Charlotte's Web

Blogging my world since 2006

39 Things I Have Learnt


Next week, I will be 39. I am thrilled about 39. Really, I am. I’m convinced that my fortieth year is going to be the most exciting year of my life. I feel it in my bones. I sense adventure, success and happiness and I’m embracing it all with joy.

To celebrate my birthday, here are 39 Things I Have Learnt:

1. If you don’t have the time or inclination to polish your boots with polish and a brush, a baby wipe will do just as well.

2. Cooking, if you have time and sufficient inclination, is not drudgery. It is relaxing, calming, recuperative, creative and feeds people.

3. We all breathe too shallowly.

4. Walking is better for our bodies than jogging, but swimming is best.

5. The only way to keep weight in check is to balance input and output. Eating fewer carbs helps too.

6. We can’t all be famous, but if we blog, we can pretend we are.

7. Writing every day leads to writing every day.

8. There is no such thing as “finding your other half” or “being completed” by someone else – the only way to have a successful relationship is to be a whole person already.

9. Living for your family, while satisfying at the time, can be pointless if you carry on doing it after they have left home.

10. Even very old people want to have sex.

11. Empathy is more useful to another person than sympathy.

12. No one person can be “everything” to another person. We get what we need piecemeal from all the people around us.

13. Love is all around, actually.

14. Children need time and laughter from their parents far more than they need expensive stuff and trips to fun-fairs.

15. Women should stop judging each other’s choices and stand up for each other – if someone’s anti-fashion or obsessed with her looks or works or stays home with her kids or breast-feeds or bottle-feeds or eats local or eats vegetables from Kenya, you don’t have to be her friend but don’t judge her.

16. We can’t protect our children from every little hurt or wound, but we can provide a safe place for them to come home to and talk about it.

17. I am scared of global warning and the aftermath of AIDS, but I am angry about patriarchy.

18. I don’t think any woman anywhere will be truly free until no woman is raped, abused, forced to wear clothing to hide her body from the gaze of men, prevented from getting educated or expected to carry out all the home and child-care in exchange for men’s benevolence.

19. Getting out of bed to care for the children when you’d rather lounge there, eating chocolates, filing your nails and watching Friends reruns hurts, but is also rewarding.

20. Speaking your truth is brave.

21. When you do speak your truth – without the intention to wound or hurt – you are not responsible for the reaction of others.

22. Fear is a bad philosophy of life.

23. Children get far more joy out of paper, glue, scissors and paint than they do out of big shiny plastic things from the toy-shop.

24. Being passive-aggressive is abusing the truth.

25. Whether you’re a man or a woman, earning a salary is only a small part of your responsibilities.

26. Whoever earns the most money does not own the remote control.

27. Partners who ask “What can I do to help you?” are very, very sexy.

28. What goes around, comes around.

29. A half-finished household task makes a job for someone else. Always complete.

30. We don’t have “one chance to accept God into our lives”. God, or the divine, is already there – whether we like it or not and whether we believe or not. And if you don’t believe me, climb a mountain, listen to music or hear a baby’s gurgling laughter.

31. Gossip hurts both the gossiper and the gossipee.

32. Using children as a weapon is low.

31. Having good friends, even if it’s just one or two, is essential to a happy life.

32. People who use others as audience, or mirrors in which to view their own reflections, are bores and best avoided.

33. It’s better to have a warm and friendly home than a perfect one.

34. Money, while great to have, is not the be-all and end-all. Love is.

35. Shopping destroys, in more ways than one. It’s soulless, bad for the planet, addictive, pointless and far too much fun for its own good.

36. Those who abuse apostrophes should apologise.

37. People who have benefitted from an iniquitous system – Apartheid, patriarchy, national socialism – should find a way to give back.

38. There is no such thing as too many books.

39. The only way forward is with love, and a sense of humour.

(I pinched this idea from the lovely Sognatrice of Bleeding Espresso, who recently turned 31.)

Author: charlotteotter

Novelist, feminist, crime writer

34 thoughts on “39 Things I Have Learnt

  1. I love all 39 of them! Happy Birthday in advance!

  2. What an excellent exercise in self-affirmation. Just loved each and every one of your thoughts.

  3. Reading your list was a perfect way to start my day. Just lovely!

    Happy Birthday.

  4. Happy birthday (a little early)! This was beautiful — thank you!

  5. charlotte, this is a wonderful post! even if you pinched the idea, you did a wonderful list. love your lessons!

  6. Very wise you are at almost 39!

    I do take exception a tiny bit to #3. Shallow breathing (the Buteyko method) has actually helped my asthma. But if the shallowness is from fear or anxiety, then yes, we all need to stop doing that!

    And #10? I often ponder that one when I gaze upon an elderly person. I somehow have a much harder time visualizing than with young people, which is certainly a product of film and TV.

    And a very happy birthday to you!

  7. Wow, I feel better! Happy Birthday Charlotte and thanks for this post and all the rest.

  8. with my birthday only 11 days away, i may have to pinch this idea myself!

    number 8 is so very, very true.

