Clothing labels, the number of zeros on a paycheck, type of car, the amount of square footage of property- none of these things define who someone really is. Strip away all the glitz, the objective possessions, the social notoriety and to a certain degree, we are all the same. Our basic needs of food, water, oxygen and rest are all consistent across the board, as long as the genus is human. On a contemplative hike with a girlfriend on today’s beautiful morning, we both agreed that the core equality amongst all people can be summarized in the most simplistic, toddler-level statement thateverybody poops.
With all that is available in the world to class up or trash down a person’s image, a hierarchical ladder of social status is created, entitling one person to be deemed as more superior than another. On such a superficial scale, judgments are passed on people, making them sub/super human based on the goodness of what they own, rather than the goodness of their souls. When taken down to the basic degree, the glamorously famed Jennifer Lopez is no different than non-celebrity-status, simplistic ol’ me!
My point in this realization is to vow to never let anyone make me feel sub-par to them. I’ve reached a point where I am tired of defending my non-partying ways, the enjoyment I get from a Saturday night spent quietly indoors with a good movie or novel, the need for a full eight hours of sleep resulting in a before-midnight bedtime (whether it be a weekday or not), etc… I am tired of the judgment for not being the typical twenty-something year old girl that stays out late on the weekends and frequents bars or house parties. I am done allowing people to make me feel I am not acting the way I should be- as if there were an officiated social-life timeline I was veering from.
The matter of letting go of the innateneedto be accepted by others is surpassed by theactual needto fully accept myself. I have absolutely no say in how others perceive me, but I do control how I perceive my situation. My peace will not come from trying to prove that the collective “they” are no better than I. My peace will come when I realize that I am no less a person than the collective “them.” Although seemingly the same statement, the latterputs me in the driver seat(not the greatest analogy, given the roughed up state of my car).
My energy would be wasted if I tried to preach such a mature theory of the universal human need of waste elimination, but I can change my thought energy by fully understanding it for myself. So, the next time I find my automatic self-defending response to “Why don’t you just have one drink?” or “What are you doing home on a Friday night?” I will not allow that person to make me feel like I have to prove my legitimacy as a 24 year old single woman. Instead, I will smile, shrug my shoulders, remind myself that everyone, including my judger, poops, and contently announce, “that’s just me!”
In keeping with its themes of things I’ve learned, things I’m thankful for and things that have inspired me, I’ve decided to lace in to this blog a slow unfolding of the story behind some of my most valuable life lessons that turned out to be the hardest to experience. I have yet to decide how detailed I’d like to be in my disclosure, but I will let my intuition guide me towards the best choice.
Today will not start with that journey, but, like any other day/experience/moment, there was a lesson to be gratefully learned and inspired by. This process of divulging these secrets I’ve allowed to brew within me is part of a lifelong process of total self-acceptance which, in turn, leads to complete self love and respect.
Some of it may be frightening to expose and, even as I complete this sentence, I am reconsidering this decision, perhaps deleting it from existence, leaving no promises to be reneged. Such a thought, however, in and of itself, continues to perpetuate any remnant of self-loathe or shame that keeps me from looking in the mirror and absolutely adoring what I see. Especially being a personal trainer and holistic health coach with a mission toadvocate self-respect and love, I think it only to be fair to walk my walk, believe my beliefs and practice what I preach. That being said, I shove my fear aside, ignoring its ruthless attempts to claw its way back, and power forward towards the most inwardly and outwardly healthiest, happiest, well-est me!
All week my head spun with a mental tape of a lengthy to-do list. “Send this email, contact that person, put together the workshop, prepare marketing material for those events…” My stress levels were palpably heightened as I found I had to constantly remind myself to use the full capacity of my lungs; my breathing kept reverting back to a shallow anxiety-ridden panting that kept me in a consistent state of panic. The only time this was a non-issue was when I allowed myself to go for a run to clear my head.
My schedule this week had been so erratic that my regular gym routine, the biggest source of tension relief, was compromised (but, practicing Zumba choreography and running when the weather permitted satisfied my exercise needs). I found myself snapping at Biscuit (when all she was doing was being a dog); found myself projecting my frustrations on to the kids I took care of (when all they were doing was being teenage boys); found myself losing my patience with my mom and dad (when all they wanted to know was how my day was). My normally upbeat, positive energy reeked of negativity and was effecting my physiology and my world around me….Then, I hit a curb and my tire popped.
