35 Lessons I Learned In My Thirty Fifth Year

We often keep track of our kids' growth year to year, but not our own.  This year, for me, has been a transformative one.  I have gone from feeling weak to feeling strong, and from constantly fearing what's in store to spending more of my time believing God's got my back, and whatever comes my way, I'll be able to face it when I get there.  Here are 35 lessons (both big & small) that I learned in my thirty-fifth year of life.

It honestly, has been a year of suffering for me.  A year of hard, painful heartbreak and growing, watching my kids struggle with asthma & epilepsy among other things.  But Ann Voskamp says, "The miracle happens in the breaking." And I have to say she is right.  I feel like a newer, better version of myself.  And that's kind of a miracle.    

1) I need to let my children be who they are. 
Not who I think they are or who I dream they should be.

2) Perfection is not required.
I was running late to school one day because Wyatt had forgotten his backpack and we had to turn back and go get it.  When my friend Emilia passed us after hearing why we were late, she yelled to me, "Perfection is not required, mama!" It was like a warm hug.  What a lovely reminder.

3) Give grace.
Cause God knows I'm gonna need it (especially in friendships & in marriage).  I am gonna screw up, forget stuff, be a jerk... If I have given my friends grace when they needed it, they are way more likely to give it to me when I require it.

 4) Make the beds.
The whole house feels clean & organized if the beds are made.

5) Have the children help.
A lot.  It's good for them. And me.  We're a team, and we're only gonna get through this together.

6) Prioritize my sanity.
See my counselor; workout daily; journal often; pray ceaselessly, & cry as needed.

7) Put intimacy on the calendar.
Our marriage deserves alone time, and if putting it on the calendar is what it takes to make it happen, then so be it.  Happy husband + happy wife = happy life

8) Think horses, not zebras.
This gem from my friend Shana is how I overcame my health anxiety.  She said if I have a stomach ache, I need to think of simple explanations, not stomach cancer or liver failure.  Remembering this saying has been incredibly helpful as my health anxiety has reared its ugly head. 

9) Eat real food.
This is how I lost 35 pounds this year.  Well, that and moving my body.

10) Contentment is dependent on self acceptance.
If I accept myself, I will be more likely to be content with both my belongings, and my life in general.

11) Read more books.
Sometimes you can't change your life.  Escaping into a good book is the next best thing.
Also, self help books may be cliche, but they can also be life changing.

12) Take time to delight in  your kids.
It's okay to be the mom laughing with your two year old in the cereal aisle.
Or screaming with them on the zip line at the pumpkin patch. (Just sayin')

13) It's my resistance to life's events that causes stress.
The actual event itself doesn't cause stress.  My resistance does.  Acceptance is key.  I learned this from Michael Singer, who wrote The Untethered Soul.  (I highly recommend it.  It is life changing, no joke.)

14) It is what it is.
The sooner you accept, the sooner you can make a plan and move forward.  Repeating this mantra helps me with #13.  It keeps me from resisting life's events.
For example, Logan has epilepsy.  His brain gives him seizures. We don't know why, and no amount of tantruming on my part will change it.  The sooner I accept this reality, (no matter how much it may suck) the sooner I can move forward with a plan for him and get on with living & enjoying him regardless.

15) Other people want to help me.
I need to let them.

16) It's okay to not be okay.
Even if my life is currently good or great, it's okay to have a hard day, week or month.

17) Being real & vulnerable is beautiful.
I love this quote about it by Brene Brown:
"Vulnerability is about having the courage to show up and be seen." 
Yes. Just, yes.

18) It's okay to need a break from my children.
Everyone needs a break from their job occasionally, and my kids are my job.  It doesn't make me a bad mom.  It just makes me human.

19) Book clubs are the best.
Seriously. Join one. Create one.  You won't regret it!!!

20) I can do hard things.
Like moving to a new town; walking my kid through epilepsy; surviving the PICU & status asthmaticus as a parent.  There is strength in the depths of me that I had no idea existed.

21) Listen to my mom-gut.
God uses it to speak to me.  Like taking Wyatt in when he was breathing funny last year before he was hospitalized and wondering this year if he needed his tonsils & adenoids out (turns out he does!).

22) It's okay to have boundaries.
I'm not a doormat. I am not super great at setting up or keeping said boundaries, but that's something I am working on.

23) Say "thank you" in stead of "I'm sorry".
"Thank you for waiting for me" instead of "I'm sorry I'm late"- it allows the person to say "You're welcome" instead of having to excuse my crap behavior. Hah!

24) Walking loved ones through heartache is a privilege.
(This is technically from my 34th year, but I'm still learning from it) It hurt like hell, but being there for my sister when she lost her foster daughter meant more to me than anything. 
Truly, any time someone lets me inside their pain, I see that as a privilege, and I try to treat it as such.

