Just blogging


What really matters? There are many ways to answer this question. There are big things, taking care of yourself and your family in all the multitudinous ways complex society demands. There are little things, finding the smiles in each day.

We are pretty good about the former and stress ourselves out unbelievably in order to be successful in the macro areas of our life. You don’t have to be perfect in your execution of tasks and giving yourself permission to be a “3-oh and go” type person is liberating. The average people of the world run the place. You don’t have to be superhuman. You can’t have it all. Let go of perfection and strive for good enough.

Say that to yourself. Good enough. The power in that phrase is enough to make your life so much less stressful. It will never be perfect. But good enough? Yeah, we can do that. And we can do that often. This is bliss.

But life is made up of so much more than the big things. Having a decent job and nice house, car, clothes, etc. is wonderful. Having peace of mind is even more advantageous.

There is no magic bullet for this, but a simple way to have a better life is to deem your life better. While sitting at the damn red light you hate stopping for – did you instead change the song to one of your favorites? Instead of finding fault in all the faulty parts of the day, look for the ray of sunshine. Even when it rains, that single ray can produce a rainbow and enchant – well, it enchants three year olds and it could enchant you if you let it.

The delicious first bite of really good ice cream can be savored and appreciated, although not if you are too busy posting a picture of your ice cream to Facebook. You have to notice your moments and live them, not photograph them or post them to social media for whatever purpose you think it serves.

Please note, I’m going on vacation and will be posting pictures to Facebook. Hopefully, I will also appreciate the moment as it happens loving the yearly visit with my adored sisters and grateful for the ability to get together. Happier still that we all want to.

It isn’t the big things that bring the most joy. The big things are rare. I’m older than dirt and have bought four houses, each a big deal, but that’s one a decade of my adult life. If that’s all there was, I would have a very sad life indeed. But I can’t tell you how many sunrises or sunsets I’ve seen, how many roses I’ve smelled, how often the wonder of daily life has made me smile. It is, really, the little things that matter because there are so many opportunities to find them. Don’t miss out by focusing only on the large. Light a scented candle, look at old pictures and remind yourself how those small moments mattered, and then go find some more.

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It is so tempting to stay in the land of the familiar. We know stuff about this place. We have figured out the way to be and how to get the most out of the here and now. There is comfort here.

But out there … there are unknowns. Scary things. Things we know nothing about. There are lands and people and ideas out there we have never been exposed to. There are so many possibilities for disaster. And how will we cope with that? It is so much safer here.

But out there … lies all the new stuff. We might find out we are very adept at that new thing, but only if we try it. Perhaps it will be just as suckass as we imagined it to be, but maybe not. What if you find out you love coffee ice cream? What if you find out you really can draw? What if you find out your limiting shell of existence in the here and now was made for expansion.

We urge our children to try … whatever it is we want them try – anything from broccoli to tap dance. We believe our children should experience many new things so they can have an idea of all the possibilities out there.

But when was the last time you tried something new? Maybe you will like curry. Maybe you will find out you can keep a journal. Maybe you will meet a stranger who turns into a friend.

It doesn’t have to be big, Earth shattering adventures. Life is really all about the small pleasure. You don’t have to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, you don’t have to take up sky diving, you don’t have to do anything. But how fun would it be to try? Maybe not anything too extreme, but something outside your current rut.

Take a different route to a usual place and see what’s different on that path. Try something new on the menu from your favorite restaurant. Small steps. And when you find you survive these small steps outside your comfort zone, you might choose to step even farther afield.

Your life will expand … if you let it. Choose adventure, even in the small things. Then you might be brave enough to try a larger adventure. Wouldn’t that be cool?

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Some of the best things I have ever done came when I opted for different.

One of my fondest memories is slogging through gutter rivers with my sons as the rains poured down on us. The water was cool on hot summer days. There were small boys rushing to examine water go down the drain and marching boys splashing luxuriously in a singular moment of laughter in the rain. Much talk has been made about laughing in the sunshine, but laughter in the rain has its own special sound.

While nursing is a rather common profession, especially for women and even more so for my generation, I opted to always stretch farther. First I opted for special training for critical care and then I moved to surgery. I helped people during their most trying days. Many said they couldn’t do what I did, but since I could, I did. Hopefully, my patients were aware of how much I cared.

I’ve taken up weightlifting which is getting more common for women but not nearly common enough for people of my generation and especially old women. It has been incredible. It’s not always easy. Hell, it’s never easy. But it is awesome. Being a CrossFitter has changed my life in so many ways. I’m stronger and more confident. I have muscles and calluses on my hands. These are not normal for women my age. Another old woman told me I should knit. I do. I just do this other stuff as well.

CrossFitters are not really known for their flexibility. We mostly pursue the whole strength/endurance part of the fitness goal and leave a bit of mobilization for after we hurt ourselves. I’ve taken up yoga, against the norm for CrossFitters. It has left me much more relaxed and able to sleep better. It has also improved my lifting. Please note, I don’t power yoga. I power lift and that’s enough power for one old fart. But I do yin, restorative, hatha, and gentle yoga as found on You Tube. I also take two yin classes a week, led by a wonderful instructor.

