For Me and For You

I ran a ten-mile race last weekend. I didn’t win the race, but I did win.

I’m reasonably new to running, I started running at the age of 48, just four years ago. I’ve run a few half-marathons and one full marathon, so far. I didn’t win any of them. I’m registered for a couple of half-marathons and four full marathons over the next year. I won’t win any of them. But I still win.

Scarlette Begonia

Why run in races if you’re never going to win?

Running, for me, fulfills a couple of very primal needs I discovered I have rather late in life; it makes me feel free and it fulfills my competitive spirit. If I’m not in it to win it, how does it fulfill my competitive spirit? I compete with myself, I strive for continual improvement.

Fitness is a lifestyle I believe in, it is a lifestyle I foster, it is a lifestyle I create for myself. Let me clarify fitness and what it means to me:

Fitness is a lifestyle that facilitates good health, well-being, continual self-improvement, self-confidence, and self-worth. Joy.

Fitness is not getting skinny enough to wear that dress to the high school reunion. Fitness is not losing weight to look good, to catch that guy, to attract that girl, to get the engagement ring, to fit into the wedding dress. Fitness is not bulking up enough to win a body-building competition. Fitness is not racing once to prove it can be done. Fitness is not about doing it for someone else.

Fitness, your health, your well-being, are only ever about you. It is a choice and one you choose because it brings you joy.

Scarlette Begonia

I run as part of my fitness-focused lifestyle. It is hard, but it brings me joy and a great sense of accomplishment. I race because it’s fun, I enjoy the fanfare, I enjoy the people, I enjoy having a measure of my personal improvement.

In this past weekend’s race, there were 540 finishers. I came in 309th. Clearly, I didn’t win the race. I wasn’t even in the top 50%, but I’m still a winner. I finished. I ran ten miles. I did, however, run at a faster pace than any of my previous races, though this was the shortest race I ever ran.

I poured over the results, the results of others, knowing everyone runs, and races, for different reasons, for very personal and individual reasons. Some folks do run to compete, to win, to be the fastest. Others run for the sheer pleasure. Other folks run because they can. Sadly, some folks run to please someone else.

Scarlette Begonia

The fastest finishers, the winners of the race, the folks who took home the purse and the prizes, ran a full five minutes faster per mile than I. One such man was 72 years old. Winning. I reviewed the field of finishers near my finish time, I came in a couple of seconds behind a woman who was 74 years old.

Scarlette Begonia

I looked at the people who came in last, and these folks were, in my perception, the true winners of the race and should be awarded the highest purse, the biggest medal, and the most recognition. In the last ten finishers was a woman, 99 years old. Winning. Finisher 540 of 540; a woman of 83. Winning. How blessed to be of such good health at that age to complete a ten mile running race, and, judging from their pace, they were moving along fairly well. They eclipsed my rather ridiculous hiking pace. My rather ridiculous hiking pace elevates my heart rate to an aerobic level, it causes me to sweat profusely, it makes my muscles all wonderfully sore for the next couple of days. A 99 year old woman and an 83 year old woman and a smattering of other octogenarians maintained that pace for ten full miles. Think about it; many folks that age aren’t able to drive ten miles, or walk ten feet. When I grow up I want to be 99 years old and finish a ten mile running race! Run because you can.

Scarlette Begonia

I am speculating, but I’m pretty sure those elderly runners aren’t running that race for anyone but themselves. To live to be 99, or 83, is accomplishment in itself. To be able to run ten miles at that age obviates a commitment to fitness, a personal desire for a fit lifestyle. They aren’t running to get in shape to fit into that dress, to get the proposal, to find a date, to please someone else. They run because they can and because it is their choice, their lifestyle, and, I’m guessing it brings them an incredible amount of joy, confidence, self-respect, and self-worth.

And that, my friends, is truly winning.

I do it for me. Do it if you want, but do it for you.

Scarlette Begonia

Will and Grace

I don’t watch much television and what I do watch is a decade or so old via Netflix or something. One of my favorite old series I’ve been cycling through recently is “Will and Grace”. Yesterday, two “Will and Grace” DVDs showed up in my mailbox, so I spent a rather self-indulgent evening enjoying a “Will and Grace” watch-a-thon.

I find inspiration everywhere I look, even the splash screen of a decade old TV series on DVD.

On will. And grace.

We all have things we’d like to improve in our lives. I’ve never met anyone who didn’t. Some folks are able to improve some things in their lives, and not other things. Other folks have a hard time even knowing where to begin with one wish or desire. Whether it’s weight loss or fitness, education, job skills, magic tricks, or career gains, debt, spending, saving and investing, or self-confidence, happiness or spirituality, we all have a wish list.

How are some folks better at making desired improvements and others aren’t? Will and grace.

