Forty Things I Learned Before Turning 40: Lesson Four

I learnt never to let a bad day, turn into a bad week, month or year.

Cheryl Strayed said it best in her memoir ‘Wild,’ which recounts her journey of self-discovery on a 94 day trek along the Pacific Trail — “There is a sunrise and a sunset every day and you can choose to be there for it. [or] You can put yourself in the way of beauty.” Too often we get in the way of our own happiness by holding onto bad situations. It’s like the saying, ‘holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.’ When you hold onto negative feelings, be it a grudge, anger, annoyance, frustration at someone or a situation, we aren’t doing ourselves any favours and it has no impact on anyone else, other than yourself. We are just holding ourselves back from happiness.

I am the type of person that is all for feeling your feelings, but I also have learnt that there’s only so long you can hold a pity party for yourself before you need to move on. In his novel, ‘Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock,’ Matthew Quirk says on how life can get better if you put in the work — “Not letting the world destroy you. That’s a daily battle.” Life will inevitably throw us some curveballs when we least expect it. We’ll feel like we’ve been punched so hard in the guts it will leave us kneeling on the ground, gasping for air. But we can’t stay down there forever. Taylor Swift sings it best in her song ‘happiness,’ about moving on after a breakup, “There’ll be happiness after you; But there was happiness because of you too; Both of these things can be true; There is happiness; In our history, across our great divide; There is a glorious sunrise; Leave it all behind; And there is happiness.” I’ve learnt that as good as it might feel in the moment to villainise someone, it won’t ease the pain in the long run, but that it’s ok (and probably more helpful) to acknowledge the good times and hold hope for better days to come.

I will never forget the time I was in Palm Springs waiting for a table at a café, when I overheard a group of older women say that they were going to have mimosas for breakfast as it was one of their birthdays. In my head I chuckled as I envisioned them as Golden Girls knocking back their morning cocktails. As I looked up, they must have seen me smile and the birthday girl, proud as punch, announced to me that it was her 82nd birthday. I wished her a happy birthday, told her how great she looked for 82 years on this planet and asked her what her secret was. She told me it was “to spend each day being happy. If all you can be in a day is happy, than it’s been a good day and that’s how I’ve lived every day of my life.” She then quickly added, “Ohhhh, and with love.” And from the spark in her eyes and the smile on her face from ear to ear, I had no reason not to believe her one bit.

Sometimes it’s good to reality check our feelings and ask ourselves, have we really had a bad day, or did we have 10–20 minutes where we let our thoughts run undisciplined, leading to a bad vibe that you let carry you away? I have made it a habit to always choose to find the silver lining, after letting the dust settle on any bad situation. It’s easier to start each day happy, if you’ve finished the one before with a smile on your face.

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Mitch Robertson

Mitch Robertson

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