14 Things I Learned in 2014

1. When I put my mind to it, I can fly like a boss. It was my goal last year, to be, as Victor Hugo said, “…like the bird who, pausing in her flight awhile on boughs too slight, feels them give way beneath her, and yet sings, knowing she hath wings.” In 2014, I paused, rested, refreshed, sang, and then flew away to the next big adventure. I learned the value of flying and of resting. A billion years ago in college I had the realization that music was made up of both sound and silence, and that without both, you just have noise. Likewise, this year I learned that flying went hand in hand with resting and reflecting.

2. I’m a lot stronger than I ever thought I was. Many times this past year I found myself (quite literally) stomping my feet and yelling out to the wind that I just couldn’t do it. And then it would occur to me that even in the midst of my tantrum, I was in fact doing the very thing I was yelling that I couldn’t do. Maybe I didn’t want to be doing it. Maybe I wished I could be doing anything else. But in 2014, I learned that I could get more done by 9:30 AM and then go on to work a full day at work, and then come home, snuggle my babies, clean up from dinner, and still maybe if I was lucky meet up some friends for a drink after bedtime while my oldest held down the fort.

potato

3.  Sometimes you have to be a little bit naughty. This year, I fell in love with Matilda, the Musical. I even got to go see it on Broadway this summer, and plan on taking my daughter again for her birthday.The first time I heard it, I was cleaning the kitchen. When I heard the song “Naughty” it resonated with me, especially the lyrics

In the click of a bolt, there’s a tiny revolt;
The seed of a war in the creak of a floorboard.
A storm can begin with the flap of a wing.
The tiniest mite casts the mightiest sting.
Every day starts with a tick of the clock.
All escapes start with a click of a lock.
When you’re stuck in your story and you want to get out
You don’t have to cry; you don’t have to shout
’Cause if you’re little you can do a lot. You
Musn’t let a little thing like little stop you.
If you sit around and let them get on top you
Won’t change a thing…
’Cause nobody else is going to put it right for me.
Nobody but me is going to change my story.
Sometimes, you have to be a little bit naughty.

Matilda Collage

4. Sometimes, you really do have to let things go. Sometimes you do it like Elsa, belting out a power ballad and burning (freezing?) your bridges behind you. And sometimes it’s more quiet and understated. Either way, you can’t hold onto everything.

5. I’m a raging introvert who likes to be around people and be the center of attention. There is actually a word for this. I am an ambivert! It’s like being a unicorn, but I get to have fun at parties AND spend time alone!

unicorn

6. Optimism can be learned. Before this year, I was always a bit of a pessimist. I wanted to believe the best was going to happen, but pretty much always prepared for the worst. Then I read a couple of books that addressed the idea of learned optimism, and darned if it didn’t work. Now I have actually been known to annoy people with my positive outlook and sunny disposition. Luckily I kept my sarcasm.

glass-half-empty-glass-half-full-always-full

7. You can’t have it all. People say you can, but they are either misguided or actually lying.

8. I don’t have to be friends with everyone. And, perhaps even more importantly, I don’t want to be friends with everyone.

9. Failing gracefully is a learned skill. As I’ve gotten back into theater, I’ve had some successes—hello first named role in 20 years—and more failures. Not getting what I want and not being a jerk about it is something I’ve had to work on. By the way, if you’re in Pittsburgh, my next part is in The Vagina Monologues delivering (heh, no pun intended) the monologue “I Was There in the Room.”

Performance

10. Sometimes bad things happen, and it’s not a punishment. I was so accustomed to thinking in terms of “when you make good choices, good things happen” that I had internalized the idea that good things were a result of my good behavior and bad things were the result of my bad behavior. I even taught this sad little mantra to my children. But in reality, sometimes really great things happen and they are a totally unexpected gift. And sometimes really crappy things happen, and it’s not your fault. I will admit, I am still sorting my feelings on this one.

11. I am truly, deeply loved. I started to get a glimpse of this one when I had the twins and went into heart failure. I felt lifted up by love of friends literally all over the world. But I don’t think I truly grasped it until this year. Have I accepted it yet? No. I’ll admit that a complement still sends me blushing and making a hasty retreat out the door. But I’m getting there.

12. It’s never too late to have a happy childhood. Is there something you wanted to do as a kid and never got to? Go do it now. Some skill you wanted to learn, class you wanted to take? I promise it’s not too late. Did you like to color or cuddle a stuffed animal or play with legos or skip rope? Guess what? You can still do it. Embrace it. It doesn’t make you immature. Kids do these things because they’re fun and relaxing. They didn’t stop being fun and relaxing just because you aged out.

13. It’s never too late to begin again. New beginnings can be brutal. Making up your mind to start is hard. Getting started is hard. Carrying on when things don’t work out is hard. Making a strategic retreat after you’ve invested a lot of time and emotional energy into something that just isn’t working out is hard. It’s all hard. But you know what? It’s so worth it. Most things that are worthwhile are also kind of difficult.

14. It’s never too late. Period.