Most kids, at some point in time, desire to learn to ride a bicycle. There are usually training wheels to assist while the new cyclist learns to balance, then, one day, the training wheels are gone and some family member is customarily tasked with running down the sidewalk, hunched awkwardly over the tiny cycle, gripping some portion of the bike, the child, or both, while the new rider wobbles and pedals furiously, trying to take flight like a fledgling leaving the nest. For most of us, we eventually get it and a whole new sense of freedom and independence opens up for us. By sheer will, we learn to balance, pedal and steer, simultaneously. Those first few rides begin a little shaky as we try to pedal fast enough and prevent seesawing the handlebars back and forth frantically until that magical moment when everything is in synchronization. Within a week, we look as though we’ve been cycling for years. Grace.

Have you ever noticed that children run everywhere? From the family room to the kitchen, from the front door to the car, from the classroom to the playground at recess. At some point in life, we just stop, it becomes “uncool” to run from point to point and we begin a long life of ambling. For most of us, as adults, we don’t run. Period. Don’t run. Ever. Unless zombies attack, and then, as out of practice as we are, we become zombie chow. There are adults who run, voluntarily, without a zombie breathing down their neck. They run for fitness and, yes, for pleasure. A couple of years ago I decided I wanted to move from the ranks of probable zombie chow to “runner”. Have you seen the movie “Zombieland”? Rule number one, of thirty-two, is cardio. To survive in Zombieland you have to be able to outrun the zombies. No, I don’t believe in zombies, but I decided to “learn” to run, as an adult. For fitness and to prove to myself I could. Now I run for pleasure.

My first day of running as an adult, and we’re talking way adult, I’m not twenty-two, or thirty-two, or forty-two. My first day of running as an adult was sort of an “audition” run, if you will. I’d joined a running club on the advice of my friend Miles. I’d expressed an interest in running, he recommended this club. I signed up online and showed up to run. My first run would be a mile and it would be used to identify which “pace group” I would train with. I’d been doing cardio, religiously, at the gym, so I was in pretty good shape. I just didn’t run. Knowing that my performance would determine how far and how fast I’d have to run for the next several months, I was a little concerned. I may have held back a little. When I stepped out onto the paved bike path and was told to begin running, I felt sort of like the tin man from Wizard of Oz, before being adequately oiled. Creaky, kind of spastic and jerky, lurching along, propelling myself forward with a complete lack of rhythm or form. It was my will to run. Two years later, I run a full three minutes per mile faster than that first mile and I’ve finished a full marathon. I have some form and a little bit or rhythm. Grace? Well, yes, comparatively speaking.

I took a job nearly six years ago that required significant travel and having to speak, out loud, for eight hours at a time, standing up in front of really smart people. Neither of these requirements were really okay with me. Like running, I did not fly comfortably and I most certainly did not speak in front of a group of people, voluntarily. Except for Cub Scouts. And Brownies. But never in front of grown ups. But, I needed the job and so I had to do what had to be done. Will.

Six years later, I fly all over the country on all manner of aircraft without a second thought. I’m like George Clooney in “Up in the Air”, but not really. I’m a road warrior, though, but I check my bags, George was all carry-on. I can stand up in front of a group of really smart people and talk and talk and talk. I teach them what they need to know, I tell stories and joke and quite enjoy myself. Grace.

So, what’s on our list? Do we want to get fit? Eat less processed food? Improve our self-esteem? Practice yoga? Learn a foreign language? Learn to master our smartphone? Whatever it is we desire, we can accomplish. “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve,” to quote Napoleon Hill from his book, “Think and Grow Rich.” We just need the will.

Let’s look at the word “will.” It is used in many ways, both as a verb and as a noun.

will
wil/Submit

verb

1. Expressing the future tense.

2. Expressing inevitable events.

3. To decide on; choose.

4. To yearn for; desire.

5. To decree, dictate, or order.

6. To resolve with a forceful will; determine.

7. To induce or try to induce by sheer force of will.

8. To grant in a legal will; bequeath.

noun

1. The mental faculty by which one deliberately chooses or decides upon a course of action

2.  a. Diligent purposefulness; determination.

b. Self-control; self-discipline.

3. A desire, purpose, or determination, especially of one in authority.

4. Deliberate intention or wish.

5. Free discretion.

6. Bearing or attitude toward others; disposition.

7.  a. A legal declaration of how a person wishes his or her possessions to be disposed of after death.

b. A legally executed document containing this declaration.

For the purpose of our discussion, I am particularly fond of the following selections from above:

As a verb, “diligent purposefulness; determination, self-control; self-discipline, deliberate intention or wish.” That is the secret ingredient to accomplishing any desire or goal we have. We’re all familiar with the common saying, “If there’s a will, there’s a way.” Sadly, most of us don’t live that truth. We are truly limitless. The only limitations we have are the ones we’ve made ourselves believe. If we set to any one of our desires with “diligent purposefulness, determination, self-control, self-discipline”, if what we desire is a “deliberate intention or wish”, we can achieve it, at which point, “will” becomes a noun; “expressing inevitable events.” With “will”, it “will” happen.

