Today, I’m marking another birthday. Actually the big day isn’t until August but leaving it until the last minute doesn’t allow for important birthday activities such as reflection, goal-setting and making out a really good gift list. If “it’s better to give than receive,” I wouldn’t dream of leaving my friends and family out of the good part.

Birthdays are an excellent time to take stock of what you’ve learned in the past year.

Here’s my list.

1- If you drive a Smart car, it’s a good idea to close the sunroof before you press the windshield sprayer button. Trust me.

2- Advice from my friend,
Rob: If you can’t get served in a large, well-known Canadian hardware store, start putting together a tent. Rob spent a half-hour searching for assistance with camping gear, finally deciding that all sales associates must be hiding in the back room. I’ve worked in retail and I can tell you that no salesperson would ever be allowed to do that. That’s where the manager hides.

 

Finally, Rob decided to try putting together a tent. Within seconds, three employees appeared, eager to stop him. “They said it was a question of cleanliness,” he said, which seems odd, given where tents end up. Rob is now considering carrying a tent around with him in case he needs assistance in other places.

3- For years I’ve battled squirrels in my yard but lately I’ve come to accept that perhaps they’re not so bad after all. What helped me reach this Zen state? I now have a rat. I spotted it under my bird feeder. I behaved like any reasonable intelligent adult. I freaked out entirely. Then I called the city.

City rodent officer (yes, there is one): Can I help you?

Me: Rat! Rat!

CRO: Can you describe the situation, ma’am?

Me: Rat! Rat!

CRO: Rats aren’t really more dangerous than squirrels. I’m not sure why people get so agitated.

Me: Um … because it’s a rat?

CRO: How often is it appearing?

Me: Every few minutes.

CRO: That’s its mate.

Me: That’s my other rat?

The lesson? When you find yourself in a frustrating, unpleasant situation, remind yourself of one thing: It can always get worse. This morning I looked out and there were pigeons.

Sunroofs, tents, rodents. Not a very impressive list. But all about being ready to learn from whatever life brings. And perhaps, after all, wisdom is like birthday gifts. The best lessons come in the smallest insights.