perspective

If a Tree Falls…

You surely know the only puzzler: If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

What do you think? These are the kinds of questions that philosophers can sit around and ponder, quander, or some might say squander our time over.

I was thinking recently about the things I do alone. Most are more or less by choice. Many times I’d rather have companions along for the ride. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way.

Individualist is strong in my enneagram. I am prone to do things by myself. Sometimes to a fault. Once in a while, though, it gets to me.

Take for example my recent triathlon experience. I was originally scheduled to do this with a few different people. For one reason or another, each of these people were unable to do it that weekend. I had a choice…go it alone or wait until another chance to do an event like this came along.

I was on the fence about it for a while. I really didn’t want to go do it by myself, but I also didn’t want to miss out on my chance to do it. I’m getting to the point with many things in my life where I say, if not now, who knows when the opportunity will come around again?

I ended up doing it and after I completed it I was glad that I did. Still, the experience would have been more fun to share with a friend. To ask if they had seen the turtle on the bike course and felt the same kinship with that slow moving animal. Did you smell the water treatment plant too? Yuck! How was the run for you? How was the swim? Did you do the water slide at the end? I might have been able to take some pics of them.

I do see the value in going it alone, but there is also beauty in shared stories, shared memories, shared moments. Both have value. Neither can be replaced.

After the race I knew I needed coffee. As is my habit, I looked on yelp and found a local coffee shop a couple of blocks away. Completely by surprise, I passed a mural by a well-known artist. I stopped to take a selfie with it, but of course could not fit in the amazing piece at arm’s length. Luckily a nice young man saw me. A military person from the nearby base. He called out and asked if he could take my picture for me. He said it was just so sad to see me trying to get a photo of myself alone. And he was right.

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there, does it make a sound? If you do something amazing and no one was there to share it with you, does it make a memory?

I’m grateful for the man who saw my struggle and helped capture me with my new set of wings. Hopefully next time some loved ones will also be there to share in it and we can lift each other up.

challenges

Fries With That?

Pulled up to the speaker. Ordered a burger. Sat for a minute. Then it appeared sort of by magic, sometimes even on roller skates. It used to be simple.

Then came the combo meal. Would you like fries and a drink with that? You’ll save 10 cents. Then it was super size. Sweet potato fries. All kinds of extras. A brilliant invention for marketing and calories. Who can resist? Save a dime, get a whole big bag of food and a soda. Combos are brilliant! Seems like a great deal, right?

But…

What if the combo isn’t what I want? If I don’t really like fries? What if they’re not good for me? What if it keeps me from reaching my goals?

When is a combo deal not so great?

Maybe it’s the big packages of yogurts or energy drinks at Costco or Sam’s club. A 12-pack of Chobani costs less than a buck a piece, but I know good and well no one is going to eat the blueberry. The lemon-lime gatorade will collect dust in the bottom of my pantry long after the red and blue are gone.

I have grown more comfortable with passing up things I don’t need just because they come as a part of a combo. I will pay more for just the nuggets because the waffle fries aren’t worth it. I’ll pass on the coke unless it’s a special occasion. Yes, I know I can save money. Yes, I am sure. By the same token, I will also pay more to get the super premium salad as a side if it is best for me. Maybe it’s a luxury I can afford, but goals are goals. I try to stick to what works for me.

Sometimes this is easier said than done. For example, what happens when people are the package deal? If you’re having a party and want to invite a friend, but you know that friend probably won’t come without their obnoxious or otherwise unsavory partner. Do you ask them to leave the person at home? If so, how? Do you risk missing out on the parts you like by refusing the pieces you don’t?

Family ties may make this even more complicated. If you want to visit family, spend time with them, or connect with them, but they come as a package deal with someone else you don’t like, what do you do? Can you just order the nuggets and be done with it, or are you stuck with the fries and just try to ignore them? Do you just skip that restaurant and not eat there anymore? Does knowing that choices involve a side of junk make you avoid the things you love, too?

A few thoughts about food, friends and family to start this day. Are there things in life that come as a combo that you’d rather have some of than all of?

perspective

We Interrupt This Program…

I had a conversation with a friend recently about active listening. I don’t remember how the topic came up, but I do know listening is a weakness for me. I am just bad at it. I find it very hard to focus at times. I have a restless mind. I can be easily distracted by the ping-ponging of things I want to check, need to do, or am just curious about. It’s a challenge for me to maintain eye contact and just focus on what other people are saying.

I’ve worked on this weakness several times in my adult life but eventually I stop paying attention. Well, this conversation with a friend brought it to the top of mind and I naturally started monitoring myself and how I behave in conversations.

Just in the first morning of paying attention I noticed that I interrupted people three different times. It happened twice at the gym and once at my job. This was in the span of a couple of hours.

First, at the gym, my coach was telling people something funny I said and I had to jump in and talk over her. Like she wasn’t saying it right, I guess. I don’t know.

Then at the end of class I wanted to give a friend something and they were in the middle of an informative conversation. So I stared at them and waited for them to stop talking so I could do what I needed to do. They did the right thing and ignored me so I just left pretty annoyed. Thinking back, what did I expect her to do?