It may be hard, it may take time, and it will likely take commitment and even some set backs to accomplish any one thing on our list, but it can be done. It will be done. With will. And then, we achieve grace.

grace noun \ˈgrās\

1. a way of moving that is smooth and attractive and that is not stiff or awkward

2. a controlled, polite, and pleasant way of behaving

3. ease and suppleness of movement or bearing

I grew up around the corner from a friend who’s mother taught ballet. She had a ballet school in an old, white Victorian house, with pink trim, that smelled of old wood floors and resin. I was enchanted and wanted nothing more than to take ballet lessons, that is, if I couldn’t have a pony. A pony would totally trump ballet lessons, but I wasn’t making much headway on that “will” at the age of eight. I was eventually enrolled in ballet, along with most of my Girl Scout troop, which was handy, since ballet was shortly after Girl Scouts. We could car pool. I think it worked out well for my mom, too. I walked to school in the morning, stayed after school for Girl Scouts, hitched a ride to ballet and showed up at home, completely exhausted, just in time for dinner. I probably went right to bed after dinner. I was a very busy child with lots of activities. I think I now know why. It was my mom’s will.

Most of the rooms in the old white and pink Victorian were converted into ballet studios. Upstairs, the bedrooms were reserved for the beginners. Once you were “good enough”, you got “promoted” to the big kids class in the living room, downstairs. It had a bay window at the front, barres along one wall and mirrors on every wall. I started lessons after some of my classmates and I remember my despair at still being upstairs when they were all downstairs. As Liz Lemon would say, “I want(ed) to go to there.” I remember trying so, so, so hard to plié perfectly, to jeté just right and to arabesque absolutely divinely, that I might get to practice in the studio downstairs, with my friends. Ballet is not easy, it takes a great deal of strength and practice. That the dancers make it look easy is the magic. The simplest looking move is really a symphony of coordination, strength, balance and, well, grace. Grace does not come easily or naturally for many, for most, it is only achieved when the coordination, strength and balance have been very well developed. Will.

And that is no different than anything else we have to will to achieve. Grace will only come after much practice and after looking like a goof for a while.

I went to yoga tonight. One of my favorite instructors was teaching. Her class is very rejuvenating. The other yoga instructor I like does a lot of power poses and I am left trembling with muscle fatigue afterwards. Tonight’s instructor teaches more flexibility and relaxation. I am left like putty afterwards, sort of like having a glass of wine and a bubble bath after a massage. Same difference. The class is designed for “all levels”, moves are easily modified for the less, or more experienced yogi. Because it is still January and there are still a few resolutionists around the gym, I arrived early. In fact, I was the first to arrive. There was a picture on Facebook of a yoga class at my gym over the weekend with forty people in it! The “energy” studio has room for about twenty, comfortably. So, I arrived early to be sure to secure my spot. I guess Tuesday night and Saturday mid-morning are a bit different. I set my mat front and center, right where I like it. About twenty minutes after I arrived another fellow showed up. I’ve seen him before, he is a show off. No, not really. He has definitely been practicing yoga for a long time, though. He has grace. He set his mat up next to mine and started practicing some flows. I was trying to meditate and his ankles kept popping and cracking. All decorum was lost and we both started laughing, I told him it sounded like firecrackers, he thought they sounded like snapping twigs. Right. Twigs being stepped on by a really, really large animal. Anyway. Soon, others began to assemble in the classroom. I think there were about ten of us, a good number. After a while, the door opened and an older lady, in yoga pants, wandered in one door. She looked around at all of us pretty much just sitting on our mats waiting for the instructor. We were just chilling. She walked through the classroom and exited out the other door. I observed her and wondered why she didn’t just stay in the hallway to get from one point to the other. A moment later, another lady, in yoga pants, peeked into the room. The first lady kind of peeked around behind her and exclaimed, “This is too advanced for me!” We were sitting on our mats, doing nothing, even “snap, crackle and pop” was sitting still. She totally lacked the will, she wouldn’t even try. Her friend advanced cautiously into the studio and asked the instructor a few questions. She was given gentle reassurance and was advised how to modify the moves for her comfort as a beginner and she stayed for the whole class. She seemed to enjoy it and even said she’d come again. She had the will! And, if she comes back, she will soon have the grace, too!  That’s how it goes. Will and grace.

Will and Grace, Jack and Karen.
Will and Grace, Jack and Karen. Actually, Jack, Grace, Will and Karen.

Whatever it is you desire, whatever it is you wish to accomplish or achieve, whatever it is you wish to improve, just remember Jack and Karen, Will and Grace. Especially, Will and Grace.

Resolution Shmesolution

I’ll let you in on a little secret; New Years is my least favorite holiday of the whole year. There may be some level of posttraumatic stress syndrome involved here, for me. It seems that New Years has been a time of loss, loneliness, turmoil, upheaval, drama and distress at many points in my past. In fact, my personal history has proven that any major upheaval or difficulty is usually proximate to New Years. I know not why. I’m a super positive person most of the time, and I certainly don’t dwell on the past, but as New Years approaches each year, I anticipate it with a certain amount of trepidation and solemnity.

