Sunday, April 9, 2017

Work with what you've got

I have found over the years that a lot of mental energy can be expended wishing circumstances were different which is really kind of a dumb way to live. So I’ve adopted a phrase to help me redirect that energy. When I start to wish things were different I say (often out loud), “Well, they aren’t different so work with what you’ve got.”

It’s a pretty good technique because it moves my focus to things I CAN change.

Think about people you know who complain a lot. If you evaluate their complaints they almost always rant about stuff that they can’t change. What a waste of energy. Now think about people you know who are perpetually optimistic. Do bad things EVER happen to them?

British author Alan Alexander Milne (1882-1956) creator of Winnie-the-Pooh et al, really nailed this complaining mindset in his character Eeyore. Eeyore is gloomy, despondent, and downright depressing to around.

There are Eeyores in your life, I know there are and you can’t change them (They must choose to change themselves). But if you find yourself drifting in the direction of Eeyore-ish-ness it need not be a permanent state of mind. Oh, no. Once you accept that your only option is to work with what you’ve got then discouraging situations don’t look so bad.

After all, when you consider the alternative can you possibly work with what you HAVEN’T got?

Monday, November 10, 2014

Labor In Obscurity

I love it when kids use their imaginations. After a big sporting event like the Olympics or the World Series or the NBA Championship you may catch them shooting the game-winning shot at the buzzer or hitting a homer out of the park to clinch the title. What they fail to take into account is that the glory of victory is preceded by hours of hard preparation in obscurity.

But we adults are sometimes guilty of the same thing. Here’s what I mean.

When people learn I’m a writer of children’s books some will say, “I’d like to write a book someday” but that’s not what they really mean. Writing is hard work. It takes time, lots of time alone in front of a sometimes blank computer screen. And that’s just for the first draft. By draft seven or eight I don’t want to read the thing again…ever. But after a year…maybe two, when I think the story is ready to toddle off my desk into the hands of another reader, I submit it to my critique group and they rip it apart…alas. And it’s back to the literary drawing board.

No. When someone says they want to write a book what they usually mean is they want to HAVE WRITTEN a book.

So many things in life are like this. Financial security during the retirement is a good example. It takes many years of disciplined saving to achieve it. Well-behaved children is another. My goodness, one must be painfully consistent at home so that when the kids are out in public other adults actually enjoy being around them. Here’s one more. My son is running his first marathon on December 14. He will be running with 1,500 other marathoners on that day. But in training for the 26.2 mile event he will have already run 300 miles all alone.

Whether writing a book or training for a marathon laboring in obscurity is essential before one can experience the thrill of victory. But experience it we can as long as we are willing to labor in obscurity first.

My son is an inspiration to me. So much so that someday I’d like to run a marathon, too. Or perhaps I simply would like to have run one…

Monday, September 29, 2014

One Day

Getting old is…well, it’s getting old.

Actually, I don’t consider myself old, yet. But I can see that at some point in the future I’m going to have to consider it. No, I’m not old but my body can’t do all that it used to so I’m making adjustments.

For the last month, as I prepare for my weekly long runs to train for the upcoming half-marathon, I’m paying close attention to my diet because without the proper fuel (balance between protein and carbs) I “hit the wall.” That is, my body literally runs out of energy and I can’t keep going. My running partner, who is my son in law …. exactly half my age, isn’t so cautious, but he doesn’t need to be.

Concurrent with this nutrition focus, we at work are preparing for the upcoming pecan harvest. I regularly remind the men that we will be putting in 12 or 13 hour days, six days a week for eight or nine weeks. I remind them because mental preparation, in my opinion, is key to physical stamina.

Then I realized that the similarity between my running and my work is staring me right in the face and the link between the two is that we work six days a week… not seven.

The one day that we cease our work is actually the fuel necessary to keep us going during harvest! Not only does it give us an opportunity to recover physically but mentally as well. Long distance running is as much a mental effort as it is a physical one. Long distance working is exactly the same thing.

So, I love that one day. Not because I don’t work but because it prepares me to do what I love for the next six days.

Monday, September 15, 2014

In Defense of Candy

Candy gets a bad rap. I guess because it’s jammed full of sugar. According to reports, “Sugar is bad for your teeth, it causes heart disease, it causes cancer…” (really?)

Well, you can find redeeming qualities in just about anything (or anyONE, for that matter) if you look hard enough.

We used to reward our kids with an M&M every time they “went” during the potty training epoch. Ok, it’s bribery but I don’t think a floret of broccoli would have produced the same behavior.  

I believe that the encouragement of good behavior is a redeeming quality of candy but some may argue that encouraging words would have been better. Ok, how about this?

Last week I was supposed to continue my training for the upcoming half-marathon with a run through the orchard but after a long day at work in the hot sun I was completely drained of energy. My running partner (the son-in-law) couldn’t go that night so I had a built-in excuse to skip out. My body screamed “rest” and my brain screamed, “run.”

As the two of them argued I considered other options. I could pay bills, fold laundry, unload the dishwasher... Finally, against my better judgment, I put on my running clothes and grabbed a handful of peanut M&M’s.

Fifteen minutes later I was out the door. That’s right. Just like potty training… I “went.”

So, did the M&M’s encourage the “good behavior”? Well, I did run that night and I did have the energy to go the distance. No amount of verbal encouragement, or broccoli florets, could have done that.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Running Uphill

I've heard people say, “Take care of your body, it’s the only one you've got,” so I run. Not because I love running (occasionally I do) but because someday I may be 85.

This morning (Sunday) at 7:30 it was 80 degrees with 90% relative humidity. I hate running. As is often the case on such outings, God and I converse. Well, I do the talking and He listens…except today.

We live on a hill, of sorts, and the route I take goes through the orchard down in the river bottom. There are two ways to get back up to our house. One way the hill is steep and quite short. The second way is less steep but very long. Both routes bring me to the top of the hill and, ultimately, rest.

Today I took the less steep route because, honestly, I was struggling in the last mile. That’s when God spoke; not in words…He doesn't do that with me…but with a thought.

As I near the end of my life I will struggle physically, we all will, because my body will stop performing the life-sustaining functions it does now. That performance-reduction will either be gradual or sudden. My preference is for the latter; stay relatively healthy and mobile until the very end then croak.

So, 80 degrees and 90% relative humidity may have been hard today but I just made another deposit in my health account…