We all learn lessons; that is, we are all given lessons throughout life and some of us learn them. Some of us are destined to repeat the same lessons over and over until we are beaten over the head with the truth we are supposed to recognize the first or second time around. Over the last few years, without actually intending to, I have developed a commitment to only participating in activities which allow me to draw a lesson from them. For if I am participating in fruitless ventures intentionally, I am wasting the precious little time I have on this earth. I’m not foolproof. I spent an hour last weekend watching The Jersey Shore with my friend Liz. For some reason, we always get sucked into watching terrible reality television. I don’t do this with anyone else, but the two of us can sit and be appalled together for hours on end. Usually, though, I really try to keep junk out of my life.
I don’t want the Snookie in me to be exposed one day, so if I avoid letting her in, I can possibly suppress her forever. While mindless television is sometimes validated as cathartic, I argue that there are always better ways to go through the process of renewal, relaxation or regeneration (listen to music, play an instrument, go for a walk, meditate, work out, cook, take a bath, read, ride your bike, stretch, take a nap). Each of those activities provide an opportunity to truly renew one’s strength, create a relaxed environment and regenerate one’s energy. The JerseyShore is a lifesucker. I don’t subscribe to the argument that watching shows like that makes us feel better about ourselves. Maybe they do, but we should not be finding fulfillment because we perceive someone else to be a degenerate.
I think it’s an excellent exercise to sit and reflect on what you have learned in the past few days. Are your day to day activities bringing you to a place of renewal, relaxation and regeneration? Are you acknowledging the lessons you should be learning or is there a large lesson hammer somewhere in your future?
At the end of this post, try it for yourself. What __________ taught me about __________ and write a paragraph explaining what you mean. It doesn’t have to be a life lesson because those take time to learn. Unless you’ve recently had an epiphany, you are probably in the process of learning several life lessons because they don’t happen one at a time, nor do they happen suddenly. That doesn’t mean that you can’t always be learning. For example:
What Ted Mosby taught me about Wanting and Needing
Ted Mosby, a main character in How I Met Your Mother, taught me (with the help of a lengthy text discussion) that sometimes love is selfish. You love someone, not for their sake, but for your own. Something about loving them makes you feel good even though you know your love isn’t right (for any number of reasons). For those of us who loved someone else before we met “the one” it’s a lesson we probably had to learn the hard way. I can say that I learned it, but never really put the lesson into words. When I saw Ted, once again, confessing his love for Robin, begging her to give him another chance, it occurred to me that sometimes we hold onto what we want even though it’s not what we need. So I starting thinking about myself. What do I want that I don’t need? I mean, I’m not sure that list ends, so I have to focus it on things I really want, that I’m actually trying to acquire, that I actually don’t need. The most obvious answer for me that comes to my head straightaway is my housing situation. In approximately six months or so, my husband and I will begin living in our first new place together. I have high expectations, but what we actually need is simple: a one-bedroom with a backyard. That is all we need. I want a three bedroom, two bath in a great neighborhood with a kosher market down the street. We need one bedroom with a backyard for the dog. After all, the three bedroom, two bath can come later when we actually need more than one room, but for now, all we really need is a roof that doesn’t leak and a yard with a fence tall enough that my Olympic jumping dog can’t get over.
What Casual Conversation taught me about Vitamins and Supplements
I was sitting in between two doctors: one a psychotherapist, the other a chiropractor. They were both extolling the great value of vitamins and supplements. It had never occurred to me to take anything extra for any reason. We had been discussing well-being and how to achieve it. I eat healthy and work out; isn’t that enough? Apparently not! They suggested that I consult a physician or a homeopathic expert on what I could take to enhance what my body wants to do naturally. I don’t like to take any pills unless I have to, although I’m not anti-pills entirely, but I don’t like the idea of pills becoming a cure-all. Supplements are supposed to protect you and help your body prevent the need for pills to solve problems. The chiropractor spoke about how everything in your body is connected to your nervous system and sometimes problems with your kidney or your feet can be solved by examining what’s going on with your spine, and also evaluating your mental state. Vitamins and supplements are designed to be brokers for health before you develop problems and bridges back to health after you do. I’m not an expert; in fact, I don’t know much more now than I did before I spoke with them. But, I have an idea. I have a path to explore and I’m curious about how I can remain healthy and prolong a healthy life. My insurance went up $13 when I turned 30 and I think it’s radically unfair since I am just as healthy 30 days ago as I am right now: more so now! If vitamins and supplements can extend my health, I’m more than curious enough to look into it. Casual conversation opened my eyes to a new avenue to health and growth and I am so grateful for that.
I follow a number of blogs, and one is “Cynical Girl”. Here is the post that woke me up and made me feel guilty about hitting the snooze button every morning. So, studies say that people who don’t hit the snooze button are more productive during the day and healthier. I actually set my alarm fifteen minutes before I need to get up simply because I like the ability to give myself fifteen more minutes and get used to the idea that I have to get out of my nice warm bed. I change one habit a month and I’ve decided that next month, my habit change is going to be to stop hitting my snooze button and get out of bed immediately. It will take willpower, focus and determination. I’m going to do it because I want to be healthier and more productive. I get an idea about what I want to do and do it, sometimes just because I’m so curious about what the end result will be. So many things had to happen for me to even latch onto this idea. First, the writer of the blog had to attend a work conference several years ago where she enjoyed the speaker’s “anarchist rant”. She then had to schedule an appointment and listen to an avalanche of BS, which she sifted through and grabbed onto “Don’t Hit the Snooze Button”. Then, she had to wait until I was a reader and post a blog about the entire ordeal. I had to come across her post at a time when I was susceptible to suggestion. It all fell perfectly into place and I have to acknowledge it. I’m going to choose to be healthier and more productive by changing one habit. Every once in a while, we need to recognize the value of our daily interactions and choices, whether it be something we watch on television, a conversation we partake in or a random blog we read.
If I cannot derive purpose from what I am doing, I cannot justify my continued existence in the realm I’ve chosen. Not everything has to have a deeper meaning, but everything should have a positive effect. For instance, I listen to music by Phil Collins, not because I’m necessarily inspired by the lyrics, but because I enjoy it and if we aren’t enjoying life, what are we doing? But, Phil Collins leaves me feeling good for the right reasons. I hear heroin makes you feel good too, but that’s definitely for the wrong reasons. If you can’t justify your interactions and choices, make a change.
Here’s my challenge to you:
Review your choices and your interactions. Which are positive and which are negative? Which are providing you with an opportunity to learn or discover, but you’re ignoring it or leaving it unacknowledged? What lessons do you think you should have learned, but haven’t? Where can you cut the fat? Where can you focus the light?
Either mentally or physically, make a list of:
What ________ taught me about ___________ and figure out why and how.
The experience will leave you satisfied about how you’re spending your time, and if it doesn’t, it may inspire you to change.