Get a life. Look at the view.

Anna Quindlen (Pulitzer Prize author) gave this speech at a graduation ceremony. It’s wise advice for anyone…

I’m a novelist. My work is human nature. Real life is all I know. Don’t ever confuse the two, your life and your work. You will walk out of here this afternoon with only one thing that no one else has. There will be hundreds of people out there with your same degree: there will be thousands of people doing what you want to do for a living. But you will be the only person alive who has sole custody of your life. Your particular life. Your entire life. Not just your life at a desk or your life on a bus or in a car or at the computer. Not just the life of your mind, but the life of your heart. Not just your bank accounts but also your soul.

People don’t talk about the soul very much anymore. It’s so much easier to write a resume than to craft a spirit. But a resume is cold comfort on a winter’s night, or when you’re sad, or broke, or lonely, or when you’ve received your test results and they’re not so good.

Here is my resume: I am a good mother to three children. I have tried never to let my work stand in the way of being a good parent. I no longer consider myself the centre of the universe. I show up. I listen. I try to laugh. I am a good friend to my husband. I have tried to make marriage vows mean what they say. I am a good friend to my friends and them to me.

Without them, there would be nothing to say to you today, because I would be a cardboard cut out. But I call them on the phone and I meet them for lunch. I would be rotten, at best mediocre, at my job if those other things were not true.

You cannot be really first rate at your work if your work is all you are. So here’s what I wanted to tell you today: Get a life. A real life, not a manic pursuit of the next promotion, the bigger pay cheque, the larger house.

Do you think you’d care so very much about those things if you blew an aneurysm one afternoon or found a lump in your breast?

Get a life in which you notice the smell of salt water pushing itself on a breeze at the seaside, a life in which you stop and watch how a red-tailed hawk circles over the water, or the way a baby scowls with concentration when she tries to pick up a sweet with her thumb and first finger.

Get a life in which you are not alone. Find people you love, and who love you. And remember that love is not leisure, it is work. Pick up the phone. Send an email. Write a letter. Get a life in which you are generous. And realize that life is the best thing ever, and that you have no business taking it for granted.

Care so deeply about its goodness that you want to spread it around. Take money you would have spent on beer and give it to charity. Work in a soup kitchen. Be a big brother or sister. All of you want to do well. But if you do not do good too, then doing well will never be enough.

It is so easy to waste our lives, our days, our hours, and our minutes. It is so easy to take for granted the colour of our kids’ eyes, the way the melody in a symphony rises and falls and disappears and rises again. It is so easy to exist instead of to live.

I learned to live many years ago. I learned to love the journey, not the destination. I learned that it is not a dress rehearsal, and that today is the only guarantee you get. I learned to look at all the good in the world and try to give some of it back because I believed in it, completely and utterly. And I tried to do that, in part, by telling others what I had learned. By telling them this: Consider the lilies of the field. Look at the fuzz on a baby’s ear. Read in the back yard with the sun on your face.

Learn to be happy. And think of life as a terminal illness, because if you do, you will live it with joy and passion as it ought to be lived

Look at the view.



Don’t Eat Yellow Snow, Garage Sales..and Other Life Lessons


Where do we learn? How do we learn? When do we learn?

It’s been interesting turning 50. I’ve taken the chance to look back over my life at some of the lessons I’ve learned, and even where these were less than totally positive, I’m grateful for them all. As well as remembering never to eat yellow snow, I’ve also learned the following facts which might also help you.

1. Nothing is more special than today, and you are not guaranteed tomorrow, so keep nothing “for good.” I’ve spent too long at garage or car boot sales looking at lovely things in beautiful boxes that someone never had the chance to use.

2. Never forget that life has magic and adventure in it

3. It’s always a good time to eat chocolate and ice-cream.

4. Get to the beach or the hills as often as you can to connect with nature and put things in perspective

5. Smiling and laughing will instantly make you look better AND feel better, so create your own excuses to do both

6. Life is too short to be spent with negative people

7. A life spent celebrating good times and good friends with champagne and cocktails can never be wasted.

8. You are responsible for your own happiness.

9. Trust yourself. Ask for advice if you want to, but in the end, trust yourself, and trust your intuition.

10. Be as kind and compassionate to yourself as you are to others. It’s the Golden Rule.

11. You are all-ways more than what you think you are.

12. It is better to be a woman of strength than a strong woman. A woman of strength understands she must be gentle on herself – and the world doesn’t fall apart when she puts herself first.

