Sophia is a project to collect life lessons from fascinating people. Robin, 53, from Michigan offered some of the wisdom she's gained from a life that's seen its share of hardship. Share your own life lessons here.
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I was a "DINK" (double income no kids) until my late 30's when I adopted a toddler with massive special needs. A year later, I divorced my alcoholic husband of 18 years because no longer could I care for a special needs child AND an alcoholic. I was a single mother for nearly a decade until I remarried five years ago. My husband and I were barely married when we decided to do what was necessary for our son, regardless of how it impacted us. We bankrupted due to legal fees, but finally won the much needed mental health services our son required. As a result, the progress he has made has been astounding. At this point, however, my husband and I are financially starting over while most our age are looking at retirement. Due to our son's needs, I am a stay-at-home Mom, which I have found much more difficult than ANY paid job I ever had.
What is a recent realization you've had about living a more rewarding/fulfilling life?
During the past couple years, I have learned that getting rid of useless material possessions is liberating and makes my life easier. In turn, I have stopped buying useless things like knick-knacks, etc. In fact, when I now go shopping and find myself admiring something, I can actually visualize myself donating it to Goodwill down the road. Saving money and enjoying a clutter-free home: priceless! I don't need "things". I need basics and I need my family.
Tell us something about an area of your expertise that took you years to learn.
Although in my 50's, I finally earned my bachelor's degree in psychology. Raising an adopted special needs child with autism, fetal alcohol syndrome, and other mental and learning challenges left me wondering for years, "How did this happen?" I finally learned in my studies that genetics, pregnancy, and environment all play an equal role in developmental growth. Sadly, my child had none of those things in his favor.
What do you feel is the most helpful thing your parents did for you that many parents don't do?
My parents taught me to not fear hard work and to instead enjoy the sense of accomplishment that comes from it. This wasn't taught by simply telling me, though. In fact, they NEVER told me. They merely gave me many chores that contributed to our family unit. There was time to study for school, time to do chores, and what time I had left was for fun. The time for fun, though, was not excessive to the point that I could become bored and get myself in trouble.
Tell us about a book (or books) that had a significant impact on you.
"Gone With The Wind" taught me so many things. I read it three times and always managed to learn something new from it. For me, though, the most influential factor of that particular book is learning that changes beyond our control during life is inevitiable and how we deal with those changes impacts us greatly. Accepting change and moving forward will have a much more positive effect on our lives than denying change and living in the past.
What is something small or seemingly insignificant that contributes greatly to your happiness?
Doing something to make my hubby and son smile contributes greatly to my happiness. There is no happiness like making pancakes on a cold winter morning because my son's face lit up like a street light when I asked, "Who wants pancakes for breakfast?"
Tell us about a memorable gift you've given or received.
The most memorable gift I ever received was from my adopted special needs son. For sixteen years, every birthday and Mother's day I received cards and gifts that my husband purchased for him to give me. Last year, however, my son presented me with a card he made himself, by himself. He did this on his own without anyone prompting him. THAT was and will likely be the most memorable gift I ever received.
What is a regret that you have that others could learn from?
I regret spending 18 years with an alcoholic who refused to seek any kind of professional help. I was 20 when we married and I thought I could save him. It was a ridiculous cycle that never ended until the day I left. He would drink too much, then do something stupid. The next day he would apologize profusely and swear off drinking...until the next time. Eighteen years of that cycle...a lot of tears and anger on my part. If your mate isn't willing to seek professional help for substance abuse, you are simply wasting your time. What I wouldn't do to have those years back and the chance to be with a partner who contributed equally to our relationship. There is something to that saying, "I gave the best years of my life." Sadly, I can never have that time back. I regret thinking that love alone was enough.
Tell us about a travel experience or destination that you would recommend to others.
Go primitive camping. Nature is the best therapy there is and going without some every day conveniences like a toilet and stove is good for the soul. You will either appreciate mother nature, or you will appreciate all those convenient comforts you take for granted once you get home. Either way, you will appreciate something, and if you're lucky, you may even appreciate both!
What habits/routines do you keep that are especially unique or beneficial?
I find it extremely beneficial to be organized. Everything in my home has a place, which greatly reduces my time wandering around aimlessly looking for something and muttering silly things like, "Where are the blasted scissors?!"
What apps (or other technologies) have the greatest impact on your happiness/personal fulfillment?
The ability to shoot a random text to my adult siblings at any given moment makes me happy. It allows me to feel connected to them and it makes me so happy to let them know I am thinking of them and love them from across the miles. Recently, I was channel surfing and came across the opening credits of "Sanford and Son." I took a pic of the TV and sent it to my brother who lives 15 hours away from me. I wrote, "I remember those Friday nights when we were kids. The theme music for 'Sanford and Son' would come on while you were popping the popcorn. I can even hear the Faygo root beer fizzing right now!"
How would you have handled your own education differently?
At the age of 52, I finally earned my bachelor's degree in psychology. If I had to do it over again, I would have done that immediately after high school. While I am proud that I finally did it, I regret not doing it sooner. It would have changed my life if I had in that more doors would have opened up for me.
What do you know now about living a satisfying life that you didn't know when you were twenty?
When I was twenty, I thought I knew it all, possessions were a good thing, and time was unlimited. Now that I'm in my 50's, I have come to realize that I know so little, possessions not only weigh you down, but are pretty much meaningless, and time/life flies by in the blink of an eye.
What do you think about when you think about death?
The only fear I have about death is that there will be nobody to love and care for my special needs son the way I love and care for him. Because of this, I think (worry) about my death constantly.
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