I was recently at lunch with a friend who asked what life lessons I’ve learned. Here we go. I’m supposed to have some big time lessons I’ve learned the hard way. You know, the type where now that I’m older and wiser, I can talk about them and sound all reflective and sage.
Sure I’ve got some lessons: I know how to finesse my way to the front of the boarding line. I know how to pack for a week using only a carry on. I know the importance of the airport bar when the word “Delayed” has flashed above the gate.
Somehow I felt pressure to come up with something, let’s say, a little more substantive. I was literally scratching my head. I think I ended up babbling about how I learned not to judge others because – you know – I don’t want to be judged either and who really knows what’s going on in that person’s life and so forth and so on.
But, that’s not some lesson I learned the hard way or even an easy way. It’s just something I know, because, uh, because it’s obvious.
So, I was driving home trying to think of some real lessons I’ve learned – hard, soft, or medium – and here’s what I came up with:
I have learned that sometimes it’s better to let things come to you, instead of going after them.
What? You, Zoe? Anyone who knows me wouldn’t call me passive – about anything. I go after what I want and usually don’t stop until I get it (or it becomes obvious I won’t get it.) This is as true about where we’re going for dinner as it is about getting a new job.
So, let me qualify my “life lesson” with the fact that while I have “learned” this, I am failing miserably at applying it. Still, I am trying to let things come to me more often than before and believe that verisimilitude – getting near to a truth – may have to be good enough.
When I got home my cell phone started ringing and it was my mom. She started talking about the neighbor, the other neighbor, and then pummeled me with questions about what my weekend plans were (Mom asks a lot of questions.)
So, I flipped one on her, “Hey, Mom, what would you say are some life lessons you’ve learned?” My mom (who is not Catholic and never was) was raised in a convent and typically resorts to some of their cogitations when asked certain questions like…..what is a life lesson you’ve learned? So, true to form, she said, “Well, as Reverend Mother once told me, ‘when you feel blue, scrub a floor or wash a window!’”
My mom must be one happy lady because I can safely say I have never seen her do either of these things!
As she’s telling me this, I can’t help but think of a letter she wrote me many years ago when I was sad and in need of a life lesson. She quoted her own mother and said, “Sois sage,” which means, “Be wise.” And then she shared part of a letter her mother had written to her: “keep your head high, your heart humble and your spirit outgoing to all those in distress. Out of their need and the knowledge that you have helped will come the only realistic comfort you can hope for in your own moments of grief.”
That may not be a life lesson – but it gives me strength whenever I read it. And, incidentally, I’m doing better at this one than the waiting for things to come to me one.
Write and tell me what life lesson you have learned – even if you haven’t mastered it.