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At the age of 45, writer Regina Brett wrote a column for the Cleveland Plain Dealer listing 45 lessons that life had taught her thus far. As a breast cancer survivor, many of those lessons were learned the hard way. Five years later she added five more lessons rounding her list up to 50 and turned her popular list into a book called God Never Blinks. I found her list to be entertaining, inspiring and thought provoking. I thought I would go through each of her lessons learned and write about how that lesson has or has not come up in my own life, now that I am 40 and feel old enough to have finally learned something.
"Don't audit life. Show up and make the most of now."
~ LESSON #41
I'm goal oriented. I like to make lists. Things I need to do. Things I want to do. It helps me not fritter away my day, sitting on the couch and watching bad TV instead of paying the bills, washing dishes and buying groceries. There's a lot to be said for watching Real Housewives marathons. You can feel pretty damn good about yourself in comparison to some of the shallow, psycho behavior displayed there. But I tend to have guilt creep in to my head while trying to imbibe in my guilty pleasure, being lazy. Lists and goals help to motivate me and allow me to get better things done in a more organized, less time consuming way so that I can relax at the end of the day with a beer and bad TV, guilt free.
So it is natural for me to take stock. To look around my life and see what I've accomplished and what's still to be done. I'm not talking about just the chores list. I mean quality of life in general. I've come a long way. I once told my parents in all seriousness when I was in college that I never believed it would be possible to own my own home. I have clawed my way out of debt twice. And now I sit in my own home that we bought and renovated and love completely. I still have not forged my path towards a career that makes me fully happy. On my own terms, with my own hours, doing something that brings me joy. Writing and being paid for the words that I string together is a goal still on that to do list.
But setting goals to motivate and taking stock of them to acknowledge the things you've worked hard to attain are different than auditing your life. Auditing your life, for me, involves comparing your situation to others'. Worrying more about keeping up with the Joneses instead of doing what you do and realizing there's a lot of value and validity in that.
If you spend all your time making lists and feeling like a loser because you didn't get it all done, or that the things you've crossed off are less important than what your friend accomplished is not valuing yourself. Your only real goal - the real goal for any of us - is to live our lives. You can't do that when you're constantly fact checking it. Learn from your past but don't dwell on it. Make the most of what you've got going on - for yourself. Or at least, that's what I've gathered from all those afternoons watching Dr. Phil.