Lately I have been organizing and cleaning. My space has been somewhat chaotic over the last few months (perhaps years). So, I have been putting special things in their place and preparing for a major run to the local Goodwill donation center. It has been a good process. While sorting, I found an issue of O Magazine. It was all about advice.
That got me thinking. What do I consider the best advice I have ever received? I could not whittle it down to one nugget of wisdom. Here are my advice highlights.
- You can worry about your ankles tomorrow. Finish the damn race. At mile 20 of the San Diego Marathon, my Team In Training coach approached on a bike. (He had been following team members throughout the race.) I was in real pain. The Advil I had taken had worn off. My stomach was in a knot the size of Texas. My toes were numb. I proceeded to whine about my ankles. He did not listen. He did not stop. He simply told me to finish the race in the most booming and definitive voice imaginable. That was exactly what I needed to hear.
- Let your light shine. That has always been a favorite lyric from songs I sang in church choir as a child. We are all light. Don’t hide your light under a bushel. Don’t let rain extinguish your light. Don’t let anger turn your light to dark. Don’t let fear keep your light from shining. Don’t let hate guide your light.
- Talk from here. I heard these words during one of my first meetings with a member of my Master’s thesis committee. I was nervous. I was speaking very quickly and without focus. At one point in our conversation, she asked me to stop talking and take a deep breath. She moved her hand in front of her body tracing the energy of her spine. Standing strong like an oak, her hand moved from the top of her head to the tip of her toes. (She practiced Tai Chi. Her grace spoke of mastering that art.) As she moved she said, “Katie, you must talk from here.”
- Find a spot before you turn. I took dance lessons starting at the age of 5. When it was time for us to learn how to turn, the first rule we were taught (so as not to fall) was to find a fixed point on the wall. Dancers know this. Setting your eyes on a fixed point can help you keep balance during a turn. Spotting is keeping your eyes fixed on a goal. Spotting is staying centered. Spotting is finding focus. Ultimately, spotting is reaching a desired destination.
- Never go to a home empty handed. My Aunt Bessie was an example of generosity and grace. She lived well into her 90’s and drove her car until the day she died. She had a rule. She would never come to our house empty handed. (She would also never let us leave her house empty handed.) She said that was the way she said thank you.
- Measure twice. Cut once. Before my niece Emma was born, the women in my family made her a quilt. We chose fabric and sat down and made the quilt together. In that process, my grandmother would repeatedly instruct, “Measure twice. Cut once.” Several times, I wound up cutting the wrong size squares before I learned. Measuring before you cut makes a more beautiful quilt. Measurement is important. Process is important. Process prevents problems.
- Pay attention to the books you schlep around. My dissertation chair gave me this advice when I was searching for a dissertation topic early in my doctoral work. It made me think about what was important to me, how I wanted to spend my time, and where I wanted to head in the future. I still pay attention to the books that I schlep around, the small voice that sometimes screams, the ease of meant to be things, the stops along the road that point the right direction, and the wisdom of strangers.
- That is just what you do for family. My family has always cared for people, both people to whom I am related by blood and people who have become family by blessing. That is how my parents explain the unwavering support, kindness, and love that guide how they approach their relationships with all family. This speaks to the importance of generosity and the abundance of the universe that truly trust that love will provide.