By Heather Regula
Dear Haley and Taylor,
Life at 40 has me feeling like I am at a pinnacle – everything has gotten better as I have gotten older. You two are my greatest accomplishments – I am so proud of you. The love I have for you is immeasurable. There is so much to say – so many bits of information I want to pass along to you, so many heartaches I want to save you from, so many lessons I want you to already consider “learned” – simply because I have already learned them. Your life is yours to live. You have your whole lives ahead of you and I am so honored to be along for the ride!
Disease or a terminal illness spurs some people write letters like this to their children. I am healthy and happy but I wanted to put all of these thoughts down for you to reflect on over the years. There are times when my words get jumbled up and I don’t truly say what I mean. Sometimes emotions or anger affect my ability to properly communicate. So here are my words and everything I want to share with you now. My perspective is different now than it was 10 years ago and I will write to you more throughout the years. My letter to you when I’m 50 might have a totally different spin to it as the lens I reflect through will be different. For now, at 40, here goes…
- Happiness is a choice – be sure to choose joy daily. Don’t worry about whether the glass is half full or half empty – just remember that the glass is refillable! No one is responsible for your happiness – find what makes you happy and go after it!
- Feel everything – allow every single emotion you have inside of you to take root and run its course. The good, the bad and even the ones that rip your heart out – allow yourself to feel them all. This is easier said than done because no one likes to feel pain so we often protect ourselves from that. We fight off the bad feelings or turn to distraction in order to avoid feeling them. What we resist… persists. So, feel it all. Embrace it all. Own it, love it and process it all. Learn and grow from it all.
- Share those feelings with others – let those close to you know what you are thinking and feeling. We are not on this life journey alone – don’t shut others out. Allow others to have the privilege of being part of your life and share your innermost feelings with those who matter. Sometimes talking about the painful emotions lessens the burden for us and makes it more manageable. Those that love you will want to share in your joys too. Share it all – be open and honest.
- Choose your circle wisely. You can be kind and loving to all, but not everyone gets to have a piece of your world. Save those spots for those who really matter. You decide who is allowed into your life and you control the level of submersion they get into your life.
- Love yourself – take care of your mind, heart and body. Appreciate and embrace what makes you different from others and don’t be afraid to let your light shine. This involves forgiving yourself for mistakes made and roads not traveled down.
- Be kind to others – life isn’t about you and I … it is about what we can do for others. Spread joy wherever you go – do what you can to make someone else’s day more enjoyable – lighten their load by helping when and where you can. Blanket the earth with your love – always leave the world better than you found it. It doesn’t matter what you get out of it, or how someone else treats you – it is about you loving others. Plain and simple. Show that love any way that you can and every chance that you get – hold the door open for others, offer to help carry someone’s bags, make eye contact with the cashier at the store and have meaningful conversation with him or her…. every interaction we have with others is our chance to leave them better than we found them.
- If you say you are going to do something – then do it. This will help you stay true to yourself and it will allow others to believe in you. It sucks to be let down.
- Don’t take anything personally – I feel like I should write these words in all capital letters. This truly is one of the greatest lessons of my life. I wish I had grasped this concept when I was younger. It is one of The Four Agreements (please read the book!) and it is so very simple. Everything that someone else says and does is not about you – it is one hundred percent about them. Now I am not saying to not believe what someone tells you – I am simply saying that all the bad stuff…. the words and actions that hurt our feelings and wind up breaking our heart – all of that is really not about us. Those words and actions are often a result of anger and issues that another person has. Don’t take that personally – people often say and do things to hurt others in an attempt to make themselves feel better. Sometimes it takes self talk and distancing yourself from someone else in order to not take things personally. Reminding yourself that it isn’t about you but truly about the other person will keep you happier and more emotionally healthy.
- Love others where they are. If you choose to allow someone into your life – friend, significant other, whatever – make an agreement with yourself to love that person where they are. Physically where they are – sure that’s a given. I mean more of the mental and emotional aspects of this thought. Love them for what you have in common and for their differences. Love the stubbornness and all of their little quirks and idiosyncrasies. When you find someone worthy of sharing your life with, please don’t ever think that they are your “other half” or that they “complete” you – you are whole and complete just as you are – you don’t need anyone else to fill a missing part of you.
