Today is my 43rd birthday. Many people wouldn’t dare mention how old they are, but I’m okay with my age. While you’re reading this, my Mom and Grandmother are at my home with my son and I’m in Charleston with my husband for a much-needed getaway. What have I learned in 43 years? Believe me, if I had unlimited time and brain power, I’d share it all. Instead, I share a few things I think are important and that I have learned in these 43 cycles around the sun.
1. I will always be younger than my husband. His birthday was yesterday, so for a full 24 hours every year, I am able to tease him about robbing the cradle and asking him how it feels to have such a young wife. Happy Birthday, honey.
2. A sense of humor is your best tool in this life. See number 1. Develop your sense of humor and it will take you places rage, anger, and crankiness will never take you.
3. Don’t sweat the small stuff. There are times I’ve gotten really upset over insignificant things that don’t mean a hill of beans to me. I’m here to tell you, take things seriously that need to be taken seriously and the rest — just let it go.
4. Choose your friends wisely. Not all of them are meant to be in your life permanently. In fact, very few of them will be. The ones that are a permanent fixture will truly love you for you — not what you can do for them, or for their own ego boost.
5. Put your phone down. That’s it. Put it down, take a walk and just be. Or just sit somewhere and watch the grass grow. You’ll get much-needed vitamin D and be much more relaxed.
6. Learn to tune people out. My son calls it my internal noise machine. I just turn on the TV static and zone out on purpose. It took a long time to develop that talent, but it has saved me so many times.
7. If you can save a nickel, save a nickel. That’s coming straight from the voice in my head, Grandma. It’s nice to go and do things, but at the end of the day, cluttering your house up with a bunch of crap that we can’t take with us is incredibly stressful. Those savings will come in handy, should you need it for an emergency, or should you want a great experience — like travel.
8. Wrinkles happen. We can’t reverse them without painful, expensive procedures. Growing old is a fact of life, and while I don’t like it, it’s part of the life experience.
9. Wear Sunscreen. See number 8. Coat yourself liberally. All day, every day. I miss being tan, but hate wrinkles more.
10. Let people know you’re thinking about them. I don’t care if you’ve not interacted with them in six months. Tell them. Sometimes it’s a matter of life and death.
11. Death and dying sucks. I’ve had to bury too many people I love. People I grew up with, who were my age. It never, ever gets easier. Which is why number 10 is so important.
12. Keep it off Facebook. I’m there less and less. On purpose. If I don’t have something nice to say, I just don’t say it. If your stream there is bringing you down, the unfollow button is your best friend. Seriously.
13. Stand up for those without a voice. Even when things are difficult.
14. You will meet a lot of people in this life. Not all of them will like you. That’s ok. You don’t have to like them either.
15. Ignore your inner keyboard courage when online. If you wouldn’t say it to the person you love the most, don’t say it.
16. Laundry is a fact of life. So are dust bunnies. People who love you won’t look for those when they visit. Unless they are your Grandmother, who will get your vacuum cleaner and clean the baseboards.
17. Chicken breasts have no flavor and are always dry as hell. Cook the whole bird, or learn to love the thighs. Life is too short to eat dry, bland chicken. Same goes for turkey. My suggestion is to brine it, always.
18. Meals cooked by others always taste better. I don’t know why, but they do.
19. Go look in the mirror and tell the person looking back at you that you love them. Sounds hokey, but it’s a good feeling, knowing that you can love yourself. Avoid doing this in a public restroom and will always cause strange looks and funny responses. Unless you like that sort of thing.
20. Life is short. Pack in all you can. Walk slowly. Sing loudly. Breath deeply. Skip in the rain. Buy the good chocolate. But most of all, love yourself. Always.