Happy Birthday to Me
Today is my birthday. I'm officially 59, and these are my last 12 months before the 60s begin. As some of you will agree, by this age birthdays are more about reflection than celebration, good company than pricey presents.
California Girl Gone Wrong
I was born a privileged blonde girl in California, a gift that kept on giving for decades to come. Unfortunately, that fast start was followed by a series of soul crushing setbacks. My mother was an undiagnosed, untreated victim of bipolar disorder. My brothers were mean because, well, in our household, it was every man for himself.
There are no warm childhood memories in my brain, no cozy holidays around the tree, no happy family moments stored in the photo album of my mind. It wasn't like that for me. I spent too much time begging my mom to pay attention to me. Too much time sadly, very sadly alone in a dark abyss I don't ever want to go back to.
My mother was never fully treated for her bipolar disorder, and struggled through a tough life leaving a long trail of broken relationships and dreams, dying alone in her 70s. She hadn't seen my daughters in years.
Today my oldest daughter also suffers from bipolar disorder, is responding well to her medication and living a full life.
So much has changed.
Do It Yourself Childhood
I never had parents to lean on, a safe place to go home to, or a foundation of wisdom to draw from. If I wanted it, I had to create it. It was tough going for many years. The hard part of being raised in a nut house, is your perception of normal is skewed. I was bright enough and certainly motivated, it was my emotional issues that kept tripping me up. I didn't possess what most other people had: a sense of self.
I had to start almost from scratch and build the 'me-ness' that most kids get just from being loved and cared for in a family home. There were starts and stops, because being so broken I didn't attract the healthiest people. Eventually I began to feel like I could do life and enjoy it. It keeps getting better.
It is with this background and these reflections, that at this milestone I'd like to pass on the hard won and important lessons I've learned.
- Life can be easy or hard. It all depends on if you decide to go with the flow or thrash upstream.
- Life is choices. Make good ones.
- Children are a lot of work and worth every bit of it.
- People generally either show you, or tell you, who they are pretty quickly. Believe them.
- A smile usually improves the situation.
- Floss. Teeth do not get prettier with age.
- Be very selective with whom you give your time to.
- If there's a word for it, it's happened to someone else. Go find them, you can help each other.
- How the person across from you is talking about others is how they're going to talk about you the minute you leave.
- You only fail when you quit.
- Take care of your body, you're going to need it.
- The truth always comes out.
- The minute you know better, you need to do better.
- Want to be happier? Spend less time thinking about yourself, and more time thinking about what you can do for others.
- Learn to enjoy your own company.
- Shit happens.
- There's always something to be grateful for.
- You can live a productive life without TV.
- Keep learning, there's no time limit on keeping current.
- Butter makes everything taste better.
- A big ego does not make you more attractive.
- Be nice. There's enough hard stuff in the world, don't add to it.
- Ask for help when you need it.
- Say "I love you" often.
- Hurt people hurt people. However, it doesn't mean that you have to stay around and get flogged while they figure out how to fix themselves.
- Be responsible for yourself in all areas of your life.
- Stop. Whining.
- Learn to say "I'm sorry, how can I fix it?". The quicker, the better.
- Use your powers for good.
- Leave everything better than you found it.
Kimberly Montgomery is the creator of the Choices Notebook and blogger at FiftyJewels.com, where she encourages people to use their powers for good. Hop on over there to grab some free tools to help you easily add more Gratitude and Thank You's into your life.