Moments of “different” are where the good stuff happens. We were all born individuals. We must live in society and sacrifice some of the individuality (such as stopping at red lights, something no one ever wants to do). There remains many different places in each of our lives to make us each uniquely ourselves. Go for that. Be different. Be you.

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What you know is great, but if you do nothing with it, what’s the point? Life is about verbing. You need to incorporate action into your thinking otherwise it is just dreaming.

Learning new things is wonderful and you should learn as much as you can. However, if all you ever do is accumulate data points, it is rather – well – pointless. If you don’t use what you have learned, there is no point in learning it. What is inside your head is of little help to you or the world.

I have a store of what my kids call Mom’s Fast Facts. These are bits of trivia that I have gathered over decades of being amused by facts, by reading any words in front of my eyes, and by writing history essays. Luckily, I retain much of that nonsense. So what’s the point? Well, I can use my trivia store to entertain grandchildren, for one thing. I also use it to create learning experiences.

When reading a current news item, it helps to have background information. Nothing happens in a bubble, so when you have a store of data at your command, you can get a better overall picture of current events. This is helpful.

Even more helpful is turning your wisdom into useful action. If you know something – use it. If you were a successful businessman for decades, mentor a younger entrepreneur. If your job offers you inside information on topics of everyday concern, share it. For example, if you are a health care provider, you can suggest to others when to seek out more experienced care rather than sticking to over the counter self help.

If you speak jargon, be a force for good in the world and translate your expertise into everyday English. Not everyone speaks computer or legal or medical – translate when you know something will help.

Take everything you have learned and continue to learn and then apply it to your life through action. Nothing matters if it is not acted upon. You can have the greatest love in the world and until you express it to your beloved, it’s nothing but fantasy. However, verbing your way through life will create entire new universes for you to live in.

Don’t keep your brilliance, your unique experience, your perception of the situation bottled up and remaining a mystery. Verb it. Use it. Share it. Get it out there. Because then, it’s powerful.

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How do you know if you are achieving greatly or falling flat on your face without some point of reference? When do you cut yourself some slack and when do you pour gas on the fire? What is good or bad?

My son has been doing a podcast with his friend for quite some time now. They are getting better with each new episode. His latest podcast is How to Handle Criticism. One of his favorite quotes comes from Theodore Roosevelt who delivered a speech in Paris in 1910 at the Sorbonne.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Then there is the whole “comparison is the thief of joy” thing.

We worry a lot about what other people think or do or have or say. We worry that we will be mocked or criticized. Everyone, it seems, is now bullied if they aren’t eternally praised or if their bizarre behavior is in any way questioned.

But there are standards of behavior we all have to agree upon in order to live in society. We all have to at least believe that stopping at red lights is a must. There are a number of people who aren’t paying good enough attention to their driving and run either a stoplight or a stop sign. They know immediately they were in the wrong. This is a communally accepted necessity.

But what about wearing your pajamas to shop at Walmart? Does it matter if it is just Walmart? Can you wear your jammies to the opera?

Daring to step outside the boxes society has built for us means we can achieve more (or sometimes far less) than those who stay inside the proscribed area. It is the people who challenge convention who create the new and different.

But new and different is not necessarily new and improved. I’m reminded of this every time Facebook tries some new crap that makes my experience less. I’m still trying to figure out how to make that box stop appearing when someone replies to a post. I’m scrolling and I will get to that in my own good time. And when I do read and even respond to the damn thing, it’s still active in my notification area. Just stop. Make sure the new is an improvement and not just some flash crap you want to try.

[sorry, rant over]

Living outside the norm is sometimes the best place to live. However, if you start running all the red lights, you not only will get hurt, but you will take some other poor sod with you.

Listening to the critics, real or imagined, external or internal, can rob you of the joy of your pursuits. Looking around and comparing yourself to the masses of other people out there is enough to make us all weep. We simply aren’t able to be all the things all the other people are, that’s why there are so many of us.

Being true to your own goals, being a genuinely nice person, being kind … these are things that matter. Others will always have an opinion about everything.

You can please some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all the people all of the time. Stop trying. Concentrate on being the best version of yourself with all your qualities and limitations and hopes and fears and idiosyncrasies and foibles. But stop at all the red lights.

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We associate with many people over our lifetimes. Some of them for a short time, some of them because of life stages, some of them forever.

Life has its ups and downs. You can win some, you can lose some, but you can’t be top of the heap all the time in every arena. There will be times when something you truly wanted will go to someone else – the job, the love, the glory. This is disappointing.

There will be other times when you gloriously, surprisingly, miraculously win. Sure, you put in the hard work and made the effort, but we all know that doesn’t always lead to the winning of the prize whatever it may be. You won. Your competitor also put in the hard work, but lost. Your success could be in large part because of all the effort you put forth, but there is always that little frisson of luck. You were in the right place at the right time, and that is not always a planned thing.

