When I turned 45, I lay in bed reflecting on all life had taught me. My soul sprang a leak and ideas flowed out. My pen simply caught them and set the words on paper. I typed them up and turned them into a newspaper column of the 45 lessons life taught me. When I hit 50, I added five more lessons and the paper ran the column again.
If you want to lose 40 pounds, you order salad instead of fries. If you want to be a better friend, you take the phone call instead of screening it. If you want to write a novel, you sit down and write a single paragraph. It's scary to make major changes, but we usually have enough courage to take the next right step.
Sometimes you have to disconnect to stay connected. Remember the old days when you had eye contact during a conversation? When everyone wasn't looking down at a device in their hands? We've become so focused on that tiny screen that we forget the big picture, the people right in front of us.
We need to be smarter than our smart phones and realize the people we are with are more important than the people we aren't with, and way more important than the strangers we hope will tweet and like and share and Instagram whatever we're sending out into the cybersphere.
It's rare to find someone excited over jury duty. If they're out there, I've never met them. Not a one. When the summons for jury duty arrives in the mail, how many people scream, 'Yes!' and run to clear the calendar? None. Our first and only reaction is, 'Oh, no,' quickly followed by, 'How can I get out of this?'
Some days, 24 hours is too much to stay put in, so I take the day hour by hour, moment by moment. I break the task, the challenge, the fear into small, bite-size pieces. I can handle a piece of fear, depression, anger, pain, sadness, loneliness, illness. I actually put my hands up to my face, one next to each eye, like blinders on a horse.
I think of her every time I judge myself or someone else too harshly. How do we really know the worth of our work? It's not our job to judge the worth of what we offer the world, but to keep offering it regardless. You might never know the true worth of your efforts. Or it could simply be too soon to tell.
We want someone else to act. But miracles aren't what other people do. They're what each of us does. They're what happens when ordinary people take extraordinary action. To be a miracle doesn't mean you have to tackle problems across the globe. It means making a difference in your own living room, cubicle, neighborhood, community.
My daughter had carried within her a story that kept hurting her: Her dad abandoned her. She started telling herself a new story. Her dad had done the best he could. He wasn't capable of giving more. It had nothing to do with her. She could no longer take it personally.
I usually give a book 40 pages. If it doesn't grab me by then, adios. With young adult books, you can usually tell by Page 4 if it's worth the time. The author establishes the conflict early, sometimes in the first sentence. The themes of hope, family, friendship and overcoming hardship appeal to most everyone.
From now on, I pray like I mean it. No more hitting SEND over and over. It's changed my life. It has freed me from fear and opened up endless avenues for me as a writer, radio host, parent, wife, and friend. It has enhanced every relationship I'm in, starting with the most important one: my relationship with God. Real faith isn't praying without ceasing. It's believing that God heard you the first time.