Remember the Y2K scare? How could that have been twenty years ago? While I didn’t think it at the time, I look back and realize how naive I was back then. I trusted too easily and believed people meant the words they said. I suppose I didn’t want to see people as the complex beings that they were. I preferred people (and life) to be in more black and white terms..good or bad…right or wrong. Perhaps I didn’t want them to disappoint me. Maybe I was just trying to figure out life as a grown up and it was easier to understand that way. I don’t know. I wanted, no I yearned for, a simple life with all my ducks were in a row. Somehow, I thought that meant happiness.
Seriously, I didn’t have a clue. Life just doesn’t work that way. There are days when I can’t get half of my ducks in a row, let alone all of them. What was I thinking? How could I believe that superficial order meant happiness? Life is gray and mucky and complicated and exquisite and wonderful all at the same time. I had only been married for a few years back then. I felt like I was on a predetermined path. I’ve divorced and remarried since. So much for a predetermined path. I’ve experienced unbelievably heart-wrenching and indescribably beautiful moments…sometimes within short time spans of each other. Unexpected, untimely deaths of loved ones, divorce, newfound love, motherhood twice over, unconditional friendships, professional challenges, and professional fulfillment overlapped and sometimes collided with each other. In some ways, the past twenty years have felt like a roller coaster ride. A beautiful, heart-stopping roller coaster ride.
So what has the two decade roller coaster ride taught me? Here are my biggest takeaways:
1. Life should be lived slowly, because time slips away too damn fast. The idea that time flies is so trite, but is undeniably true. Nothing has proven that to me more than watching how quickly my children have grown. The babies and toddlers they once were have disappeared forever. As life progressed at breakneck speed, the years somehow vanished. I’m learning to slow down and find more joy in the ordinary because I am downright terrified of the pace time can dissipate.
2. I don’t ever want to stop learning and growing. Maya Angelou once said: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” I’m proud that I’ve endured challenges, made mistakes, learned from them, and done better. The toughest times taught me how strong I really am. I don’t feel the pressure to be perfect anymore. I’ve given myself permission to make mistakes because I trust I will learn and grow from them.
3. You are given the children that need you the most. My oldest son had a bazillion food, medication, and environmental allergies–so much so, that his pediatrician said he was the most allergic patient she ever had. My youngest son has an uncommon medical condition that involves motor and sensory dysregulation. Both of my boys needed a mom who was willing to learn everything she could about their conditions, adapt environments to meet their needs, locate the best specialists to provide expert care, and advocate fiercely for them. They got a mama bear who doesn’t have quitting in her DNA.
4. Children are only ours on loan. That one hit me like a ton of bricks when I dropped my oldest son off at college this past fall. As I sobbed uncontrollably when I said goodbye to him (and for the entire three hour car ride rode home), I couldn’t help but wonder where the hell the time went. I’ve learned to cherish the moments I have with my children–even the challenging ones–because I now fully understand that those moments aren’t limitless.
5. In the end, it all comes down to love….love of a partner, children, family, friends, and yes, love of self. Love gives life meaning and makes the excruciating times bearable. At the end of my days, I know it is the legacy of love I leave behind and take with me that will matter the most.
I’m not sure what the next decade will bring, but the year 2020 feels like a play on the idea of clearer vision. It seems almost prophetic. I hope to move through the next decade with greater clarity as I carry these hard-earned lessons with me. I can’t wait to see what else comes into more distinct focus. Bring on 2020!