100 Lessons for life

A bewildering third lockdown of continued working from home and separation from friends seemed reason enough to compile a list of things which I find anchoring and helpful as I navigate this life of ours. That, and also I saw a similar list which had been drawn up by someone else, and, well, I thought I could do better!

  1. Nothing is irredeemable (the end is not the end)
  2. There are no shortcuts. Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life. This applies to every worthwhile thing – good relationships, good health, good routines, good rest. Getting up and out and doing the thing will always turn out for the better.
  3. There are no rules. Advertising execs will paint a set story of success, but they need not be the authority in your life.
  4. The last shall be first and the first last. Advertising execs might find Matthew 20 provides a helpful challenge.
  5. The kingdom of God is creation healed. (Hans Küng) There is hope yet.
  6. The incarnation is a hope that isn’t escapist.
  7. Hope means hoping when things are hopeless, or it is no virtue at all. (G.K. Chesterton) See 1.
  8. Forgiveness means letting go of the hope for a better past. As hard as that so often is.
  9. Hatred is a knife you hold by the blade. Taking 7. seriously can help with this.
  10. Have grace. For more help with 8.
  11. We are not what we know, but what we are willing to learn. (Mary Catherine Bateson)
  12. Learning a unicycle will take 7 hours. There’s a set amount time for acquiring certain skills. Don’t take failure in the first 6 hours personally and quit. There’s a set pay-out time to lots of things.
  13. The way you become That Sort of Person, is by deciding to be. “I’m not the kind of person who does things like that” is not an explanation, it’s a trap. 
  14. Live like you have snow permission. You know how snow being out the ordinary allows some of the ordinary rules about not talking to neighbours etc. etc. to be broken? Live like that always applies.
  1. Celebration is a skill. Invest in learning it, and find moments to use it.
  2. Dreaming is also a skill. Practice. Start a list.
  3. Read more poetry. Cultivating and appreciating beauty infuses life with wonder.
  4. Say thank you. And use multiple sentences to do so.
  5. Acknowledgement is a form of justice. That’s why 16. and 19. are so important and it’s also the logic of…
  6. No silver linings. When someone expresses sadness/pain/disappointment check whether your response is a silver lining. If it is, don’t use it. Just commiserate.
  7. Smile with your teeth. Sing really loudly even if you can’t hold a tune. Dance how you want to. Wear the colours that clash. Don’t let pride get in the way of really enjoying yourself.
  8. Pay attention to thresholds. Take time to transition. Leave and enter well. Mark the change with thanks, celebration, mourning, commiseration, or burning last year’s calendar if need be:
  1. The need is not the call.
  2. Keep the Sabbath or a day of rest. The real candidate for something on this list I need to take more seriously.
  3. Self-sufficiency is not a virtue.
  4. Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.
  5. If you go fast, you go alone, together we go as far as we can. (Proverb)
  6. Learn to hold silence.
  7. Generate a healthy scepticism of best before dates and washing instructions. I say this as someone who has never once separated colours and has suffered no ill consequences.
  8. Prefer curiosity to outrage. And remember that curiosity comes out of a sense of safety.
  9. Both, and. Don’t oversimplify complexity.
  10. Equally, some things are simple. Jesus thinks there are two kinds of people in the world: our neighbours, whom we are to love, and our enemies, whom we are to love. (Sarah Miles)
  11. Eat the loose grapes first.
  12. “Does this spark joy?” is a genuinely great question to ask. Marie Condo is really onto something.
  1. Freedom is not to be found by running around the tight circle of our own self-interest.
  2. We are not blessed so we can have, we are blessed so we can give. Give when asked, and don’t loan what you wouldn’t be prepared to give.
  3. You cannot become wealthy other than through exploiting others. Think about it.
  4. Every time you spend money you cast a vote for the kind of world you want. (Anna Lappe)
  5. Usury is exploitation.
  6. Don’t feel wealthy? Try naming all the things you own. That should help.
  7. The opposite of greed is trust. Learn sufficiency.
  8. It’s not that you don’t have time something. It’s that you’ve chosen not to prioritise it. That’s ok, but be honest about it.
  9. If you want to know your values, look at your bank statement and your calendar. Your money and time will be sure to reveal your priorities.
  10. Put birthdays at the top of your budget for each month.
  11. When someone says ‘Look’, turn. It might be a bird in the garden, or words to share, or a need to meet. Love is a lot of choosing to be disrupted in the turning and looking.
  1. Power concedes nothing without a demand. (Frederick Douglass)
  2. To acquiesce to the status quo is to become complicit in the suffering of others. Practice 16. as a remedy.
  3. Legality is a matter of power not justice.
  4. Don’t live a life distant from the scene of sorrow. Those on the margins are always the first to comprehend death and resurrection.
  5. Shirley Harbour used to say ‘for all this we have Jesus‘. A religion which takes an instrument of torture for its symbol takes suffering seriously.
  6. Don’t postpone your influence.
  7. A principle remains abstract until it costs you something. (Dorothy Day)
