“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.”
― T.S. Eliot
Nothing will teach you more than the book of life. As I reflect over the past year and look forward to 2020, I am reminded of some hard lessons I wish I had taken more seriously a year ago.
- Nothing will change you like pain will.
In April I was walking to my car and ended up tripping over a crack in the broken sidewalk. Putting out my right arm to brace my fall, I had gotten away with a cut on my knee and a scrap on my right hand. As I drove home, my arm and shoulder grew increasingly painful. I didn’t think much of it, though, and simply iced it. After about two weeks, the pain seemingly went away.
The following month I was making a U-turn in a tight driveway and felt a snap in my right shoulder followed by piercing pain. After about an hour, the pain subsided so I assumed I had just pulled a muscle. Since that day, my shoulder would continue to hurt every time I moved in a certain way. Then in August, I woke up in such excruciating pain that I was rushed to urgent care.
To make a very long story short, I was misdiagnosed by two doctors and spent two months in physical therapy before going to another shoulder specialist who found a huge calcium growth in my rotator cuff tendon. I had surgery on November 21, I’m still recovering and now have what is known as frozen shoulder. I have not felt so much pain in a long time and the experience has certainly put me behind on my work.
2019 definitely dealt me some rough cards but I was also reminded time and time again not to ever take things for granted. To put things in perspective, I could not even brush my hair for several weeks and I needed help just pouring myself a cup of coffee. Nothing will teach you to appreciate the simple things in life then not being able to do the simple things anymore.
Lesson learned: Appreciate. Appreciate. Appreciate!
- Make moments; cherish the memories.
Let’s face it. Life can be hard. Sometimes we spend so much time working and getting through the daily grind that we forget to make time for the things that matter most. In July, I lost a beautiful friend to cancer. Rosemary was a renowned author and afterlife researcher and we became fast friends. We talked about all the things we wanted to do together that never happened.
Looking back, I wish I didn’t put things on hold. We all think that we’ll have tomorrow but tomorrow may never come. Part of the problem is that we often associate who we are with what we do. Our work becomes our identity and it becomes increasingly difficult to separate a rewarding career from a fulfilling life.
You are not your work. Yes, what we do for a living is part of our identity but it is not our identity entirely.
Lesson learned: Make more time. Make more moments.
- Put yourself first. Be honest.
This one is a difficult one for me to admit but nonetheless very true. I spend so much time trying to be there for everyone else that I often neglect myself. Time and again I’ve learned the hard way that if you don’t take care of yourself, no one else will. Recently, I read a quote by Penny Reid which said, “Don’t set yourself on fire trying to keep others warm.” Well said, Penny.
Putting yourself first and foremost also means being honest with yourself. It’s not easy to admit that you actually are setting yourself on fire at the expense of others. Take a good look at your life and the people in it. What do you see? Part of being honest and putting yourself first also means taking responsibility. Don’t play the blame game. You are where you are now because of every decision—right or wrong—you made in the past. Own up to your mistakes and move on.
Lesson learned: Make yourself a priority.
Last year’s mistakes are this year’s lessons. May we learn, discover and treasure the moments.