Today I turned 35. It’s my birthday!
(Since I went to bed last night, I’ve had In Da Club by 50 Cent playing in my head…We gon’ party like it’s yo birthday…We gon’ sip Bacardi like it’s your birthday…)
It feels like a BIG birthday and it’s not just because of the age. For the first time since I turned 29 years old, I’m feeling healthy again.
I started IVIg infusion treatments for my autoimmune disease four months ago and the treatments seem to be working. (Can we take a minute to toss some virtual confetti?)
I still have a long road to go. I need to get off the many medications I’m currently on. I need to figure out how to deal with the debilitating migraines I get everytime I receive an IVIg infusion (which is once a month).
But, it’s my birthday and I want to focus on the positive.
I feel as if a heavy quilt of doom has been lifted off of me. I’ve got a lot more energy (without having to down soda or coffee or Red Bull). I don’t have ulcers 24/7. I don’t wake up feeling like I have the worst flu of my life day after day after day.
Once the side effects of getting off my medications go away, I’ll be a brand new person. It’ll be like I’m 29-year-old April and I can’t wait. (You better watch out, because 29-year-old April cranked out content and work like Paris Geller and Hermione Granger combined.)
Because this day feels really special to me, I wanted to write a special blog post. I decided to do that by sharing the biggest life lessons I’ve learned so far, many of them becoming clear once I got sick. (Your priorities shift when you or someone you love becomes chronically ill.)
Here are those top life lessons I’ve learned during the past 35 years of my life:
1. Gratitude is sexy.
I’m a lifelong learner and one of the topics I’m addicted to reading about is happiness. I have at least 15 books on my shelves about increasing your happiness and almost all of them have a section on gratitude.
The research is clear: you want to be happy, you need to be grateful.
Even though I understood this, it took me a long time to buy into the whole ‘gratitude practice’ thing. For a couple years, I tried keeping a gratitude journal, but I only wrote in it sporadically. I would forget about it for weeks at a time.
Eventually, I gave up.
Months later, I realized that at the end of the day my husband and I would often tell each other about the bad parts of our days. I’d tell him about the rude email I received from someone telling me that I really need to hire a stylist and he’d tell me about the paralegal who made him look bad in front of a judge.
We’d share accomplishments and good things, too. But often gossip and complaints would overshadow the good stuff. When I noticed this, we started a gratitude practice together that we still do to this day.
At the end of the day, we started sharing our top three of the day. That meant we’d share the top three good things about our days. We’d talk about these things while on our evening walk or while we were getting ready for bed.
For instance, my top three might be: 1) the live call for Sunday Society that was crazy fun 2) the delicious burrito I had for lunch that fueled my afternoon and 3) cuddling the dogs in bed while reading an adorable young adult romance.
They could be big things or little things. It helped us concentrate on the good in our days.
When I got sick, I also realized how much I took for granted. I didn’t appreciate my health like I should’ve. Now that I’m getting better, I don’t want to ever make that mistake again.
Whenever I find myself complaining or being negative, I try my very best to switch to a mindset of gratefulness.
I have a lot to be grateful for including a hot and kind husband who has stuck by me through the sickness part of in sickness and in health.
No matter how bad your life is, there’s always SOMETHING you can be grateful for. Do you have clean water to drink? Do you have a roof over your head? Do you have clothes on your body? For your own happiness, concentrate on what you do have instead of what you don’t have.
2. Life is too short to hate your work.
I talk about this one all the time, but it’s because it’s something I believe with every beat of my heart.
When I found out that the average lifespan of someone with my diagnosis (who doesn’t get the IVIg infusions) is 45, I felt immediately grateful that I left my day job to follow my dreams.
I should live a long and happy life because I’m getting the infusions, but even so, none of us know how long we really have.
This isn’t the dress rehearsal.
This is it–the real thing.
Do you want to waste years doing something you hate? Isn’t it worth it to do everything you can possibly do to make your side hustle your main thing if that’s your passion?
Stop watching Netflix and write a damn blog post. Get over yourself and do a Facebook Live. Update your Instagram feed daily. Email your list every single week. Attend a conference by the end of the year. Do things that push you out of your comfort zone.
You don’t want to have regrets. You don’t want to wake up ten years from now and wish you had worked harder to live the dream. You don’t want to wonder what your life could’ve been or would have been if you’d done the work.
3. What you say matters.
This is a small lesson that makes a HUGE difference.
What you say to yourself and to other people matters. What you focus on becomes your reality.
For instance, if you say that you can’t possibly do live streaming video like Facebook or Instagram Live, then you won’t ever be able to do it.
Maybe it scares you. Maybe you’re shy. Maybe you’ve never done anything like it.
So freaking what?
If you change the story to something like, “I’ve never done anything like Facebook or Instagram Live and it makes me nervous but it’s worth it, because I want to make my dreams a reality,” then you’re at least giving yourself a chance.