  8. We are always choosing between the pain of staying where we are and the pain of growth. In general, we are probably overestimating the costs of action and underestimating the damages of not acting. (cf, climate change)
  9. There’s no definitive experience of x. All our experiences will be different, and whenever we choose a door, we are permanently closing others. Don’t worry about it. The particular and the local is an apeture through which you can glimpse the universal.
  10. Under promise, over deliver.
  11. Use an email triage system.
  12. Also OneTab. A truly excellent chrome extension which saves your tabs to come back to later.
  13. Invest in learning keyboard shortcuts.
  14. A good way to form a habit is to attach it to something you already do. If I put the kettle on, then I’ll….
  15. Think about jobs based on whether you could bring about the outcome. Make that case in your application.
  16. If something takes two minutes to do, do it now. It will be quicker than re-remembering.
  17. Things have to get messier to get tidier. With tidying a room or packing, but also with having difficult and important conversations.
  1. Names are important. You won’t be able to build a friendship without learning them. Don’t argue over someone’s name (“oh but it’s so much nicer shortened”. Same with pronouns. If you slip up, correct yourself and move on.
  2. Don’t be afraid to use the names of those who have died. Someone’s erasure from conversation makes the loss more acute not less for those grieving. Same applies to the names of ex partners.
  3. Don’t be afraid to name the dynamics. ‘I know this isn’t the birthday you were expecting, and it’s ok to be sad’. I know you’ll be x, because of y.
  4. Don’t be personal about someone’s weight, relationship status, fertility. They will talk about it in the spaces right for them.
  5. Don’t confuse accents and language barriers with a lack of intelligence.
  6. Ask people about the hooks. People sometimes drop something into conversation by way of testing the waters. They don’t know if you are willing to talk or how to voice that they want to talk about it. Follow this with ‘Can I ask about x?’ ‘The way you mentioned y made me wonder if z is the case?’
  7. Let people know what you’re offering. Instead of saying, ‘let me know anything I can do’, say ‘can I send you something in the post? How would you like me to check in with you in the week, by calling? I could also send you gifs’
  8. You can practice humour: contrast, exaggeration, specifics. There’s almost no situation not improved by humour.
  9. Don’t be afraid to be the one who loves the most. (In boundaried, committed, safe contexts). If you’re always making sure the score is even, the love you have to give is merely transactional.
  10. Don’t undermine your partner. It’s easier to do than you’d think.
  11. At the same time, keep friends in the loop. On a slippery slope, they will keep track of red flags better than you and will spot a pattern more quickly.
  12. At some point you, or a close friend, will be affected by abusive or bullying behaviour. It’s unlikely that this will be a first for the perpetrator, it’s also, unfortunately, unlikely to be a last. So report and go through formal mechanisms as that becomes possible. Trust your instincts.
  13. If you’re unsure, make the change. (Another on trusting your instincts) Don’t settle for a life partner. Ask if they are the person you’d want to accompany you to a parent’s funeral. Ask how you’d feel if everyone always complimented you on how your child was exactly like your partner. Ask yourself the choice you’d make if making it was as simple as pressing the button.
  14. There’s no one person for you. That’s why we have the practice of a public commitment.
  15. Love is doing. Your actions not your identity/relation make you a neighbour. Like in the Good Samaritan
  16. Sex is play. Rape is coercion, not consent. Get a good sexual ethic and concepts to analyse it with.
  17. Compliment people, and message them when you think of them.
  18. Learn how to accept compliments.
  19. Make it as easy as possible for others to admit they were wrong. After an admission, move on.
  20. Make sure you’re measuring the right thing. You might read more by measuring number of pages, not numbers of books.
  21. Learn to really enjoy the achievements and joys of others.
  22. It’s ok for congratulations to be belated. Even if you’re late, wish a happy birthday/new job/whatever it might be.
  23. Be excited to see others.
  24. Give up on needing to win.
  25. Don’t buy the cheapest umbrellas/headphones/black biros/flip-flops. It’s not gonna work out.
  1. Life is a path, not a mountain – you can’t conquer it, you can only love it.
  2. Land. The fundamental relation is care not ownership.
  3. God would be very little if limited to our imagination. Let this comfort and amaze you.
  4. If you don’t have integrity in the small, you won’t have it in the big.
  5. Remember the unimportance of practically everything. If something will still matter in ten months time, it probably won’t matter in ten year’s time.
  6. Take a 100-year view. It helps with 92.
  7. Remember you’re dying. Make and revise your will.
  8. Saying something is unrealistic is often just our way of placing invisible limits on something.
  9. If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting.
  10. Don’t play perfect. It’s exhausting and it doesn’t work.
  11. Lay the groundwork now for what you’ll need to keep going with what you care about in 20 year’s time.
  12. Everything is beautiful in its time. You can’t hold onto it. Learn from the seasons, what is lost will grow again.
  13. How you spend your everyday is how you spend your life.


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