I invited Leitha to be one of the 50something voices for this series, both because she has a powerful  life-story and because I just adore her!  Leitha is a single, newly retired, 56-year-old woman. She asked if she could have more than ten pieces of advice and I agreed. More decades= more wisdom.
Here is her bio:
I was married for two years from 28-30 to a Christian man I met at church— My church friends had viewed us as the cutest church couple—which confused me since there were many red flags. I
doubted myself and let the opinions of others influence my decision to marry him.
That feels like another person to me, since it was so long ago and I am at such a different
place in life. There are times I forget I am divorced. My 34-year (very fulfilling) career
was teaching; hearing impaired, learning disabled, then art.
It was my mission in life and although there were some very tough years, not a day went by that the children did not bless me. It was a career filled with much joy. What am I doing in
retirement? Oh, sleeping the nine hours my body loves, training for a marathon,
designing or painting illustrations for the stage at church, traveling, short-term mission
work, taking a church history class, reading, and developing new friendships etc…

Advice to My Younger Self, Leitha Walling, 56
1. Be yourself! If you are quiet that’s okay. Some people like quiet people. If you are
loud, that’s okay. Some people like loud. Whatever you are, don’t change it for the sake
of pleasing people. I am not talking character flaws…if you are a loud person who
interrupts to always draw attention to yourself…I am saying love and accept the kind of person you are.
2. Guys who really want to know you will make the effort. This modern time of women
pursuing men, will only make you easy or desperate. Sorry about the double standard,
but it is what it is.
3. Following your passion is hard work. I once cried about an unfair professor to my college advisor and he advised me to grin and bare it. Thank goodness I did—I have had an amazing, fulfilling, and joyful career!
4. Pay attention that you are in relationships that bring out the best in you, inspire you
to be your best, and want the best for you. Are you constantly venting to your girlfriends
about all the things he does that hurts you? If that is you, you are not in a healthy relationship.This can really apply to any relationship.
5. Make sure to have a group of women friends. Find the ones that are there for you in
happy and sad times—that physically stand by your side and show up. How I cherish
my girlfriends!
6. You cannot love anyone enough to get them to change. That is an individual’s decision. A red flag could be if you hear yourself saying, “If you loved me enough you would….” And if  that’s not a red flag for abusive or unhealthy behavior, it might be something you need to accept in the individual.
7. DO NOT make excuses for a pattern of unhealthy behavior. Run as far from that
relationship as possible, and figure out why you allowed yourself to be in that
relationship before that becomes a pattern in your life.
8. No one makes you do it. You allow it. No one makes you think it. No one controls your thoughts. You can change about what you are thinking. “I can’t stop thinking about him.” Sorry you can. Every time you start, STOP and have another thought of something good in your life.
9. Cherish your body. It is a gift. Take care of it and it will take care of you. Get plenty of
rest, eat right, exercise and drink plenty of water. It is as simple as that, although I
see so many women wanting it to be more complicated. Stop trying to find the magic
bullet. Stop blaming your hormones, your metabolism. Easy for me to say? I wish
you only knew what goes on in my head and struggles I have had with my body
image. I often hear, “I am so tired”. I know there are seasons in life that affect these
things; a baby, teenagers not home, residencies etc… Outside of specific seasons, If
you chose to compromise those things, then don’t complain.
10. Again, cherish your body it is a gift. Most men will take whatever you are willing to give away physically. Sorry guys. If the message you are giving is, “I have a great
body you should like me.” They will like your body. Period. Don’t fool yourself into
thinking the more skin you show, the more attractive you will be. Believe me, men
are very aware what is under your clothes. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are different or special because of the attention you are getting because of your clothes (or lack of).
11. Don’t get drunk! I know it is hard when you are in college. You do things when you
are drunk that you wouldn’t normally do. Do you want to marry a guy who gets
drunk all the time or gets drunk every weekend? If that’s not what you want then
don’t do it yourself, since that is also the kind of guy you will attract with that behavior.
You just maybe missing the guy who is interested in you for not only your looks, but
your inner qualities as well. Seeing the drunk side of you may cause him to walk
away since he doesn’t want to risk ending up with a drunk wife.
12. Don’t expect a spouse to define who you are. This can be suffocating and leave you resentful when that doesn’t work. I have seen so many women think a man will define who they are. All they ever wanted in life was to be married. Then as the years go by, I hear frustration and resentment in women’s voices as the reality of the laundry piling up and the dinners that need to be made becomes their life. Almost every job has its mundane moments.
13. Don’t expect children to define you. Being a mother is a gift, as well as the hardest
job. It is a season in life that is very self-sacrificing, no doubt. But I see women spinning out of control with allowing motherhood to be their sole self-definition and all-consuming of their time…even as the children become more independent. That would be called a suffocating parent, which has been coined with the term, “helicopter mom”. Who are you besides a mom? Also, challenge yourself to have a conversation that does not evolve around children. I know children are the focus of a family, but do you have any other thoughts or interests? Think of the role model you are for your family. Are you multidimensional or one-dimensional?
14. Don’t put your dreams, desires or passions on hold for a man. One goal
was to hike the Grand Canyon. I had a boyfriend who was going to do it with me. I
was not going to let that dream die when the relationship ended. I found a group at
the local junior college that hiked it. I know of a woman who became a widow and then
started traveling to Europe. After she remarried, her comment was, “Well, looks like
that ends my traveling!” This relates to point #4.
15. Share family secrets with a trusted person. Seek help for family secrets. There is a saying, “You are as sick as your secrets.” Believe me, your secrets will chip away at you. Secrets such as: don’t tell anyone so-and-so is mentally ill, don’t tell anyone so-
and-so drinks too much, don’t tell anyone so-and-so is physically abusive etc…
16. You are stronger emotionally, physically, intellectually and spiritually than you think
you are. Go deep within, you will find it.
17. Keep your schedule balanced! This means saying no sometimes. Today we look
at full and exhausting schedules as our worth. Sorry, I see that as looking to
people rather than God for guidance on how to be a worthy Christian.
18. Trust your gut. It is a gift from God.

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