Here’s another example.
Let’s say you’re a mom of three that’s also running a business. You constantly feel overwhelmed and pulled in different directions.
When people ask how you’re doing, you could respond with, “I’m really busy and stressed. I have to do x and y and z.”
Or, you could respond with, “I’ve got a lot going on but I’m building the business of my dreams. I GET to do x and y and z.”
See how that change in wording makes a huge difference? Not only will it make the people around you actually want to spend more time with you (because who wants to spend time with Negative Nelly) but it will help you to be more positive and happier.
You picked this life. You decided to have those three kids. You embraced entrepreneurship. You don’t HAVE to do all the things. You GET to do all the things. Look at it with a new lens and see if that doesn’t give you more energy and joy. Perspective can be everything.
4. Sometimes you just need to start.
I wonder how many people reading this blog post have an idea they’ve been thinking about for days or weeks or months but haven’t taken any action to get started.
I wanted to start Blacksburg Belle at least six months before I actually bought the domain and set up the website.
It took me six months of pondering every little detail before plunging into action. Six wasted months. That’s so silly.
If you have a novel you want to write, open up a Google Doc and write the first sentence today. If you want to start selling your hand knit scarves, take your first step to open your shop today.
Getting started can be the hardest part. And, once you take that first step, it often propels you to keep going.
You’ll learn so much from doing–so much more than you could ever learn from a webinar or a book or a blog post. You don’t need to learn more or research more. You need to start today. Now.
5. Unhappiness is contagious.
Have you ever noticed that you feel frustrated all afternoon when you’ve eaten lunch with your coworker who complains the entire time? Or how about that crappy feeling you get after you’ve spent the evening with a family member who is the most negative person to ever live?
I recently wrote a blog post about cutting negative, unhappy people out of my life.
I urge you to cut the time you spend with one negative person by at least fifty percent and spend that time with someone who is positive and see what happens.
I bet you’ll feel more excited, inspired and motivated.
It’ll make you want to decrease the time you spend with all the negative people in your life (hopefully there aren’t that many).
6. Always keep your promises to yourself.
When you decide you’re going to blog every week, blog every freaking week.
When you say you’re going to take a yoga class tomorrow morning, go to that yoga class tomorrow morning.
When you write, “shave legs because they look like troll legs and I wanna wear shorts in this heat wave” down in your planner, shave your hairy legs.
These probably seem like small promises to you, like not that big of a deal if you don’t get around to it.
But, that’s the problem.
The more your word doesn’t mean anything to YOU, the more you’re going to struggle to reach your goals and get things done.
You’ll always find a reason not to do things. That’s why you need your promises to yourself to mean more than anything.
7. Curiosity is a way of life.
Every talented, intelligent, successful person I know is also incredibly curious. It’s a way of life for them. They’re constantly asking questions. They love to learn new things. They look at people as puzzles.
My mother-in-law is one of the most curious people I know and she’s also one of the most creative people I know. It comes hand in hand.
Whenever I find myself bored in a conversation, I try to become curious. I ask more interesting questions. I listen carefully to the person’s answers and see what other interesting questions I could ask.
I also have made learning a part of my daily life. Right now, I’m taking a watercolor course on Creativebug. I spend 30-60 minutes each day watching the lesson 2-3 times and then painting the flower 1-5 times. After it dries, I photograph the painting, edit the photos and share them on Instagram.
Whether I’m reading a nonfiction book or taking an online course or learning calligraphy from my mother-in-law, learning something new every day makes me a better, happier person. It also makes me and my business more interesting.
8. Make the most of the time with the people in your life.
This past year we dealt with a lot of sickness in our family. My mom was hospitalized for over a week for kidney failure and it was one of the scariest weeks of my life.
I acted really brave around my mom, telling her it was going to be fine, but every evening when I returned to her house without her, I broke down.
I knew that if my mom didn’t recover I would have regrets. Not huge regrets. My mom and I are best friends. We hadn’t been fighting or anything like that. But, I would’ve regretted not visiting my parents more and not calling them more.
As my own health symptoms got worse, traveling became hard and so did talking on the phone for an hour. I’d be exhausted after either of those things, but the exhaustion was always worth it.
Now that my health is getting better, my husband and I are already planning on visiting them more. There are other people in our lives that we feel the exact same way about.
We never know when we’re going to get one of those heartbreaking phone calls that a loved one is dying or has passed.
I don’t want to have any regrets. The people in my life who I adore deserve so much more from me and that’s a priority of mine.
9. Every day is better with a little dancing.
This might seem like a silly life lesson, but it’s thrown in here to remind myself (and you) a few things: not to take life too seriously, to have fun every single day and to move your body each day even if it’s just for a short dance break.
I hope you enjoyed this post that was a bit different in honor of celebrating my thirty-fifth birthday.