perspective

You Can’t Make Me

Parenting and life lessons. My youngest is a senior in high school. With two twenty-somethings, I have had some practice letting go of the reins with my kids. I might be a little more chill about their decisions these days, but that hasn’t come without a lot of years of frustration.

I remember when one of my kids was talking to someone on social media that they shouldn’t be. Waking up at all hours, endlessly glued to the screen. This was many years ago, when it wasn’t quite so usual for everyone to be attached to their screens all the time. After trying so many things, taking away the phone, taking away other privileges, and talking until I was out of talk, I still caught that child up at 3 am, on an old “lost” device, talking to this person they shouldn’t be. Again.

I remember my rage and frustration so clearly, in the middle of that night, and the wide eyes of my kid, completely unmoved by my temper. The look said “you can’t make me.”

There may be few things as frustrating to a parent than the realization that no, you really can’t make them do anything. Not without mental / physical injury or breaking the law. Oh, I wanted to wring that child’s neck that day, but I didn’t. And I remember that “you can’t make me” moment so well.

I remember the time I gave it to my own parents, too. I was running around with a much older crowd, lying about where I was. They went to the place where I said I was one night, I wasn’t there, and then confronted me when I arrived home. I got the lecture, and the “promise you won’t do that again” ultimatum. But I looked straight at my father and told him I couldn’t promise him that. And I am sure, in that moment, when I was supposed to promise, whether or not I meant it, he must have wanted to wring my sassy teenage neck as well. (Sorry, Mom and Dad! Wish you were here so I could apologize to your faces.)

In my adult life, this lesson has smacked me in the face many times. No matter what, you really can’t make people do anything. When you’re left out of a social gathering. When people make decisions that you disagree with or take you further from each other. So many little daily things that happen that may seem puzzling or even hurtful. Here’s what I’ve come to realize:

You can’t make people spend time with you. You can’t even make them want to. People are fickle and messy and unpredictable. You can’t make people thoughtful or considerate. They are or they aren’t, and this changes from one day to the next. Most people aren’t sitting around thinking about how they can make me feel left out or unwanted. Most people are too self-centered to even have that thought. (Or maybe they do, but I’ve realized it’s not productive for me to obsess over other people’s hurtful actions.)

If you have someone who cares about you and thinks of you, cherish that in the moment it happens. Thoughtful moments are rare and to be treasured. If someone thinks of you repeatedly, that is truly special. Enjoy it. Relish it.

In the end it is all just data. I just know what I’ve learned from what I observe.

Everything and everyone is optional. Most people and things will eventually move on. When you change your circumstances, it’s inevitable that things and people change. That probably sounds callous. Maybe it’s the stoic reading I’ve done that makes it a little less personal.

Change doesn’t make the people you’ve moved on from less important. Life takes us all kinds of places and there are only so many hours in a day, a month, a year, a lifetime. It just makes every present moment more special. Time and attention are finite resources for each of us. If we can’t make anyone do anything, how are we spending those precious fleeting moments?

fitness and nutrition

Stick it in Your Ears

A couple of months ago I moved from a CrossFit box to a more conventional gym. Many things haven’t changed that much…I still do many of the same movements. I still sweat there most days. I see friends and connect with them there. But there are definite changes as well. More options for machines and movements (but figuring out how to “work in” on a machine is new.) Coming and going without a set class time requires a different kind of discipline. And then there’s the music.

Music is huge for me when I workout. At CrossFit the music was generally ok. I found it funny that different coaches chose different music styles at times. The class I attended had many “older” athletes and attentive coaches seemed to work with that in their music choices.

These days the music isn’t as loud. My new gym has several spots where the music is far away. I sometimes end up chatting instead of singing or dancing along when I’m with my gym gals.

Then there is the rare time I am alone at the gym. AirPods make their appearance. I’ve noticed that pretty much everyone who is flying solo at the gym has headphones in of some kind.

So here’s a new game I like to play…I wonder what they are listening to? This is basically an exercise in stereotypes, I guess. Bro sesh? Jock rock? Girl power tunes? I laugh as I try to size people and their musical tastes up. Once in a while I’ll see people dance a little, shimmy the shoulders or shuffle the feet. Hm. A guy shadow boxing between sets made me wonder if he was pumping up to the theme from Rocky. Then to amuse myself I’ll imagine someone benching with huge biceps listening to opera or country or even theme songs from little kids shows.

At times I wonder if people are wondering what I’m listening to. Would any of them guess?

As I reflect, it’s one of the different things and sometimes hard things about the new setup, when people are all in their own little worlds, listening to their own thing, on their own paths. I like having my own tunes on solo runs or bike rides but at the gym I like having shared experiences and music along with it. I’m thankful this solo song time doesn’t happen too often.

inspire

A Note Card

A card. A hand written note. A stamp. Its final destination: Cape May, NJ. On its way to meet a girl I met years ago. A special girl.

I met her in when she was in 8th grade. She was still blossoming but I saw her shine. She was timid in a way but her quiet swagger made her stand out from the rest. Quiet confidence. A bright, bright future was on the horizon for her. I could just tell she was going places.

Fast forward a few years. I watched her learn to drive. She didn’t need me to pick her up anymore for practice. She got a college scholarship to a prestigious school to play a sport college. She worked hard to grow to an elite level in her sport. Her future was bright.