At first, I felt the knee-jerk “why me?!” reaction, to which I’ve always known to be wildly unproductive- So, instead I turned to laughter.
I laughed at the fitting-ness of situation.
I laughed at the irony of having bought an emergency can of Fix-a-Flat to keep in my trunk, just that morning.
I laughed as I attempted to fill the tire with said product, and watching the white sealant spew from a two inch gash that was clearly unable to be plugged with a liquid product.
I laughed at the just-in-case tire in my trunk with the rusty, beyond-bent rim that rattled my car when taken above 30 mph.
I laughed at the fact that even though I am a “gym rat” and lift heavy weights, I couldn’t, for the life of me, loosen the lug nuts from the tire.
I laughed even harder as the boy from AAA was able to spin off the lug nuts with ease, even though I was certain my arms held more muscle than his.
I laughed because if I didn’t, I would have exploded, much like the deflated tire that had collapsed itself into a rubber puddle beside my car.
Every negative experience has a potential positive lesson hidden within it. For the first time all week, I was able to be still, having a legitimate reason to be unable to make it to any appointments/meetings/to-dos. AAA had estimated a 90-minute wait period, which translated to a precious 90 minutes of welcomed quiet time, alone in my car. I made the necessary phone calls, rearranging appointments, making my schedule much more manageable for my time and my sanity. I rummaged through my purse for my iPod, finding an open package of gum and the bottle of nail polish I had thrown in there in case I had ever gotten a moment to apply it…
So, I sat alone in my car, chewing my gum, polishing my nails and listening to a recording on my iPod I had put on my to-do list to review. I kicked my feet up on the dashboard, blowing on the fresh coat of fast-dry nail varnish, thoroughly enjoying the high synchronicity of the unplanned moment. I completed some paperwork I had left unfinished and even threw out the trash that had been collecting to embarrassingly large amounts. My lengthy to-do list was quickly becoming a done-list as I scratched off the little tasks I was completing.
Car troubles and other unexpected disturbances are usually cause for distress. I chose to change the perspective of which I looked at my situation and ended up laughed all the way to the solutions to my problems. I finally got back to my house, greeted by concerned parents asking if I was alright, expressing their sympathies to a normally upsetting situation. They knew I had been particularly on edge that week and they expected this to topple me over. I took a deep breath, smiled, and said “It was exactly what I needed.”
Dizzy and seeing stars, I gasped for air, gulping it down, causing my stomach to churn, ebbing on nausea. I regained the slightest bit of composure, watched the timer count the last second of the interval and hopped back on to the speedily-rolling belt of the treadmill, grasping for any last bit of motivation I could to complete the high intensity interval training run I had set out to accomplish. With ten seconds left of my final uphill sprint, I wondered if I could finish. I contemplated cutting the last stretch short… “It’s only ten seconds less than what you had wanted to do. What’s the difference?”
Fueled by anger towards the fact that a voice of such negativity and dishonor even existed within me, I dashed out the last ten seconds and pushed myself to sprint another ten. I wasn’t punishing myself for toying with the idea of cheating myself out of my workout- a negative cannot and should not be corrected by another negative. Instead, the added sixth of a minute, although barely conquered with teeth ground shut, served to prove that my limits were not as limiting as I had thought.
Harder this time, I sucked in as much air as my lungs would allow, aware that I was “that person” in the gym with the audible working-out soundtrack blasting “Erika’s Inhale-Exhale” on repeat. Hidden in the pained wince of my face was also a subtle smile from the pride i felt for getting through it all.
As I dismounted from the treadmill, I felt a buzzing energy in my legsthat I could easily have mistaken for/settled to call fatigue. My aim was to push my abilities to high levels and my wobbly legs were proof that I had met that. Much like the positive pain I referred to in a previous post, the soreness in the muscles of my legs was welcomed and earned. To the uninvited negativity that nearly made me quit before I was ready to, I vow to raise my personal bar even higher, yet, partially as a mockery of the nay-saying voice… try and stop me now.
