If you slow down long enough to consider why you do what you do, you’ll probably be amazed and disturbed at the same time. I’m reading a book that’s jerking me around like that, The Power of Habit. It’s delivering the one-two punch of amazement and disturbance. I was listening to an interview, recently, on one of those network morning talk segments that stirred my curiosity so much, I went straight to Amazon and ordered. I have a love/hate relationship with my new book.
What I’m learning is this; habit is established based on the craving for the end result more than the end result itself. This is fascinating and confusing at the same time. I’m fascinated because studies show the reason people habitually exercise is they crave the endorphins and other neurochemicals they get from the work out and the sense of accomplishment that comes when they’re cooling down. I’m confused because after I exercise, all I want to do is lie down and drink a big glass of sweet tea, which most likely cancels out all the calories I just burned. Forget the endorphin rush.
Exercise for me is driven more out of a burning sense of guilt than desire. I go in seasons of really committed or really full of excuses, one extreme or the other. A friend posted on Facebook the other day she started out her birthday with an eight mile run. My son Travis just shaved 13 minutes off his best half marathon time. Those two things alone raised my guilt level higher than the excuses.
I hadn’t laced up my walking shoes in a few weeks, ok, a few months, so I got them out. No sense of craving hit, but it was a beautiful day and I was looking forward to simply being outside. Where I live there’s barely 25 yards of flat ground which, in my sense of reasoning, is a logical excuse for not walking. However, for every uphill there is a downhill where I can regroup and stop gasping.
I was in a downhill-stop-panting phase when I noticed something unusual. I stopped. Growing out of the crack between the asphalt road and the concrete curb were two wild daisies. The strangest thing was there were no other daisies anywhere around. They were oddly out of place.
I took a picture, smiled and kept walking. I wondered how those flowers ever got there and how they managed to grow. More than likely bird poop deposited the seeds for them to get started and, even though they look delicate, they have enough gumption and grit to keep going.
This is what dawned on me while on my guilt induced walk: it doesn’t matter how you got there, or what you have to work with, do the best you can, with what you have, right where you are.
A habit established by an endorphin rush or not, I should keep on walking. There’s a lot to learn out there.Continue reading
Sitting at a grade school talent show, inspired by a rousing piano rendition of Ode To Joy, skits written by fourth graders, and a boy bouncing on a pogo stick the whole four minutes and three seconds of Van Halen’s song Jump, I had a flashback. Not like a Van Halen type flashback, but a nostalgic one. As the emcee announced the ensemble of two, third grade girls on the violin and saxophone and Jackson Brawner on the trumpet, the same butterflies started flapping that always surfaced when Jason Brawner’s name was ever announced.
For Jackson, this was serious business and he didn’t miss a note of Bugler’s Dream, better known as the Olympics song. I was amazed and instantly felt that sting behind my nose signaling tears are next. Honestly, keeping it together at an elementary school program should not be a struggle. Why is it things connected to childhood stir emotions in even the most stoic adult? Something about the setting took me on a memory trip to high school. Where did all this come from?
That I was stronger than some of the guys on the real football team and could even out-run a few of them wasn’t glamorous, but it did get me the fullback position on the powderpuff team. My friend Ginny who, on the other hand, was petite, beautiful and defined femininity, shocked everyone with her throwing arm so she was named quarterback. What impressed me more than her arm was she cut off her perfectly manicured nails to get a better grip on the football. For Ginny, like Jackson, this was serious business.
Because the big game was a fundraiser, parents, teachers and the student body came out to see how much the cheerleaders actually knew about football. Trailing by a few points with just a few seconds left on the clock, Ginny called one of the secret plays we had only run in practice. Surely this was the magic. Ginny would hand me the ball as I went opposite of the flow of players and hopefully they would be fooled.
Then it happened, our semi reverse worked! I took off like never before. Now it had become serious business for me.
When I was about five feet from the goal line, the referee’s whistle blew. Confused, I stopped because no one had my flag. No one was near me so why was the whistle blown? Then a girl from the other team flew past me like The Roadrunner snatching the flag off my belt. The sidelines roared and I was still confused.
As I headed to the sidelines, John, the coach who was one of the real football players, pointed to his watch. The whistle I heard was to only signal time had expired off the clock. I stared at him in disbelief as tears leaked. I had stopped 5 feet short of victory for my team. How could the girls ever forgive me? How could I ever forgive myself?
My friend John, in all of his 17-year-old wisdom, hugged me and said what I have always remembered, “It’s OK Suzette. Just remember this: Next time don’t stop until you get to where you’re going, even if you hear a whistle.”
How many times do we stop five feet short of the goal because we are worn out, or distracted, or confused? We give up on projects, we give up on dreams, and we give up on people. What’s really sad is, if we give up, we’ll never know how good it feels to do the victory dance in the end zone, even if it’s only in our minds.
The applause, cheering and whistling brought my attention back to the school auditorium. Jackson had the victory dance going on in his smile; satisfaction of a job well done. Oh, the things you can be reminded of watching a grade school talent show.
Don’t stop until you get to where you’re going.Continue reading
Among the twinkling Christmas lights and chocolate I stood staring at the display of canes in the durable medical equipment section of Walgreens acting like I knew what I was doing. Jim Brawner had an old knee, worn out from years of running 10ks and marathons, replaced with a shiny, new titanium one. So there I was, choosing a cane so he could transition off a walker.
Like everything else, there are so many cane choices; 4 prong or single, fashion color, animal print, plain black or Moses-like. Since he had tolerated my decorating his walker with garland and flashing LED mini lights, I figured he most likely would rather have the plain black one.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw an older gentleman watching me sort and think. I looked at him and smiled hoping he could offer some advice. Startled that I had caught him staring, he quickly said with a sheepish grin, “There’s nothing like a good cane. I have several.”
I squinted trying to understand. “Really?”, I asked.
“Nothing like a good cane. That’s kind of like saying there’s nothing like a good bra; it’s necessary,” I thought, but didn’t say out loud.
After a 5 minute story about every cane he had, I chose the plain black one and thanked him for his help. And on the way home I thought about the wisdom of the cane man.
Without even knowing it he reminded me, in all the madness and chaos this time of year, not to forget about the simple ‘there’s nothing like a good ________ fill in the blank. There’s nothing like a good cup of coffee. There’s nothing like a good night’s sleep. There’s nothing like a good friend.
So as you dash around today, in the competition of finding a parking spot and the wrestling for the last Wii game, take a deep breath and think about all your nothing is as good as things. It might adjust your perspective.
Jim Brawner most likely will never say, “There’s nothing like a good cane.” He can’t wait to get rid of it. But, you might hear him say, “There’s nothing like a good knee.”