- Let your expectations be reasonable – I used to always say that if we don’t have expectations then we won’t be disappointed. That is a callused way to look at things and I have decided that we do have the right to expect certain things. We give respect and we have the right to expect respect in return from someone who matters in our life. We give kindness and we have the right to expect kindness in return – but keep in mind that kindness is a muscle and if it isn’t exercised, then it isn’t very strong. Exercise kindness often so that your muscle is strong and it will spread to those around you. But don’t put the expectation you have of yourself, on others. That isn’t fair and it will only lead to disappointment. I did say earlier that we have the right to expect respect and kindness from others but we need to keep in mind that it might look different coming from another person. Their version of it will likely not be the same as yours. Or, they might not know how to show it and you will have the unique opportunity to show them. Show them lovingly and patiently.
- Forgive others freely and without expectation. Forgive others for your peace – not because they necessarily deserve it. So many times we get caught up in judging others – deciding their fate because we feel that we can be the judge, jury and executioner. Focus on not passing judgment and learning to forgive others. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean you have to let them back into your life. Sometimes you can make your peace with their actions, decide in your heart and mind to forgive them and let it go. Forgiving someone allows you to release the pain they caused and not carry it around anymore. It involves letting whatever happened go and not continuing to hold it against them. This is definitely a lot easier said than done but it is possible. Sometimes it is one of those things that requires constant self talk. Forgiveness, when done properly, is freeing. Forgive others when they are sincere in their apologies and forgive them even when they don’t offer an apology. That might be a time when you forgive and move on without them in your life.
- Trust for the sake of trusting – I feel like I could write pages and pages about trust – the benefits of having trust, the pains of losing someone’s trust, how it is nearly impossible to rebuild trust…. instead of rambling on and on about the different aspects of trust, I want to simple suggest that you trust someone for the sake of trusting. You will have relationships where your heart breaks because of the actions of another – don’t hold that heartbreak against the next person you allow into your life. Forgive the person that hurt you and move on. Allow the new person to have a clean slate – unblemished by the actions of another. We all deserve a real chance and trust is at the root of all of that. So – if you decide that someone is worthy of being in your life, trust in the fact that you believe they are good and decent. Trust them because they haven’t given you any reason not to trust them. Trust isn’t something others should have to earn. That’s not fair. So trust because of all the good that can come from it. Trust because there isn’t a reason not to. Now that I’ve said that – there are different layers of trust. There is a basic level of trust that others deserve to have until they have shown you a reason not to trust them. The different layers of trust will grow in time – don’t force them as they will just naturally fall into place.
- Find time to do what you love – what feeds your soul – what brings you peace and happiness. Carve regular time into your life for that. I really hope that it is something not associated with your job – so that it will allow you to focus on other things and dedicate time to that. Do what makes you happy and do it regularly. Breathe in the peace and joy that it brings you and exhale the stress and frustration that you have in your life.
- Life goes on – no matter what, time keeps ticking away. The passing of time doesn’t differentiate between good or bad times. Find a way to enjoy each and every day. Know that the pain you feel during tough days will pass and also remember that the great times will pass by as well. Love life and live it to the fullest – no regrets. Remember that each day you wake up is a chance to make today better than yesterday. Grief is temporary – feel each piece of it and let it go.
- Be you! Embrace who you are – happily and unapologetically! Be a badass, always.
I can write for days about things I want to tell you girls. I love you and will always be here for you. I love you where you are and for all that you are. I look forward to watching you both grow into young women and see the mark that you will leave on the world. You are both blessed with caring hearts and great intelligence – you will do amazing things, I know it. I love you.
Heather Regula is a writer and a fifth grade teacher. She was born in California, grew up overseas and has happily settled in Temple, TX. She has two daughters – Haley, 12 and Taylor, 8. Her words are straight from the heart – they are often based on life experiences that have moved and changed her.