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Life Lessons: 
Wendy Syler Woodward 

Hey all! Today’s Life Lesson comes from someone who is very dear to me. Does her name look a little familiar? Of course it does because Wendy is my niece. You have come to know her, Wendy Syler Woodward, through her regular column here on GEM There’s no way I can possibly express how proud I am of her, not just for what she’s done in her personal life, but for the expressive writer she’s become. And you know what? Something tells me she’s just getting started. Read more about Wendy and if you want to fill out your own Life Lessons, drop us a line; we’ll get the questions right out to you!

Are you happy at the moment?

You know, I think I really am. I’m finally in a good place work wise, my kids are healthy and happy; this year has brought a lot of challenges, changes, and I’ve met them all head-on and survived while at the same time gaining adopted family and accomplishing my goals. I don’t know that I can ask for more than that…

If you could go back and say anything to your 16-year-old self now – what would it be?

What I remember from 21 years ago (hush up!), is forming the habit of just settling in the hopes that what I was going through at the time was the worst of it. So my words of wisdom to myself would be, “Sometimes things will get worse, but most times, it does get better. No matter which way that coin falls, settling won’t make you happy… so fight for what you want.”

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned this year?

It is okay to stand up for myself. Not only didn’t the world end, but people respected me more for it, my children learned it was okay to fight for what you believe in, and… I proved (even if only to myself) that I really AM worth fighting for.

What do you most want to achieve in the next 12 months?

I am a single mom of 2 boys and 3 dogs, work full time managing a law firm in Arizona, write a regular column for goodenoughmother.com, plus I write for fun for myself… and after obtaining a student email and i.d. number, am now registered to go back to college. What I want most is to continue all of this without falling on my face. (What? They can’t all be lofty dreams stated with poetic flair.)

What’s your secret to happiness?

Success. It sounds corny, and we’ve somehow managed to make it almost sound greedy, but really how can you not be happy when you set a goal and reach it? It’s impossible not to smile when you teach a lesson, and your kids follow it. Try not jumping for joy when you fight for what you believe in and win. Success doesn’t have to be a plan to take over the world… some days it is just making it to work on time without spilling coffee on myself.

What one ritual or practice keeps you grounded?

I watch my boys and am astounded at what they show me, teach me, give me. One struggles before losing his temper and I realize I have to consciously try and pick my battles. The other lets things happen without becoming consumed by it – yet another trait I have not yet mastered. My kids are definitely better people than I am, and it’s very humbling.

What’s your biggest regret?

Not being me sooner. I’ve spent so much of my life trying to please other people, obtain other people’s approval, and making other people happy that I forgot to be happy with me and for me. Someone I truly admire once said that you teach people how to treat you… and on the subject of me as a person, I’ve been a lousy teacher.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve taught your kid(s)?

The world is bigger than just them. They have a very real understanding of how their actions affect others. It was one thing to watch them stop a soldier and say thank you for the sacrifices they’ve made… it was something different to watch that same soldier’s wife hug them and say, “thank you for appreciating him.”

What bad habit would you most like to change about yourself?

Why? Are you saying I have a bad habit? I’m sorry. What bad habit do I have? Oh my lord – I would love to live life, just for one day without worrying that I’ve done something wrong. I apologize at least a gazillion times a day. I have no idea what that says about me, but I am the person certain that if something went wrong, it’s because I screwed up… I could have done something better. (I’m sorry this answer was so long…)

Aside from motherhood and marriage what are you most proud of in your life?

My resilience. Through good, bad, ugly, and damaged, I’ve picked up, carried on, and moved forward. It hasn’t been easy, was almost never graceful, and nearly always filled with crying and whining… but in the end, I picked myself up, dusted myself off, and left very little of my self-respect behind.

When were you happiest?

I don’t know – I’ll let you know when it happens. For the most part, I’m happy every day, and there is something magical to be found with each new chapter in my life… but to say when I was happiest means looking back. I want to keep moving forward, enjoying the goodness as it comes, and wait until MUCH further down life’s road before answering that question when I can judge it all.

What ten words best describe you?

Uh…

Wendy Syler Woodward, 37, has been a single parent for 10 years, with two boys ages 11 and 16.  Originally from southern California, Wendy moved her family seven years ago to Phoenix where she manages a law firm for work, writes for fun, and is preparing to go back to college before the end of the year. 

(Editor’s note: This piece originally ran on November 27, 2011)