Graced by another gorgeously sunny day, I hiked up to a breathtaking lookout point, sat on a rocky flat for an hour and a half in great company, talking and laughing as we watched tiny lizards chase each other and other hikers come and go. It was a near perfect Sunday, beginning with my favorite group fitness combat class followed by an afternoon hike at a reservation I used to frequent as a child. I left my cellphone in the car, bringing only my keys with me- I really needed nothing else. The simplicity of great conversation (that left my cheeks sore from constant smiling), stopping to scratch behind the ears of dogs (whose wagging tails hinted that they were as happy I was to be out in the sun), and a sturdy pair of sneakers (that I had found at a phenomenal price that made even my frugal mother proud), reminded me of just how little it takes to be truly happy.
In keeping with the simplicity of today and yesterday’s posts (and in an effort to get to bed for my full 8-hours), I will cut this post short, as I am content with the absolute in-complexity of simple happiness. Before technology, expensive “stuff,” and the myriad of things meant to “enrich” our lives, all we had was the company of others and the beautiful world around us. Every person has the tools and capabilities to be happy… it just, then, becomes a matter of choice to embrace the right to enjoy that happiness. :)
As I sat in the sun, basking in its warming rays, I imagined I was a flower soaking in the nutrients that would make me bloom brightly. Much like a flower, sun exposure bodes well for the human body, regulating internal rhythms, boosting feel-good brain chemicals and allowing vitamin D to be produced. As thankful as I am for warmer weather and the giant star in the sky, I realized something more meaningful.
Without effort, if the body does as it should, the aforementioned benefits are automatically reaped from the sunlight. I don’t have to process the sunshine’s rays in any way nor do I even have to be conscious about absorbing the sunlight. From this, I developed a deeper appreciation for the complexities of my body in its daily tasks to simply keep me alive.
Those that have studied anatomy and biology understand the intricate inner workings of the human body and everything that it does on any given moment. It’s so easy to take it all for granted and end up abusing our bodies by not feeding it well, not moving and giving it proper exercise, not allowing it to rest and relax on a regular basis… then of course there are the more obvious offenders such as excessive alcohol, chemicals, tobacco, etc.
This post will remain short and sweet because intuitively, I’d like to think we all know what is best for our bodies- I will spare the lecture that was in the works. Eat right, exercise, 7-9 hours of sleep, adequate hydration, yada yada.. I know, you know, we all know. So to cut to the chase, the body is an amazing machine. Appreciate it, love it, treat it well because it is the only one you will ever be given!
Scratched, rusting, faded, dented- my car isn’t exactly show-room material. After spending an hour out in the sun (which I loved), washing my car, I took a good look at my handiwork and realized that I now had a shinier scratched, rusting, faded, dented car. No amount of soap and water was going to transform it into a top-of-the-line, luxury convertible…
When I was 18, I decided I would buy myself a car with the hard-earned, carefully-saved money in my savings. I wanted to be able to drive somewhere without asking to borrow someone’s car and with the thought of moving out lingering in the back of my mind, I knew I had to shell out the cash. I know I could have asked my parents for help, but the independent woman developing within me know that this was my responsibility.
Off I went to the dealership, knowing the bare minimum about cars. In hindsight, I was ripped off greatly with the price of my used Camry, but til this day I don’t get angry about it. I probably would have gotten a much better price had I brought along someone more educated in purchasing cars. I also neglected to ask for a car history report, which proved to be a huge oversight as the day after driving the car off the lot, it died at a traffic light, needing a brand new alternator (which I successfully demanded the dealership pay for!). I really was the prime example of a stereotypical female unversed in cars.
My overpriced, beat-up sedan carpools the two boys I take care of during the week, totes groceries from the store to the house, transported all my belongings during the one year I moved a total of six times and brings me everywhere I need to go on a daily basis. It suffered bumps on curbs, a sideswipe from a deer, three fender benders, a dog mistaking the back seat for its front lawn and an unfortunate run in with my own garage door.
