In case you missed my last few articles, let’s recap. When it comes to following my list of New Year’s resolutions, I have a remarkable lack of focus. That, or I have a terrible memory. New Year’s Day was so long ago I hardly remember what year we’re celebrating. At any rate, I’ve decided to focus on a list of rules, let’s call them charming suggestions, for how I want to live my life.
If you happened to read my last three articles (God bless your cotton socks), you’ll remember they covered the following topics: have faith, be intelligent, be humble, be kind and compassionate, be courageous, earn your keep (and have fun doing it), persevere and follow your dreams, especially the ones you think are impossible. This is it. Part Four. Hang in there. My pontificating is about to reach its end.
Always be there for those you love… especially when it’s not easy
It’s our role as parents to teach our children how to love each other. No option. You don’t have to be the best of friends with all your family members (in my case, prescription drugs certainly help), but you do have to love them and have their backs when times get tough. Period. Love them for who they are, don’t hate them for who they’re not. DO NOT let your kids off the hook on this one. My parents taught me that you stick it out as a family, for better or for worse. It’s the first vow you learn to take and not break. If one of your family members lets you down, it’s ridiculous to wallow in self-pity. If you’re in pain, it doesn’t mean you have to be one. Speak your truth. A few years back, I read this great quote and it went something like this: When you need to say something that’s difficult, first ask yourself these three questions: Is it true? Is it kind? And is it necessary? I suspect if you answer all three truthfully, you’ll find yourself with a lot more time on your hands.
Find someone to laugh with
This one could also be called Choose Your Spouse Wisely. I distinctly remember my parents telling me, “Don’t choose a mate based solely on looks. That’ll fade. Just be sure to find someone who makes you laugh and someone you can talk to about anything.” And I would mutter back something equally intelligent like, “As if. Whatever.” Thankfully for me, it all worked out. I found someone with whom I had instant chemistry in all departments. Are there days I want to throw a crescent wrench at his head? Absolutely. But seriously, I would feel that way about anyone I’ve lived with for 15 years.
When times get tough, remember what brought you together in the first place. What do you like about that person? Love is the foundation, but like is the day-to-day stuff that builds strong relationships. I know I hit the jackpot because I actually like my husband — if given the choice, I would still choose to spend my day with him. I like hanging out with him. (I hope to hell he’s not reading this… I’ll need Vaseline to get his head through the door.)
And for gosh sakes, have a sense of humour! I believe angels do weep the day you stop laughing. In the past, people have told me that if I ever want to be taken seriously, then I had better stop fooling around. What about the hazards of taking yourself so seriously that you forget how to laugh? I’m not sure who ever decided that you can’t be intelligent and have a sense of humour; rather, I think it’s pretty hard to have one without the other.
Be beautifully real
You’ll have days when you feel on top on the world, and others where you want to mutter, “@#$% this. I’m going back to bed.” And that’s all right — knowing it may not be your day of crowning glory, just pin on your fifth-place ribbon and head out for the day. As the saying goes, don’t take life too seriously… in case you haven’t heard, no one gets out alive.
We’re only here for a short while — be authentic, be sincere, be real. I think perhaps Margery Williams penned it best when she wrote The Velveteen Rabbit back in 1922. In case you aren’t familiar with this childhood classic, two toys are having a discussion in the nursery. Here’s a paraphrased version:
“The poor little Rabbit was made to feel very insignificant and commonplace, and the only person who was kind to him at all was the Skin Horse. The Skin Horse had lived longer in the nursery than any of the others. He was so old that his brown coat was bald in patches and showed the seams underneath, and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out… and only those playthings that are old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse understand all about it.
“What is Real?” asked the Rabbit one day, “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?” “Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become real.” “Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit. “Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.” “Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?” “It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
Above all, this is what I want to teach my children. Beautiful people don’t just happen, they become. It’s only after someone has dealt with life’s hardships and trials that they come out shining. Flaws are beautiful — they make you raw, real, human. I don’t want my children to ever confuse beauty with what they look like; that’s just genetics. Rather, beauty stems from that inner light that burns brightly. Beauty comes from being the best part of someone else’s day. Beauty comes from being real. This is what will make you unforgettable.
Happy Valentine’s Day, friends. Stay real. Stay flawed. Stay beautiful. †