I want to be successful in life and in order to do that, I need a definition of a successful life. I believe it is one in which the world is a bit better because you (me, anyone) was in it.

I was a nurse for over twenty years. I saved lives and conquered disease. I mean, it was with a lot of help and I didn’t do this stuff alone, but I was part of the process. I met lots and lots of people who were having one of the worst days of their lives and I sincerely hope I made a bad day a bit better. I took care of the issue at hand, but I also took care of the person with the issue.

I knew the job was worthwhile and I did it to the best of my ability. Then I got sick. Not contagious kind of sick, but the lights in the OR were giving me constant migraines. The surgeons refused to work in the dark for some reason. I quit or maybe a kinder way to say that is I retired.

I went back to school and learned about computers and then I taught people. I began with high school and picked up some adult education classes and then eventually I taught grade school kids. The adult education classes were in medical, business, and technical things, but the kids were all computer stuff. Again, it was important stuff and it matters and I was spreading truth and goodwill.

Then I moved away and ended up in secretarial jobs which used lots of my technical skills and certainly many of my organizational skills. I can perhaps note that the arts and money are both important aspects of our everyday lives, but these jobs didn’t seem to be as worthwhile to me. Necessary, perhaps, but not as worthwhile.

Then I really retired. This is supposed to be the time when we get to reap the benefits of a well lived life. But it is really just trying to create meaning out of chaos. Or worse, meaning out of nothing.

I would like to still be a person of worth. I would like to be worthy of the air and space I take up in the world. I would like to be, if this isn’t too much to ask, a beacon or inspiration to others.

Yesterday the workout was difficult – at least for me. They are all difficult for me if the truth be known. But I keep showing up and am able to do more crap than when I started so that’s sorta cool. I’m never going to be blowing the doors off or anything, but I plod along and hope for the best.

After 37 minutes and 39 seconds, my partner and I were finally done with all the stuff that had been on the white board. I was pooped. It was a lot of stuff and I did my share of the stuff with full ROM and all that nonsense.

I sat on the curb, panting and said, “I’m too old for this shit.” Kelly was sitting next to me. She is a powerhouse. She can do all the things and she is talented and skilled and wonderful to watch on Saturdays. During the school year (she is a teacher) she comes at 5 AM and so I don’t get to play with her then. Summers she is in the same classes as me.

She said, “I say that some days too, and then I know you are coming later and you are going to do it and so I know I have to do it, too.”

Holy shit, Batman. I inspire someone to do things I can’t even do!

I wrote about how wonderful that felt in my writing forum and another friend from way back in AOL days mentioned that it was my encouragement that got her to post some of her first work in the forum where she got lots of help and great feedback. She said that I had changed her life. She has published a book and everything!

Apparently, I’m successful. Who knew?

And to all those who have encouraged me and held me up when I was crumbling, I thank you. Your successful life has let me have a crack at mine.

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No one is ever a perfect parent. There aren’t any and so we are all pretty much screwed in some way or another. Life is just like that. It’s unfair and at times downright catastrophic.

I’m the child of an alcoholic. That makes a difference. My relationship with alcohol has always been steeped in fear and loathing. I do take an occasional drink, but I rarely finish it. I’ve never been drunk. I know I have an addictive personality (I can’t really stop eating chocolate and I’m both physically and emotionally addicted to coffee). For these reasons, I’ve also never done any street drugs and I’m willing to put up with pain rather than risk getting used to pain pills.

I watched my dad’s life spiral out of control. I watched the outbursts of anger. I watched the diminishment of mental faculties. I watched his life become less because he drank more. It seemed like such a waste. And it was terrifying for a small child to see this hero adult behave so badly, so out of his own control, so scary.

I made an active choice to not subject my own children to even the possibility of this type of life. We didn’t visit Dad if he was drinking and there was a likelihood of some violent rage outburst. I tried to minimize their exposure. I tried to minimize my own responses.

Even at the time, I used to ask my husband/their dad what the hell we were doing to mess up our kids. I knew what I wasn’t doing, but I didn’t know which mistakes I was making and how they would play out in the future.

We are told now that alcoholism is a disease and the patients can’t help it. I might buy into that in some measure, but my dad could go months without drinking and then months of drunkenness. He knew that first drink was going to be a months long journey into despair. And yet, he took that first drink. Over and over again. Only to hit bottom, climb out of the pit he had made for himself and his family, and sober up for a while. Only to start the cycle over again. And again. And again.

