How many challenges did you choose?
October 7, 2014
When I was little I read a story about someone who got cancer. The traditional treatments hadn’t worked. Enter alternative medicine. Which, if memory serves, included a diet that was radical at the time but more mainstream now. Green smoothies for breakfast, green smoothies for lunch, that sort of thing.
I was so little the thought of giving up sweetened cereal for breakfast was scarier than cancer. Scarier yet, I decided, was not having a choice.
I decided right then and there someday I’d eat well. I wanted to do it long before someone told me I had to do it. Beating the doctor to his orders would feel like I was still in charge of my life.
Funny thing about doing the right thing. If it’s your idea, you don’t bristle.
Why not do the right thing more often? Why not acknowledge what isn’t working, and stop doing that? Quitting something doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a quitter, after all. It might just mean you’re learning.
You’re allowed to do that, you know. You’re allowed to change your mind.
How do you define happiness?
October 6, 2014
Why do we crave guarantees from a job or a relationship? Especially when we know, for example, a story engages us to the extent we don’t know how it ends?
I’m not above wanting reassurance I’m doing the right thing with my life. But I’m also trying to get better at remembering it’s the not knowing that makes it fun.
Parents often say, on the one hand, they want their children to be happy -- as they insert themselves into the lives of those children in an attempt to spare them pain.
Let’s say you could remove uncertainty and pain from the equation. What would you have left? A boring story. And a bored child, as any parent knows, is an unhappy child.
If you have nothing better to do than try to remove obstacles from the lives of those you love, perhaps you’re bored by your own story. Face that first. Find that courage, and you might just trust your children to do the same.
It’s terrifying and freeing at once.
How do you start your day?
October 2, 2014
Can you feel brain cells dying now that you’re no longer in school? Maybe that’s because you’re not being thrown into different classes of people. Grownups often spend much of their day in the same office with the same cast of characters. It’s easy to get stale.
Thanks to the online world, each of us has a chance to assemble an ever-changing cast of characters who offer guidance and giggles.
When I was in school I loved people who were constantly cracking jokes. That’s why the first site I look at in the morning -- besides my own, to check for typos -- is The Onion.
You might find it as hilarious as I do. A quick scan of the headlines and you’ll probably be set for silly.
What if the solution is easy?
October 1, 2014
Once upon a time the pain in my lower back bothered me a lot. I remember sitting on a bench at a Disney park as I watched people walk by. They were smiling. Big. “They don’t look as if their backs hurt,” I thought. “What would that be like?”
Some months later I read this: “Runners have tight lower backs.” I was a runner. Could that be all there was to it? I doubted it, but I couldn’t rule it out.
So several times a day from then on, like clockwork, I stretched out. I touched my toes and held that pose to the count of ten. One thousand, two thousand…
It’s been three years, and my back rarely hurts. When it does, it’s almost always because I haven’t been stretching enough. When I do, the pain subsides.
I don’t know if stretching will help your back.
But I’m pretty sure it won’t hurt!
Why do you do anything?
September 30, 2014
How you do anything, as the saying goes, is how you do everything.
How do you go about your day? With an intention, for example, to have fun -- and learn a lot?
Think of it. The next time you’re talking with someone, ask yourself why. Why are you talking? If you aren’t willing to learn something, why are you wasting time in conversation?
You prove you’re learning by changing.
Bit by bit, you’re getting a little better at this thing called life.
What keeps you running?
September 29, 2014
One of the best observations I’ve ever heard about working out was, “You don’t have to like it.”
The implication being, “You still have to do it.”
And just like that, I made it a nonnegotiable part of the routine. I have a running buddy in Darrell, who’s glad to get away from the screens. Running doesn’t bother him. “It’s more of a nuisance than anything,” he says.
Which helped me realize what I don’t like about working out with weights. It’s boring. They’re called reps for a reason, I guess. Repetition. Lots and lots of repetition.
I feel great when that’s over because I've already finished what I dreaded most.
A few hours later, after our run, I feel great because that’s how you feel after a run.
Afterward. Not so much during.
On the first Friday in September we ran early because we had a lunch meeting. It was cool but not cold. Glorious, actually. We run next to the lake -- and except for not having a backdrop of mountains, I wonder if there’s a prettier spot in the world.
The sunlight looked like liquid crystal dancing on the water, and I doubted all over again if the Pacific Coast Highway has anything on this route.
Okay, so maybe the actual running is okay.
What a privilege it is to be alive, to be healthy, to have interesting problems to solve.
photo courtesy of Katie Anderson
Do you believe what you hear?
September 25, 2014
Once upon a time someone told me she had no problem with certain people, as long as they didn’t hold certain positions in her church.
So she did have a problem with them, but she wanted to pass herself off as someone who didn’t.
I asked her to clarify what she’d said, and she happily obliged.
I mention it only because I’ve found it helpful to make sure I’ve heard someone correctly before I decide meaningful conversation is over!
Do you analyze your dreams?
September 24, 2014
When Katie was little she got interested in the concept of lucid dreaming. A spiral notebook was involved -- and for a few nights, at least, much excitement.
That’s one reason I was surprised when she recently teased me about looking up the meaning of a symbol in one of my dreams. I promised her I don’t take those dictionaries too seriously, but dreams are fascinating. I’m with Callings author Gregg Levoy on this one: “Why sleep through them?”
So many things have come to me in a dream -- like Katie! -- before they appeared I can’t write them off as silly. And I’ve always found it helpful to admit what my wide-awake self couldn’t -- that I really do want something, or really don’t want something else.
I don’t know where dreams come from or how they work. But what could be the harm in staying open to them? The mystery! The romance! It feels like a sweeter way to live, the dance with the unconscious and all.