I also hold time at a very high value. Time is more valuable than money, and while we can save and accumulate, invest and bank money, we cannot save, accumulate, invest or bank time. The celebration of the passage of time is one I don’t understand. I get that some see New Years as a time of renewal. I see every second as an opportunity for renewal. To party at the passage of another year confounds me. But I’d still like to be invited to the party, just so you know, I’m very social no matter what the date on the calendar is.

My New Years Eve; moose roast a nice wine with Mom.
My New Years Eve; moose roast a nice wine with Mom.

Okay, so I didn’t get to kiss my Sweetie at the stroke of twelve last night and I may be pouting a little about that, too.

My New Years Eve; a couple of oldies, what I call my fashion magazine fantasy double feature, and a bit of Prosecco.
My New Years Eve; a couple of oldies, what I call my fashion magazine fantasy double feature, and a bit of Prosecco.

There is yet another aspect of New Years that detracts from my general joie de vie; “the resolutionists”. Bless their pea-picking hearts. This being the time of year when the gym is overcrowded with people with big ideas and short attention spans. There are lines at all the cardio machines and the classes are all full to capacity. True, it is a short-lived problem and things are back to normal within a month, still, it is not a good month at the gym for those of us who go there regularly and consistently. Resolutions, shmesolutions.

I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions. I know, you’d think I would. I don’t. At all.

How can this be? I believe in setting goals and making an effort to evolve into the people we deserve to be, into the people we are capable of becoming, into something much more than we are presently, which is, perhaps, much more than we were in the past. True. But none of this growth and evolution came from the setting of a resolution.

Let’s explore the word “resolution”; it means to resolve. Let’s look closely at the word resolve; re + solve. So, we are then going to re-solve all of the same old problems because we didn’t completely solve them before, or our solving of them was only temporary. So, each and every January 1st, we just spend some time, a day, a week, maybe even a month, re-solving the same things we re-solved the year before. And the year before that. And the year before that. Resolutions, then, really, in application, mean a temporary solution to an ongoing desire, issue or problem.

I can’t help but think that in our resolute attempt to solve these desires, issues and problems, year after year after year, they must have some level of importance to us, and, for whatever reason, or reasons, we fail to solve the desire, issue or problem completely or permanently. I think that by reframing these desires, issues or problems as goals, and then managing them appropriately, we can have successful, lasting and complete solutions. And, so, I believe in solutions, not resolutions.

Solutions. How to solve stuff, once and for all.

Be specific and thorough. Don’t be vague. If you want to be healthier, great! But what, exactly, does healthier mean? What does it mean to you, personally? Does “being healthier” incorporate weight loss, or better cardio endurance, or eating more wholesome food, or wearing a certain size of jeans, or being able to accomplish some task or feat, or gaining control over a disease or physical ailment? Being “healthier” can be any of these, some of these, all of these, or none of these. It is up to you to determine what it means, to you, exactly.  Define it, in every dimension, in every detail. For me, “being healthier” ended up encompassing several unique goals, each of which were managed separately, beginning at separate points and then managed on their own individual timeline. I managed exercise separately from eating clean, and once I mastered those, I added physical endurance. Separate from physical endurance was core strength and balance. Now, I’d like to add flexibility and muscular strength, two more completely separate, unique goals. You may have to take your all-encompassing goal and break it into several blocks and then decide how to organize them.

Once you’ve defined your goal or goals, and have broken them into their unique blocks, prioritize them. It is very likely you won’t be able to tackle them all simultaneously, so decide which is first and what’s to follow. One reason our resolutions fail is that we are taking a huge, vague idea and trying to install it immediately into our lives, we usually become overwhelmed by the magnitude and impossibility of it all and abandon the entire idea, only to try to tackle it, again, the following New Year’s. Rome was not built in a day, a week, a month or even a year.

Once our goals are defined in detail and are prioritized, we need to decide how we can measure our progress. Progress is what will motivate us to keep going. Progress can be difficult to recognize if we have no ruler by which to compare it to. To make a goal measurable, we need to define, first of all, what “success” or “completion” of the goal is, in other words, what is the definition of “done”. For weight loss, this may be pounds or inches, dress, jeans or shirt size. For endurance, the ability to complete a race or competition, perhaps, for strength, the ability to lift or manage a certain amount of weight. You get the idea. We need to know the definition of done. Having determined the end, we need to consider setting intermediate markers or milestones. To go from couch potato to 100-mile endurance run is a very long process and inserting some intermediate measures to note progress is going to be helpful and extremely motivating. In this example, perhaps a 5k, then a 10k, then a half-marathon, a full-marathon and then a fifty-miler. Likewise, with jean size, going from a size 22 to a size 4 is, and should be, a fairly long timeline. Perhaps set a preliminary goal of size 18, then size 14, then size 10, and so forth. Having, personally, gone from a size 16 to a size 6, it was a huge accomplishment every time I HAD to go buy jeans! I resupplied at size 12, 8 and finally 6, and each time I did, I was so happy with my accomplishment I never despaired at the overall length of time it took to achieve my ultimate goal.

