As much as I hate to admit the accuracy of my parents, it is absolutely a fact that time moves exponentially faster the older we get. I suppose it is because we have more responsibility, more goals, more dreams, more books we want to read, more places we want visit, more people we want to share life with, more, more, more… it is like our days are spent speeding against time and, more often than not, we feel like we are losing the race.
In this fast-paced life where the world encourages constant output, I too often find myself fighting an internal battle, encouraging even more productivity — just one more email to write, one more meeting to attend, one more project to complete, one more phone call to make, one more meal to cook, one more bathroom to clean, more, more, more…
But as I’ve gotten older, I find “task list checking” less satisfying. Sometimes I feel increasingly unproductive with every duty I complete because there is always “one more.” And how often do we even pause to decide the true relevancy of the items on our endless “Must Do List”?
As I’ve become more acutely aware of time moving at an alarming rate, I feel most productive (albeit sometimes most frustrated!) during spaces of reflection. I have this sincere, aching desire to learn from my past as a means to influence my choices and my future.
I read a lot more nonfiction. Sometimes I pour out my thoughts in a journal. I’ve taken to being authentic through words on a blog that the world has access to. I’m living a more passionate faith journey. I’m extremely curious about other peoples’ life stories. I try to name my feelings. I attempt not to run, but sit in the anxious and uncomfortable to gain clarity. I revisit past situations, incidents I had long ago locked tightly in a box with the “out of sight, out of mind” hope. I search for the teachings that still exist in those age-old experiences, yearning to understand my unique makeup.
Sometimes my reflections are fleeting, yet significant, thoughts. They come during a workout, or at church, or very commonly in the shower. Those are places I can’t easily multitask so my brain is free to roam in healthy, reflective, impactful (if I pay attention) directions. Through these moments of both intentional and unintentional contemplation, I have realized many enlightening things … some exclusive to me, others specific to my family, many to which you might relate.
In an effort to grasp my growing pearls of insight, I began a “Dear Younger Me” memoir. In this case, younger means anything from childhood me to yesterday me. It is a “to be continued” list, but here is where it sits after near 37 years of life.
Dear Younger Me,
Seek the Lord every single day. It is easier to seek him intentionally and lean into His strength during a storm instead of beginning a relationship with Him only after you have fallen into one of life’s darkest pits.
The relationship you have with yourself is the most important one you will have with anyone on this earth. Nurture it. Be gentle with it. Strengthen it. Love it.
Since you are your own best friend, speak to yourself as you would your best friend.
Despite the pedestal on which you put them, your parents are human. This means they will make mistakes. Some of those mistakes will hurt you. Don’t hold it against them. In fact, learn how to forgive them.
Speaking of forgiveness … where do I begin? It’s been said that withholding forgiveness is like drinking poison. That is the truth, yet is doesn’t make the practice any easier. It actually seems to get more difficult as you get older and peoples’ words and actions pierce more deeply. Spend the time — no matter how long it takes — to learn your unique process for forgiveness. Don’t run away. Don’t condone the action. But don’t suppress forgiveness and fall victim to your own bitterness.
For the love of all things good and holy, learn to sew a button.
It is very easy to enable people you love. Don’t.
Find friends that understand and respect your values and therefore hold you accountable. They love you a lot more than the “friends” who agree with you all the time.
Being lonely isn’t fun. But sometimes it is necessary.
There is never a peak on the mountain of perfection. You can climb, and climb, and climb, but you will never reach the top. And during the pursuit, you will have missed the view of all the great works. A wise woman once remarked that we are all “imperfectly perfect.”
Find activities you love that allow your mind to roam. Bake something. Draw something. Climb something. Let your mind get creative.
Hug people like you mean it.
When you say ‘yes,’ there is always a corresponding ‘no’ that goes with it. Even if you don’t verbalize the ‘no,’ when you take on one thing, you give up something else.
Be present. Ridiculously so. Wherever you are, with whomever you are with, believe you are in the right place and share the gift of your presence.
Learn to articulate your feelings, emotions, and heart’s desires to those you care about EVEN WHEN your thoughts are at odds with those of the other person. Authentic and vulnerable conversation ultimately leads to deep and meaningful partnership.
Study grammar. Learn to write. Words are powerful tools.
Fear is earthly death. It will grip you so tightly and keep you from determining and accomplishing your purpose. Go to battle with it early and often.
After you knock out fear for the day, turn to the noisy roommate in your head and knock her out, too. She’ll undoubtedly return tomorrow, but the more you work on befriending yourself, the easier it will be to shut off that voice that whispers you aren’t good enough.
Practice empathy. Even if it isn’t part of your natural makeup, make every attempt to feel what it is like to walk in another person’s shoes.
Give grace. To yourself. To others.
Never miss an opportunity to write a handwritten thank you note.
When you love someone, make sure they know.
With love and reflection,
During my musings and reflections, sometimes I have to catch myself from just spending the time shaming past mistakes. ‘If I had only known…’ is a phrase that frequently runs through my head. But when I leave the shame, guilt, sadness, anger, anxiety … I begin to honestly learn from the actions and reactions in passed events, relationships, and connections. I recognize my tendencies and notice trends in my experiences. I confront and own the skeletons in my closest, the judgments in my heart.
Because the true wisdom isn’t just in the reflection and the knowledge; the true power comes with the practice. It is deriving lessons from the “what happened,” the “how come,” and the “why” in each experience and using that awareness to influence our actions moving forward.
The power may change the way you communicate. It may alter the way you parent your children. It may change the items you previously deemed important to your success and wellbeing. It may help you forgive … yourself and others.
Personally, my wholehearted pursuit right now surrounds the idea of presence. I’ve written about being ridiculously present before, but it is a constant struggle in a world that offers too much, with internal voices that push you toward doing instead of being. I want to write in a present, honest way. I want to hear and respond to the words of my friends, the longings of their hearts as we navigate life together. I want to dig into each work project and allow my creative side to blossom. I want to know each of my clients as people and grow with them in their passionate work and life journeys. Most importantly, I want to be present with myself, and truly embrace the perfect mess I am.
I know time won’t stop for me. In fact, its speed is likely to pick up the pace. But I think my power will come from being present in each moment, however I choose to spend them.
What would you say to your “younger me”? Has reflection afforded you the power to practice a new way of living? I’d love to grow together. Share your comments or drop me a note.