Especially living in an area where luxury vehicles are the majority, myfunction over fashion car seems not to fit in to the motif of this town. “Glamorous” is not a descriptive word for my car- Its top doesn’t roll down, the interior is a dingy cloth instead of soft leather, and the floors are covered with extra pairs of sneakers, crumbs from the kids’ snacks and stray packages of disinfectant wipes. But, six years later and still having payments to be made, my car continues to do exactly what I bought it to do. Maybe one day, when finances aren’t so tight and my bills are easy to cover, I might have a fancy new car, but for now, as long as this car that I paid for all on my own safely brings me from point A to point B, that’s all that really matters to me.
Normally, I take Mondays off from the gym, giving my body at least a day’s rest from training as recovery is just as important as the actual workout. Particularly sore from another intense Sunday morning Body Combat class, I woke up this morning with every intention of allowing my muscles to relax.
On weekday afternoons, I’m a mother’s helper, taking care of 2 teenage boys. As I read over the day’s to-do notes left by their mom, I noticed that at 5pm, I would be driving one of the boys to a restaurant that happened to be only a few miles from my gym.
(Side realization: My gym is a 20 minute drive from my house, without traffic. Calculating the math, I spend an average of 240 minutes, or 4 hours commuting to and from the gym. Usually not a fan of driving, these 4 hours are well worth it, even when there are at least 5 other gyms within a 10 minute drive from my home.)
Hoping to make the most of my drive, I decided to challenge my body a little harder and temporarily push off recovery day. Then, I realized that I would finally be able to make it to Zumba at my gym- a class that I had never been able to fit in to my schedule! As a new instructor, I try to sample as many other instructors’ classes as I can, so I was excited, even though my muscles were screaming for the night off.
Never one to half-ass a workout, I quieted the nagging soreness of my fatigued muscles and gave the hour-long class my all (which wasn’t a difficult task as I fed off the high energies of the wonderful instructor and the other members in the class). I was even lucky enough to be invited up on stage for two different tracks! I left the class dripping with sweat and smiling from ear to ear, my spirits soaring high.
As I sit here at the end of my day, every muscle from my neck to my toes ache and plead me to take tomorrow to rest and recover (which I fully intend to!). Although giving gratitude towards my body is no unique subject in this blog, it is something I hope to consistently do. It is far too easy to take for granted the endless abilities of an able body and I hope that this thankfulness is not one I would have to wait to know of once it’s gone. On this same note, I hope to practice kindness towards my body, treating it with grateful respect. There are different types of muscle-aches, even though they all register as pain. The pain from when I all-too-often twist an ankle or the pain during a six-month recovery from long-thoracic nerve palsy are unpleasantly unwelcome; but the pain from challenging the limits of my body… tearing down muscle so it can grow back stronger… though still making me wince from time to time, is a pleasant reminder that with hard work, my able body can accept the challenge, rise to it, and take it on like the ninja I am. Ki-yah!
Ah, Mother’s Day- a day to honor and give thanks to the mom’s that birthed us, the women that raised us, the ladies that led the way. Thirsty after another incredible workout at the gym, I made a quick stop at the drugstore for a cold drink. I pushed through throngs of people scrambling to buy last minute bouquets of roses and Hallmark cards, frustrated that the cold beverage fridge was all the way in the back of the store. As lovely as it was to see so many people making some kind of effort to not show up to mom’s empty-handed, I couldn’t help but notice the obvious- that “Mother’s Day,” like many other holidays, is very much a hyped up Hallmark moneymaker.
Yes, it is nice to have a special day to highlight these undeniably amazing women in our lives. Truth be told, when I become a mom, I hope my kids smother me with extra love on the 2nd Sunday of every May. I do understand the purpose of the day itself; much like birthdays, it’s a way to give extra recognition and appreciation where it is aptly due. As I waited in the long checkout line among customers with arms filled with teddy bears and boxes of chocolates, I began to wonder how much the knickknacks and bow adorned gifts distracted from the true meaning of the day.
I spoke to a few mothers today, asking what they hoped their special day held for them. Not once did I hear them pray for lavish presents or exotic floral arrangements (although I’m certain they wouldn’t object to receiving them… I know I wouldn’t!). What I did hear, accompanied by twinkling eyes and broad smiles, was the excitement these mommies had overspending time with their families. Even the instances I heard about mothers covering the expense of dining out with their children, these women still beamed through their playful scoffs at the prospect of spending rare quality time with their loved ones.