I wish my response to this early life had somehow prepared me better for what was to come. Instead, I inflicted a different set of issues onto my own children’s lives. And they are inflicting their own issues onto their kids and we are off to the races. And this is why there are no perfect parents.

I did my best, but I know it wasn’t enough. I watch my sons struggle and wish I could have somehow made their lives better, less traumatic.

But (and that negates everything I’ve already said) I think they have turned out to be (relatively speaking) wonderful men. They are conscientious and caring and loving husband/fathers and working successfully in careers that make a difference.

I like where they stand now. I’m not sure how they feel about the matter, but I’m proud of them and all they have done. They have stepped up when the world tried to knock them down. They behave responsibly, heroically, humanely.

The only way any of us can get to where we are, exactly, right this instant, was to follow the bumpy, detour littered road to this exact spot. We, each of us, had to deal with the demons we saw, overcome them as best we could, and strive to make our tiny corner of the world just a teeny bit better. If we aren’t completely satisfied with our current hot mess of a life (and no one really is) then we just have to pick up the shattered pieces of our lives, get out the superglue and put it all back together, and boldly march into an unknown future.

It’s the best we can do. It isn’t enough. It never was.

I suppose we parents need to take a course in forgiveness. Not for all those others, but for ourselves. We were raised with issues and we either passed those on or made up new ones. It’s the only way. Because we are only human.

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I am embarking on a new project. I’m taking inspirational stuff from my Newsfeed and writing about it. Sometimes it will be agreement, sometimes not. I know this, because I have a bunch of saved pictures with inspirational stuff on them and sometimes I agree with the message, sometimes not.


Because I’m old and have moved around a bit, I’ve had the opportunity to meet many people. Some of them accomplish wonderful things. Some of them lament how life has never met their expectations and they remain stuck in despair, waiting for …. Godot?

Some people are indeed fortunate and opportunity comes knocking at their door. Most of us have to entice opportunity, building a path to our doors filled with prior work and increasing amounts of effort in order to get opportunity to come knocking. Others leave the path barren, unapproachable, and wait.

The way to accomplish your dreams is to wake up and work for them. There is no easy path, even for those who make it look easy. There is no miracle of accomplishment. You actually have to get out there and do the things to get them accomplished. Overnight successes have worked tirelessly behind the scenes for years to achieve that success. Preparation meets opportunity, otherwise opportunity just passes by the unprepared and moves on.

Your dreams may be completely unattainable. Your dreams may be only partially attainable. Your dreams may become your reality. But whichever of those is true, you still have to do the work of building your dream into something.

You don’t publish your first book by reading the works of others. You have to write your own. It won’t be any good. You will have to revise and edit and probably throw the first one completely away and start anew. But if you want to be a published author, you really have to write.

You won’t meet Prince Charming sitting on your couch. You have to put yourself out there, meeting a lot of toads along the way. You actually have to be Princess Charming yourself. You can’t be a toad and hope to get the prince. You have to work at making yourself the best version you can be. And then, after you meet Prince Charming, you have to continue to improve yourself and your time together because that’s the cruel truth of life.

You can’t get kids who turn out well by spending all your time on social media and letting the school and society inculcate values. If you want a kid who is kind and compassionate, you have to model kindness and compassion even when you are frustrated and angry or maybe especially when you are frustrated and angry. You must model responsibility so your children learn to be responsible. You are their first and most lasting influence. And you don’t get to see the results until decades later.

If you want something, you must take the initiative to go after it. It’s not going to come to you. The world doesn’t care about you and never has. The world owes you nothing. You are not the center of the universe – please see Copernicus, et. al.

The way to success is built by taking small steps toward your goal. Stumbling blocks exist, you may need to change your path or your strategy to get past them. Looking at the problem as a permanent defeat leads to permanent defeat. Looking at it as an irritant to be overcome and then planning how to get past it, leads you closer and ever closer to achieving your goal.

Build your door. Then, take a deep breath, and walk through it.

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I have been doing CrossFit for almost five years now. That makes me a CrossFitter and I would love to bravely say, I’m pretty good at it. Not because I’m really all that good at it, but because I keep showing up and letting other people boss me around. Others, including coaches and other athletes, have more faith in me than I have in myself.

