Here are some very (unsolicited) important things I have learned in the last 20 years that I feel have been vastly important not only for my own personal growth, but for any progeny coming behind me who might like to know how to navigate what is before them. This list is personal; I don't assume to have all the answers, dear reader.
*God will absolutely give you more than you can handle. He will always do this. Why? Because if you could do it all on your own, then why in the world would He have sent you a Savior? We are given more than we can handle alone so that we will turn to Jesus Christ and allow Him to carry the burden He's already paid. Learning to turn to Christ is probably the very most important lesson I've ever learned. Hands down.
*Loving people doesn't mean you have to agree with them. In fact, you can hate everything they believe, everything they do, and everything the say --and still love them. Love isn't agreement. Love isn't even support! Love is seeing people as God sees them, acknowledging their agency, mourning with them, and serving them when you can. Example: I do not agree with or support same sex marriage. But I will never, ever, ever, speak unkindly about someone who is in a same sex marriage. Another example: I will never, ever, ever agree with abortion. But I will not condemn those desperate women who choose to have one. Love can mean boundaries. Love can mean distance. Love can mean teaching. Love can mean ignoring. Loving someone is never about denying your own beliefs; it's about denying your pride.
*What you focus on expands. The more you complain about something, the more negative it will become. The more patience you have, the greater peace you will feel. If you focus on the positive and good aspects of something (relationship or situation), it will become positive and good. This has been termed the "self-fulfilling prophecy." Basically, if you want your spouse or your children to be the great people you believe they have the capability of becoming, then treat them that way. If you nag, complain, murmur, get frustrated, yell, whine, and be passive-aggressive, then this is the kind of family you will have. I know this, because I used to (sometimes still) do this. But I also know that if you give trust, bite your tongue, choose to accentuate the positive, refrain from publicly complaining, acknowledge your own weaknesses, apologize, and just try to be cheerful, miracles can occur. People will always reflect back to you what you give to them! Especially children. Especially spouses. But you could take this to another level, too. If you focus on the good in your job, your roommates, your church assignments, your schooling, your parents, your siblings, your home, your entire situation --you will be much, much happier.
I remember once, in high school, reading about how I can choose my attitude. I could choose not to be angry. I thought it was insanity! Of course I couldn't control my attitude --my feelings just happened! Now I know it to be very, accurately, painfully true --you have the power within you to choose your reactions. You have the power to choose your attitude. Feelings may come and go, but you don't have to actually act upon them, and when you do, sometimes, you've just become your own worst enemy.
*Self-care is not selfish. Sacrifice can be good, especially if it's in a situation where your service will not only bring about good things in front of you, but good things inside of you. However, there is very little room for life-long martyrdom without a glorious cause. Mothers struggle with this the most, I think, because the very nature of motherhood is to sacrifice herself for the benefit of the children and family. There is absolutely nothing wrong, demeaning, or anti-feminist in a woman who makes sacrifices for her family --especially when she has chosen it! But mothers need not take it as far as they feel they must. And they cannot help their families when their own well-being is shaky. We learn in the church that self-reliance is a must. We cannot lift others until we have lifted ourselves a little bit. So do you want to know what I do for self-care? Every day, I do at least 2-3 things that bring me joy. I also go out with girlfriends. I go to therapy. I take long, hot showers. I read. I write. I create. I play music. I do yoga. I simply do things that make me happy, and then I can, in return, give happiness to my family. There is a fine line, for sure, between self-care and selfishness, but with prayer guiding you, you'll know where that line falls.
*If you need help, then ask for it. Sometimes, you will need help. It doesn't matter what kind --you'll need help. Self-reliance and self-sufficiency are good, but there's a reason we have each other. Don't you dare be too proud to ask or accept help from others. You need a ride? Help after a baby is born or a surgery? Need to know how to do something? Need to borrow something? Have questions? Just ask. And then think of it this way: if someone were to ask for your help, wouldn't you be willing to help? Then let them help you, too. This also applies to religion and God. You have questions? Ask them. Wait for the answers.
*There is a pendulum and you do not want to be on either side. Some people will call this fence-sitting, but I see it as something different. The goal is to hit the bulls eye, not to deviate away from it. You will face issues in your life that will have all kinds of extremes and many of them are full of lies. Here are several examples of things that have two extremes:
Self-sacrifice vs. Selfishness
Modern medicine vs. holistic medicine
Liberal vs. conservative
Prude vs. addiction (or "frigid-house-wife" vs. Pornography)
Letter vs. Spirit (of the law --like Pharisees vs. no consequence religion)
Stress vs. procrastination
Vegan (extreme) vs. carnivore
You can pretty much find any extreme in any part of your life. Moderation brings the most health, the most logic, and from what I've found, greater access to the Holy Ghost. This isn't to say you can't pick a belief (please do!), but don't be swept away by the extremes.
