Life Lessons I learned from David Sedaris
As I settle into middle age, I’ve learned how to focus on what truly matters in life. My favorite author is David Sedaris, who it seems has truly come close to mastering how to overcome #Trauma and enjoy the everyday.
I’m reading David’s latest book, Happy-Go-Lucky (we are on a first name basis in my head), after recently finishing his diaries. At this point I feel I know him better than my closest friends and family. I went to meet David in person at the Keswick theater outside of Philly, and our meeting solidified my developing view of what I love about him.
It’s very clear that one life lesson David has nailed down is embracing what makes him unique. We spend our adolescence trying to blend with our peers in order to avoid bullying, and the beauty of middle age is that we don’t need to blend anymore, if we choose to surround ourselves with people that appreciate our differences. In adolescence, it’s just about impossible to escape others that don’t get your sparkle. David embraces his preference for picking up litter while wearing culottes and then feeding hot dogs to snapping turtles. It’s just who he is. David is doing the best he can to enjoy his life as his true self, and I think this is the key to true joy.
Another life habit that David has nailed down is finding a healthy way to process your trauma. Writing about your life and seeking positive attention through doing what you love could not be better therapy. Trauma can be processed in many ways, but if it is not processed, our brains and bodies short circuit. The trauma gets expressed in one way or another typically in an unhealthy way. I read in David’s diaries that he struggled with drug abuse earlier in his life. My impression is that writing helped him stop avoiding the feelings associated with his trauma and therefore helped him grow through that time in his life.
In Happy-Go-Lucky, David talks about his relationship with Hugh. This chapter highlighted the life lesson of focusing on what you love, and letting go of everything else. As with most long term relationships (I’m married for 18 years), Hugh gets frustrated with David at times. David explains that unless someone else is there to see it, the behavior does not really bother him. David knows that Hugh does a ton of wonderful things for him, and its expected for couples to annoy each other from time to time. When you love someone, you accept the imperfections and embrace them because you love the whole package.
Taking responsibility for one’s mistakes and not feeling shame about them is the lesson I gathered from David’s experiences with his sister Tiffany. We all need to remember that we are doing the best we can at the time that we do it. Tiffany had serious mental health issues and died by suicide. Adult mental health is very challenging to navigate. It is truly difficult to know how to intervene or when it is best to step away. We need to accept what we can control, and not punish ourselves for doing what we thought was best at the time. This is likely the toughest life lesson, but also the most important. I have regrets about an experience along these lines. I wonder what would have happened if I reached out and made a connection. I embrace this lesson and utilize this experience as a professional that conducts risk assessments for these very situations. I feel fulfilled knowing that I can take this lesson and use it for the greater good.
Thanks to David Sedaris for sharing his story and his talents with us.