awareness

Listen Again

Sometimes KT writes a line that really sticks with me. To be clear, many of her posts make me think differently and many prompt me to make a change in how I approach life or how I act. This is a little different…here’s my take on her recent post about listening and what a gift it is.

Here’s the line (and I encourage you to read the whole post): Listening is the greatest gift you can give to another human.

Being a more intentional listener found its way into my goals this year. A series of conversations made me realize that I don’t sincerely listen to people as often as I should. I reflected on the fact that although people ask me all the time “how are you?” and I answer, I don’t often ask them how they are. I’m often so caught up in what I’m doing I don’t even look up. I may make a brief comment but not much else.

What am I telling people as I just let them walk by? I don’t look them in the eye. Sometimes I don’t look up from what I am doing. Sometimes I probably seem annoyed at the interruption.

I’ve been trying to reverse since since it caught my attention. When I think about it, I take the time to put down what I am doing and ask the person how they are. And then follow up with another question.

What I have noticed is that more people than I realized are hungry to share. Excited to connect. They want to tell me a bit about how they are.

I thought I was a decent listener. Now I see that I need work. The invitations to listen are everywhere. How many have I blown off because I didn’t make time or was just too into what I was doing to notice them? From my friends, my co-workers, members of my family?

Among the other unfolding lessons, the pandemic has taught me that people matter more than pretty much anything else. We can’t replace people or the opportunities we have to share with them. I have missed many, but I am committed to doing better moving forward.

I’m also on the lookout for the people who are dropping out of sight. Who haven’t I heard from in a while? Different schedules and limited opportunities to be out and about make those happenstance meetings less frequent. Who is telling me through their silence that they may need a friend? Who can I text to check in with? Who can I lift up with a funny post, a quote, a kind word? Who can I (re)start a conversation with? As KT often says, hope is free.

The motto of the StoryCorps podcast is: listening is an act of love. Who can I love today by listening to them? Who can you?

challenges

The 2020 Ta-Da List

2020 was a year that upheaved many goals. Maybe it was the rules changing about where we can go and what we can do. Maybe it was shifting priorities from getting out and going to just hunkering down and staying safe. Maybe it was self-imposed or created limits of mental exhaustion and the like.

Whatever the reason, 2020 pulled the rug out from our runway of dreams. The universe laughed at our plans. Goals had to shift. Travel, work, adventure, all kinds of things had to pivot.

I looked back at my goals and in a conventional sense, I didn’t meet them. I’m not giving myself a pass because life got hard. It is what it is. But, inspired by Gretchen Rubin, I decided to make a little “Ta-Da!” list, which reminds me that despite my 2020 challenges, things still got done.

  • I maintained my fitness regimen, moving my body pretty much daily. Most of the time this meant working out at home or in the gym, but I also started hiking more often and put many miles on my bike.
  • I took a more active role in my personal finances, learning how to move money around and make it work.
  • I partnered with trusted friends to purchase the property for 3Splitz Farm. We navigated the first stages of planning and implementing the vision for our rustic paradise.
  • I started a new business of my own.
  • I established a 501(c) and led that organization through a successful first year.
  • I bought a new car.
  • I read lots of books.
  • I parented my kids through a trying and confusing time in their lives.
  • I maintained several of my health priorities: eat well, drink well, connect.
  • I lifted up my friends and loved ones to lighten their mental loads.

2020 wasn’t what I expected, and 2021 won’t be either. Some of these accomplishments weren’t on my radar at all this time last year. This has all informed how I am thinking of my goals this year. Leave a little more room to move, to play, to grow.

I had to stop myself from writing the “shadow truths” about each of these goals. For most of these bullet points, there is something I could have written as a “but…” But ta-da lists shouldn’t come with qualifications. These are what they are, and many are a start. Several appear in my goals for 2021, to enhance, improve, and expand.

What’s on your ta-da list for 2020?

challenges

Turning 50

A group of my fitness friends and I are building our engines. In addition to CrossFit and extra cardio, this crazy group of ladies throws in challenges here and there just to keep it fun and interesting.

Chick 1 got the honor of throwing October’s challenge at us. And it was a doozy.

“Pick a day. Any day. Hop on the bike erg and ride for as long as you can without breaking. Also for socktober you need to wear crazy socks while doing it and document your duration here with video or photo proof. Ready set go!”

Of course being my PhD self I had to ask questions. Is this for time or distance or both? (Honestly, did it really matter?)

I wanted a marathon distance at least. Had to find a day when I could get to the bike erg at the gym for at least two hours, just to be safe. Finally, a night when I had a 7:00 pm meeting not too far from the gym. I get out of work around 4, so that should be just enough.

Preparation: Pack my bike shorts for extra padding. This would be an endurance challenge for my mind, my legs, and for other body parts, too! (If you’ve spent much time on a bike, you know what I mean.) Take Tylenol a couple of hours before. And stop drinking water at noon or so, to be sure my bladder doesn’t shorten my ride! Checked the gym schedule to be sure the bike wasn’t in the workout – whew!

I raced to the gym on the appointed day. I packed things to read, things to do, my AirPods, and so on. Walked in and thankfully the bikes were empty. I was there before any afternoon classes so I got setup, got my tunes going, went to the bathroom one last time, and off I went.