The “stuff,” although fun and thoughtful, isn’t the important part of these holidays. What is more significant is what isn’t produced by Hallmark or sold on shelves- the feeling of being appreciated, the novelty of being celebrated and the reminder of how much they are loved are all what is most memorably heart warming. I guess you could equate this to the age old saying that “it’s the thought that counts.”
Hopefully this one day per year not only reminds us all of how thankful we ought to be for the mom’s in our lives, but also is not the only day we choose to express this amorous gratitude. In half an hour, when the holiday officially ends, my gloriously high-strung mother will still deserve the same amount of gratitude, love and recognition as she does right now. Sure, tomorrow she won’t come downstairs to a printed greeting card or hear “Happy Mother’s Day” from the family, but I intend to make sure that even though “her day” is over, her importance is still recognized. As the vibrant Mother’s Day bouquet wilt in the vase over the next few days, the love, respect and appreciation for my mom will continue to bloom brightly, long after the last petal withers and falls to the ground.
When I was younger, I was once grounded for brushing crayon shavings to the floor while coloring in a coloring book. My mother epitomizes the classic overly-stressed out workaholic. To this day, her stress level becomes so overwhelming that it spills over in to other areas in her life, causing her to “sweat the small stuff.”
Flash forward to present day- I was in the kitchen with my dog, giving her non-shedding coat a gentle brushing. To this, my mother scolded me as if I were tossing around fistfuls of hair from the furriest Himalayan, aiming for her dinner plate. I calmly continued to brush Biscuit, all her fur staying rooted to her. I looked up at my mother’s tightly pursed lips, her head shaking in disappointment. She asked why I deliberately stress her out, to which I honestly answered that it was not my intention to do so, whatsoever. As I picked at the tiniest bit of fur that had collected on the brush and placed it into the trash, I said, “Some things really aren’t worth stressing out over…” to which she stressed out over.
Don’t get me wrong, my mother is a lovely woman that actually has a wonderful sense of humor, once she allows herself to use it. But, she has a high-pressured job and takes her role as matriarch of the household with utmost seriousness; relaxation has always been a rarity in her life. To put a positive spin on the situation, seeing my high-strung mother snap over the tiniest things that hold little true importance, reminds me that to stress about every little thing really does no good. Her tendency to snap over menial things has NEVER resulted in a positive outcome and always would have worked out better had she handled it with a lighter heart.
Stress is an inevitable part of life and learning to manage and handle it is an important skill. Just as I pick and choose my battles with other people so as to not be in a constant state of fight, I pick and choose inner battles, learning the art of how to let go of the things that don’t matter as much as they initially seem. To me, hearing news of a loved one in a horrific car accident merits stress… but, a few stray crayon shavings or brushing my dog as she lies comfortably in the kitchen floor? I’m pretty certain I can let those slide with a smile.
Part of being human means to feel human emotions. Each, whether they be positive, negative or neutral, is a gift to be appreciated, no matter how difficult some may be to feel. I am thankful to be able to experience a full range of emotions from extreme, violent rage and utterly depressive sadness to joyously delightful excitement and sheer happiness (preferably not all at once nor in immediate succession).
Today marks a big day for me- over the past two months, I have taken it upon myself to finally taper off an antidepressant I had been on since my early teenage years. Despite my mother’s pleads not to, I innately felt it was the right thing to do; ten years is long enough to have this chemical in my body.
I went about this pragmatically and cautiously. I gradually decreased the dosage a week or two at a time and paid very close attention to my body and mind. Initially, I felt waves of anxiety come and go and as a knee jerk reaction, I thought it must be an adverse reaction. I feared that my body had become so dependent on this chemical that my brain would never be able to functionally create its own serotonin balance.
“Breathe!” - I demanded to myself (something everyone could do more of). I realized I had been psyching myself out and creating a self-fulfilling prophecy by expecting the worst to happen. I noticed that I was so afraid of feeling anxious that I was, in turn, creating more anxiety within myself! I was cyclically damning myself and if I ever wanted to successfully be free of taking those daily pills, I would have to trust that my able body and mind would be just fine without them!