I have muscles. Really. I’m an old fart with muscles. I don’t quite have six pack abs. I can’t do a hand stand push up. I can’t do a pull-up. I can only clean and jerk half my body weight. I still can’t deadlift 200#. I can’t run a mile. I can’t. I can’t. I can’t. So what on earth would make me think I’m any good at this?

I show up. Even when I’m scared to death. I show up. When I can’t do a single thing as written, ever (okay, I once a did a WOD RX, but it was supposed to be fast and light and for me it was slow and heavy, but I did it RX) I still show up. I scale every damn thing, all the time.

And as bad as I am today, I’m so much better than when I began. I would love to see every old fart in the world join me in this adventure. Not because then I might be able to be better than someone for once, but because it improves life outside the box. Really. Even when I occasionally injure myself, I know I’m stronger and more able and more confident and more awesome just because I do CrossFit on a regular basis. The feeling of empowerment is worth every drop of sweat. I can do many things that people half my age cannot. Really. With all the stuff I can’t do, I still do many not-at-all-old-lady things four to five times a week.

I’m killing this CrossFit thing. I’ve failed my way to success. I am good. Even though I know some people might judge me by different standards which would not be as kind or as generous. I have learned so many things by showing up and failing. I’ve mostly learned not to give up and to give myself the chance to succeed.

I’ve tried yoga a few times before. I hated it. Loathed it. Really, really disliked it. But I really like Cindy. She has been my CrossFit friend since I first started. She is a positive influence, a lovely person, and now a certified yoga instructor.

Back in February, while she was still learning to be a yoga instructor (and three years into her own yoga practice), she started to have a yin yoga class on Fridays after we were finished with CrossFit. She hadn’t been making too much time for CrossFit since she was so consumed with yoga. I made a deal. I would yoga, if she would CrossFit.

So I’ve been doing yoga once a week since February. Except, back in April, she was getting closer to graduation and wanted to practice some more and needed guinea pigs and began a Tuesday evening yin yoga class. I really like Cindy. She is a good person. I love that she is chasing her dream and taking all the steps to make it happen, not just wish it were so. I came to her Tuesday evening class, too.

Then in May, to get people used to coming to yoga classes, all of them were free for the month. Dick started to come with me. It has greatly helped him in his mobility which has allowed his golf game to improve. He is more flexible and has more stamina on the golf course, making yoga worth the time and effort. So we both go on Tuesdays and I still go after CrossFit on Fridays.

Twice a week makes a difference. Danette started at CrossFit about a year ago. She usually comes to Cindy’s yin yoga classes too. She also signed up for and does a nightly ROM WOD from an online subscription. It’s been intriguing. Her mobility is quite improved after her nightly stuff, which is a combination of yoga poses as well as stretching.

I decided to try using You Tube to search for yin yoga stuff and lo and behold, there were a half million hits. This week, completely broken by the yoga world and now a more than transient yogi, I’ve been doing a nightly yin yoga before bedtime. I’m getting better at setting up my home space and allowing myself the luxury of surrendering to the space yoga provides.

However, I’m a CrossFitter. Any time the instructor/You Tuber says “if available” I CrossFit that shit and give it a try because in CrossFit there is a need to prove you can at least freaking try. This is not the yoga path, but it is the CrossFit path. I sometimes have to back out, but at least I know I’m not holding back in my practice out of fear.

I’m a CrossFitter. I do yoga. They actually do go together.

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When I signed up for CrossFit, I expected certain things. I was expecting to be able to open my own jars. I expected to be able to learn how to lift heavy shit and put it back down again. I was expecting to perform constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity.

I expected that I would be stiff and sore until my unused muscles got the message we were stepping it up a bit. I expected to improve over time.

I didn’t realize I would be stiff and sore on and off because of my constantly varied workouts. I expected to improve rapidly and constantly because of the high intensity. And while I have greatly improved, it wasn’t rapid. I was more tortoise than hare.

I didn’t expect as many tears as have fallen. I know I’m competitive. I was used to winning in my arenas of choice. Not so much here. Unless … as the Lorax said.

