This morning at breakfast I read Free Will Astrology in our local entertainment newspaper. My horoscope for this week made an impression on me because it was simply good advice. It said:
"Here are the best and most enjoyable ways to capitalize on your current astrological omens: (1) Transform one of your so-called liabilities into at least a temporary asset; (2) lose any attachment you have to pleasures and rewards that won't mean much to you a year from now; (3) allow and even invite people to show you how to get smarter; (4) compassionately identify the limits of the people you care about; (5) squeeze every last lesson out of what you're leaving behind."
It has given me plenty to think about as I prepare for the New Year and all its imminent challenges. It also made me reflect on some of the good advice I've been given over the years. Here's a short, short list. The best of the best:
1. When I was 20, I was studying at Georgetown and working at a mutual fund company. I lived paycheck-to-paycheck and was dependent on my student loans and credit cards to make ends meet. In desperation, I asked my then-boss, Reno, for a raise. He replied, "Heidi, you earn a good salary, your problem is you can't manage money."
Reno wasn't wrong but it was several more years before I figured out what I was supposed to do. Cut spending to the bare minimum, watch spending even when you're flush, stop using credit cards except in emergencies, pay down debt as soon as you can, and above all, don't be bitter. If you can't afford to buy it, put it back. Stay in for the night. Most people go through a lean phase in their lives and it's nothing to be ashamed of. Be honest but don't be a burden.
Don't depend on employers, friends and relatives to meet your budget shortfalls or pay off your debt. I assure you that no matter how well off they seem, they have their own financial worries. When you do get through it, take a deep breath, spend only to replace what is worn out, and start saving the extra money you're making. I promise you you'll need it later, tater.
2. About ten years ago, I was visiting Georgetown and had a conversation with a nun who worked in campus ministry. I don't remember what we discussed but she made a comment that must have raised my fur. She then advised me, "Heidi, I think it would be a good idea for you to spend some hours talking with a counselor about your sensitivity, you just shut down in response to anything that you interpret as criticism."
I was mortified, and of course took the advice as criticism because since her observation was absolutely true. Months later, as I considered a job offer from Miami, she told me that her prayers tolds her it was "too soon" for me to leave DC. I was irritated with her because I expected her support and again, interpreted her comment as criticism. I went anyway and you know what? That job doled out more gratuitous criticism than I've experienced (collectively) in my life.
Looking back, I wish I had at least read a book that could have helped me learn to respond without folding up and crashing like a paper airplane. Point of the story? When the people (like my nun) who care about you say something you don't want to hear, give it at least a few minutes of thought before you totally disregard the message. What they say may or may not be true, but if it comes from someone gentle and loving, you should probably give it at least some consideration.
3. "When you eat, when you work, when you're at the movies, when you're humping your wife, when you're having a drink, at every moment in your life, and if possible, even in your coffin: suck in your gut!" from the novel, Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter, by Mario Vargas Llosa.
4. "If your dog is overweight, you're not getting enough exercise." So true.
5. Take care of your teeth. I promise you that if I had even 10% of what I've spent on dental work, I'd be a rich woman. Five years ago I converted to a sonic toothbrush and I haven't had a cavity since. Worth the hundred bucks.
6. You can stay too long - at a party, at a job, in a relationship. The trick is knowing when to go, and how to make a graceful exit.
And that's just what came to mind. What is the best advice you've ever been given? I'd love to hear it.