|The news of the week, as it always does, got me thinking. It got me thinking about politics. Thinking about addiction. Thinking about success. Thinking about how to live one’s life.
Every new year, I usually do some kind of inventory of my own life. But I can’t wait until then. I just can’t. (Plus, my birthday is around the corner, so now is as good a time as any.)
And the truth is, it’s not just the news that has got me re-evaluating. My body has also been speaking to me to pay attention. My heart has been calling me out. My mind is telling me not to get caught up in the noise, but to instead step back and think about the effect that the noise has on my life, and on all of our lives. Plus, it’s all been giving me a complex migraine, complete with vertigo and vestibular damage (don’t ask).
As you can you see, it’s not just one thing that brought me to this moment again. It’s been a series of whispers and then a few 2x4s. If I’ve learned anything in life, it’s to pay attention to the whispers and the 2x4s because they usually precede a knockout. (Speaking of knockouts, the voices of the Architects of Change featured in today’s Sunday Paper just blow me away. I love being in community with them and so many others that we have featured. They help me rise above the noise and inspire me to have hope and move forward.)
What also gives me hope is knowing that at any point in my life, I can change things that aren’t working. So here are a few things that the week’s headlines made me think about. I share them with you in hopes that they may give you something to think about in your own life as you move forward.
I’ve made big misjudgments here. I used to think that if I were the anchor of a network news show that I would feel successful. Same with publishing a best-selling book. I was wrong. Success, I’ve learned, is an inside job. I didn’t grow up with that message, but I now know it to be true. The people who I now think are the most successful are the ones who have beautiful, loving families. They are the ones who love and are loved. Who toil quietly and patiently on the frontlines of life. Who recognize that a modest life is just as meaningful as one lived in the spotlight. (Boy, was I reminded of that this week when Albert Einstein’s notes on living a modest life sold for $1.6M. Check it out in the section below my essay.)
I used to think the Democratic Party had all of the answers. I was wrong. Both parties contribute to divisiveness, as we see each and every day in the news. Both parties have brought us to this mean-spirited, divided place. I left the Democratic Party a few years ago to register as an Independent. There lies my hope.
I used to be so judgmental about people who weren’t working like maniacs. I was wrong. Working like a maniac makes you sick and is its an addiction. Put work in its proper place. Find balance. Your happiness depends on all parts of your life working together.
Rest (Mental and Physical)
In my home growing up, rest was a big no-no. My parents never rested, so neither did my brothers or I. Today, I know better. Rest is critical to your mental and physical well-being, so make time for it. No one else is going to give it to you.
I used to think that I could eat whatever I wanted, for however long I wanted. I was wrong. Bad choices catch up to you. Before you know it, you could be that one that cancer decides to knockout. You could be the person that Alzheimer’s decides to take hold of. Make your health (especially your brain health) a priority. And, while you are at it, get to the bottom of your relationship with food. Cookies are not a substitute for real love. They don’t love you back. Trust me. Candy, cake and Swedish fish don’t either.
I used to view myself as fearless because I skied black diamond runs and jumped off cliffs. I spoke up and spoke out. But then I came face to face with how much fear I actually had deep down. Today, I work hard at pushing through the things that scare me emotionally, like sharing this list with you. Sometimes, I feel like I’m alone when I’m vulnerable or admitting that I’m scared. But, I now know that I’m not. (Speaking of fear, as I watched Sen. Jeff Flake give his speech this week on the Senate floor, I couldn’t help but wonder if he was feeling fear or afraid as he stood there so boldly making his public statement.)
Speaking of fear, very few things scare me more than being in solitude. In order to not be alone, I often pack my life and my house full of people (I mean, lots of people). Because the truth is, I’m happiest when my house is filled with the people I love. But, I know that I’ve also done this because I’ve been afraid to look like I was alone or feel like I was alone. I’ve noticed, though, that the universe has a way of doing for you what you can’t or won’t do for yourself. Today, I spend quite a bit of time alone. (My son and niece who have been living with me for the last year are now both moving out.) I’m not saying that I love being alone, but I have realized that I’ve learned most of these truths that I’m sharing because I’ve spent time alone. I’ve spent time in silence. At the end, my takeaway is that we should all try and spend more time in solitude so that we’re comfortable with it when we have to be.
I grew up in a family where loyalty was king. I heard about it all the time. Loyalty to family. Loyalty to friends. Loyalty to a particular faith, political party, or person. But, what I never heard about was loyalty to one’s self. It didn’t dawn on me that one could crush the other. Today, loyalty to myself is more important than my loyalty to anyone or anything else. I’ve learned it’s not selfish to put yourself at the center of your own life. I’ve learned that you must honor that person looking back at you in the mirror because the cost of not doing so is high.
Life is short. I grew up knowing this to be true, but now it seems like I’m reminded of it all the time. Healthy friends call and tell me they have stage 4 cancer. Someone else whispers to me that they have early-onset Alzheimer’s. Another person tells me about a crippling depression that makes life unlivable. And then, of course, there is the news. We don’t celebrate life enough. We don’t tell our loved ones what they mean to us enough. I’m not writing this because of my age (and because my birthday is on the horizon). I’m writing this because of my first-hand experiences. Honor your life. Celebrate your life. Enjoy your life. Do it now.
Re-evaluating—whether it’s on your birthday, New Year’s, or any other day—can be painful. But, it can also be incredibly liberating.
Every time I take inventory, I discover things I’m wrong about. But, I also discover that I’ve been right about more than I realize. I’ve been right about certain friends. Right about the importance of family. Right about my faith in a God larger than me or any one building. And, I’ve been right that there was something in me—and in you—that’s always worth fighting for.
That’s something none of us should ever have to re-evaluate.
Click Here to Read the Entire Sunday Paper.
P.S. I’ll be sharing more thoughts like the above in my upcoming book that’s inspired by these essays. “I’ve Been Thinking: Reflections, Prayers and Meditations” comes out February 27, 2018, and is available for pre-order now. I can’t wait for you to see it!
NEWS ABOVE THE NOISE
Amidst the constant blare of the 24-hour news cycle, so many interesting stories don’t rise to the surface for us to enjoy. Here are a few that caught my attention this week that I wanted to share with you.
HAWKING’S THESIS: Shortly after the University of Cambridge put Stephen Hawking’s 1966 PhD thesis, “Properties of Expanding Universes,” on its open access repository Monday, the site crashed due to a high volume of demand. [READ MORE]
A NURSE’S HEARTBREAKING GOODBYE TO DYING PATIENT: A Nashville, Tennessee nurse was captured on video singing while holding the hands of her 63-year-old patient dying of cancer. [READ MORE]
GROOM EXCHANGES “VOWS” WITH BRIDE’S SISTER: On his wedding day, a young man not only married his wife, he also exchanged vows with her younger sister, who has Down syndrome. [READ MORE]
EINSTEIN’S NOTES: Two hand-written notes that Albert Einstein had given to a courier in 1922 fetched $1.6 million at auction. [READ MORE]