But the greatest gift of CrossFit was completely unexpected and shocking when I noticed it. I’ve become a lion in a world of sheep. I dare. I dare greatly and with intrepid desire to overcome fear and loathing in Las Vegas or anywhere else. I am a CrossFitter, and that means I’ve lived outside my comfort zone for a long time.

And that means my comfort zone continues to grow which means I then step outside that larger circle into new fears and then I conquer them and my comfort zone enlarges yet again. And yet again, I step outside and quest.

I have gained incredible amounts of core strength, so much so that when I walked off a step, I didn’t even realize I didn’t fall over, I just planted and held myself upright, looking stunned about the whole “no step” thing. My son had to point out that my core strength, my stability, my CrossFit saved me from a fall. It was, to me, just a natural not falling over. I failed to think of how many reps it took to get there.

I have increased all my Olympic lift weights over time and I now have muscles. Real muscles. Like a weightlifter might have. I’m not Arnold Schwarzenegger or anything, but even Arnold doesn’t look like his Conan days.

But the part that remains the most amazing and the most incredible and the least talked about is my overall confidence. I’m still scared by many things because the world is scary and full of fright. But … I have faced so many fears inside the box that facing fears outside the box seems a natural response.

I have tried many new things in the last four years. Some of them inconsequential but still things I wouldn’t have tried to do without the confidence I’ve built while struggling to strict push press or get a pull-up.

My overall outlook is now how I walk through the world like a competent, able, mastering person. I can do things, incredible things. I will do more. I work for an hour at the box and then I go home and I have the ability to face fears and step outside my comfort zone, knowing how I’ve already mastered so many things.

This is the unexamined gift of CrossFit. This is the benefit of struggle and defeat and more struggle and victory. I know that defeat isn’t fatal or final. I know that there is a way to step outside my comfort zone and excel. I’ve done it before.

I’ve won CrossFit. Not the Open, not the Masters Garage Games, but CrossFit itself. I’ve mastered the difficult by failing until I succeeded. I remain constant in my attendance even when it is easier to stay home. I overcome the fear by listening to those with advice/knowledge (I’m coachable).

Unless … as the Lorax said. I look beyond the numbers and realize the overall improvements in my life – that’s where all the magic resides.

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How do we measure success for ourselves? It really isn’t all that important if others see us as successful or not. If we are content with our current situation, is that success?

I’m reading Grit by Angela Duckworth. I was going along, reading contentedly until, wham! I got to Chapter 11: The Playing Field of Grit. And then I was so struck by the irony, I’m having trouble getting it past it.

I believe I possess the quality of perseverance. Unless of course, I have the less stellar quality of stubbornness. Either good or bad, I tend to stick with things. Here are some cases in point:

I graduated from my nursing school with an associate’s degree and a 13 week old baby who was born slightly premature. This was in spite of a postpartum infection and babysitting problems. I did not get my usual A that quarter, but I did manage to graduate despite everything.

I’ve been married to my starter husband for almost 44 years now. This is in spite of the fact that I was just 20 when we married and young brides aren’t supposed to know what they hell they are doing. That part was completely correct. But we are still married and relatively happy. At least I am.

I am in my seventh year of writing history essays for Little Bits of History with only one of those years actually paying anything (and even then it was a pittance). I have enjoyed learning about so many little items from the vast history of the world and I like to write. So this endeavor isn’t difficult, but the daily grind can become not quite over, but whelming. I took one year off and then came back to my hobby.

And then there is CrossFit. There is no reason under the sun I should be doing this. I sucked so bad on my first stab at it, I should clearly have just walked away. I didn’t. The first time I wanted to quit, I stayed. The hundredth time I wanted to quit, I stayed.

I believe I’m pretty gritty. The rule for the kids when they were in my charge was if you signed up for a team, you finished the season. This is one of the rules of grit and for me it was instinctual.

Now, the part of the book that set me so far on edge that I’m actually writing this.

In chapter 11, Dr. Duckworth claims having grit in high school will help predict later success in life. This sounds reasonable to me, as well. Then she wanted to do a longitudinal study and needed funding. She went to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and received a grant. Filling in her Grit Grid allowed high school students to list their extracurricular activities and how long they participated.

So, in high school, I was in the band (played clarinet for eight years total, flute for three, and carried a tuba for one although I don’t even know how to read base clef) so that got me a point for being there three years in high school. I was in one school play which got me no points. I had a job from the time I was 16 until shortly after I turned 18, when I quit the job in order to take evening college classes while still in high school. That did get me one point.