*What is right for you may actually not be right for someone else. This is tricky (most things are) because I do believe there is a right and wrong. However, how we do things are not the same --nor were they meant to be the same. I'm mostly speaking about grey-area issues that end up being debated ad naseum in social media. For example, how you feed your baby, where your kids go to school, what political party you belong to, which diet you prefer, what clothes you wear, where you live, which kids you vaccinate, which cars you drive, where you donate your money, what exercise you enjoy, what books you like to read, where you go to university (or if you dropped out or didn't go), how you spend your money, and where you go on vacation. Just because you have decided that home birth is not right for you doesn't mean it isn't right for someone else. Just because you vote democrat doesn't mean those who don't are evil. Make decisions based on what is best for you and your family, and don't let others tell you it's wrong (unless it is wrong --like, seriously, addictions, abuse, etc. --not cool, not right, definitely not a grey-area issue!). But make sure you give the same privilege to others, too. If you can't stand that the woman next to you is breast feeding her child in public, then you get to just avert your eyes and walk away because her choice has nothing to do with you --and her choice is not wrong. It's just different.
*Society's views on beauty are outright lies. Don't buy into it. It's honestly just a bunch of crap. Women, especially, have to be very careful about what they believe. If it is costing you a vast amount of money and a ridiculous amount of time to put products all over your body in order to look like someone else (that doesn't exist), then you need to stop yourself and think about it: how is this helping me be a better person? Help others? Love the body God gave me? The media has done a huge number on women for centuries --we're always being told what to wear, what to buy, what to do, what to sacrifice, and all for what? A completely unattainable persona that doesn't exist in real life. It's okay to be clean (please take a shower!). It's okay to dress nicely (modest, clean, happy clothing!). It's also okay to want to wear make-up or do your hair (within reason). Being creative and choosing clothing that makes you happy is not bad! But don't you dare buy into the lies that you have to wear the latest trends, be a certain shape, or surgically change your body in order to be something else. Those are Satan's lies. He doesn't get a body, dear reader, and so he wants you to destroy yours! He doesn't care how you destroy it. Drugs, alcohol, over-eating, not-eating-enough, surgery, tattoos, piercings, cutting, dangerous activities, hiding it with dyes, makeup, and clothing... just as long as you hurt yourself (inside and out), Satan will be happy. But you, dear reader, are beautiful just the way you are. You are beautiful without all the product and clothes! I mean it! When I rejected the idea of what beauty was supposed to be, I felt like flying! I love my body. I love what God has given me and what my body has been capable of --beauty is in the eye of the beholder, anyway. And I know I'm beautiful! I look nothing like the magazines, movies, or make-up ads. Nothing. But that doesn't matter, because I am beautiful. I have stopped buying the lies --you should stop, too!
*Your marriage is way more important than your parenting. I understand that for some, this might not be true. Abuse happens and it's wrong. If you are in an abusive relationship, I would beg (seriously beg) you to get out as fast as possible. If not for yourself, then for your children. With that said --if you are in a pretty good marriage, don't ruin it by focusing all your attention on your children. Your kids are going to grow up and move away. They will be gone. You will be left with your spouse and if you've spent the last 30 years ignoring him or her, you're going to be pretty surprised by how hollow your marriage will be. This is why I would encourage all married couples with children (no matter the income, no matter the situation) to go on weekly dates, sit next to each other at church, go to bed at the same time, and go away on vacation once a year (at least one night). People have judged me for years for leaving my kids up to 14 days in order to go on vacation with my husband. But it's been so important to our relationship! Spending that time together to be intimate without worry (which kid will wake up and come knocking at the door), reconnect, spend time talking, laughing, exploring, sleeping, and just being together --it's so important! If you want it badly enough, you'll find the babysitters to watch your kids. Weekly date nights are also really important. You don't have to spend money in order to have a date. Just spend time together! Wait until the kids are in bed, and then do things together you don't do every day. Make your marriage a priority, and you'll be less sad when the kids all leave the house.
A few other tidbits I don't feel like explaining at length that I may or may not still struggle with, but are still important things I've learned:
*Don't fall on the martyrdom sword and then complain that it hurts.
*Pray every day. All day.
*Nature is the best place to re-focus.
*Your body houses your spirit, so take good care of it.
*Everyone should have a therapist.
*Do not gossip. At best, you feel bad. At worst, it ruins lives.
*Drink water. If you can, drink only water.
*Make your space (home, room, apartment, desk at work, etc.) your own beautiful space.
*Keep learning your whole life through reading, classes, study, faith, prayer, clubs, and schooling.
What kinds of things have you learned in the last 20 years? What would you add to my list?