend in the past, the more life and other people will move on without you. Besides, all that endless thought, regret, and even pining will not change anything or make it better.

As for the future, do your best to plan for the things you can control, and then let things unfold as they may, making adjustments when necessary. As a wise person once said, “Worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum.”

Everyone is a critic who thinks their two cents is gold. There’s a good chance that no matter what you do, someone is going to find something to criticize about it. You really can’t make everyone happy (there’s that happiness thing again). As long as the decisions you make and the way you live your life is not hurting anyone (or yourself), then don’t worry about what others think of you. By all means, listen to their feedback, but do so with the understanding that just because they think they know what’s best for you, it doesn’t mean it really is what’s best for you. And from what I’ve learned, a lot of people who will offer you advice or suggest that you take a certain path because it’s in their best interest, not yours.

Use trust wisely. I’m not one for self-disclosure, but I do recognize its benefits in relationships: If you want to develop a bond with someone, you have to be willing to share your feelings, thoughts, and worries, at least to some degree. However, before divulging your personal life to all the new people you meet and want to be friends with, wait for them to gain your trust. People wonder why they are emotionally scarred when friends or partners leave them; it’s often because they put too much of themselves out there without judging whether a person has earned the right to be a major part of their life.

Failure is just a temporary roadblock. Whether you failed a test, didn’t do well on a project at work, failed your first attempt at weight loss (or second, third, fourth, fifth), or weren’t able to make your marriage work, don’t see it as an ending. There will always be an opportunity to try again and, most importantly, to learn from your mistakes. Failure just makes success that much tastier, like mayo with fries, or a burger with goat cheese. And be gentle with yourself – everyone stumbles over obstacles. If you allowed failure to deter you, you’d still be crawling on all fours.

Insightfully yours,

Queen D

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