Alexandra Stoddard’s beautiful book, Things I Want My Daughters to Know, has inspired me to think about the simple lessons I want my daughters to know. Stoddard and I have a different take on some aspects of life, but here are my offerings:
1) Accept the love that comes your way — and there’s a lot of it. Believe in that love and yourself. Every morning, wake up and say, “I am loved, and I love myself. My responsibility is to love others and to choose to live in a way that makes the world a better place.” Don’t just say it once and move on. Live it. Live the love that has been showered on you through the years.
2) Serve others. The greatest gift you’ll ever receive is to give to others. Seriously. I’m not making this up. Try it. You’ll see. I can tell you about how wonderful and fulfilling it is all day long, but until you live it, you can’t understand the grace that comes from voluntarily giving of yourself to others. If you decide to take this path, know that a few people will take advantage of you. Figure out how to minimize your dealings with those people. On the other hand, the people who love you will work to find ways to do things for you. My mother is a great example of this. She lives most of her life to serve others. In turn, everyone wants to do what they can to see her happy. In writing this, I realize that while I work to give to many, I am not a great example of this at home. I ask your forgiveness. I will never be my mother, but I will try to do better.
3) Acknowledge your shortcomings. Ask forgiveness. Try to do better.
4) Smile and be happy. A smile makes someone else feel — and sometimes, it even makes you feel better too. While I’m not a fan of being a fake, some times deciding to be happy goes a long way. No, it’s not always possible — and an occasional wallow in the doldrums is acceptable. If you feel the need to wallow, set aside three hours and do it. Put on your flannel nightgown. Watch a movie that makes you cry and eat ice cream. Acknowledge and move on. Sometimes you have to say, “I’m going to focus on the positive things in life.” A friend recently said to me, “You know how some people say that if you want to feel better that you need to stop saying negative things? I tried it. For three weeks, I forced myself to not say or rephrase anything that I began to say that was negative or no-centric. Girl, that stuff works. I was feeling like a different person by the end of those three weeks.”
5) Appreciate beauty around you. Seek it out. Call it out. Loveliness abounds. Be grateful for beauty that’s been recognized by others — in artwork, buildings, music or drama. However, it’s also critical to find beauty in places you don’t expect — remember the beauty we found in a leaf that was disintegrating and looked like lace?
6) Take that extra step and find ways to delight yourself and others — even in your work or schoolwork. A little whimsy goes a long way. People like to be surprised by the unexpected — something joyful, charming and/or amusing. When given the opportunity, always go for wonder.
7) Seek adventure. Don’t take the same path you always take, and don’t take the same route as others. Do your research. Find your own course. Don’t put on blinders. Be open to new and unexpected paths along the way.
8) Exercise a little every day. Drink lots of water, and stop drinking soft drinks. Eat lots of greens.
9) Always have a dinner table — and use it. Cook dinner and eat it at a real table at home with your family, or those you love, at least four nights a week. Make room for more at the table when you have the chance.
10) Keep a list of all the books you read, and limit your time on the Internet (or whatever else that’s eating into your life) to no more than 90 minutes a day.