Our goals also need to be realistic. We are all capable of accomplishing nearly anything we set our minds to, true, but pay attention to the word “nearly”. We can’t go back in time and we cannot change other people, for example. Our goals need to be personal and cannot involve progress, change or evolution of other people in our lives. For me, getting to a size 0, making someone love me, and running an average 6-minute mile for a full-marathon are not reasonable or realistic goals. Getting to a size four, being lovable and running a full-marathon in less than four hours, however, with time, a great deal of diligence and effort, are realistic goals.

So, as the first day of the New Year draws to a close, and your resolutions loom large in your mind as the holidays fade into the rear view and the reality of daily life lies ahead when the alarm goes off in the morning, consider reframing those resolutions as well-defined, prioritized, measurable and realistic goals. As solutions. Organize them, manage them and find a lasting solution, rather than a recurring resolution. Party on.

As the night evolves into a new year.
As the night evolves into a new year.

Scarlett’s Letter November 18, 2013

Dear Friends ~

I managed to not have a teaching assignment, a consulting engagement or a travel day today. Originally, I did, but, thanks to our electric company and a “scheduled” outage for maintenance tomorrow, I was able to get my Monday/Tuesday client rescheduled to another consultant. Since that point in time, I have been so looking forward to today. Shit was gonna get done! All the stuff I can’t do while traveling was to happen today. I had a list. I am a big believer in lists. I feel great satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment in crossing things off my list.

One of the items at the top of my list was to actually go to storage and fish out the box with my coffee grinder in it. I accidentally bought whole bean coffee last weekend and have no way to grind the beans short of a rock and a bowl. And, frankly, no bowl I’d choose to smash beans in with a rock. I’ve been going to the coffee shop nearby for a latte every morning I’ve been home. There are three choices here, clearly, I could go buy a bag of ground coffee and use that until I next go to storage and retrieve the grinder. I could, alternatively, go buy another grinder. Both of these options are things the “old me” would quickly do. Spend money after spending money. But, wait, at $3.50 per latte, plus the dollar cash tip, I could’ve bought the ground coffee AND the grinder over again already. Damn. I hate math. Math has never been my friend, never an ally. Guess what, I didn’t make it to storage today, I didn’t buy ground coffee and I didn’t buy a grinder. I guess I’m buying a latte again tomorrow morning!

This is representative of how my whole day went.

I knew today would be sort of a low energy day. I ran a long way yesterday, so a little lethargy was to be expected. And, after all, scheduled work or not, it’s Monday. I was not, however, expecting the level of apathy I achieved today. I even underachieved at sleeping in. I had no reason to set my alarm and thought a bit of extra rejuvenating sleep would be nice. I awoke at 6:48. That’s 6:48 AM, to be clear. I checked texts, emails and Facebook and finally got out of bed at, like, 7:02. AM. The realization that I’d need coffee before being able to hold an even remotely intelligible conversation followed achieving a mostly vertical posture.  I thought about going to the coffee shop in my PJ’s, which are really just ugly sweats, but talked myself out of it. Miraculously. Instead, I pulled on my favorite Billabong maxi skirt, which I wore out to the store to buy beer last night. No one I knew saw me last night, so, who would know I was wearing the same thing today? I took my Sweetie’s Silver Gulch shirt off and slipped my old, slightly too big, black cardigan on over the cami I slept in. Again, who would know? I didn’t even quite have the energy to put a bra on, the cami would do. My hair was a wild mess of curls after my shower last night and a night on my pillow. The satin pillowcase did not net the desired results of keeping my hair under control. I twisted the mess into a clip and called it good. Off to get a latte.

I came very, very close to accidentally going to the coffee shop in my favorite slippers.
I came very, very close to accidentally going to the coffee shop in my favorite slippers.

Upon my return, caffeine supply in hand and four dollars and fifty cents poorer, I set to fixing breakfast. An egg, sunny side up, a piece of toast, a slab of cold moose meat left over from dinner last night, yogurt, honey and berries. This was one of my more industrious moments for the day, by the way. Mom mentioned last night that she wanted to go visit Dad, at the Veterans Memorial. I agreed. We confirmed our plans over breakfast. When we first talked about it last night, I knew she meant we’d go today, but the full impact of that request was just settling in. Visits to see Dad, at the Veterans Memorial, which is about forty-five minutes from home, are usually accompanied by lunch out, and a flurry of other errands, while we’re out. I saw my day to “get shit done” dwindle down to “not gonna get a thing done”. Day = hijacked.