I just went steady most of the first hour. Saw the 4:30 class come and go. I did some video editing one-handed for my daughter’s college recruiting. Read some old articles on my phone. Just kept pedaling. When the second hour started I couldn’t really focus on anything else anymore. My brain just couldn’t do it. So it became just pedal pedal pedal. 42,195 meters – just gotta keep pedaling!

I did take a photos at milestones, like 20 miles. This was to keep things interesting because honestly, riding on the erg for long periods bores me. I’d rather ride my road bike and go places. I also started to worry that the monitor battery would crap out and I’d be stuck with no proof.

After nearly two hours, I hit the marathon distance. And as I had hoped, I still had a little time and I still had life in my legs. So I did what a crazy person does, I kept going. It’s less than 8,000 meters to 50k. Why not try?

I pushed when there really wasn’t much push in my muscles. I just hunkered down and kept going. Watching the number click, click, click over. Praying the monitor kept working! Watching the minutes tick, tick, tick by. Hoping I’d get done in time!

Finally, I got to the last 500 meters. I was going to do it! Video in hand, I taped the monitor so I could see it click over to 50,000. I was going to take selfies and celebrate next to that big number. 300…200…100…and…ready for my close up…but instead….

Apparently no one is crazy enough to bike 50,000 meters, because after 49,999 the monitor starts back over at 1. 1!

I burst out laughing.

What else can I do but laugh? Sure, I didn’t get my photo opp. That doesn’t change the crazy effort or what I know I completed. Just means it’s time for something new.

Sometimes you work your butt off to get to a goal, then get there only to find out someone moved your cheese. Or that goal wasn’t that big of a deal anyway. Or actually, there’s another goal over the horizon. Victory party sure, but keep it short lived. Start over. Get racing. It’s a never-ending process of challenge and improvement. Maybe this is what turning 50 will be like, too. You get there and look around just to say, what’s next? Every finish line is really a start line.

So I waddled off the erg, packed my things and got to my meeting. Chick 1 gave me groovy Nerds socks as my challenge prize. Bring on November. New goals, new challenges and a great group of friends to conquer them with.

3Splitz Farm, adventure

Go for Launch

 

The final countdown is here.

We have our mission, our flight plans.  We’ve been preparing for months. After assorted detours and delays, we are finally loaded up and ready to launch.

We all know our jobs.  The team is working together. A functioning crew doesn’t need 5 pilots.  We have one pilot.  Then we have people who manage equipment.  People who execute plans.  People who support.  And then there are the people who carry along all the little science experiments. People who clean up the spills.  People who pack the snacks and make us laugh. People who cheerlead.  All have their roles.

We also know we will have to learn and support the mission and each other in unexpected ways as the flight goes on. Roles may change and expand. As Matt Damon says in a great line from The Martian, there will be times we will have to “science the shit” out of issues, situations, etc. Unpredictable things will happen. We are charged up to flex our problem solving muscles and figure some things out.

We are strapped in. Fueled to the hilt. Liftoff may be a little bumpy.  We might see some sparks as we burn through our usual atmosphere.

But how fun will it be to get to weightlessness?  To push through into something we’ve never experienced?  To really reach a new frontier?  To go where no chicks have gone before?

Hold on tight. We are go for launch.

 

dare to be different

Puzzles

“Raise your hand if you’re a puzzle person,” I said, shaking a jigsaw puzzle box.

It’s a request I made at the beginning of a staff training I did a couple of years ago.  Maybe a third of the hands in the room shot up.  Everyone else either shook their heads “no way” or shrugged.

How do you become a puzzle person, I asked?  Those who shot their hands up said things like, we did them as a family growing up.  My friends and family told me I was good at them. Puzzles take time, sometimes collaboration, and persistence to achieve a goal.

For puzzle people, puzzles are associated with good feelings and success.  Those feel-good experiences can contribute to what we we are good at and who we are, or rather, who we think we are.  Most of the non-puzzle people simply didn’t grow up doing them or got frustrated a few times and decided (or were told) they weren’t good at them to begin with.

So it goes with many things.  From a young age, the things we spend time on and feel successful at (whether we learn that from experiences or what we are told) shape who we think we are and what we say we are good at.

As for me, I was told I was smart, good at school, and naturally skilled at test taking. These didn’t require too much effort from me.  I breezed through my early years and took in the accolades.

But, I wasn’t really a puzzle person.  I focused on the things that came easily for me, and whatever didn’t come easily I learned to avoid.  Unlike many puzzle people, who learn to try, try again, and even set things aside when they get frustrated or stuck and return to the puzzle later, I had little persistence or resilience in the face of adversity.

Well, as of this moment (at my not-so-young age) I am raising my hand and declaring myself a puzzle person.

I am embracing the problems I face as puzzles to be figured out instead.

I don’t have to have it all solved immediately.  It doesn’t even have to come easily.  As I make myself vulnerable more often and take on bigger, more complicated tasks, I know I have to remind my mind not to get frustrated or shut down.  I may have to be coached (which means – eek! – being coachable, which I am decidedly NOT when I am feeling overwhelmed, afraid, or out of my depth). Like riding a bicycle, then trying to do a trick or two, I may flop.  The world will not end and I can try again.

I’m shaking life’s box of problems as puzzles, dumping out the pieces, searching for the corners and the edges.  I don’t really have a full picture of what it will look like in the end for reference, but that’s all part of the process.  It will be beautiful, whatever it becomes.