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40 lessons of life… Part 4

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After a three-week marathon of my life lessons, today marks the end of the 40 odd lessons I’ve learned in 40 odd years I am happy to share. The last few weeks have covered life choices and decisions; in this last part come the lessons on relationships, romance and the ageing process.

27. Old friends are gold friends. This may sound like another cliché but spend an hour in the company of an old friend and you will know why. They are the ones who’ve seen you through your worst and your best. They know practically almost everything about you and even if it’s been a month, a year, or a decade, you can pick up the conversation where you’ve left off and start as if time has stood still all along. Hold on to those old friends; they are the ones who know the song in your heart and sing it back to you when you’ve forgotten.

28. Refrain from drains. A colleague once told me “There are two types of people in this world: pipes and drains. Pipes give you energy and drains just drain you. Stay away from the drains.” We all know those people, that as soon as they’ve walked into the room, they such the energy out and it’s a continuous moan-fest from the moment they arrive. Life is just too short, as I’ve discovered in the last 40 odd years to put up with drains on your energy. Seek those who bring you joy.

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29. You are the one to make you happy. I don’t know who needs to hear this just ahead of Valentine’s but here goes – do not waste your life seeking the one who will make you happy because it is the person that’s looking back at you when you look in the mirror. However, most of us, at one point or another in our lives, think it is down to that one person who will make us happy.

30. Happiness is an inside job. In the same vein, neither it is the perfect job, nor the perfect house, nor the perfect holiday that will make you happy. Happiness starts and ends with you. If you are not happy within yourself, there is no use looking for it elsewhere. It’s just like putting a plaster on a wound without cleaning it.

31. Don’t go to bed angry. Whether it is with your significant other, or a friend, or family member, there is indeed truth in the adage that advises not to go to bed angry. By this I don’t condone staying up and having a blazing row instead. Try to resolve whatever the issue is, and failing short, resolve within yourself to let it go.

32. Your mum is right 95 per cent of the time. Growing up, it is so hard for us, especially women, to admit that our mothers are right. It is only as we get older, we appreciate just how much our mothers know. Now that I am in my forties and I get to speak to my mum daily, it’s almost on a weekly basis how sound her judgement and how valid her wisdom is.

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33. Aspire for wisdom. When we make a list of all our aspirations, wisdom doesn’t really come up top, if it even appears on the list. However, it is the most profound form of acceptance of self and the world as it is, we can aspire to. In my experience, the wisest people have the highest peace of mind.

34. Make peace with your flaws. As women, we are conditioned to be critical of ourselves from an early age, whether it is the number on our report card or the number on the scales. You are not your performance score, or your weight or your waste measurements. You are the whole sum of these and yet more. You are the number of breaths you take and the moments that take your breath away, the number of lives you touched and the number of ways you impact on others daily.

35. Embrace wrinkles and grey hair. Again, as women, we struggle with old age, as we poke our wrinkles, pull out our grey hair and prod our fat folds. Ageing should be a badge of honour not something to be feared or frowned upon. Wrinkles are signs we’ve lived, scars are signs we’ve survived. Embrace them.

36. Celebrate small victories. It is so easy in the daily rush to overlook small wins, but nothing gives you a boost of self-confidence and affirmation as celebrating small wins. After all it’s all the small victories that pave the way to ultimate glory.

37 Find joy in the mundane. “Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing” in Camille Pissaro’s words. If you find joy in the unremarkable, no day will be ordinary.

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38. Practise faith over fear. This is a lesson I have learned in the last few years. Every time I find myself letting go and letting God, I feel more at peace with life and the universe. We are in control of nothing but our attitude and practising fear results from our need to control. Instead let go and have faith that things will pan out exactly as planned.

39. You are not the owner of anything you possess but just a trustee. I heard this advice a couple of years ago, and it resonated with me. Before then I had an extreme fear of losing things – from people I love to possessions I cherish. This was the epiphany I needed and anytime I catch myself experiencing the same fear now, I remind myself I am just a trustee, and I should loosen my grip.

40. Flex. I don’t mean just yoga, pilates or flexibility exercises. As a rule, just flex. No matter our age, life will have its wicked way with us anyway; if you are flexible, you will go through the motions bending and flexing; if you’re rigid, life will only break you.

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In this article:
Sinem Bilen-Onabanjo
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