By Kim Tackett
To my daughters, who with their ages combined, are 46. Though not without their own brand of youthful wisdom, here are few things I’ve learned and believe to be true, at fifty and then some:
1. At fifty, you know who your friends are. I have a theory about “friends of the road and friends of the heart.” Friends of the road show up with purpose for a time and place. They are our situational friends. Friends of the heart may come and go, but they are forever friends. If you are lucky, you will have a handful of friends of the heart at the end of your journey. At fifty, you start to know who they are.
2. We live on a continuum of peace to fear. Where we sit on that scale, in each moment, defines how compassionate and loving we are able to be. Bully behavior is born of fear and represents the person who is cornered. This isn’t always about others—it’s also about myself. When I am mean-spirited, lazy, or frustrated, there is always a component of fear hiding in the shadows. Find it, tame it, and then head over to the path of peace for a little lovin’.
3. Everyone just wants to be heard. They don’t need answers, and they sure don’t need excuses. But they need to know that you care enough to listen to them, to see them. This one also works in reverse: I don’t always need you to fix me, just to hear me.
4. Disagree and commit. These three words have kept me married, employed, and connected to the passionate people, and even the places, I love. One of our clients, a Fortune 100 company (number 54, last time I looked) posts this in their conference rooms. It works in business and in personal relationships. It’s also my go-to political statement when I am upset with the way my government is behaving, but I want to commit to the greater good of our country. At home we literally declare “disagree and commit” when an argument has worn out its welcome and it’s time to move on.
5. Showing up is good enough. I have always struggled with knowing how to do the right thing, say the right words, look the right way, and be the right person. I mess up a lot. I am awkward, I spill stuff, I say things I didn’t intend to say (and forget what I was practicing). But what I have seen demonstrated over and over again, is that just being present is enough. Sure it would be great if I could show up with a perfect peach pie and wrinkle-free, but since that isn’t likely to happen, this is my awesome alternative.
6. The mistake will become irrelevant, the recovery is everything. I learned this in my business, and always appreciate it when a colleague responds quickly to a mistake. Mistakes are actually opportunities for us to learn how to work together. Recovery is the gracious gift of a do-over and it is what helps, heals, changes and inspires.
7. We are each climbing our own mountain. And everyone is pushing a big boulder. No one has it easy, even if it appears otherwise. Sometimes we believe we’re singled out and special because we have a bigger boulder and a steeper mountain than everyone else does. Some are better at hiding it, or pushing when no one is looking, but we all share the boulders and the mountains.
8. Don’t underestimate the power of practicality. In a spiffy notebook, lists are an instrument for peace rather than a force of evil (really). Don’t skimp on quality with olive oil or coffee. If in doubt, bring a cheese plate. Say yes as often as you can, but no is also a complete sentence. Don’t go without snacks. Bring a book. Take notes. Give yourself an extra ten minutes. Buy yourself flowers—weekly. Breakfast for dinner is always a good idea, especially on Thursday nights. Travel trumps almost everything. If you are stuck, go outside. If you are sad, remember your spiritual practice. And if you are feeling sorry for yourself, serve others. Let people celebrate your birthdays: you get presents and free cake. You deserve nice things. Just not things that break or stain easily. When you can’t go fast enough, go slower. And when in doubt, call your mother. You know where to find me.