13. Letting go of what no longer serves you is the only way to fly free

14. Take time to slow down, rebalance your life, and feed your soul.

15. Endings are always new beginnings.

16. Don’t ever be afraid to love fully, or love again, in your one precious life.

17. Every relationship starts with the relationship you have with yourself.

18. Pedestals are lonely places, and masks don’t hide anything; be your own imperfectly perfect self. There are gifts in imperfection (thanks, Brene Brown)

19. Life is a courageous journey or nothing at all.

20. We cannot become who we want to be by continuing to do exactly what we’ve been doing.

21. Everything that happens and everyone you meet is part of your life’s lessons.

22. Loving someone else should never mean you lose yourself.

23. Bitterness only makes you sour. Learn to forgive; failing to forgive people only hurts you.

24. There is no such thing as failure, only feedback. Learn from your failures.

25. Take time out of the chaos that surrounds you to find the silence that means your heart sings.

26. Stand up for your life. Know when enough is enough and be prepared to walk away from what no longer serves you, holds you down, or smothers your soul.

27. Cherish the time you spend with loved ones and appreciate most the gifts that come with love attached.

28. Learn to be content.

29. Other people’s business is not your business, and what other people think of you is none of your business.

30. Always be prepared to fight the battles of those who haven’t the strength to fight their own.

31. Be kind to those you meet; what you see and hear is only ever part of their story. See the wounded angel in them.

32. If you’re going to hold a party, don’t let it be a pity party.

33. How you “see” life affects what happens to you – so see it as amazing, an adventure, awesome. And that’s just the A’s.

34. Be yourself – everyone else is taken.

35. Love and approve of yourself exactly as you are.

36. Bad things happen – you can let them define you or you can let them strengthen you, and in the bad times, always remember not to shut out those who will support you.

37. In the hard times, remember “this too will pass.”

38. Be your own hero.

39. The past is your apprenticeship – it allowed you to grow into who you were meant to be.

40. The world isn’t one of black and white; get comfortable with grey.

41. When you look back at your life, focus on how far you’ve come. See the ashes; see the Phoenix.

42. Believe in miracles, angels, and the grace of God.

43. Make your home a haven If it’s useful or beautiful, William Morris had it right.

44. The greatest thing you’ll ever learn, is to be loved, and be loved in return.

45. Carrying the past around with you longer than you need to robs you of the energy to enjoy today. Your future is waiting, and it starts now.

46. If you really want to do something, then do it. Live with no regrets.

47. Counting your blessings instead of money makes you see how rich you really are.

48. Shine; the world needs your magnificence.

49. You can’t take it – anything at all – with you. Let it go.

50. Life is not a dress rehearsal – so dare to be happier, and dare to live. Vivere!

Please Listen To Me

If you are anything like me, you might find it less than totally easy to just listen to someone. With your full and undivided attention. It’s SO hard just to pay full attention to what someone is saying to you without planning out your response or jumping in with comments or advice. And it can be an automatic response to share our “That reminds me of the time when I…” and the “I know exactly how you feel..” stories. So I loved this reminder of how we can contribute to someone’s happiness by doing nothing other than keeping our ears open, and our mouth shut….

When I ask you to listen to me
and you start giving me advice,
you have not done what I asked.

When I ask you to listen to me
and you begin to tell me why I shouldn’t feel that way,
you are trampling on my feelings.

When I ask you to listen to me
and you feel you have to do something
to solve my problem,
you have failed me, strange as that may seem.

Listen! All I ask is that you listen.
Don’t talk or do – just hear me.
Advice is cheap – 20 cents will get you both Dear Abby and Billy Graham in the same newspaper.

And I can do it for myself; I am not helpless.
Maybe discouraged and faltering, but not helpless.

When you do something for me that I can and need to do for myself,
you contribute to my fear and inadequacy.

But when you accept as a simple fact
that I feel what I feel, no matter how irrational, then I can stop trying to convince you and get about this business of understanding
what’s behind this irrational feeling.

And when that’s clear, the answers are obvious and I don’t need advice.
Irrational feelings make sense
when we understand what’s behind them.

Perhaps that’s why prayer works – sometimes – for some people, because God is mute. And he doesn’t give advice or try to fix things. God just listens and lets you work it out for yourself.

So please listen, and just hear me.
And if you want to talk,
wait a minute for your turn,
and I will listen to you.

Author Unknown