Long story short, today was the first day completely off of the antidepressant. Over the past few weeks, my smile never left me and my anxiety never crippled me. It may be the reverse-placebo effect of knowing the medicine is not in my body, but I feel like I am thinking clearer, feeling stronger and laughing harder.
I think back to when I was first adjusting to the highest dose of the “happy-pills” I was put on and hated the numbness it made me feel. I remember hating that I couldn’t cry if I wanted to, couldn’t act on my anger if it was necessary, couldn’t feel the whole range of happiness/sadness/frustration/rage.
Sure, the depression was gone and I am thankful that the medicine did its job, but the anti-emotional side effects were something I was not willing to accept for the rest of my life. I want tears to stream down my face when I watch a sad movie, I want to be so excited about a new opportunity that I leap in the air, I want to feel.
It’s often said that you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. For ten years my emotions were suppressed in favor of a clinically stabilized state-today I reclaim my right to my ups, my downs, my smiles, my frowns, and everything in between.
**Disclaimer: I am NOT a physician and would highly recommend anyone who is thinking about discontinuing medications to consult with their physician/psychiatrist as there are adverse side effects that may occur if not done correctly**
It’s happened to just about everyone before: You wave a car past you and the driver neglects to give the appreciative hand signal, you hold open a door for complete strangers as they obliviously walk past without so much as a head nod, you stop traffic for a group of teenagers can safely cross the road only to watch them take their sweet time shuffling past, still texting on their cellphones. These things happen to me, almost on a daily basis. I can choose to react in one of two ways: I can get angry and decide they are ungrateful *******s, or I can give them the benefit of the doubt, assuming they may be having an off-day.
All too often, as human beings, we pass judgment on others before we even get a chance to think twice. As many times as we’ve been told not to judge a book by its cover, it really is instinctual to assess someone based on their looks and/or mannerisms. Upon giving someone the once over, we create stories about them in out minds: where they’re from, how they act, their values, if we are “better” than them or not.
Thoughts, albeit as powerful as they may be, are harmless unless taken to the next step. I could go in to a passionate activist rant here, but this is not what this platform is intended to be. I strive to pass as little judgment as possible on people because, let’s face it, there are times when I hope others don’t judge me based on how I look/dress/act on first sighting- do unto others as you’d want done unto you.
I’m certain there have been days when I’ve been so blinded by something that had angered/frustrated/saddened me that I had forgotten to wave at someone kind enough to let me merge on to the highway or that I had completely overlooked the stranger who took his time to hold the door open for me to pass through- this is not the person I am (I hope).
On a majority of occasions, I’m grateful, courteous and polite but, like any other person with emotions, I have my occasional bad days interspersed with the good that effect my actions/outward moods. From this realization, I am able to take a moment before I pass judgment on others and call on another set of human abilities: compassion and empathy.
At the end of it all, I am the only person that really suffers from passing judgment on these people that may never appear in my life again. I can be angry/annoyed/disgusted by someone’s behavior, or I can take a deep breath, smile, and assume that the “jerk” that just flew by without so much as a “thank you” had just stepped in a big ol’ pile of dog poop just after getting his fancy new shoes shined.
The room was filled with buzzing energy. Sweat glistened off every body in the crowd. The music pumped through the speakers as hips shook, swiveled and shimmied. It was a diverse group- aged early 20s to mid 60s, tall, short, petite, heavier set.. all was accounted for and no matter who they were or how they looked, each and every person was smiling ear to ear, letting the music move them…. all on a Friday morning.
As everyone on Facebook knows, I was at Zumba instructor training all day yesterday. The eight hour long event embodied everything that I love about the fitness industry- a room filled with people all there with a common goal, a shared interest, a similar passion- to challenge personal limits and to spread the exciting energy of moving the body. Even though it was a studio filled with strangers, we all were connected through a special bond that needed no explanations nor introductions.
It truly is a testament to the nonjudgmental attitude a health/wellness professional attempts to maintain. The benefits and love for fitness never discriminates based on shape, size, race, nor gender. Every body, as long as it is human, is meant to move and when exercise ups the heart rate, those feel good chemicals stimulate the brain, bringing levity and happiness to chronically stressed and depressed lives.
