My dear friend’s daughter is turning one. For her birthday, she hosted a ladies brunch and asked each of us to bring our “Pearls of Wisdom.” We, of course, wore our pearls for this fine occasion. (UPDATE: The amazing Heather Owens was on had for photos. Stunning.)
Friends and relatives from age 20 to “none of your business” wrote down the best we have for the girl I insist on calling Lulu. Those who could not attend, mailed their letters of sage advice. It ranged from poignant to funny to practical. (pray for your enemies, laugh with your whole belly, moisturize & get credit in your own name) We told her what we wished we’d known growing up, what we learned the hard way, what we have come to believe and the things she’ll have to learn for herself.
What a gift her mother has given her! What a treasure of wisdom she has waiting for her when she’s older. I’m not sure how much wisdom I actually have give, but I gave it my best shot.
To Lulu: Pearls of Wisdom on Your First Birthday
Laugh: The night before you were born, Baby Daddy, Monkey Boy & I were at your parents’ house. We laughed and laughed and laughed until your mom went into labor. You were quite literally born into laughter.
Laughter will cure almost all of what hurts in your heart. It will keep you sane. It will smooth over the rough places in your life.
Laugh loud, long, often and from your belly. Laugh.
Pray. Learn about God through study, nature, service, and most of all prayer. Pray when your heart hurts; pray when your spirit is full; pray when there are no words; pray when your soul is filled with song.
Another woman in our community prays every morning, “God, make me a better wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend.” Every night she prays, “Well God, there’s always tomorrow.” Pray.
Because we can’t always see those ties that bind us together, it’s easy to forget they are there. You must believe in what you can’t see.
Believe in faith, hope and love. Believe in peace. Believe in the kindness of strangers and the goodness in everyone. Believe.
Rest: This life has a way of getting more and more complicated. Too many things start to pull on you for your time, your energy, your resources. Most of them will be really good things: school, work, family, volunteering, church…
The first thing you will sacrifice will be sleep. I urge you to resist this temptation. Sleep will start to feel like a luxury. I assure you, it is not. It’s the only way to be the slightest bit useful to any of the people or causes you have committed. No great cause was ever helped by a cranky, sleep-deprived, wild-eyed, caffeinated woman. Rest.
Get Up: In this life, you will fail. You will mess up. You will make mistakes. Sometimes, you will be run over by the MACK truck of circumstances. Occasionally, the rain will flood or the earth will quake. At one point or another, you will get knocked down.
Get up. That’s the process. The only way to move forward is in lurches, stumbles and crashes. You will not come to the end of the path without bruised knees, bandages or even crutches. Some people will lie on the ground like road kill, but you must get up.
Keep going. Say you’re sorry when you’re wrong. Take a hand to help you when you need it. Get Up.
Smart is Sexy: There are no shortage of people in this life who will try to make you feel small because they are small and don’t want to be alone. They will tell you that you are ugly, dumb and not funny.
They will tell you to hide your spark so no one will ever be intimidated by you. Do not ever, even for one second, believe them.
Smart is sexy. Truly amazing men are not interested in dumb girls with no gumption. Real friends love a gal pal who challenges them. Look at your parents: your dad would never have been interested in your mom if she wasn’t interesting.
Sass is attractive. Intelligence is a magnet for amazing people. The greatest part: it’s also a huge repulsion for the ignorant, uninformed, hateful fools. Read, learn, ask questions and challenge assumptions.
Don’t do it for other people. Do it for yourself. It’s easier to feel confident about yourself when you feel you look good. A great pair of shoes can do wonders for the sass in your step.
But never mistake eyeliner for inner beauty. If your insides are ugly, no amount of cosmetics will cover it up. Before you can be truly pretty, you must be kind, honest and generous. Once you’ve got those working, the lip gloss is just icing.
Strut Your Stuff: One of the inescapable truths of life is you are born into a body. You don’t chose it. It’s chosen for you. Every body is beautiful.
Make the most of yours. Find clothes that fit you well and flatter your body. Wear color if you like, black and white if you don’t. Trends will come and go. Approach them like a buffet: take what you like, leave the rest alone.
Have some classic staples in your closet: a power suit, a black dress, crisp white shirt, jeans that fit you well, red pumps, running shoes, a neutral sweater for layering and a pair of diamond stud earrings.
Your personal style will develop over time. Let that happen. But wear what you like. Wear what’s appropriate for the occasion. And wear it well. Own your clothes, so they don’t own you.
Be Kind to Your Brother: When I was young and my sister and I would fight, my father would tell me, “Be nice to your sister; she’s all you’ve got.” I figured this was a pretty sorry state of affairs if she was all I had.
Now I understand, a sibling is a blessing like no other. You two are the only ones who will know what’s it’s like to grow up in your family. One day you can call G Man and he will know precisely why your father is making you laugh or your mother is driving you to drink bourbon from the dog bowl. And one day, your parents will be gone, but you will not be alone because you’ll have each other.
Be kind to your brother. He’s what you’ve got. And that’s everything.
Pick the Bracelet: At her 50th Anniversary party, Charlie’s Aunt Charley told me a great story. She said, years before, the oven was about to go out in her kitchen. Christmas was coming up and she’d set her sights on a diamond tennis bracelet. Uncle Troy asked her if she wanted the bracelet or a new oven. She said she picked the bracelet because she figured he’d eventually get hungry enough to buy her the new oven too. She leaned in very close and said to me, “Honey, in this life, when you get the choice, ALWAYS pick the bracelet.”
That’s good advice. Sometimes in life you have to do the hard thing. Sometimes, there are no good options available and you have to pick the least bad. But sometimes, you get to decide to do something nice for yourself and too often, you’ll be tempted not to.
Trust Aunt Charley: get the massage; eat the cookie, spend 20 minutes alone with a good book. Pick the bracelet.