On swimming… and being washed up on the shore

I try to live my life engaged. I don’t know if I’m succeeding or not, but I know I’m always thinking. I don’t want life to just happen to me. And wash over me. Experiences must mean something.

Maybe that’s the hidden motivation for my blogging. I get to capture and process my thoughts. That’s important to me – blogging or not. I am guided by the experiences of my past, and so I need time to dissect those interactions.

Figure out what works and what doesn’t. Try to gain some insight. Some lessons are taught by wise and loving teachers, while others are much, much harder on the heart and mind.

How very rewarding to try and succeed.

But how much more valuable to try… and fail.

Not that I enjoy failure. I see in my oldest the fiercely competitive spirit that he inherits from me. But in his mother, time has turned the competition from an external thing, to something more internal. Much more personal.

Knowing the impatient spirit that raged within a younger more tempestuous me, I smile every time people admire my patience. If only they knew that the so-called wisdom I pass on was gained from hard-knock experience, not some impressive gift I was born with.

I firmly believe that life presents you with some experiences repeatedly – in different forms – until you’ve taken away the lesson you were intended to learn.

I’ve learned to sit back and look for the lesson now – and it’s taken decades of practice. I’m still learning. But now I can recognize those areas I keep failing in, and I keep trying. Some teachings may forever elude me – maybe that’s a lesson itself – that some lessons can’t be learnt in this lifetime. But when I find that little piece of wisdom, just like the cheat code you earn after conquering a level of a video game, I tuck it away somewhere safe.

I refer to those pieces of wisdom in the quiet of my mind when facing challenges myself, or observing my children face their own.

What goes around, comes around
That’s a big one for me.

You have to put good out there. It’s the only way to beat back the negativity that threatens to overwhelm us.

Listen, before speaking
Too often we are just waiting for our turn. My favourite way to illustrate this (of course it’s from Sesame St)

Don’t respond in anger
You can’t take back those words once spoken. Or written.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to live with regrets. And responding too hastily with anger-clouded judgement has shown itself to be a pretty good way to create embarrassing situations and destroy otherwise wonderful relationships.

Everyone has a lesson to teach you
Smart, rich, powerful, dumb, poor, naive. All labels.
Everyone out there has the potential to teach you life-changing lessons. Most of those labels are there because of circumstances usually beyond our control – the cards we were dealt at birth. But no-one is more or less than you. They’re just on a different path because of their circumstances, and if you want to get to where they are, all you need to do is work toward changing your circumstances. And figure out what they’ve been put in your path to teach you.

Nobody else is responsible for the choices you make
This one was taught to me primarily by a high-school religion teacher. (I went to Catholic school.)
I argued long and hard on this one, trying to show how it was possible for people to influence others and “make” them act in a certain way. And while that is true, I eventually had to concede that she was right. Regardless of why the decision was made, the decision can only be made by self, and self must always take responsibility. This is a make or break. And it’s a lesson that our young men especially need to learn. This young man took a little detour before he finally got it, and I hope that he will be able to teach others through his own experiences (interviewed by Zack Arias at zarias.com).

I do not profess to be a teacher, nor do I profess to be wise. I do believe that age brings perspective, and that I’ve lived an adventurous enough life to have picked up a tidbit or two of useful information as a result of many, many hard knocks. The only lesson I am currently trying to teach is to my children – and that lesson is Silence is Golden. (wink)


This post inspired by prompt #2 of Mama Kat’s Writers’ Workshop 12/17.

16 thoughts on “On swimming… and being washed up on the shore

  1. another great post…I mostly follow funny blogs, because if they aren't, I find them mostly….uninspiring. but of course I have a serious side too, and appreciate very much your sharing!

  2. These are all great lessons…some of which I'm still trying to work on. The one about do not respond in anger is a hard one for me…that's what I grew up around so it just comes natural to me to speak out of anger, rather than keeping my mouth quiet until I've calmed down. That is definitely something I need to get under control!

    I went and voted for you! Hope you win! Oh and I haven't checked your blog in IE yet. I'm having problems with IE on my computer so maybe it was a glitch on my end.

  3. This post really struck a chord with me today. I'm struggling a bit lately and there are some valuable lessons to be learned. I just can't figure out what the heck I'm supposed to be learning… :)

  4. I completely agree that the same lessons keep coming back…my issue is pride, and I'm learning the lesson in new ways again and again.

    It's interesting, like you said, to see how the flaws and strengths of ourselves assert themselves in our children.

    Sometimes, I'll see O do something bullheaded and cringe, thinking, "Oh, save yourself years of frustration, O. Trust me."

    Of course, he'll go his own way.

    Sorry for the long comment–great post, as always.

  5. Stopping by from Mama Kat's…

    I tend to use the "What goes around, comes around" and add to it: "and if it comes around today— great; and if it comes around next year— that's great too"

    Those who expect people to pay you back right away do not understand this second part because they want instant gratification.

  6. Good luck on teaching that last one ;-)

    I really agree with all of these though, particularly that no one else is responsible for the choices that we make!

  7. I am so there with you. My experiences MUST mean something too, and the blogging helps me process it… It helps me share what I've learned from it.

    Thanks for sharing what you've learned.

    Visiting from Mamma Kat's!

  8. You shared some great lessons here! It's time for me to rush off to work, but I'll come back later to view the videos–great post!

    Visiting from Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop.

Talk back