The Life and Times of Florence Knitingale

Sunday, June 17, 2007

I Thought I'd Have More Wisdom

42 years on this planet--I figured I'd know more. I thought that if I had to endure the indignities and insults of getting older--the tricks of the body that catch you off guard no matter how prepared you think you are--I'd get to be at least a little bit sage. I thought I'd get some answers, maybe that guide book that should be standard issue at birth but instead you come out naked and cold and yelling and you'll figure stuff out or you won't and that's just the way it is.

Yeah, not so much.

I'm 42 years old today and not only do I not feel any wisdom creeping in, I actually feel like I know less all the time. At least, I'm way less sure than I used to be. That may be a form of wisdom....I don't know. Mostly I just feel amazed and a little bewildered that I somehow became a middle-aged woman and I wonder frequently when the grown-ups are going to come home and catch me pretending to be in charge.

I still don't know why people hurt each other, how we can all be so different and so alike and why so many people only see one of those things, why in the world anyone would waste time and energy in hatred or judgement, or why human life is so often regarded casually, and wasted as if there were an infinite supply of it.

I don't know why or how some people come to live their lives without ever wanting to reach out a hand to someone else, to show some mercy (you remember that soapbox of mine), to help someone else get home--whatever you believe that home to be (one of the best things I ever heard was someone who said "We're all here to help each other get home" and I still can't think of a better answer to why we're all here in this world in the first place). I don't know why responsibility and accountability have become rare words, almost profane words--why anyone would want to live without those things, or teach their children to.

I know that I used to think I'd change the world for the better--don't we all think that when we're young? That it's all an easy puzzle and the current crop of adults must be kind of dumb because they can't figure it out and thank goodness we came along? I remember thinking that, and also that 40 was old (I never even considered 42) and that I'd have done it all by now. I'd have enlightened or cured or invented or something. I think I didn't realize how much work and concentration it would take just to paddle the little boat along the river without going ass over teakettle, never mind doing tricks. Sometimes, keeping my feet dry and my oars onboard where they belong feels like the biggest accomplishment ever. On those days, the answer to what I'm most proud of is "I survived. And I didn't hurt anyone on purpose."

That's the interesting thing. I started with all these rules and things. I had lists of all the things I would do and be, and tons of requirements for what I had to do to have a good life. To succeed. The list was pages long and highly specific, and I was pretty sure the years would see me working through that list with grace and ease. Instead, the list has gotten whittled down significantly. Here's the new, revised version:

Don't hurt anyone on purpose (that's a biggie for me)

Pay attention

Give more, take less

Love a LOT

Don't fall in and get eaten by anything.

That's pretty much it. Since it's my birthday, and since I didn't wake up incredibly wise today (damn, I keep hoping...), I'll finish with someone else's words, the ones that in the end probably make the best list of all:

"People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway. "

-this version is credited to Mother Teresa --who definitely got the wisdom thing down.

Knit on. And don't forget to love--a LOT.


  • At 9:01 AM, Blogger Charity said…

    Happy, Happy, Happy Birthday, Ms. K! I hope the day is filled with joy and fun and excitement and peace and love... even if there's not a lot of wisdom (although I think there's more than you think there is...)! :0)

    I know how you feel though.. my big 3-0 (groan, yes, it's an issue, and no, I don't know why) is in a few weeks, and I feel distinctly unwise and unaccomplished. Ah, well.

  • At 9:49 AM, Blogger Peg-woolinmysoup said…

    Happy Birthday, Ms. K!
    You are wise, but humble enough not to realize it!
    We can make the world a better place, but sometimes that world is just contained in our own home!
    Have a great day!
    Remember old age is 15 years older than you are at a given time!
    For me, 82 is old age!

  • At 9:51 AM, Blogger Kitty Mommy said…

    Happy Birthday and I hope the day brings, if not great wisdom, at least something chocolatey and gooey! IMHO, you already have plenty of wisdom and the fact that you have pared down "the rules" to a few basic essentials shows it.

    I hope you have a wonderful day!

  • At 10:09 AM, Blogger ccr in MA said…

    "Don't hurt anyone on purpose" is huge. Thanks for the reminder, and have a fanatbulous birthday. Happy yarn!

  • At 10:10 AM, Blogger Marianne said…

    Happy Birthday Sweetheart, come on over to my place for some flowers and games....and yes..I love you ALOT. xoxox

  • At 10:20 AM, Blogger Faren said…

    Happy Birthday Ms.K! I think if you make one person's life better, you make the world a better place. And judging by Marianne's post today, you have done that.

  • At 10:46 AM, Blogger ambermoggie said…

    Happy Birthday MsK hope your day is full of love and joy:)

  • At 10:56 AM, Blogger Sarah said…

    Happy Birthday, Marianne sent me by. Thank you for a lovely thought provoking post. I'm all for the love a lot - and that we're here to help each other get home.

  • At 11:24 AM, Blogger Paula said…

    Happy Birthday Flo! You make me smile everytime I read your blog.

  • At 11:36 AM, Blogger Jo said…

    I love your wisdom, and mother Teresa's too, hope you have a fabulous special day, Happy Birthday!xxx

  • At 11:43 AM, Anonymous Em said…

    May you have a very happy birthday! I think you've learned a lot in these few short 42 years; on top of all the wisdom you have written here, you can also knit a mean sock.

  • At 12:08 PM, Blogger Dianne said…

    Ms.K..Here's wishing you a very Happy Birthday and warm thoughts for many more future ones.
    Hope there's something fun, wild and uninhibited planned..oh well..go have yourself a Great Birthday!!

  • At 1:47 PM, Blogger J. Denae said…

    Happy Birthday!

  • At 1:56 PM, Anonymous angie Cox said…

    Hey so many happies to you from us three over the pond , angie , Jeff and Holly xxx

  • At 4:06 PM, Anonymous MonicaPDX said…

    Awwwww, sweetie... {{{{{Flo}}}}} Happy Birthday! And you done did it good. I figure anyone who can make me tear up knows a thing or two. Thanks for being here!

    Love you, and have a wonderful day!

  • At 5:14 PM, Blogger Lynn said…

    Happy birthday from the frogpond in TX. Giving you a thumbs-up on your points to ponder, with the caveat that here in TX "he needed killing" was a valid defense for many years. Waving my last crumbs of breadstick like a fairy wand in your general direction and hoping that dark chocolate materializes before your eyes.

  • At 5:17 PM, Blogger Knit and fall back in it said…

    I read Mariannes's birthday tribute and I had to visit your blog to find out more. You've got to be alright if Marianne likes you. Happy birthday. Who needs wisdom when there's birthday cake?

  • At 5:49 PM, Blogger Kit said…

    A very happy birthday.

    I find that I have a lot more patience and understanding when I realize that these are people who are on the same type of journey that I'm on. They're all climbing up the mountain but sometimes they think it's too hard and decide that going down is easier.

    But they'll never appreciate the view from the top if they don't put in the effort.

  • At 5:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Happy Birthday!

    I came over from Marianne's and I'm so glad I did. What a wonderful post. I'd definitely say you are a wise woman, indeed.

  • At 9:33 PM, Anonymous marti said…

    and you know something? you are definitely wiser than you think. happy, happiest of birthdays.

  • At 1:16 PM, Blogger Kim said…

    A very happy birthday to you! I'm so glad you're here in the blogosphere.

  • At 6:07 AM, Blogger Karen said…

    Happy (belated) Birthday! Hope the day was great!


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