After breakfast, Mom went upstairs to get ready. It takes her a very long time to get ready, even by my standards. I got a couple of little things done and procrastinated with the whole shower, blow dry, straighten, curl, make up, pick the perfect outfit, thing. I piddled around, re-prioritized my list, did a minor thing or two for work, sort of “making an appearance”, and I shuffled things around in my suitcase, which has to be packed by some time tomorrow, for nine days. Suddenly, Mom was standing in my doorway with her jacket on, her purse and cane in hand and her ginormous old people sunglasses masking about 80% of her face. I quickly applied the bare minimum makeup and off we went, me feeling sort of rewarmed, like leftovers from the night before that didn’t quite heat all the way through in the microwave. And you know what, I really didn’t care. Not today. I decided to be apathetic about the whole thing. Apathetic; a pathetic human being.

One of the things on my “to do” list was to go to Express at the mall situated between home and the Veterans Memorial in quest of those same items I dumped on the floor of the Express in Long Island a few days ago. I still want the clothes, I just want to buy them from someone interested in selling them to me. I asked Mom if she wanted to go to the mall and she got all excited. She hasn’t been to the mall in quite some time and wanted to shop for some slacks at Penney’s. I cringe, just a little, to think of actually shopping at Penney’s, but I disguised it as a yawn.

We visit Dad and left some sprigs of holly from the yard near his mausoleum. The Veterans Memorial is in the middle of miles and miles of very flat farmland and I have never been there when it wasn’t windy and cold. Today was windier and colder than usual. It felt like November. It felt like November for the first time this year. We jumped out of the car, scurried over to Dad’s mausoleum, deposited the holly sprigs, said a few words, and fled for the warmth of the car again. We’re sure he’d understand our brevity; he hated being cold, too.

We had lunch at our favorite totally local and very authentic tacqueria before leaving town, so that meant we could now go directly to the mall. I left Mom at Penney’s and ran for Express. My goal was to find the items I had selected the other day, try them on, buy them and return to Penney’s before Mom had made her selections. I didn’t even reach the table with the black slacks of my desire before I was cheerfully greeted and assisted. Pants in hand, I set to browsing for the other items I was questing for. Again, I found myself with an armload of clothes, but, before I could even set a foot in the direction of the fitting rooms, my load was lifted from my arms by the cheerful sales associate, she said she’d “start a fitting room” for me, which, I know, is a subtle way to say, “you keep on shopping, gather as much as you want,” by never allowing my burden of new clothes to become too heavy, it never seems like I’m considering buying all that much. I have been around the mall a time or two, I know how this all works. Instead, I just follow the sales associate to the fitting room and forgo any further browsing. I love everything except for the “other” black slacks the sales associate suggested I try. I make my way to the cash register where the sales associate begins to fluff and fold my selections, assuring the tags are easy to reach for quick scanning. She mentions that the slacks are BOGOHO (Buy One Get One Half Off, which isn’t quite as good as BOGO, Buy One Get One, that means the second one is free). BOGOHO?! How can I resist BOGOHO slacks? I know it’s more money, but only H! I find a scarlet pair of slacks, skinny cut, and add them to my pile. They’ll be perfect for the holidays, and they are HO after all! I thank the sales associate and tell her I sincerely appreciated her cheerful assistance. I told her about my experience in Long Island and was glad that my local store was so much more customer service oriented.

There is nothing like a positive shopping experience and BOGOHO sales to lift an apathetic mood. I flounce through the mall, back to Penney’s, where I find Mom, sitting on a stool at the cashier’s desk. Apparently the transaction is taking so long, someone has retrieved a stool for Mom to rest on during the whole ordeal. I wilt a little. I find Penney’s whole environment, from the clothes they stock to how they’re displayed, their lighting and signage, all of it, a bit oppressive. Depressing even. The kind sales associate is helping Mom order the slacks she wants, to have them delivered. They didn’t have her size in stock. Mom is buying four pair; gray, blue, black and tan. They are identical in every way, shape and form to the four pair she currently owns. Every last stitch. These four will just be slightly newer. I’m awash in apathy, again. I glance in my Express bag in hopes of finding my spirits, but they don’t seem to be there.

Mom finalizes her purchase and wrestles with her purse for at least five minutes. She and I have very different purse management methods. I have many purses, but for each of them, I have a consistent system of where I put what. I know exactly which pocket to find my keys in, receipts always go in a certain place, etc. Mom’s system, a word I use very loosely here, is not as formal, routine or consistent. She is always digging through her purse, certain she’s dropped the item she is searching for outside the car, or left it on the counter back at the store. She finally gets her possessions into the purse and we leave Penney’s.

We head to Mimi’s Café where Mom wants to buy the neighbor a couple of carrot muffins. Again, after her purchase, Mom is wrestling with her purse like it’s a crocodile trying to devour her. We make it back to the car and she begins to fret about the receipt for her purchase from Penney’s. I pull the car over and we spend another ten minutes trying to subdue the damned purse. We find the receipt and I begin to head for the highway. Once in traffic, Mom, still elbow deep in purse, can’t find her wallet. The one I just found the receipt in. She swears she’s dropped it in the parking lot, which would be terrible, except we didn’t open the car door at any point in the last round of wrestling the purse. The wallet is finally found on the floor of the car, near her feet, shoved back into the purse and the purse is finally subdued and lies motionless on the floor of the car. Mom’s tired and pissed off at her purse. I’m tired and pissed off at the traffic, time and my to do list. The purse is tired and isn’t speaking with either of us.

