31 Lessons I've Learned

Last week I celebrated my 31st birthday. I didn’t really prepare to turn 31. At least not compared to the extreme preparation of party planning & new decade goal setting my 30th received. Yet, the non-monumental occasion allowed for some inner reflection and acceptance of maturity for this extravert. (The dreamy afternoon of adoration & bookstores in solitude, the relaxing dinner & movie night with my husband, & the small gathering of my 4 boys around an ice cream cake.;) The low-key, relational celebration was perfect. I believe my dear friend, a few years wiser, labeled my feelings of this decade best, “They are great! Lots of the pressures fall off and you settle into yourself.” Yes! The striving 20s are behind me. I’m ready to meet Tolstoy, Chesterton, & the Fathers. I’m ready to synthesize the lessons I’ve learned & settle into myself. Here are 31 of my favorite lessons that I continue to highlight, bookmark, relearn, re-share, and revisit in order to do that best:

  1. Be who YOU are and be that well. St. Francis of DeSales. Being yourself gives others the confidence to do the same, it crushes comparison and builds unity.

  2. Take a personality test! Know your MBTI type & temperament. Learn about yourself, your strengths, weaknesses, tendencies. To understand others, you need to understand yourself first. You cannot do #1, or ‘being the best version of yourself,’ without it.

  3. Invest in deep friendships. Be willing to stop your to-do list. Be willing to ‘waste time.’ Relationships are the most important things in life.

  4. Kiss your husband every day. Ideally don’t send him to work & or to bed without it. I read somewhere that men who were kissed by their wives every morning have lower blood pressure ;)

  5. Let your husband lead. Learn what the ‘leading’ really means. Study the God given roles within marriage. It’s equality not sameness. *bonus, read about the Love & Respect cycle.

  6. Learn how to save a bad mood. Seriously make a joy list if you have to. As soon as you find yourself complaining about your life or your circumstances, pull it out. Look at a family picture, turn on a beautiful song, take a bathroom break, text a friend, change your scenery…something. *bonus, learn how to chart your cycle & better identify & prepare when your mood changes will be coming ;)

  7. Find a patron saint. Dedicate your family, your marriage, your motherhood, your professional work, your kids education, your everything! You can have a different patron for each one. Learn their specific intercessory prayer or novena, & call to them often. *bonus, help your kids pick their own & put pictures & holy cards of them in their bedrooms.

  8. Believe in your true identity. A beloved daughter of God. Better, an unconditionally loved daughter of God. Not the earthly titles or accomplishments constantly trying to steal your identity.

  9. Have a crucifix, rosary or holy water in every room in your house. Let your home be a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit. Use the weapons we have been given to fight for the biggest war under attack, the family.

  10. Make a music playlist. Of songs just for you. Beloved songs from your childhood, or anything that makes you dance. Have it available on your smartphone & don’t go too long without listening to it.

  11. Read books that fill you up. Be sure you are always reading something, a novel, journal, magazine etc. At least read a few new books each year. But don’t force yourself to read something you don’t like. If it’s not filling you up, put it down & find something that is.

  12. Find a way to pray everyday. Every, single day. Even just a Hail Mary or Jesus, I trust in you. Ideally daily mental meditation, & silent conversation with God. Ask God to teach you how to pray better & to give you the time.

  13. Be more gentle to yourself. This means to stop judging yourself. Stop defining yourself on your to-do list, your body image, your accomplishments etc. See #8. It also means belting and dancing to music in the kitchen, see #10.

  14. Comparison is the thief of joy. When tempted to compare, see #6. Change your mood or environment immediately, use Jesus name to fight the temptation & move on.

  15. Make time for spiritual direction. Learn what it is & do not go through life without at least trying it.

  16. Laugh. Every day. Ideally at yourself!

  17. Learn your root sin. Best done after learning your temperament & doing #2. We are all more prone to either pride, vanity & sensuality based on our temperament.

  18. Pay attention to who you surround yourself with. Find your Peter, James & John, & find your 12. When you do, pray for them daily & thank God. In the meantime, but yourself in places where they might be & pay attention.

  19. Be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting their own battle.

  20. Encourage new moms. Anytime you see a new mom be sure to tell her “Wow, you are doing an amazing job.”

  21. Work on yourself first. The beam in your eye is bigger. When tempted to judge, see #2.

  22. Lower your expectations. Of yourself & of others. Human expectation is the root of all heartache. You will be less disappointed & angry when someone lets you down. Lower human expectation but raise your exceptions of God.

  23. Use visualization. It is a powerful tool. Visualize how you are going to apologize to your friend, how you are going to give the speech, or how you are going to get out the ingredients for dinner :)

  24. Early to bed, early to rise. The hardest part of waking up early, is going to bed on time. Discipline yourself when possible, (when in the proper state of life, on the days when late night neflix binge is unnecessary :) Set a timer to shut off your phone at 10pm. The morning miracle is a real thing.

  25. God’s timing is miraculous. Learn to accept the timing of events in your own life. Reflect how He has worked miracles through the detailed specific timing of things. When frustrated with life circumstances, trust that He may just be timing the miracle.

  26. Be pro-life at every stage. This means celebrating every birthday. Caring for the annoying toddlers, and weakened elderly. Being thankful for all life.

  27. Cherish silence. Cherish. Try very hard not to spoil silent moments with technology. Turn silence into prayer and seek silence as much as possible, (even in the seemingly impossible mom life!)

  28. Preach the gospel at all times, use words when necessary. Evangelize best by walking the walk.

  29. Stay close to the sacraments. Get on a schedule for confession, quarterly, monthly etc. Receive the Eucharist as much as humanly possibly in your state of life. Attend & celebrate baptisms, weddings, confirmations, holy orders as much as you can.

  30. Learn what temperance is. It is an amazing virtue and the key to living virtuous in a first-world country where food, facebook or some other glutton is the popular devil.

  31. Be who you were meant to be & you will set the world on fire. Thank you St. Catherine of Siena! Go back to #1 & see how every lesson in taking the time to know yourself is the key to becoming a gift of yourself to the world, & the key to living a happy, fulfilling, successful life!

Gosh, that was hard to narrow down ;) Here’s to 31 or whatever year you are, it’s going to be the best yet!

In Joy,

Alex

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