You got points if you were a stellar achiever in your extracurricular activities. There was no stellar anything for band. I didn’t become CEO of the store where I worked as a cashier. No extra points there. So I got two points which is a pretty crappy score. I’m okay with that part.

Then she went on to study the people who were gritty in high school to see if they were successful after graduation. Success was measured in large part by them graduating from college. I do not have a college degree. I have two associate degrees, which lets me check off the “some college” line on questionnaires. This would seem to indicate that I’m not successful, at least by the good doctor’s metric.

To be fair, in other parts of the book, a college degree isn’t a requirement of success, but in this particular chapter it is.

I’ve always been opposed to this belief. My two-year degree didn’t keep me from working critical care. I worked alongside four-year grads who were less adept at patient care. I passed the same state board licensing exam. All without a college degree.

But here is the part that really griped my ass. Dr. Duckworth begged for money from the college dropout who was at one point the richest man in the world and who has built a global company in order for her to prove that he was not successful. She doesn’t seem to have noticed the irony.

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I posted a picture of me doing a head stand on Facebook. I got some comments from people who simply “couldn’t” do that. These are accomplished people who do many amazing things. One of them has recently taken up deep sea diving. That would freak me out. Literally. I would panic.

I used to be an OR nurse. Before that I was an ICU/CCU nurse and I began my career as a Med/Surg nurse, the normal floor of hospitals. I’ve had many people, including other nurses, tell me they couldn’t work where I worked. ICU was too chaotic. CCU was too many codes. OR was just too much on many levels. That was my favorite job which is why I stayed with it the longest.

No matter the arena, each of us has a preference and an area where we are willing to work for mastery. Something within that niche speaks to us. For Michelle it is diving; for me it is CrossFit. My friend worked ER all her life and I couldn’t have stood that. I don’t mind crisis nursing, but I need a few minutes to prepare for my crisis, so critical care gave me a chance to get ready and OR meant not only me, but the entire team had time to prepare. Mim loved ER.

Over the years I have come to appreciate that we each can shine in our own place. Don’t throw me into the place meant for someone else and expect me to radiate. I will succeed best when I’m in the spot that speaks to my talents and my tastes. Sometimes, maybe most of the time, it is my tastes that dictate my talents. I got really good at running codes because I practiced them way too often. But I had to have the inner strength and belief in my ability to get through the first one.

And so, in my long life I’ve had many successes. And as is my usual routine, I whiz past that shit without more than a passing nod and set up a new goal which is out of reach – at least in the moment.

That’s a problem. I’ve refused to sit still and savor my successes. Sure I saved lives and conquered disease, but there were still sick and injured people galore and so there was more to do.

I’ve successfully written and published things and even gotten paid for it. I have stories in anthologies. I have contributed to many different venues. I first wrote publicly many years ago when my stuff was placed in the Landen Living Magazine because I was the contributing editor for Montgomery Hills. I’ve done a lot of writing since.

I know how to sew and made many of my own clothes as well as clothes for the kids. I know how to crochet and my knitting isn’t as good, but it is passable. I am able to create things out of raw materials.

And I lift weights. Today’s WOD was a bazillion cleans in ten minutes with increasing load. Ready, set, go … how many can you get?

I did it. I began with my original deadlift weight and did 30 cleans with that weight. I added more to the bar and got 30 more cleans at that weight. I added more to the bar as the clock ran down and got a few more.

I was cleaning more than I could originally deadlift. Yesterday was a bunch of deadlifts. I remember when I started thinking that someday I might be able to lift 100#. I zoomed past that long ago. I don’t remember taking time to celebrate my success. All I remember is wanting more. Yesterday, my lighter and more rep count weight was 133# which would have seemed impossibly ludicrous when I started. Today, my goal for a deadlift is 175# and I would really like to get past 200#.

But will I remember to celebrate when I hit that mark? My 80% strict press today was 42# (my original deadlift weight). I should savor that sweet success. I earned it. Instead, I mostly tell myself I “should” have more on the bar.

I’ve succeeded my way through a fabulous life. And with each success, I’ve zoomed right past the moment and only looked towards the next obstacle to clear. I need to savor the moment of sweet, sweet success. I’ve earned it.

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