  9. *Fabulous* list! Now I feel like I’m 70 with all this knowledge. Wait. That’s not how it’s supposed to work 😉

    Hard to pick a favorite, but I love the one about having a warm and friendly home rather than a perfect one; being surrounded by obsessively clean Italian women can really wear on a girl 😉

  10. And for #36, I just saw this in an email from Lion Brand Yarn: “We are pleased to offer a new, revolutionary knitting software program that let’s you design and create sweater patterns with a customized fit in bust sizes from 28″ to 62″.”

  11. Happy birthday Charlotte!

    I’ll have to pinch this in turn for my birthday next month! I laughed at number 6, and I always follow number 1.

  12. I love them all!!! What a wonderful list!

  13. Happy Birthday next week! I enjoyed the entire list…and according to #6, we’re famous!

  14. This is an amazing list. I’m thinking of printing it out to keep around as a reminder as I move into the new year. I especially like the one about speaking your own truth, and the one about how no woman can be free until we all are. This is WONDERFUL.
    Happy Birthday!

  15. Happy (early) Birthday!! Tell me do you have a problem with parenthesis and exclamation points too? (Just kidding!)

    Baby wipes rock. They quick clean everything from shoes to the bathroom sink. We still buy them by the case, even though the kids are out of diapers.

    I have to agree with your assessment of shopping, especially the too much fun part.

    Great post, thank you.

  16. Great list. Happy Birthday!

    I liked #6, 38 and 39 the best.

    #32: The correct diagnosis for these people is narcissist and you’re right – best avoided.

  17. Powerful stuff, Charlotte! Wow.

    And a very, very, VERY happy birthday to you next week. May you be spoiled in regal luxury, may you know you are the most special being on earth, may you be truly happy.

    How long did it take you to think about these wisdoms? If I want to compile a similar list for my 39th in March, I’d better start cracking!

  18. I’m glad to find someone else who believes in #12. That’s one of the most important lessons I’ve learned.

  19. Happy birthday! A great list, and I’m wondering if #10 means, say, people who are 39 or older? 😉 I can make jokes like that because I’m a year and a half older than you.

  20. 32. People who use others as audience, or mirrors in which to view their own reflections, are bores and best avoided.

    Darn. I’ve just really finally taken notice of a friend who does this. It wasn’t that much of an irritant until last weekend when, after not seeing her for a couple of months, the conversation was made up of her renovations and her trip overseas. Not one question about how I was doing in our renovation bomb site, nor how I was coping as a new Mum. Hmm. On the one hand, perhaps she assumes I’m a 100% competent Mum and that doesn’t require enquiry, or (and unfortunately, more likely) she just likes listening to her own voice and her own stories.
    Oh well, time to gently move this friendship on to the twice a year roster. What a shame. Oh well, where one door closes, another is sure to open.

  21. Pingback: Make Tea Not War’s Guide to Life etc « Make Tea Not War

  22. Hi Charlotte. Your list is a wonderful reflection of your thirty-nine (almost) year old self. What an adorable self you are! Happy Birthday Possum.

  23. Happy early Birthday Charlotte!

    This a wonderful, wonderful list. I love each and every one of your learnings but numbers 20, 21 and 22 are going to be on my list of “Areas for improvement” in my 40th year. Wow. Not so long ago that seemed like such a long way into the future.

  24. Happy Birthday! I’m sure forty is going to be a wonderful year for you, too. My experience, thus far, has been that all the “major numerical years” of my adult life have been wonderful ones: 20 (finally got out of an unhealthy relationship), 30 (new career, new boyfriend who became my husband), 40 (great new job). And what a lot of wonderful things you’ve learned in your 39 years.

  25. Joyeux Anniversaire!

    PS: about 38 – yes, there is.

  26. What a terrific inventory that is! It does get better and better, for the most part, as you move through the years. Wisdom is more than sufficient compensation for the few things you lose as you age. Happy BD Charlotte.

  27. A great list Charlotte. My fave’s are 34, 27, 14, 8 and I think I might just try 1 this week.
    Have a great birthday and a great year. It’s great to approach what others approach with dread with such a positive outlook.

  28. Dear Charl, You are wonderful, and you get wonderfuller by the year! I have been nodding furiously throughout that list. Happy Birthday dear one!

  29. Astounding! Beautiful. Wise.

    Happy Birthday.

  30. Wonderful. I love #2.

  31. gday charlotte. belated happy birthday. today is my 49th birthday. in reading your 39 thoughts, i have reflected on the blessings in my life………Today as a birthday treat, my 22 yr old son is taking me to see the andy warhol exhibit at our state gallery,Queensland, australia. The best present he can give me, is his company……… Thanks for your wisdom. i wish all life’s best in 2008. Jo

  32. Thanks for that!

  33. That was just lovely. I have been gone from blog reading for several months, and am just now catching up with those I used to read daily.

    I enjoyed the entire list, but your #20 and 21 particularly resonate with me at this point.

    Happy birthday, so very very belated 🙂

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