By Lucinda de Leeuw
This will be short. The set of principles I want to share with you this month say everything I’ve been feeling and thinking and wanting to express for the past few weeks. It is packaged succinctly into a list of twenty-five. These are not a prescription or a list of ways to be, ‘or else’. They are what I myself have been learning as I fall through the waters of adulthood. They are little post-its of how to be mindful, how to be graceful, how to adult without inflicting unnecessary harm unto yourself or those with who you interact. For me, they are reminders, a script of how to honour the love you have for yourself—and—how to love others in a respectful and well-adjusted way.
It is perhaps telling of my headspace, my heartspace, my spiritualspace. Every waking, breathing day is a lesson (it bears telling that I kept typing ‘lesion’) about life, people and relationships—about myself. When you’re young it is easy to feel that you are always acted upon, and wronged, that your agency is limited, and it is all so unfair. As you grow older, you realise that it’s important to take responsibility for your behaviour in matters, too.
Even if your responsibility is solely to get up and leave what doesn’t serve you joy anymore.
John Perry Barlow wrote these in 1977 the night before his 30th birthday. He passed away two days before I came across this set of timely and model principles. I had been struggling to find both my words and my footing over the last few weeks. I couldn’t find my mojo. I read this list, was re-affirmed, and I re-emerged.
This flower, perennial and patient, lift its head from under the water that threatened to submerge it. I am one with my torturer. My torturer breathed life back into me. I am breathing again. I learned too that it is possible to be in full bloom even while drowning under the weight of whatever is torturing you. In my case, the process was the remedy. Subdued by cascading water, I was in the act of being both stifled and salvaged.
I’d love to know which one of these principles resonate most with you, Dear Reader. Please comment and let me know.
Until next time,
Principles of Adult Behaviour by John P. Barlow
- Be patient. No matter what.
- Don’t badmouth: Assign responsibility, not blame. Say nothing of another you wouldn’t say to him.
- Never assume the motives of others are, to them, less noble than yours are to you.
- Expand your sense of the possible.
- Don’t trouble yourself with matters you truly cannot change.
- Expect no more of anyone than you can deliver yourself.
- Tolerate ambiguity.
- Laugh at yourself frequently.
- Concern yourself with what is right rather than who is right.
- Never forget that, no matter how certain, you might be wrong.
- Give up blood sports.
- Remember that your life belongs to others as well. Don’t risk it frivolously.
- Never lie to anyone for any reason. (Lies of omission are sometimes exempt.)
- Learn the needs of those around you and respect them.
- Avoid the pursuit of happiness. Seek to define your mission and pursue that.
- Reduce your use of the first personal pronoun.
- Praise at least as often as you disparage.
- Admit your errors freely and soon.
- Become less suspicious of joy.
- Understand humility.
- Remember that love forgives everything.
- Foster dignity.
- Live memorably.
- Love yourself.