Look around when you win and notice the people who are glad for you. Not everyone can manage this, even if it is only a façade. Their jealousy is too great. This is something they may get over or it is something to watch out for in the future. Those who are not or cannot be happy for your success have issues to work on – which leads me to the other side of the game.

What are your reactions when your friends accomplish something? Can you be happy for them? When someone gets the promotion you were seeking, can you still work well with them? What benefit do you gain by holding on to your anger? Make sure you understand what envy can do to sabotage your own position.

Even more important, can you be happy when your neighbor gets a new car while you are driving a beater? Can you be content while your friend gets engaged or married to a great person and you seem to be stuck in lonliness? Can you rejoice in milestones or even small victories your friends enjoy?

Some people have a terrible time trying to manage even the slightest goodwill toward others who achieve something, minimal or life-changing. It is unattractive, at best. There is no reason to withhold congratulations. Even if your own life is in a slump right now, withholding your good wishes will not make it any better.

The basic problem with not applauding other people’s victories is that it is an indicator of how much envy lies within you. If you simply cannot muster any enthusiasm for anyone else’s victory, you might want to engage in some introspection to find out what it is you are so lacking that it is interfering with your enjoyment of vicarious thrills. You aren’t going to win them all, but if you can celebrate your friends’ victories with them, you get a lot more enjoyment out of life.

And be cautious with the people who will not help you celebrate your own victories. There is a message in there.

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Life is meant to be lived and to do that to the fullest, you have to get out there and try shit. All sorts of shit. Sometimes, you will not like it and you need not keep going. But even when you didn’t like the shit before, if enough time has passed, try again and see if your tastes have changed. This works for foods you don’t like as well as activities you have passed on previously. You change with time, you might want to give things a second chance. This is not necessary with every person from your past. Some of them get no second chance for good reason.

When you decide to incorporate things into your life, it doesn’t have to be for eternity. I’ve crocheted and knitted enough scarves to wrap up entire communities. It kept my hands busy for a long time, and I enjoyed it while I was engaged in the activity, but it doesn’t mean I have to crochet or knit daily. I do have the craft available to me and can engage in it when I choose. The skill has not been forgotten.

When you choose to live a healthier life, remember nothing is perfect. Not even you. If you need to say that to yourself a few times, I understand. We are not perfect and it is unattainable. We can only do so much, but … and this is the hard part, you can probably do more and do better than you think.

Healthier is a different word from healthiest which is quite handy since no one can agree on what the latter really is. So how do you commit to a healthier life?

Eat food. That’s the first part. Not chemical shit storms or food products, but food. You know, ingredients. Things without ads. Once you get the hang of eating food instead of crap, eat only one serving of food not mounds or plates-full. The healthiest thing you can do diet wise is to cut out all added sugar and all fake sugar products. No soda. Ever. You don’t need it. Ever. Sugar tastes wonderful, but has no nutritive place in our diet.

Move consistently. You can’t walk ten miles on Sunday and be done for the whole week. You need to move daily in ways that stretch your abilities. And your joints. You need to increase your range of motion until you actually move your body the way you did when you were a young adult. We don’t need to revert back to the bendy status of toddler, but if you really want to lick your own toes, it is possible even for old farts.

But healthy isn’t just your body. You need to find peace within as well. Look out onto your world and find three things to be grateful for each day. Start a list. Three different things. The sunshine. The rain. The smell of a rose. There are many things to be grateful for. Find them. List them. Reread your list on unhappy days. This will help you gain the perspective of inner gratitude. Life is precious.

Those are the ideals. However, it isn’t easy to be ideal and it is impossible to be ideal all the time. So now what. I’m heading out to celebrate the fathers around me. We are going to a party. There will be food there, but it won’t all be sugar free (I know because I’m bringing brownies and cookies). I could throw up my hands and just pig out. Or I could celebrate consciously and eat mostly good foods and some not as good food choices. Is that quitting? I believe it is balancing the special day and special circumstances with my overall life and goals.

If you have special days and special circumstances on a daily basis, they aren’t special and that is your life. Only you can tell the difference, but lying to yourself about every single day’s excuse for living outside your stated dreams only means you have stated your dreams incorrectly.

I’m going on vacation – twice. Each time for nearly three weeks. I have no plans to go to any CrossFit things while I’m gone. I do have some plans for moving, stretching, exploring, and keeping active while I’m away from the box. And I have plans to return to my four times a week schedule upon arriving back at my normal life.

The problem with these things is that once you give yourself permission – to eat the brownies or skip the workout – you have to decide all over again to get back to your stated goals. When you consistently choose to live the path you have built, you just plug away at it. And in doing so, you may miss out in other ways.

Life isn’t just black and white. It is mostly shades of gray. Once you quit, you have put your dreams at risk. But not quitting means you can only live within the rut of your healthy good habits. Much of life is a balance between what you want and how you have to live to get it and the glorious otherness of leaving your path. Just remember to get back or you will wander, lost and without achieving you goals.

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