challenges

Solo Episode 2

Going solo isn’t so bad. On a recent drive I enjoyed my solo time. My time to think without interruption. The party of one time was valued. I don’t always like being solo but I’m ever so capable of standing firm solo. To me there is a subtle difference.

I also caught up with a another person who took a bold solo step in life to see how things were going. A fresh outlook. A newer view on the same horizon. Opportunities were starting to open up that were out of reach while lumped in a crowd. Going solo was a bold move for this girl. She took a chance. She is seeing how a chance can pay off. Going solo wasn’t an easy choice but the choice itself is showing her strength as one.

I then read a post online about a young man. His journey is one of health and fitness. One that requires him to overcome many individual obstacles. He is persevering but can never compare himself to similar athletes as his path is far more complex. He wrote something that stuck with me. Progress not perfection. His solo moves are bold. There is no comparison. He too shows his power and strength as one. Going solo was the right move for this young man.

Now I flip to going solo when it’s not a choice. The one left behind. The kid nobody wants on the kickball team. Chosen last. Feared as the weak link. The isolation of just one left waiting to be swooped up on the team. How can that person show his power as one when already defeated?

Losing your soulmate. Losing you a loved one without notice. So many scenarios of going solo but not by choice. How does one overcome the fear of going solo when it’s not a choice? How does one see their purpose as an individual vs a team or duo? How does one prepare for taking the unplanned solo route. There is no easy answer. Practice would be my best advice.

Go to the store alone. Assert your independence. See how you soar. You may not like going to the store alone but you need to know you can do it. Practice will build confidence.

Take a trip. Plan it alone. Pack for it yourself. Take your path whether it’s the long route or short route. Make the choices. Be okay with whatever comes your way. Being content with what you choose is an important part living solo. Practice will make you stronger. No two scenarios are the same. This experience over time will solidify your party of one strength. 

Practice being solo. The only way to be ready to take on the solo route with confidence is to practice. You are the only one who controls you. The power is all you. Don’t wait for others to include you in the big trip. Don’t wait to be picked last at kickball, show your solo strength. 

Independence can be powerful. If others around you struggle with their independence you might have to model for them. You might have to go solo more to show them it’s possible. Don’t let fear keep you from trying to go solo.

You might even surprise yourself with the benefits of going solo. The path may be just what you were waiting for.

This message can apply to many people in many scenarios. I may write as if it’s about me and my life. It may be or it may be about others. That’s the beauty of this blog. It’s meant to inspire others. If you read this and it seems like it’s for you, it is. 

I see many people in my life. I see many who triumph. I see many who struggle. Some situations are temporary while others seems so permanent. Only you control where you go now and in the future.

Enjoy your next milestone solo. Inspire another to go solo. Make this post infectious.

balance

My Control Panel

In a challenge right now with a fitness group, we were tasked with thinking daily about what in our lives we can and cannot control. We had to write it down and repeat it to ourselves each day several times. To some this might seem silly, but especially in this time of flux and frustration, I found it useful. Here are some of the things I wrote down this week.

What I cannot control:

-My other family members’ schedules

-Other people’s priorities

-How other people interpret and respond to my choices

-How other people see me

-Many details about my work day – where I work, how I allocate my time, how many meetings I have to attend

-Traffic

-How fast the postal service delivers packages

-The coronavirus pandemic – its length, severity, and impact on people I care about and the world at large

-How others respond to the pandemic…their movements, opinions, responses, precautions (or lack of)

-Whether or not my daughter will have a lacrosse season

-The weather

-Other people’s level of stress and its’ impact on their actions, attitudes, etc.

The list goes on…and I realize I spend a LOT of time spinning my mental and spiritual wheels on the list above. NOTHING I CAN DO ANYTHING ABOUT. AT. ALL.

Here’s what I can control.

-My actions

-My choices

-Where I put my energy – writing, reading, recreation, learning, exercise, rest

-Where I direct my attention

-My movement

-What I consume – food, media, etc.

-My hydration

-My attitude toward challenges

Really, it’s a small list, but it’s what I need to focus on. You notice that most of what I can’t control involves other people and most of what I can involves me. When I find myself fretting about the world and all its ups and downs, I remember what I can control and then try to DO something related to these lists.

It seems like a goofy task to say these things several times a day, but I learned that my anxiousness lessens when I consciously remind myself what I can do something about. And then DO one of those things. What’s on your lists? Give it a try and see how you fare.

awareness

Swimming Lessons

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Summer, Jersey Shore. Our family reunion.

At night we had dinners at homes by the bay. Seafood, pizza, pasta, coolers of beer, laughter.

All day was sand, sunscreen, and the mighty Atlantic.

We only came every four years. Each time the ocean seemed drastically different. There was the year when swarms of jellybean-sized-jellyfish crowded us ankle deep day after day.  The year I brought my young children and it was just too cold and rough for them to swim.  And I can’t forget the time I was in my late teens and went swimming with my dad.