We stayed in touch over the years. She was from a military family. She wanted to serve. She chose to serve others. She is now in her element. Training for her new role serving our country. She will do great things in her life.

For now I cheer for her from afar. My note card is part of the process. The hand written note to let her know she appreciated. She is thought of. She is missed. She can do anything she puts her mind to.

The note card is signed by a few people she inspired over the years. People she volunteered her time with. People who aspire to be like her in a way. Never underestimate your ability to impact others. 

Young. Old. Near. Far. One can make an impact. Maybe it’s volunteering. Maybe it’s spending time. Maybe it’s a listening ear. Maybe it’s a note card. Whatever it is. Do it! Make time. Be significant. Make a difference. Somebody is watching you and learning from you.

To my girl all grown up in Cape May, NJ, may all your dreams come true. May your road traveled be full of adventures. May you return home safe. May you be the best version of you!

Let’s hope the postal service gets my note card to my girl before she is ready to set sail to her next destination. Fingers crossed.

dare to be different, fitness and nutrition

Sense of Direction

It’s true, I’m getting older.

As I age, I notice that certain things are starting to deteriorate. Today’s example: my sense of direction.

When I was young, I would read Atlanta’s Creative Loafing newspaper every Thursday or Friday. I’d check out the list of festivals, events, art openings, even new music releases, and make my weekend plans. I’d pull out my mom’s Atlanta road atlas and set on my coordinate spree to map my weekend adventures. From these jaunts week after week, year after year, I got to know my way around Atlanta inside and out.

These days, I can hardly find my way around my little suburb without waze or google maps. If I’m somewhere without service, I get nervous and often guess the wrong direction. Such a change. It may not just be due to aging. Maybe more a combination of getting older and over reliance on technology. Still not a change I like, no matter the cause.

I spent the past week in a confusing condo building. Actually there were two buildings connected by bridges and corridors. There was also a parking garage. None of the connecting floors had the same number. Walk through a hallway from one building’s first floor and suddenly, without stairs or elevators, you’re on another building’s third. The garage was a totally different mess. I felt lost and disoriented much of the week.

After a couple of morning condo workouts, I went to the gym one evening to make sure I could find it from our room. The next morning I spent a half hour with dumbbells in the gym. After I was done, I decided to test myself and make my way back to the condo from the gym using stairs instead of the path I already knew.

I walked into the stairwell. When I opened the door, I was surprised to find an old man, slightly hunched over, standing at the bottom of the stairs. He was short with groomed gray hair. He wore a cotton t-shirt, athletic pants and tennis shoes. He was there to exercise. He smiled at me.

Good morning, I said.

Are you still moving every day? he said,

Yes sir, I replied. I want to be sure I can move for as long as I can, so I try to do it first thing every day.

Good for you, he replied. I do the exact same thing. Keep it up. It’s so important.

And with that, one floor up, I walked out of the stairwell. He kept walking up the stairs. Up. Up. Up. Moving. Ascending.

It was like the (living) ghost of Christmas Future. Letting me know that taking time to move, for me, is what will keep me moving long term. I can feel confident when I get up and make my physical and mental health a priority each day. What others think of it is none of my business. My approval is what is required.

Did I find my way back to the condo? Happily, yes. And taking that different path gave me unexpected landmarks and signs. I’m heading in the right direction. It was a roadmap to the future I am heading toward, nimble and purposeful.

adventure

Local Flavors

I’m fortunate to have quite a few road excursions this summer. When I am out of town, I try my best to find and support local people and places. When I visit, these are some of the things I like to do that help me get to know a place.

1.) Start your day the local way

I’ve written about this before. Find a local coffee shop! Many have interesting traditions and can give you the “feel” of a particular community. If you prefer donuts for breakfast, hit the donut or bagel place, or have a full breakfast if you’re up for it. Yelp is my favorite app to use for local spots. I’m told google searches are more popular, but I’ve had better luck finding unusual and wonderful places with yelp.)

2.) Find a farmer’s market and / or grocery store

As a farmer myself, I love seeing what is in season. Maybe there are local specialties. On a recent trip to New York and Pennsylvania, I had my choice of both permanent farm stands with a variety of local products as well as an “every Thursday afternoon” market. I loved that I got to enjoy local strawberries in Pennsylvania, especially since the growing season for strawberries at home was already over. I also found locally made whoopie pies, pretzels, maple syrup, and other treats. Regional grocery stores can also give an interesting glimpse into different foods and traditions.

3.) Eat the local specialty

When my family took long road trips in my youth, my dad would hand me a book called Road Food, Good Food. Before google, yelp and Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, Jan and Michael Stern looked for local joints serving regional specialties. I was in charge of using the book, organized by state, and the atlas to find places that were at least sort of on the way to the destination. (But we have been known to drive hours out of the way for special types of pie, barbecue and more.) They now have a website that is still organized by state and will tell you the special dishes a place is known for and give you some small, independent spots to give that dish a try. This website is challenging to use, and reminds me of juggling the index of the atlas, map coordinates, and so on. But, it’s usually spot on with great little places and special foods.

Asking a local is another great way to find things. My aunt and uncle steered us to pink stripe cookies and Bison brand French onion dip in Western New York. Both were top notch!

Whatever you do, break out of the chains of chain restaurants and predictable average while you’re on the road! Experience new places in different ways.