By Carol Preston
This week I’ve been writing a letter to my granddaughter, Layla, who is turning 13 in a few weeks. It’s been a family tradition on the 13th birthday of our grandchildren to do something special to mark this mile stone in their lives. Our daughter-in-law has asked the women in Layla’s life to share some of their wisdom, the lessons they’ve learned, and some encouragement in a letter that Layla can keep and reread as she grows through her teenage years. It’s a privilege to do this and also a challenge, but what do I share with a 13 year old from my almost seventy years?
Firstly I wanted to share a very recent learning for me, reminding me that life’s lessons never end and reflecting on one’s life and making good choices is a life long journey. Recently my husband and I had a lovely week’s holiday on Lord Howe Island. There are beautiful beaches to wander along, great walks, a reef to explore in glass bottom boats, wonderful restaurants and a peaceful, relaxed atmosphere. However, there are also a couple of mountains, which of course, my husband wanted to climb.
For quite a few weeks before our trip I’d been seeing a physiotherapist who was helping me prepare to walk the Milford Track in January next year. Though I’ve done quite a lot of walks in New Zealand, it’s been a while since I trekked with a pack on one of these challenging walks. So I was getting fit, but clearly not fit enough to do the walk I attempted on Lord Howe Island. With my husband’s encouragement I pushed on, at points against my better judgement, and, foolishly heeding the advice of a ‘twenty something’ jogger, who passed us and insisted I was nearly there and would be fine. By the time I got back to our apartment I was exhausted but relieved. I hadn’t fallen or passed out so I figured I had succeeded. Until the next morning, when I could hardly walk!
I limped around for the remaining 2 days of our holiday, thinking that ibuprofen, some rest and elevation would soon see me walking properly again. Not so. By the time I got home and saw my physiotherapist she was convinced I’d torn cartilage in my knee and suggested I see my doctor and get an MRI. “You were not ready to climb that mountain, Carol,” she said, and I knew she was right. I should have known better. So here I am 9 weeks later after a cortisone injection, weeks of physio, an arthroscope, and hardly a decent night’s sleep or a step without pain. It’s been impossible for me to do many of the daily activities I’ve taken for granted for years. I can’t exercise so I’m struggling not to put on weight and the lack of regular exercise affects my mood. I haven’t been a pleasant person to live with. I’m on the mend now, but clearly I need to learn some lessons from this experience.
So, lessons learned? Do not climb mountains without proper preparation. Do not go against my better judgement no matter what someone else thinks I can do. Thank God for my health and mobility and never take it for granted. Respect, appreciate and maintain my bodily health as well as my spiritual and emotional health. Make sensible choices, considering my age and capability realistically. Have greater compassion for those who suffer with permanent disability and chronic pain. I’m still reflecting on this experience and while in the larger scheme of life it seems a small thing, it’s had a great impact on me.
Being asked to pass on some wisdom and encouragement to my granddaughter has reminded me that it’s not only important to learn life’s lessons for ourselves, but also important to share these with those coming along behind us. This came home to me last Sunday in these words from the sermon: “The value of a life is not in what is gained, but in what is given away.” The older we get, the teacher said, the more treasure of wisdom, understanding and valuable learning, we have stored up, and unless we pass these on, give them away, use them for the benefit of others, they die with us and become useless. All that will be left of us when we die, is what we’ve given away.
We can share what we’ve learned verbally, practically, in person, but we can also do it in a letter, a blog, a novel, or a memoir. Writing, in any of these forms is so valuable because it can be kept, reread and passed on again. I know I hardly need remind you writers about the value of passing on truths, of challenging readers with God’s wisdom, of teaching great lessons through your writing. Reading is about so much more than escaping into romance and enjoyment. It can be so inspiring, challenging and uplifting, and I believe as we edit and assess our writing, this is an important criteria.
For me these past weeks have been a reminder that I must continually reflect on, pay attention to and evaluate my choices, actions and reactions, so that I continue to learn and grow, and so I can be passing on valuable knowledge and experience to those coming along behind me, in my writing and in my personal interaction.
Carol writes historical novels based on her family ancestry in Australia from the First Fleet. They include the Turning the Tide series; Mary’s Guardian, Charlotte’s Angel, Tangled Secrets and Truly Free. Two of her earlier novels, Suzannah’s Gold and Rebecca’s Dream, were re-released by EBP. Next of Kin was released in 2015 by Rhiza Press and the sequel, Beyond the Fight, was released in 2016. You can see more about Carol and her novels on her website, her Amazon author page or FB author page.