My dad was disabled my entire life.  His progressive, severe rheumatoid arthritis took him from hobbling, to cane-dependent, to wheelchair-bound.  His broken body betrayed his wandering, roller-coaster riding spirit many times, but still, he always kept pushing his body as far as it would go.

This day, he had probably taken 20 minutes to carefully shuffle across the scorching sand with the help of a cane and a patient cousin.  Slowly, carefully, taking a break every ten yards or so, but he had to get to the water.

Oh, how my dad loved the water.  It was the one place he felt free.  He could float, glide, swim, and move unencumbered by the lumps, aches, and pains of his joints.  In the water, he would float, belly, toes, nose bobbing above the waves, his smile as wide as the unending coastline.

The beach was its usual crowded and the water its usual choppy.  If there was a yellow flag warning, we didn’t heed it.  Nothing could keep my Dad from his floating freedom in the briny sea. My Dad and I descended the steep wet sand and out we went to swim.

We floated.  We talked.  We dog paddled.  We enjoyed the sun.  Minutes passed, or was it hours?  Time to head back in for a sandy snack. We looked up and the coastline was distant.  Farther away than I had thought it would be.  Much farther. So we tried to swim in, but no matter what we got further and further away from the shore.

The waves, once so joyful to float over, became relentless.  We were tired.  Our arms and legs were no match for the tides dragging us out.  I was staying under a bit longer each time than I should have.  Panic started to set in.  We were running out of solutions.  Fear set in. Fear took over our minds.

My Dad was still floating but he knew we were in trouble, too.  He was struggling to stay afloat himself.  My Dad, a better swimmer than I, was still no match for the undertow.  He wanted to help me so much, I am sure, but he could hardly help himself stay up.  How could he help me when his own life was in trouble? Both of us were running out of energy.  If I grabbed onto him to give my body a break from the effort, even though he was better in the water, we both would surely drown. Our will to live was dwindling by the minute.

Wave to the shore, he said.  So many of our family were watching us.  So I waved, flailed, used every ounce of strength to try to signal.  How can I tell them we are in trouble?  I screamed. Crossed my arms, all kinds of signals. My dad doing the same. Nothing worked.  They all just waved back, likely figuring we were just having fun with my dad’s swimming skills, well-known in our family ranks. My cries of “help us” got lost in the ocean breezes. Our cries were in plain sight but could anyone hear us?  Was anyone even listening? Nobody understood our fear.  No one seemed to care.

It seemed like hours but my dad’s cousin Tom finally figured out we were in over our heads.  He bravely swam out and somehow dragged us in from the riptide.  I still remember an aunt screaming “smile!” and snapping a photo as we slumped out of the water, past exhaustion.  No one knew we had been within an inch of drowning.

Fast forward twenty-something years, this story hits me in new ways in my daily life. Am I now the one on the shore? Are people struggling right in front of me that I pass by, unknowing? Are they at the brink of drowning and I miss their signals?

I think of my father.  The better swimmer.  How much he must have hurt inside, knowing he couldn’t help his daughter without both of us losing the battle against the breakers.  How can you help someone who is drowning when you are are not fully afloat yourself?  When you are pummeled by the endless waves, just trying to stay afloat?  A lesson in this.

I can point and draw attention. Signal to those who might be able to help. But will they hear the silent or distant cries? If I wave my arms will that make a difference? I can keep her company like my Dad did for me…  Keep her calm. Try to set her mind at ease in the middle of the fear I know well…the fear of the ocean getting the best of me and dropping into the unknown. Keep paddling.  Don’t give up. I know you’re tired.  Help is coming.

I can make suggestions, try to guide her toward the shore.  Keep working until someone with the strength comes out and meets us, or we find our way back to steady footing.  There’s no happy ending if we both drown, so I try to be a lifeguard the best I can, in the literal meaning of that word. Even the best swimmers get in trouble sometimes.   Every lifeguard wants to save everyone in distress, but the lifeguard also has to stay afloat herself.

In life we have to swim daily. Sometimes the waters are calm and other times they are dark and stormy.

In life we all need saving at times. Sometimes it’s life saving medical treatment for an ailment. Sometimes it’s saving from a bad relationship. Sometimes it’s saving us from our mind, troubled past, or even financial stresses.

We must all remember life is always worth living. Today, tomorrow, and the next day. If you ever think ending your life is the only choice it’s merely the only perceived solution to an insolvable problem. As somebody who was saved, somebody who is a lifelong helper, I am shouting out to the ocean and the world to say don’t give up. Somebody is coming to save you. Don’t let fear take control. Wait another day. Do the doggie paddle of life. Think of my Dad. He was handicapped, wading in the water and he didn’t give up. I didn’t give up because of his spirit. You don’t need to give up either.

There are always people who care. Some may not see the signs in plain sight. You might need to establish a drowning sign. A key word. A hand signal that is universal. Don’t delay – make sure your tribe knows your drowning symbol whether it’s at the beach or closer to home in daily life.

Suicide is real. It impacts those near and far. It does not discriminate. It’s impacted my life and this is my offering of hope to those I may know in need, those I may never know are struggling and those who already lost the battle. I honor you by sharing my story today.

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