Every day that I’ve worked on building my wellness business or challenged my body with exercise, I am reminded how thankful I am that I found my calling in fitness and health. It was always a fear of mine to have a job that I dreaded clocking in for and in this industry, I never once had to face that fear. Doing what I love makes “work” not feel like work at all. Through this passion, I’ve met some of the most wonderfully motivating and positive people and found a second home at my gym (that I’m certain everyone is tired of me raving about) that at times feels more familiar than my own house.
The repetitive movement of running sets a perfect stage for meditative serenity. The steady tempo of foot-to-pavement strikes in cadence with the sound of air filling the lungs and circling out again. In this mental peace, thoughts come and go freely- an ideal environment to absorb any lessons being sent my way.
On a recent, particularly hilly run, the world presented me with teachings so pertinent to my disposition at the time that it was clear that life happens with purpose- it is not all random. About two miles through, I looked out in front of me to a stretch of road that seemed nearly vertical. I felt a flighty sense of panic as I momentarily considered the options of turning around or choosing a different path. I suddenly recognized this defeatist attitude as a reflection of habitually quitting when faced with seemingly large challenges. As the past has proven, failing to follow through when things get tough only presents me with pangs of regret and self-disappointment.What would my life be like had I not cowered when obstacles obscured my visions? How difficult would it really have been to tackle the proverbial mountains in my way?
If I chose to avoid that steep hill by turning around or choosing an alternative path, I would have compromised my deliberately planned route. I would have robbed myself of the inevitable sense of pride that would have come from following through with my original plan. The choice was obvious as I realized that, amongst distracting myself with reminiscing and lesson learning, I had been steadily making my way up the hill, anyways. With the simple motion of placing one foot in front of the other, focusing only on the next step immediately in front of me, the hill that seemed so intimidatingly impossible at first was disappearing behind me as I edged towards the top.
Before the next song even came on through my iPod, I had passed the peak of the hill, my hamstrings and calves enjoying the rewarding downhill slope that followed. How silly I felt to have even considered changing my path, all to avoid a (relatively small) uphill stretch of pavement. It was then I realized that the (only) way to take on, tackle and overcome any challenge is to take it one step at a time. Any hardship has the ability to be paralyzingly intimidating when looked at in its entirety; but breaking the daunting hill down and focusing only on what is manageable in the momentstrips it of its debilitating powers, making anything seem 100% possible.
Every which way, there is a lesson to be learned if you’re ready to receive it. The other day I was in the supermarket, walking down the breakfast cereal isle. A mother was shopping with her son sitting in the cart and I happened to tune in mid-conversation.
“Mama, you ain’t the boss of me!”
I glanced over at the child, thinking to myself, “what a brat!” What this child said next was so profoundly deep, even in its simplicity, that it transformed him from a snotty little boy to a miniature Buddha- “You ain’t the boss of no one, only yourself!” Immediately, my scowl turned to awe as I looked at him, wondering if he knew the depth of the words he just spoke.
Regardless of if he meant it on a deeper level or not, the little boy’s words stuck with me for the rest of the day. He may have just been back-talking to his mother, refusing to do something she had asked him to or continuing to do something she asked him to stop, but the weight of those last words I heard him say stopped me in my tracks as if he were saying it for me to hear.
No matter what he meant by it, I interpreted his words as a simplistic version of the Serenity Prayer- a mantra I strive to live by.
“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”
We can easily drive ourselves insane trying to conduct our worlds around us. We can get frustrated when things don’t go our way or when people don’t change to adapt to our likings. These frustrations will plague us forever, though, if we truly think we can control them- we can’t! The absolute only thing that we, as mortal beings, have control over is ourselves! Once we realize this ultimate truth and take responsibility for it, so much stress dissipates as the self-imposed weight of the world is lifted away.
It is empowering to know and claim control over yourself. Blame, anger, disappointment- all dissolve once the realization is made that the choice of how to react to something and how to handle it is claimed by you.
When I feel defeated and think that nothing will ever go my way, I reassess what is making me feel this way. More often than not, there is another angle from which to look at the situation in which I can reclaim control. I may not be powerful enough to control anyone else around me, but I sure do know that I harness the almighty power of controlling the things I do, the words I say and the way I react to my world around me.