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?

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?

challenges

Profound Moments

Sometimes change is good. Sometimes change represents turbulence. Sometimes change is just what we need.

Turbulent times is reflective of my past 48 hours. I won’t recap all the proud moments, but rather share a glimpse as part of being honest with life. Change is in the air whether I like it or not.

Death. The loss of a family pet. Over 12 years of life on earth is a solid age for our pet. She experienced life. She moved with us. She made memories and put smiles on the faces of many. She outlived health challenges and life expectancy on her end as well as offered support to others during health scares.

She was a replacement dog of sorts. One that greatly resembled a dog that passed too soon when the kiddos were young. She quickly became more than a fill in dog. She was a family member. From the long drive to pick her up to laying her to rest. We will cherish the memories. We were so lucky to have a dog like Lucky.

Goodbyes. Family came to visit. The first visit in what seems like years due to the pandemic and other environmental conditions. So much of the family dynamics had changed.

People age. People re-marry. Kids become adults. The visits of yesterday no longer resemble the visits of today. Nonetheless time together is refreshing. Goodbyes are never easy. Sometimes even emotional. Goodbye today leads to hellos again soon.

Change. Time for change. I’m opting to change my scenery in a portion of life. A shift of sorts but a kickstart in another way. With this decision amidst my turbulence I confirmed a change is good. Not one specific reason rather the time is good. There may never be a perfect time for change but if change feels good one needs to own it. Changes spurs growth. I’m always ready to grow. Stepping outside your comfort zone normally yields the biggest results.

Technology. Ugh the phone died. A lifeline gone. A necessity in today’s world. The changing of a phone however is the one change in life I loathe. Transferring contacts. Making sure all email accounts are synced. Do I remember all the passwords that need to be re-entered? So many details. So much time wasted reassembling my technology life that all seems to fit in the tiny phone. The tiny little phone. My life is condensed to this tiny little phone. Sigh.

When I actually think of how much information is in this little device I just shake my head in disbelief. Despite the disbelief there is so much value tucked away inside the little box of sorts. I am very thankful for the photo reel that takes up residency on my phone. Or in the cloud, accessed by my phone. All 19,000 pictures. It always allows me to revisit memories from hours ago to years ago. A simple scroll that is crucial at times. Technology wins despite temporary inconveniences.

Struggle. Facing adversity head on. Discussing difficult issues openly vs. sweeping them under the carpet. Sometimes this is good for the soul. Other times it’s a struggle for reasons x,y,z. Either way I faced my challenge head on. I waited patiently to discuss issues when emotions were not high. Options were weighed. Life moves on.
Turbulent times may weigh us down from time to time. Turbulent times offer opportunities to grow and learn. Through life struggles, lessons always appear. For today I’m happy to have turbulent times. This equates to living in my eyes. This post is dedicated to lady Lucky and all the bones and treats she enjoyed in her years on earth.

celebrations, family

Last Time for Everything

Country music isn’t necessarily my favorite, but I listen to it pretty often since my youngest daughter is a fan. I have a handful of artists I admire. Miranda, Maren, Dolly, and then there’s Brad. Brad Paisley. He may not have the most soaring lyrical voice, but his lyrics are witty, smart, and insightful.

Just a few weeks ago, my youngest daughter, the country girl, started her farewell tour, her victory lap, her senior year of high school. Tomorrow we will leave on a 10-day road trip bookended by two lacrosse tournaments, sandwiched around reunions with family, roller coasters, beautiful scenery and other adventures. Time with friends, time with each other, time doing new things, time doing what she loves.

It’s her last hurrah of youth. Last summer playing travel lacrosse. It won’t be long until senior year begins with all its fanfare and festivities. College choices will be made. Dreams will turn to plans.

And so begins a season of lasts. Here’s where Brad comes in with Last Time for Everything. It’s a song that plays over and over in my head. Last time hitting the road to the northeast. Last time taking the field. Last Spring Break. Last, last, last…

Some I will see coming. Some will catch me off guard. Some I will be prepared for. Many I won’t even notice until they are gone and done.

Sure, she will always be my baby. Just like the older two, she will always come home and open the refrigerator and look for her favorites. Bring her laundry and her dog. Get some advice on how to fix her car or choose insurance or ask questions about saving money. Maybe she’ll even curl up and take a nap while someone is cooking in the kitchen like I did at my parents’ house. Even after I was long gone, it was a safe place to just relax and be taken care of for a bit.

So I will enjoy each moment with her as she prepares to take a step out on her own. I will try not to overthink it and get ahead of myself, but instead just be in the moment, relishing this last trip around her childhood sun, all her hard work, ups and downs, accomplishments, and celebrations.

May I treasure this sweet season of lasts while it lasts.

challenges, fitness and nutrition

Running Uphill

“There’s never a good reason to run uphill.”

I said this to a running buddy as we were rolling through the early miles of a half marathon. During the many miles of training and training, I realized that I burn so much more energy going uphill. Instead, now I use it as a break. A chance to catch my breath. I just keep on walking and walking uphill, then run again once it flattens out.

Well, I stand corrected.

The other day I ran uphill in the parking lot outside my gym. It was a part of the annual Murph workout, the traditional way CrossFitters honor Memorial Day. There’s a mile run at the beginning and a mile run at the end and a whole bunch of other stuff in between.

Originally, I planned to pull out my AirPods so I had a distraction during those miles. I hate running without music. Whenever I run, I put on my favorite running playlist to tune out the pain. But then I thought about the reason we are doing Murph, to remember the fallen who have given the ultimate sacrifice, and I decided instead of tuning out the pain, I would tune into it. Tune in to the purpose. Tune in to the discomfort. Tune in to the labor and even the heartbreak of it all.

So I did. I thought about the soldiers. The meaning. What I have because of what they gave up. I thought about their families, their buddies, brothers, mourning, suffering, toiling but continuing on.

So I continued. I loved that one of my gal pals came up and ran the last lap with me. She gave me a pep talk about her grandfather who was an Army Ranger and using his memory and mantra to keep going.

Once I was done, one of the women who completed it with me brought me a fancy champagne glass of water to toast the moment and refresh. Then, I turned around and cheered for my friends who were doing it after. Noticing their efforts. Hoping to give them a lift.

Then I think of the many with PTSD, with depression, substance abuse, lingering effects of the time and service they gave. There are many who are running uphill every day without us even knowing it. Burning out their energies just to keep going. If you are someone who is running uphill, I hope you can find a way to pause and walk for a while to catch your breath. And that a good friend joins you on the path for the journey to keep you inspired, positive, and moving forward. I hope someone thinks enough to offer you cool refreshment.

There are very few good reasons to run uphill. Once in a while, it happens that we have to. If you are running uphill each day in any way, I am cheering for you, hoping to give you a lift.