"Grief, I've learned, is really just love. It's all the love you want to give but cannot.  All of that unspent love gathers up int he corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest.  Grief is just love with no place to go." 
-Jamie Anderson

25) I am not in control.
I repeat. I am not in control.  I hate this one.  Logan's epilepsy is the catalyst for this lesson and it's been a tough one, but learning to let go has been ultimately good for me.  I'm just along for the ride.

26) It's best to be as honest as I can 
with the kids about everything.*
This year we have been telling our kids about their health stuff, our family  happenings, why their bodies are doing what they're doing, etc.  It has made it easier when new/scary stuff has happened because they weren't blindsided by it.

27) *Except when it comes to magic!
We are keeping Santa, The Elf on the Shelf, and the Tooth Fairy alive as long as possible!

28) In a blood emergency, I am no good.
But in other emergencies, I am very level headed.  I've learned to take a moment to breathe before responding or deciding anything and it's amazing what that does.  It's saved us many ER visits and probably many panic attacks as well!

29) Anti-anxiety pills & anti-depressants 
are nothing to be ashamed of.  
We all need help sometimes, and for me this year that included a Rx of Prozac.  It has reduced my health anxiety, my generalized anxiety, my panic attacks and my depression.  Do I love the stigma that comes with saying, "I'm on Prozac"? No.  But my mental health, for the sake of my family and myself, is worth it.

30) Sitting with a negative feeling is one of the hardest things I've done, but it's also one of the most important things I've done.  
And as I keep doing it, it gets easier.  Plus, then I don't have to wait for those negative feelings to resurface later.
When I think of my strong, tough, cool, invincible ten year old boy being vulnerable and having to tell a classmate that he's going to have a seizure, then losing control of his body and coming out of it, dazed and confused, looking like a Japanese anime character, with huge black pupils and no one there to hug him and hold him, it hurts me physically that I'm not there.  But sitting with those feelings, accepting this reality ("It is what it is" "I'm not in control") is so important for my growth.
And the truth is, he is okay, he is cared for at school, and he has accepted this reality... so I need feel those feelings to do the same.  It's just really (really) hard.

31) Marriage is work some days.
But good night (!!!) is it ever worth it!  Josh and I celebrated our 15 year anniversary this summer and I am so grateful that he is by my side.  He fills in in our parenting where I am lacking, and he buoys me up when I am down.  I honestly don't know where I would be without him.

32)  People are good.
When times are tough and life gets hard, if you look around, you'll find the good people doing what they can to lighten your load. That day when Wyatt was getting ambulanced to Spokane and I was scared out of my mind, there was a nurse who asked if there was anything he could do.  I told him I hadn't eaten at all that day.  He was on with no breaks in sight, so he couldn't go to the cafeteria for me, but he could give me his own personal lunch from the fridge. So that's what he did.  It sustained me for HOURS on what was the longest day of my life.  To him it was a small act, but to me, it was so, so HUGE.

33) I feel best when I am giving.
I try to remember this, and make sure that I plan times when I am helping a friend, baking for others or just doing little things for my kids & husband that will make their day.  (Like earlier this week when I put the boys' fleece snowflake sheets on their beds, much to their delight!)

34) Admitting my weaknesses can become a strength.
For example, as stated above, I know I don't deal well with blood.  Knowing that, I can call in reinforcements (Josh or a neighbor) if I'm faced with a really bloody situation.  It's okay to call for help, and knowing my weakness allows me to get what I need in that situation.
Another example is from this summer when I was at my wits end with parenting and asked Josh to take all the boys out of town to see his mom.  When all was said and done, reaching the end of my rope became a strength because it taught me to ask for what I need.

35) And lastly, but perhaps most importantly, I am enough.
I am good enough, and strong enough, and smart enough, and pretty enough.
I don't have to be constantly improving myself or changing myself or comparing myself.  There isn't some yardstick by which I need to be constantly measuring my life.

"You alone are enough.
You have nothing to prove to anybody."
-Maya Angelou

God gave me these children, and this exact life because he knew I was strong enough to live it, and in this year, I have come to trust that.  It's not always easy, and I still doubt myself sometimes, but I've come a long, long way, and that feels really good.



Green Eyes said...

Keep growing Shelly! You are wise beyond your 37 years!

Holly said...

Oh shelly! I loved this so much! You are so inspiring. I don't think of myself as introspective or vulnerable (I think we are basically opposite personality types) so you are so good at making me actually *think* instead of just moving along. Happy happy birthday!!!!

Tabitha Studer said...

Shelly, so amazing - and what an incredible gift it is for you (and to all of us, your readers and friends!) to take a difficult year and spin it in a way to learn and grow from. I especially loved #13 - I agree so much, it is our resistance that makes things difficult and I am constantly praying for patience and gratitude so as to react with grace and to let go. My mantra this year has been "I can do what I can do" and trying not to beat myself up about all the things I can never get to (or control). So much love to you dear friend!!

Amanda said...

Wow...thank you for sharing. You are amazing! Several of these made me tear up bc they resonated with me so strongly!