Thursday, September 10, 2015

70 Things I've Learned by Age 70

My mom, a psychiatrist, turned 70 this year. So I asked her to guest blog here on "70 things she's learned by age 70." Here's what she came up with, with a little prodding and reminding from me on the various pearls of wisdom she's dispensed over the years.

1. People are unique in small ways, but alike in big ones.

2. Don’t waste time on regret. You would always have done "better" if you could have.

3. Listen to all feedback, but ultimately be your own judge.

4. The world is best understood by knowing most things are not about you.

5. If you can’t get what you need from family, look to other people in your life instead; water can be thicker than blood.

6. Unfortunately, nothing is easier than creating and re-creating familiar forms of suffering.

7. If people easily learned from their mistakes, I would be out of business.

8. A baby is born as a very particular person, but you have to wait a long time to
get fully introduced to who that child is. My own daughter has surprised me at every turn, yet nothing pleases me more than the person she has become.

9.  Children are extremely compelling, hysterically funny, and totally exhausting.

10. Children can’t comprehend why adults sit around engaged in endless chatter.

11. Adults only vaguely remember the joys of bouncing off the walls.

12. Being a "good enough" parent is an awesome accomplishment.

13. No one is a perfect person.

14. No one gets a perfect deal.  

15. The most likely route to success is being the best version of the person you
really are.

16. If you don’t love yourself, it’s very difficult to love anyone else.

17. Hair is one of the few things you can change easily.

18. Be humble: Even the most important person on earth is just a speck in the universe.

19. Severe depression is as much a medical illness as a mental illness. If we embraced that reality, treatment and recovery would be much easier.

20. Being in psychotherapy allowed me to achieve inner peace.  

21. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, weaker, and a different person.

22. Inner life is often more burdensome than the most difficult external tasks.

23. Existential despair is, in part, a state of angry disconnection from others.

24. There are no circumstances too dire for a sense of humor.

25. The first orgasm is shockingly amazing.

26. It’s good that most of our trials and tribulations take us by surprise--at least then we don’t have to suffer by anticipating them.

27. Music is one of the safest and most accessible paths to ecstasy.

28. The next generation’s music always sounds like noise.

29. Being a short woman means every man feels tall enough to ask you out.

30. A know-it-all has little need to know anything.

31. I’ve often wished I could believe in eternal life and a supernatural being.

32. Believing in God is easier to explain than the string theory of the universe.

33. The best grades in school are usually earned by learning only the required course materials.

34. Ironically, studying a subject beyond what's required for success on a test interferes with regurgitating the correct answers on tests.

35. One way to avoid having a bad boss is to become your own boss.

36. Sex in the workplace almost always ends badly.

37. When I gave my one thousandth public talk, I realized that the worst outcome would be boring my audience for 45 minutes. So I stopped worrying.

38. Politics approximates religion: it’s very hard to convert anyone.

39. Most populations will passionately repeat the horrors of previous generations.

40. Civilized societies are the greatest human achievement and the most difficult one to sustain.

41. The average person in a developed country lives more comfortably than even the wealthiest individuals did a century ago.

42. Human progress often comes at the cost of harming other living things.

43. I placed writers for the New York Times on a pedestal until my husband became one; now I have to live with him here on earth.

44. The twenties might be the most difficult decade of life, because the identity of school and family recedes, and you have to invent your independent self.

45. Older age gives you perspective. You can increasingly step back and reflect on how the world works. 

46. With age, you begin to understand better what you can and cannot control. 

47. By the time you reach 70, many of life’s most difficult tasks have already been accomplished. 

48. Older age brings with it a certain peace--peace with your strengths, weaknesses and choices. 

49. A good old age might just be the best phase of life.

50. When it comes to language, England really did conquer the world.

51. No two couples have the same definition of marriage.

52. The less you expect of marriage, the happier you are with it.

53. The expression “what you see is what you get” is never more apt than when selecting a spouse.

54. You can change yourself, but not your partner.

55. Don’t speak more harshly to your partner than you would to a stranger.

56. An attack on your partner is the least effective way to get what you want.

57. When your partner does something annoying, remember: it’s not about you.

58. You can be happy with your partner, but your partner can’t make you happy.

59. Being kind to your partner is an investment in getting your own needs met.

60. Finding a good partner is one of life’s best outcomes.

61. Being on an antidepressant completely transformed my state of well-being.

62.  Hard drugs can kill you and aren't worth the high.

63. It’s sad to see that stigma around mental illness prevents so many people from receiving the help they need.

64. I'm not afraid of very much--least of all hell and damnation.

65. If you want to be really boring, say everything you're thinking.

66. Sex with someone you don't care about and who doesn't care about you usually feels pretty terrible.

67. If you're wondering what a certain dream means, ask yourself first; your first instinct on its "meaning" is probably correct.

68. Learning to play a musical instrument, especially if it doesn't come naturally, is a lot harder than it looks.

69. It's important to stand up for yourself at work, especially if you're a woman.

70. Crying is healthy. I wish I could make myself do it more often!

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