Making A Mid-Year Mental List Of What Matters

Judith Valente
4 min readJun 11, 2023
As the year enters the halfway mark in June, we can do a mental check of how much we’ve focused on what really matters? (Photo by J. Alden Marlatt)

Two events this past week set me reflecting on what really matters.

The first was an interesting post on Facebook in which a man paid homage to his 101-year-old mother-in-law who recently had died. He recalled asking her once what she had learned about happiness. She said don’t waste time worrying about things that don’t matter much. “What things?” he asked. “Money, clothing, acceptance,” she said.

That list of time-wasters hit home with me. Though I’ve had a successful and well-compensated writing career, I still often feel like the 16-year-old girl I was who worked after school and on weekends to earn enough money for college. I fret too about my appearance, wanting always to present a good impression, what my Italian friends call la bella figura. And yes, I long to be liked and accepted by other people.

Yet, isn’t agonizing over such things a prescription for constantly feeling dissatisfied?

This past week I also received news from a friend that her husband of more than 30 years had died. Lynda and Jim ran a successful public relations firm that represented authors, which is how we first met. Lynda called Jim her best friend and the love of life. He died a few days before her birthday and she recalled the gift he gave her when she turned 65. It was a list of 65 things he loved and admired about her. What a superb gift idea!

Here are some of the qualities Jim singled out in his list:

Your zest for life never fades.

You’re curious. About everything.

You don’t just like things, you’re passionate about them.

If you leave for five minutes, you return and ask “What’s new?”

You’re never bored, and never boring.

You keep taking me to places I thought I’d never see.

You’re not afraid to talk to strangers.

Someday, archeologists will study your phone book with wonder.

You have a wonderful laugh.

It seems no one ever forgets you ….

Jim continued on with 55 more affirmations.

More than 150 people came to Jim’s funeral. Afterward Lynda commented that she wished more people had told Jim how much they enjoyed his company and his sense of humor before he died.

A friend’s husband gave her a wonderful gift for her 65th birthday: a list of 65 things he loved and admired about her.

Jim’s list for Lynda made me think that we don’t have to wait until someone reaches the age of 65 (or dies) to express how much we appreciate that person. We can turn to the people we love — the people we live with and work with, and even those with whom we have difficulties at times — and praise them today for the good qualities they possess and the gifts they bring to others.

Who might you start with? I’d begin with a list for my beautiful husband. It doesn’t have to be a long list, just long enough to get the message across.

The gentleman who wrote about his 101-year-old mother-in-law on Facebook also asked her to tell him what things she believed are most important in life. She answered: creating strong family ties, building a network of friends, being of service to others.

The summer season marks the half-way point of the year. It’s a good time to reflect on how we spend the bulk of our time. Here are a few questions to ponder:

Am I working too much and neglecting the necessity of taking time to simply be?

Am I doing things that nourish my soul as well as my body?

How am I using my creative energy?

Am I building up strong bonds within my family or letting old wounds fester?

How well do I keep in touch with friends?

Do I engage in random acts of kindness?

Do I do something every day that benefits others without expecting anything in return?

Just as importantly — like my friend’s husband, Jim — will I reach out to someone this week with a list of all things I like and admire about them?

Here’s to making this a meaningful summer!

A man in rolled up shirt sleeves writes a list on a notepad set on his lap.
This week, can we reach out to people we love — and maybe even people we find difficutly — and offer them a list of all of the attributes we like and admire about them?

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Judith Valente

Author of 4 spirituality books & 2 poetry collections. Award-winning reporter for Wall Street Journal, PBS-TV, Washington Post & 2 IL public radio stations.