We finally make our way back towards Napa. The traffic is heavily congested through the canyon, which frustrates me further. As we creep along I can’t help but think of each and every minute I’m NOT going to have to tackle my to do list.

As we reach Napa, Mom says she wants to get gas before I leave for New York, tomorrow. Knowing that most of what I wanted to accomplish today is going to have to wait until tomorrow, I suggest we get gas today, rather than wait. I don’t want to be anxious to leave for the airport and still have this chore left to do. Mom has only driven, I take that back, I have only driven Mom’s car 45 miles since we last filled it up, the needle is barely off the “full” mark, but she insists. We find a gas station and after Mom beats her purse to a pulp trying to get her credit cards out, again, I put two gallons of gas in the tank and we finally head for home.

It is now very late in the afternoon, I’ve been driving with the headlights on, and there is no way I can complete all the errands around town I’d hoped to undertake today. I’m too apathetic to consider going to the gym, so I settle upon the idea of packing for my trip this evening, while drinking a beer, perhaps, and getting a couple of administrative work items put to rest.

Cross THIS off the to-do list!
Cross THIS off the to-do list!

A simple dinner is managed and a load of wash. I do not feel, in any way, accomplished today. My list for the day has all been pushed to tomorrow. Tomorrow night I fly, and I fly from San Francisco, which means wildly unpredictable timing with traffic and who knows what. I finish up my evening reviewing my list for today. My accomplishments are so meager that I add a few items at the end in order to allow me the satisfaction of crossing anything at all off my list. The rest will be carried forward for tomorrow, though I’m a little afraid, tomorrow, only a few tiny items will actually get crossed off. Here is my list.

To Do To Day:

Get coffee grinder from storage
Get cash for tips for trip
Do all four expense reports
Catch up on work emails
Go to gym
Run five miles
Finish packing for NYC and SF
Prepare class materials for SF
Call Clarissa
Happy Hour with the Ladies
Shop for black slacks and stuff
Organize five boxes for donation to charity
Make YouTube video
Unpack boxes to dresser drawers Mom finally cleared out
Unpack boxes of shoes & purses to closet after boxes above are moved
Do last load of laundry
Put away clean clothes
Order Mom’s Netflix movies
Aesthetician
Mail “the book” back to Clarissa
Massage
Get latte
Text Sweetie good morning and a safe trip to Prudhoe Bay
Eat breakfast
Eat lunch
Check Facebook
Check Blog Stats
Drink a beer
Eat dinner
Put on pajamas
Drink another beer
Eat leftover Ben & Jerry’s in freezer
Drink water
Wash face
Yawn, twice
Brush, floss, rinse
Go to bed

Note to self – triple shot latte tomorrow morning. Shits gotta get done.

What I learned today; sometimes, we have to be flexible. We have to make things that are important to others a priority, and adjust our own list in accordance. Of course we have our own things to tend to, sure, but now and then, a day devoted to loved ones is far more important, and appreciated, and right. Everything that’s going to get done will get done, and the rest won’t. The world will keep turning, I promise. Enjoy.

Scarlett

Selfie - in need of a latte
Selfie – in need of a latte
Cross THIS off the to-do list!
Cross THIS off the to-do list!

Scarlett’s Letter September 10, 2013

Game on.

I had a team meeting for work today. My team consists of about twelve people and we all live in different cities across the country, so, team meetings are conference calls and an internet meeting room for visuals, if necessary. No video, so we can’t see each other, thankfully. I don’t know what the big deal is, I’m usually all “ready” before I go to work, and my office is neat, I don’t know, I guess I could get used to it. But, for now, since no one else is wild about the idea of video conferencing, and it probably costs more, we aren’t even talking about it. Than means I can do useful shit while listening to the meeting, and occasionally glancing at the slideshow. Game on!

I have shelves next to my desk. For every class I teach, I have the materials, printed, in a binder on the shelves. I know. I teach paperless, but print all the materials. Since I refer to two printed copies at a time, sometimes three, I’m trying to figure out how to do so on my iPad. Two of the three shelves are stuffed full of binders. I teach a lot of classes, more than anyone else on my team. I’m pretty proud of that. It is my curse, though, too. Being able to teach all of the classes means being able to substitute for anyone else, at the last minute, if something goes wrong; an illness, a missed flight, technical difficulties, power outages. The top shelf of my shelf has cute little bins I bought at Target, solely because they were cute. Once I got them home, I decided I could put my office supplies in the bins and put the bins on my shelf. Through the last couple of moves and the chaos of life, and work, and laziness, these three bins have become a nice hiding place for crap I don’t know what to do with. They’ve just become receptacles for bits and pieces, odds and ends I don’t where else to put; paper clips, dry erase markers, ones that work and dry dry erase markers that don’t work, Sharpies, ones that write and some that don’t, software CD’s, miscellaneous cords to electronics I no longer own, USB flash drives, a lifetime supply staples, binder clips, pads of post it notes, No. 2 pencils, staplers, yes, plural, I have four, for whatever reason, pencil sharpeners, yes, plural, one manual pencil sharpener, one battery operated one and one electrical one,  and old Blackberry phones that no longer work. Today, while on a conference call, I, for whatever reason, decided to clean them out and organize them. I just did it. And that’s kind of how my day proceeded from there. Game on.