Finally, the end of the school year takes interruptions to a whole new level. I don’t have a work partner to help manage them this year and my personal workload has increased as well. Time is always on my mind. I try to stay positive but I am sure people can read my frustrations in my body and voice. When colleagues take a long time to tell me what they want and I think I already know what they’re going to say, I jump in and finish their request for them.

Sigh. Here’s what I said to myself after this realization:

Seriously, what the heck?!?!? Interrupting over and over again? Geez. That’s pretty obnoxious.

It truly is. I know that I hate being interrupted and here I am doing it to people. And often.

It makes me think of the book I am currently reading, Ego is the Enemy. The need to jump in and tell my version of the story, add my details, tell someone what I need to say, or speed things up is ego jumping in. My time is more important. My version is better. My needs take priority. My life is always the breaking news. Me, me, me. What am I losing by not listening better? If I claim to care about others, listening is a big part of that.

It’s embarrassing to admit all of this but sharing it can start me on the path to improving it (again.)

celebrations, challenges

My Superpower

I had the thoughts that many probably do…”Will they still want to hang out with me?” “Will they think that I am no fun?”

All the worries. The anxiety. But years later, I’m happy to say all those worries were unfounded. I still have most of the same friends. Even though I don’t drink. A testament to the quality of my friends.

I have a long history of alcoholism in my family. My dad, my grandparents, many more. I didn’t have my first drink until I was 21 and away at college. But, I quickly made up for lost time. As an adult I fell in love with beer. I collected IPAs as a hobby, but would drink spiked seltzers and sweet cocktails at times too. I did many things I would like to forget. I probably did others that I actually did forget because I was too far gone to remember. It’s not something I am proud of. I am grateful I never hurt anyone.

I gave alcohol up a few times. Once when I was pregnant. Another when I thought I was too dependent. And the last time I put the bottle aside was several years ago, when I decided I was serious about losing weight and wanted to see how much giving up drinking would help. I was surprised not only by the weight loss, but also by how little I eventually missed drinking.

Now, years later, I go to wine night and have a mocktail. I am sometimes the sober buddy for another friend who is attending but not drinking. I recently went on a wine tour for a friend’s birthday and just watched others partake. I smelled the wine. I touched a few little sips with my lips. But in the end I just enjoyed the company. I enjoyed people enjoying themselves. I held everyone’s bags and jackets while they took vineyard photos. (I don’t usually take photos with drinks since I am a teacher and we are under higher moral scrutiny by many.) I ate a lot of cheese and crackers. Win win.

Being the all-time designated driver is not a bad thing. In some ways you can be the hero. Saying no to what isn’t healthy for you can be a superpower. I’m grateful for friends who accept me as I am and value me as a person and not just as a drinking buddy.

friendship

The Athletic Supporter

Sometimes I come along for the ride. Someone asks me to be there when they have a big day. When they’re competing.

For this enneagram 2, a helper at heart, this is music to my ears. I live for these moments! Put me in, coach! Some might ask, what do you do all day at CrossFit competition if you’re not competing? Why spend weekends sitting in sweltering lacrosse tents at far flung venues? What do you do with all the down time? Why are you there?

Lots of reasons, really. Here’s just a few.

I’m there to cheer. I’m there to take photos of moments big and small. To capture the day so you can see how amazing you are.

To be a clothes hanger for wardrobe shedding right before the big moment, to carry the bandaids and tylenol, to bring the good snacks and the right color gatorade, to apply the oils to aching muscles.

To provide chairs and blankets and hats. Or sunscreen and water and sunglasses, depending on the season. And umbrellas, always umbrellas.

I am a holder of phones, a fetcher of things from the car when you don’t want to get up from your seat. I am the scouter of porta-potties, or just going along for moral support. I am the counterbalance for quad stretches.

I am the bringer of cupcakes for birthdays or Galentine’s day or just because you like cupcakes. Or bagels. Or whatever you like. I am the maker of signs and shaker of pom poms when the need arises. I am a surprise engineer.

Need scissors? No problem. Sanitizer? Got it. Extra socks or tank top or leggings? Check, check, and check. Plates, spoons, knives, paper towels, Everything but the Bagel on cucumbers? Of course!

Sometimes I am screaming, to be that voice of encouragement you hear above the voice in your head. Sometimes I am wrapping you up in a blanket, hugging you and walking you around in the parking lot as your body temperature and heart rate come down. Sometimes I’m just here to listen to what it was like for you, in that moment. What went wrong, what felt good. The lucky sounding board for all of it.

I’m there for the podium pictures and the postgame meal. For the high fives and the hell yeahs.

Still, some of the most important parts of my day are spent in silence, just witnessing your efforts and achievements. Seeing any moments of doubt and staring at you until you look over and see me, telling you with my eyes, you got this. I believe in you. Being a part of it is amazing. Sharing in the memories, the “team mom” as someone recently said. To be a part of supporting someone I care for deeply. This is my purpose.