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.)