Monday morning… spent most of the weekend “offline.” It wasn’t hard to be offline, since it was a busy weekend with family and friend. We had our 2 1/2 year old niece overnight- she was delightful and who needs to be online when you have constant entertainment. With out kid being 20 and up, we loved the reminder of innocence and awe. yesterday was a total 180, with the afternoon spent at a winery with dear friends… no responsibilities with grown kids- just a leisurely day in the county. What a contrast. Two radically different days.
Then this morning, when I do log onto facebook, I see this quote from my dear friend Rebecca Brittle Life…”you live it forward, but understand it backward.” A quote from the book Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese.
First of all, that is alot to think about for a Monday morning, so I know that I will revisit it again later in the week, but I couldn’t let it pass in light of our weekend. While our niece was here, we just enjoyed her… chores went undone, the schedule was cleared, it was all about her… playing, laughing and enjoying. So very different from when my 3 kids were 2 years old and there was so much to be done. Always a “to do” list, responsibilities galore and as we sat on the floor and laughed, I wished that I had done more of that when my kids were little. Don’t get me wrong… I did play with them, laugh with them and enjoy them… alot… but often with the “guilt” of the undone “to-do’s” hanging over my head. What freedom I would have enjoyed if I had understood then, that some of those “to-do’s” really didn’t matter. “living forward, understanding backward” – no wonder we are full of advice and wisdom as we mature!
In fact, while we had our niece, my sister texted me, “ahhh… sushi, wine, no kids! thx” and I realized that this respite for her described our life now. We are thoroughly enjoying our “empty nest.” On Sunday, we had the most leisurely afternoon, without a care in the world, because our schedule is flexible and our to do list is much shorter, as well as we have learned to let alot go. Which brings be to my second point, ”we understand it backwards” speaks to the insights we have when it seems too late to apply said insight. In a recent coaching conversation, we discussed investing time in self care, and I reflected that I wish I had paid more attention to the words and advice I had gotten when I was younger, because now I was “understanding it backwards.” Is this a chronic cycle, never to be broken, or can we learn from others experience, be teachable and apply the lesson, or must we always learn by our own experience? (like I said, alot to think about for a Monday morning).
There is a great book that is a must read for every 22-30 year old… “What I Know Now: Letters to My Younger Self” by Ellyn Spragins. It is filled with letters from successful women who tell their younger selves, what they know now that they wish they knew then. What would you tell your younger self?
After reading the quote from my friend Rebecca and in light of my weekend of contradictions, I would begin the letter with, “Relax… life has a way of taking care of itself, no matter how much you stress out…”
I would be sure to include the following as well…” dirty dishes will always be there, to-do lists continue on, success and accolades cannot replace the respect of your children, and nothing is worth sacrificing a solid relationship with your spouse or your kids, but be aware that both take time… alot of time, and you will have to make choices and give up some things. You can’t have it all… at the same time…
Children grow up and move out. They need you around as much when they are teens as when they are toddlers. Be present to your life in each moment and don’t worry so much… Be comfortable in your own skin and love yourself right where you are… you will look back at pictures of yourself and think… I looked great then, why was i so hard on myself? Laugh often and play more.
There are more thoughts I would share… but that is plenty for a Monday morning… the ‘to-do’ list beckons… and I want to understand a bit more before I write about it again.
Take some time to “understand backwards” and if you are willing, please share what you find in a letter to your younger self… or at least a few lines…