Three boys live here.
I am looking around my house, and it is in desperate need of some significant cleaning. The lives of three young boys and mine come crashing into each other here – soccer shoes, golf clubs, backpacks, notes from school, band-aids, and reminders of events coming up. Pictures cover our walls reminding us of the time that has passed by so quickly.
I look at the mess, and I think I should be getting the cold weather clothes packed away and the warm weather clothes out. That creates another job to do and inevitably making yet another mess to clean. It is hard keeping up when I consider the tradeoff ― the other things, the fun things, the fulfilling things going on in my life.
Three boys live here ― three boys who seem to live in the kitchen. The pantry door is always left open. I’m surprised the kitchen isn’t a few degrees colder than the rest of the house because of the added cooling system of the refrigerator door always being open.
I think about doing some deep cleaning sometimes, but then I think, what’s more important in life: completing endless housekeeping tasks or making memories?
Do I want my boys to grow up and remember living in a spotless house and eating gourmet dinners? Or do I want them remembering how we played together, watched movies together, and how I knew as much about “Crash Bandicoot” and “Jak and Daxter” as they did? We go to the driving range and bowling alley; we play baseball, soccer, basketball, and golf in the yard. We play board games and computer games together and read stories at night.
As a mother, that is the legacy I want to leave; the constant cleaning and endless scrubbing will wait – our life will not.
Three boys live here, but they won’t live here forever. So, for now, straightened up is good enough; I choose to create memories.
I wrote this in May 2006
Current Day Reflections
We all leave behind a story when we leave this earth. Whether we like it or not, there are stories about us right now, stories people tell about us behind our backs, and stories we willingly share with family and friends. And there will be stories of us long after we are gone.
What are the stories you want being told about you around the dinner table to the future generations of your family?
What stories are being told about you now as you still walk this earth?
Think long and hard about what you want out of life, and what are the tradeoffs.
There are always tradeoffs.
We need to be sure they are worth it. There are some things in life that we should not compromise on. If you consider the following aspects of life:
- Your health
- Your spirituality
- Your friends
- Your family
- Your finances
- Your happiness
- Your sense of fulfillment
If you had to be deficient in one of these aspects, which one would you pick?
I hope you would choose to be lacking financially over all of the other choices in this list.
Our Story is Playing Out
We tell our story with how we live our lives, so live well and tell a great story.
There is no going back. We are blessed and cursed with the gift of memory. Our memories hold onto the people and the events in our lives that have passed us by so quickly. Our memories keep our loved ones alive long after they have left us. Our memories hold onto our grandparent’s life stories. I think about my grandparents and how they were very much part of my life. I was 23 when my first grandparent passed away. By 23, we had built up a lot of stories in my memory bank. He died before I was married before I had children. They only know him from pictures and stories.
I hope we are doing him justice. Herein lies the curse of having memories; they also hold onto our pains, losses, mistakes, and missteps.
Judging Our Younger Selves
We cannot look back on our lives and pass judgment on who we were when we were younger. I can’t look back and judge who I was and the choices I made when I was seven, or 19 or 23, and so on. I sit here today with more knowledge, wisdom, and life experience than when I made the choices back then.
How did I get the added knowledge and wisdom?
By getting through the circumstances the choices that I made created. Some of these choices brought me joy, and some brought me pain.
But they all brought me wisdom.
And together, they all brought me to where I am today. The choices, circumstances, people, and events of my past have made me who I am today. Changing even one part of those events or circumstances would change where I am today and who I am today.
Story of My Sons When They Were Young
I have three sons. Currently, they are 21, 23, and 25, but I vividly remember having this conversation when they were 7, 9, and 11.
There were times when my seven-year-old was being seven, and my 11-year-old felt he needed to judge him or his behavior or tell him what he was doing was “stupid.” I would say to my oldest, “He is seven; let him be seven.”
I reminded him that he did things when he was seven and at 11 that I thought were silly or could do a lot quicker or better. I reminded him that I could see the mistake he was about to make by observing him and what he was doing, but I didn’t stop him or tell him what to do (within reason). I pointed out that I let him be 11. I let him make the choices an 11-year-old would make. I let him make mistakes, and I let him learn. He needed to experience 11 for himself, and he needed to allow his brothers to experience being seven and nine for themselves.
I understand wanting to help people, but we can’t rob them of life experiences or stop them from learning lessons in the process.
Forgiving Your Younger Self
For this same reason, we need to stop feeling guilt or shame for the choices we made when we were younger. We need to leave our seven, 9, and 23-year-old self alone. Know that we did the best we could in the situation we were in with the tools we had at the time.
And as Maya Angelou said, “when we know better, we do better.”
We need to believe that everything we walked through brought us to where we are today.
If you like who you are today, you can see the journey thus far has been worth it. If you are sitting here today not liking who you are or where you are, do not blame your younger self. Instead, take the time and energy you are spending beating yourself up and feeling guilty or shameful and make some fundamental changes.
Now that you recognize it, make a plan. But more important than making a plan is putting it into action. We are older, and we have new tools; we have wisdom, knowledge, and experience. Now that we have acquired new tools, we can’t go back and change the past.
We need to use these new tools to move with a stronger, more confident stride into the future and in the direction of accomplishing our goals.
You Don’t Have a Magic Wand
Unless one of the new tools you have is a magic wand, fairy godmother, or a time machine, wishing to change the past is a waste of time and energy. Plus, it hurts our spirit.
All of our past experiences are there to teach us something and make us stronger; they are not there to break us.
We shouldn’t focus on the past battles we didn’t win; we need to hold onto the ones we did win.
Why do they get less credit and less real estate in our memory banks?
But even more important, we need to hold on harder to the fact that we fought battles at all.
Whether they were battles we won or lost, it’s showing up and being present in our own life that matters the most. It’s in the journey and fighting the battles where we will learn the lessons and acquire wisdom.
Do not make the mistake of thinking wisdom and reward are only found at the end of the journey or at the outcome of the battle.
Use the past as a solid foundation on which to build a strong future. It is not an excuse to justify a lack of fulfillment or a lack of fight. And we can never use our pasts to justify labeling ourselves a failure. We are not failures – unless we throw up our hands and refuse to participate or be responsible for our own life.
No matter how many times we fail, no matter how many times we stumble and fall, as long as we try, as long as we fight, as long as we believe, then we are not failures.
We are in control of how we choose to react to the things that happen in our life. We cannot blame our past or people in our past for what is happening in our lives.
We have probably all heard the phrase, “Whether you think you’re a winner, or you think you’re a loser, you are right.”
At the same time, I can think I am a loser, and I can behave like a loser. I can dwell on my mistakes and failures, and before I know it, people will treat me like a loser.
Wait! I just have to think I am a winner and behave like a winner, strive to be a winner, and I will be a winner. Yes, all of that… plus doing the work to achieve your goals. That makes you a winner.
Not Always Easy
I know it is not always easy, but the formula is simple. It is about knowledge, believing, and behaving. Learn what we need to learn to achieve our goals. Behave the way we would like people to see us. Do you want to be a good parent? Then behave like a good parent, do what good parents do, and you will be.
Are you living a fulfilling life? Surround yourself with the people and things that fulfill you, and you will be.
To be successful, we need to define what that means for each of us. Then we need to live our lives the way we have defined. We need to live as if we deserve the success we desire.
We are responsible for making the plan, working hard, and creating that life.
It is all about believing in ourselves and living a life where we reap what we sow.
What is the legacy we want to leave behind?
Our priorities create our legacy. Make sure they are in line.