author moments

What I Know for Sure, 2021 Edition

A group of friends recently shared their thoughts on “What I Know for Sure.” This task, based on Oprah’s essays and so on, was a pleasant challenge.

I jotted mine down in quick scribbles. Nothing really took too much thought. I just did 20 in no particular order. Most of them are pretty basic. There was some head-nodding as we shared at the dinner table. Here’s the list I shared:

1.) The most important approval in my life is my own.

2.) I feel better when I move first thing in the morning.

3.) I can do without way more than I imagined (e.g., cheese)

4.) The main thing I can control is my own choices.

5.) Focusing on what I can control eases my anxiety.

6.) Bring food, a book, and something to do with you.

7.) I can provide guidance, but walking the walk and being an example is the most powerful, grounding thing I can do for others and myself.

8.) I can’t expect anyone else to prioritize my physical, mental, and emotional health – that’s my job. They also may not understand what prioritizing those things look like. That’s also not my problem.

9.) Garbage in, garbage out – reading, media, food, all of it.

10.) Most people are doing the best they can based on what they know and are capable of at a given time.

11.) Play is important at every age. Laughter is, too.

12.) Local places beat chains.

13.) If it’s worth it, go for it.

14.) Nature heals, redeems, centers and grounds.

15.) Writing matters.

16.) Dogs are amazing and make most of the people in my life happier than other people do.

17.) Most things that seem like a big deal really aren’t that serious.

18.) To be on time, leave at least 15 minutes before you think you should. Always leave a buffer.

19.) Time and attention are the most precious gifts we can give other people.

20.) Thank people often for things big and small.

Most of this stuff is not groundbreaking. What I marvel at is how my list would have changed from even 5 years ago. I didn’t work out in the morning. I was beset with anxiety most of the time. I didn’t spend much time outdoors. I didn’t write for myself. I didn’t like dogs. Life is changing. I am changing. If my list stays the same, have I really learned or grown? What will the next 5 years bring?

I have a number of friends who are on the cusp of this time of great change with me. It’s wonderful to share such an exciting and transformational time with people. Instead of a stumbling, fumbling block it can be a launch pad.

What do you know for sure, right now?

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.

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.)

dare to be different

Thursday

Today is Thursday. I made it to Thursday. My week has been a shit storm of this, that, the other and then some. It’s like the shit was smeared across my bathroom mirror, the car window, the computer screen, the kitchen table, you name it.

I guess you get the picture I have painted. Now I’m not thirsty or I would be taking advantage of it being Thirsty Thursday. Instead I’m opting for some time in my thinking chair. Feet kicked up. Faithful dog by my side while I listen to traffic pass by in the nearby street.

I think about those cars rushing to their next destination. Hustle, bustle, and hustle some more. It’s the grind we live. For me I’m pausing in the space between activities, work and life to catch my breath. A deep breath. It’s been a hell of a week and it’s just Thursday!

This is where the self talk comes in. One day left. Another 8-10 hours of petty bullshit. I got it. I already went through the thick and gooey shit. The end of the week should be a breeze. Get after it. Make Friday your day. Slay and put all that shit in the shitter where it belongs.

This weekend I will focus on recharging. Resetting my mind. Re-engaging with my social circle. Relaxing in a new environment. I will even make it a point to eat or drink something new to step out of my comfort zone. It doesn’t matter if I don’t like it. It matters that I push my limits while recharging. It’s part of the process of reawakening oneself.

Have you ever had a day, a week or any amount of time that life just seemed to get sucked out of you? Everyone needing your time, your attention, your emotional energy causing you to be tired and ready to just shut down. That about sums up my last couple days. 

I made it to today. This fine hour where I could be doing a lot of other stuff but I chose me. I chose correctly. If I don’t take care of me, I will never have what it takes to support those around me who need me. The ones that I lead when they question their path. The ones who need a gentle nudge. Even the ones who need a firm push.

I matter just like you matter. Look in the mirror each day and smile. Reflect on why you matter. Embrace it. You make the world better. One step at a time.

For my Friday wish, I wish for whomever reading this to be content with who they are today. Not who they were in the past and not who they will be in the future. Just who they are today. The me of today matters the most. Live life to the fullest.

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?