Back in November, during the MDK Odious Tasks Zoom Party, talk naturally turned to tasks even more odious and procrastinated upon than the chores we brought to the party. For many of us, those were the obligations of our later years: wills, healthcare proxies, and the like. (Not that you can’t or shouldn’t do these things when you’re young! You should!)
Anyway, we agreed that this particular category of task was particularly hard to get cracking on, and that we would address it here in a self-care article. Soon. As my Zen teacher used to say, “‘Now’ is a really unpopular time to do something.” She was so right. So at some point we are going to talk about In Case You Get Hit By a Bus, and a couple more of those be-ready-for-the-end books, but not today.
Today I thought, “Let’s do something related but … actually fun.”
Mom’s Little Cliff Notes for Life
I propose instead that we devote a little attention to a part of our legacy that wills and powers of attorney don’t cover: our best guidance. What do we want our children to know about life? What would give them comfort and get them well set up to carry on? What would we say if, I don’t know, we had reason to think they’d only want the TL;DR?
What I’d say to my children today are mostly the same things I wish I could say to my own 20-something self:
- Take good care of yourself; you matter so much. You’re infinitely precious to me, in a
way that an overworked, isolated, sleep-deprived and deeply depressed young mother
didn’t always make clear to you.
- You come from a line of people who didn’t get enough to eat and I’m sorry to say you’ve
got some generational trauma and eating disorder pre-disposition there. So be kind to
your nervous system, and take time for meals. Feed yourself and your loves generously.
Eat your vegetables. Eat sitting down. Eat with other humans. I’m begging you: please
take this eating thing seriously.
- No nonreciprocal relationships. I can’t say it simpler than that.
- Always wear earplugs to rock shows, moisturize before you think you need to, and
never skip the sunscreen. You think there’s no future, but I’ve been there. You’ll make it
too. And then you’ll wish you had your hearing.
- Okay it’s true that there are no heckin guarantees on this planet of disaster, but neither
is there any shame in wanting some safety, comfort and continuity. So ask for it.
- In fact, ask often. Ask a lot. Be gracious about hearing “no” and realistic about moving
- It doesn’t matter how they dress it up, your job isn’t a “family” and it doesn’t love you.
You must be ready to leave anytime, so start a F***-You Fund now. When you’re
deciding about a job, calculate the real hourly wage. And please don’t work for non-
profits your entire career.
- Mummy loves you!
- More than anything, I wish I could have done the inner work you needed me to do
before you needed me to do it.
Of course, I could say a lot more. I’m picking my battles, like any seasoned parent. Maybe this is just “Volume 1: In Case I Get Hit By A Bus.” And maybe your kids are like mine, and are pretty sure your collected life knowledge is past its sell-by date. No worries! They’ll have it if they ever want it. (But also: keep a copy for yourself.)
More reasons to do it
Instructions for living aren’t only for offspring. I still need them too. Here are four ways to collect wisdom for yourself:
- As an appreciation of your hard-won life knowledge. If you’re human, you’ve been
through a lot. Nobody else knows the half of it. If you’ve never seen all those pearls of
wisdom strung together before, be a witness to your own life. Marvel at it!
- As a healing balm for Young You. In some way that I can’t explain but probably
involves neurology, writing a set of instructions to your younger self has a powerful
reparative effect. It’s like time travel, without destructive paradox. Or like metaphorical
kintsugi for the soul. (Because maybe now you have a little bit of gold in reserve.)
- As a set of reminders for Current You. How many times must we recreate our packing
list? How many times will we talk ourselves into a third glass of wine? When we will
remember not to go to the hardware store for milk? And how long will we kid ourselves
that we don’t need to write stuff down? I learned about the ‘Book of Me’ from my friend
Havi Brooks, and it’s full of crucial reminders that I would otherwise have total amnesia
- As a set of instructions in case of emergency. For those times when your creative
brain has shut down, your nervous system is jacked, and you’re hiding under the desk.
Have a list of numbers to call, breathing exercises (the simple kind!) to do, and a couple of soothing reminders written by Sturdy You. Tape it to the underside of your desk, or wherever you’ll find it when the rug gets pulled out.
What’s in your handy list of life instructions? I really want to know. I’ll be sharing mine on Instagram with the hashtag #mdklifeinstructions, and I hope you’ll join me.
- For making a really short book (best chance of getting read?): How to Make an 8-Page Zine by Dillon Pilorget of The Oregonian.
- For magically going back in time to heal a younger self: Weaving Fate: Hypersigils, Change the Past: Telling True Lies by Aidan Wachter
- What to Do When I’m Gone: A Mother’s Wisdom to Her Daughter by Suzy Hopkins and Hallie Bateman
- Directions: Really Good Advice for Getting from Here to There by Hallie Bateman
- Spotted by Kay on Instagram recently: Mom’s Guide to Life by @katierosman
- Figure out your real hourly wage with the Life Energy Calculator at Your Money or Your Life
IMAGE CREDIT: Books and Scholars’ Accouterments, Yi Taek-gyun, late 1800s. The
Cleveland Museum of Art, Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. Fund. Public domain.
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