I have crazy thoughts sometimes in the normal way that many of us do. Sometimes if I’m feeling low, anxious or stressed those thoughts can be cruel and unhelpful.
There are a few themes that pop up around the lines of “you’re useless”, “you’ll never amount to anything” and “you can’t cope”. These kind of thoughts are not helpful at anytime and especially not when you’re feeling a bit fragile.
But on my early morning walk today things were a bit different. I wasn’t feeling down I was feeling fine. Not blissed out, ecstatic, sure-to-crash-soon fine, just quietly contented and happy with my lot.
But I was also thinking about my 15 year old son who complains that school is boring, school work sucks and adults are out to get him. I was thinking about the tragedy of him not realizing that these may well be the best years of his life.
I could be wrong there, but from my side of the fence his life looks great. He has good friends, no cares in the world, two parents and two siblings who love him and would like to get to know him better, plenty of yummy food to eat, a comfy bed and a bedroom of his own with a computer where he can indulge in his number one favorite activity in the whole world; playing a computer game called League of Legends.
Even if these teenaged years aren’t the best years of his life they’re not bad.
Then I looked around me and thought about my life. It was 6.45am and I was on the way back home after a beach walk. I’d bumped into a friend and we walked together for a while chatting, but mostly I walked alone.
The ocean was churned up and the sound of the sea filled my ears. The sun was shining, the birds were tweeting and I knew I’d be home in time to kiss my boys goodbye before they left for school and then spend some time with my girl eating my favorite breakfast before going off to do chores, meeting a new Web design client and starting work on a big new copywriting job.
Then a thought suddenly popped into my head:
“These are the best years in YOUR life!”
And I realized it was true.
Childhood is great. There are fewer worries and less pressure when you’re a kid. Hopefully you are loved and well cared for but you don’t fully appreciate it because you’ve never known anything different. Children often have a sense of entitlement and haven’t started exercising their gratitude muscle yet.
Then there are the early adult years which for me, although superficially fun-filled with endless parties and travel, were characterized by a lack of focus and tendency to avoid problems, conflict and making hard choices by getting bombed.
Next came the young family years when I popped out three babies and dealt with post-natal depression which was probably heightened by the fall out from all this sudden responsibility after years of irresponsibility.
Now my kids are older (aged 9, 12 and 15) there are different problems including greater financial pressures, increasing grumpiness from some of them and wildly different personalities all living under the same roof.
I sometimes feel resentful because I have to stay on my son’s case and keep the pressure on him to work. And there are many frustrations like family holidays which can be strained by the spread of ages and ‘meh’ outlook teenagers often have.
But I also realized that this is the endgame in my parenting life. I did all the right things when my kids were little and I have to keep doing the right things now.
I sometimes catch myself looking forward to the kids leaving home so I can go back to living life with no compromises and travel more.
But I love my kids and another part of me gets scared and sad about the thought of them all leaving home, not needing me anymore and of the loneliness that may come then. Right now I crave alone time but in the future I’ll miss the kids.
There have been hard times recently; more depression, a midlife crisis and a yearning for new challenges. But all those feelings are a sign that I’m still alive, unlike some people who don’t make it to see their forties. It’s sad to think that some mothers never live long enough to find out what it’s like living with teenagers compared to babies and toddlers because they’re not around.
Now I see that even the hard times can be the best years of your life. A time for learning, growing and changing for the better.
That these really are the best years of my life. The best year of my life, the best month, the best day.
I’ve woken up and realized that right now is all we’ve got.
The best years of our lives are not behind us, nor are they ahead of us.
The best years of our lives are happening right now. All we have to do is look around and appreciate them.
How to have the best year of your life right now, no matter what’s going on
1. Live in the present. Notice when you’re thinking about the past or the future and bring your mind gently back to the present. This is the basis of mindfulness and meditation which I’ve been practicing for 18 months now and which is proven to create a more positive frame of mind.
2. Focus on what you’re doing, even if it’s working, washing up or something unpleasant like arguing with a loved one. There is joy in every moment, no matter how mundane or painful it seems. There is joy just in being alive and all emotion,s no matter how painful are just a sign that you are a sensitive human being.
3. Breathe and practice mindfulness during both the good and bad times. This will help you become more aware of your thoughts and feelings which will help you learn more about yourself so you can better meet your own needs.
4. Keep a gratitude journal and make a note of three things you’re grateful for every day. It only takes a few minutes but it makes a huge and proven difference.
5. Appreciate your loved ones now for what they are. Look around you and thank the people who are helping make your life better. Don’t try to change them, they will change themselves in time. Your job with loved ones, especially with you children if you have them, is to love and appreciate them no matter what. That’s sometimes not easy but it’s always worth working on.
6. Help other people. That will give your own life meaning and bring you more rewards than seeking personal satisfaction through material possessions. Again, it’s psychologically proven, I’m not just making this stuff up.
7. Make ‘these are the best years of my life‘ your mantra. Try to remember how you spend your time, try to notice the details and see the beauty in every moment.
You really can rewire your brain and even improve your body and fitness so every year gets better even though you’re getting older. I saw proof of that at a retreat last week where one of the participants was 89 years old!
So start living the best year of your life right now and remember that, no matter how old you are, the best years of your life may still be ahead of you.