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Things I Learned in 2013

This is my favorite time to post for two reasons.

life lessons, 2013, marriage, parenting, kindness, getting along with other people, midlife, midlife women


I don’t  have to apologize for being preachy because you can’t write  a “what I learned” post without being preachy.  And, after a year of paying attention to people – the things they say and don’t say, the ways they are treated and how they treat others, what they expect, what they ask for, what they turn from – it’s finally time for my book report.

First, I’ll say this.  2013 was not an easy year, but it could have been harder.

I experienced more grief than I saw coming when my brother died, and joy that made my head spin when our daughter married. I became closer to all of the people I love, found the ones I need to know better, and learned who I will never really know at all. Working with teenagers at the Boys and Girls Club gave me a chance to give back, and taught me things about  spirit and resilience that improved my own life.

And now, here are some observations about marriage, kids, friends, achievement and other stuff that occurred to me in 2013 that I find worth mentioning. If anything makes your life a little better, a little easier or a little anything-er, it will have made those scribbled post-it notes that are all over the house and in my car worth it.

Help yourself.


  • Any marital issue can be resolved more easily if you know going in that you’re going to stay together.  If that’s your assumption, issues make you stronger.  If that isn’t your assumption, issues  become grounds.
  • There is an art to disagreeing in a marriage.  It starts with your intention: I want to agree with you, versus I want my way. One makes each future disagreement healthier. The other just shortens the list of things you can talk about.
  • It’s amazing what great depth and deep connection can exist in a marriage and never be discovered, until you need it most.  It hides. You might not find it until you trip over it and nearly kill yourself in the fall. But then, you won’t want to live without it.  


  • Sooner or later in your travels, you might realize you’re  not who you thought you would be. You might also be someone you never imagined youcould be. Cut the engine and look around.  You’ve arrived.  Life doesn’t always look like it did in the magazine.
  • Therapy isn’t what crybabies do. What crybabies do is complain without doing anything about it.  If you’re unhappy, and you’re not looking for someone to talk things over with because it’s easier to just complain, that’s one choice. But that is what crybabies do.
  • Mind, body, relationships. Do something each day that will improve all of these things and don’t keep track. In a month, look back at how much better your life is. Even in areas that didn’t need improvement, there will be improvement.
  • Never be without something you’re looking forward to on the calendar.


  • Once, a person I knew who was living a terrible life with small children, no husband, no money, no confidence, no job, and no friends wrote a poem about how grateful she was. She showed it to me. I recognized it from somewhere else. I told her she was brilliant. It was the best lie I’ve ever told
  • Once in a while, give money to a person on the street corner who is holding a sign that says “Homeless, anything will help.” Give them a bottle of water with it. Instead of thinking you’re  contributing to their delinquency,  just for a few seconds, make their life easier.


  • The things that repeatedly throw you off track might be the track, so pay attention.
  • If you’re on the fence about doing something because it seems too big or tiring, make yourself do it. If you’re making yourself do something you dread because of  some notion that it is expected of you, find a way to make it worthwhile or cancel. Life is short.
  • Once,  I described a  problem to a friend and she said, “What will you do about that?”  I was surprised to realize I had an answer.  Say this to anyone who comes to you for a solution to something.  Statements tell others who we are. Questions teach others about themselves.
  • When you feel conflicted, unsure and afraid it isn’t because you don’t know what to do that makes your tummy ache.  It’s just the opposite – it’s because you do know exactly what you have to do. Act.


  • If you want to give your children the best advice, first, pretend you’re not related. 
  • Connect with a teenager while there are still questions in their eyes. It won’t be long before you’ll see answers instead, and not always the ones you would have helped put there.
  • If you know a child who is moody, snarky, and generally hard to be with, deal with it but be grateful. It’s worse when they only feel free to be wretched in private. 
  • If you are saying goodbye to a teenager with whom you have been clashing, you may be sad about the lost chances to have a better relationship. Don’t do this. You’ve only lost the chance to have a worse one.
  • Relationships with grown children get better, richer, happier and joyful with every conversation that takes place after a separation.
  • If you find good, mindful and responsible parenting hard and confusing and exhausting and rewarding and baffling and gorgeous, you’re doing it right.


  • The things we could say to clear the air with another can be as hard to part with as a coat in the cold.  They expose us.  But if a relationship is worth having, expressions of disappointment,  like expressions of love,  must be shared. Left unsaid, they  will erode the soul.
  • When you’re lying, people usually know it, whether they do anything about it or not. 
  • Don’t be a person who claims to “hate drama” and then discusses a conflict with someone behind their back.  If you do, you not only don’t hate drama, you create it. If they’re worth knowing, face the people with whom you’ve clashed and keep it between yourselves.
  • Sometimes people don’t love us as we wish they would, no matter how often we ask them to.  And it may require great sadness to understand your invitation has been declined. Stop asking.  Be the one to let go. There will be plenty of people left who would do anything for you.


  • Be proud of things you’ve done that required hard work, tenacity and faith. But be proudest of things you’ve accomplished that required you to overcome something else  first. Like fear.
  • Confidence isn’t something you get. Nobody can improve it for you or tell you where it is.  Confidence comes from doing something you’re not good at until you can’t remember what it was like to be bad at it.
  • No amount of anti-aging products, make up or new clothes can compete with the first good night’s sleep after you’ve done something very hard.

Read more from Susan Bonifant on her blog, Worth Mentioning

Susan Bonifant

Susan Bonifant is an essayist and novelist who has launched four children and returned to a full-time writing career. Since 2008, Susan has maintained a blog titled "Worth Mentioning," where she captures a sometimes overlooked view of parenting, friendship, working, marriage, and other aspects of daily life that make them worth remembering. Susan is a member of the New Hampshire Writing Project and the Grub Street Organization in Boston. In addition to the Christian Science Monitor, she contributes to the Concord Monitor and blogs at Worth Mentioning. She lives in Hopkinton, New Hampshire with her husband Larry and writer-cat, Gus.

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Monica Epstein

Monday 6th of January 2014

What great insight, Susan. Thanks for reminding me of things I had forgotten and opening my eyes to things I never knew.

Susan Bonifant

Monday 6th of January 2014

Monica. If I was able to do that for you, well, wow. And you're welcome. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Anne Parris

Monday 6th of January 2014

So much good stuff here, Susan. Yes, with the marriage things, being all in is important.

Susan Bonifant

Monday 6th of January 2014

It's all in the assumptions, right? Amazing, as complicated as things get, the simple things that are at the core.

Margaret Rutherford

Monday 6th of January 2014

Susan, you make so many excellent points, they are hard to name! I especially agree with your comments about marriage. But there are others that reflect a generosity of spirit and depth of understanding that was wonderful to read. Thank you!

Susan Bonifant

Monday 6th of January 2014

Thank you Margaret, for that warm take on "things I learned". I write these things down all year - in traffic, in lines, in restaurants - I can't help myself. I've already got three for 2014!

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