Bins and binders
Bins and binders

Today was also the day of frantic travel arrangement frustrations. As much as we all travel on my team, we are all responsible for our own travel arrangements. When I first took this job, that seemed terrifying and incomprehensible, making all my own travel arrangements. I was not much the traveler before this job. I had no idea. I’ve adapted and, now, wouldn’t even consider letting anyone else manage my travel! Just coming back from vacation, from the land of no Internet, I am a little behind booking travel. I am supposed to go to Chicago next week and New York City the week after. I am excited. But, with only a couple of participants registered for the Chicago class, and all from the same firm, after booking a nonstop flight to Chicago, the hotel I love right next to the mall and a rental car, plans changed and the training will be held at the client’s office. In Glasgow, Montana. Ever heard of it? As it turns out, I’ve worked with this client before. In Montana. Glendive, Montana. Ever heard of it? Great client with a few offices in the most random, rural and difficult to travel to places. Ever. I’m not too excited, and changing travel arrangements isn’t all that easy, it can’t be done all online, you have to call the agency and they have to confirm everything with the airlines. It is messy and time consuming. Game on.

The New York City class had more participants and I had my flight reserved, not booked, but reserved, in the manner I prefer for NYC. I take a red eye the night before my scheduled “travel day” so I have all day to sightsee and tramp around the City before my first day of work. I sleep on the plane and arrive looking like shit and feeling a bit groggy, but a cup of coffee and a few minutes in the City and I’ve absorbed all the energy I need for a full day of fun. I’m excited. But, then, I get an email saying that since all the participants for the training are with the same firm, we may conduct the training at their office rather than a regional training center. To save money and to make it “easier” for the client. I quickly Google the firm. They have three locations, one in NYC and one on Long Island and one in New Jersey. I assume NYC and quickly reserve a second hotel, closer to their NYC location, just in case. Then I wait for the final word. Much to my disappointment, horror and dismay, the training is occurring at the New Jersey office. I rearrange all of that travel, now, too. So, Chicago became Montana and New York City became the suburbs of Newark, New Jersey. I considered drafting my resignation. But I didn’t. I’m readying for two long weeks in two difficult locations. Game on.

For people who don’t text or who don’t like to text, you often hear them ask “why not just pick up the phone and call?” Well, allow me to enlighten you. While I do enjoy a nice, chatty call, more frequently with some folks than others, there are times when texting is far more practical. Texting versus a phone call; a case study. My close friend is having a memorial service for her sister who passed a few weeks ago. A few of us are bringing food and beverage to serve as a large crowd is expected, probably over a hundred people. I’m bringing lemonade. One of the girls is a pastry chef, a consultant in all things cooking and catering and is in charge of the whole affair. I’ve been assigned something I certainly cannot mess up. Lemonade. And I have a helper, just in case it looks like I might mess it up. I am, actually, thankful for my assignment. I don’t want to deal with the stress of anything more challenging than lemonade, I’ll leave that to the professionals. So, today, as I’m frantically managing travel and answering work emails, I’m texting the chef and emailing my helper (she doesn’t text) the finer points of lemonade. I am also carrying on a lengthy textervation with a friend I run with about the memorial service, hoping he will attend. And I’m texting my Sweetie. And drinking a beer. And eating a slab of dark chocolate. Simultaneously. You can’t do that with a phone! Game on.

Beer.
Beer.
Slab of dark chocolate.
Slab of dark chocolate.

I want game for dinner! I’m just feeling extra carnivorous this evening! All I have left are two moose roasts and two moose steaks. I’ve been kind of saving them, but they aren’t improving by aging in the freezer, and, perhaps, if I eat them all up, some moose karma spirit will guide a nice 50-incher to a very easy and opportunistic location and for my Sweetie.  Though, it’s a busy time on the haul road for him and having to process a moose could be a bit overwhelming. I’ll just enjoy my steak tonight and whatever happens with the remainder of this moose season is how it is meant to be. I can eat beef and lamb and buffalo all year for what it would cost to ship moose down here, anyway. Game on. Literally. I have game on my plate for dinner!

What's left of my moose provisions.
What’s left of my moose provisions.
Nom, nom, nom. Minus one moose steak
Nom, nom, nom. Minus one moose steak

Community

com·mu·ni·ty

“1

a : a unified body of individuals: as state, commonwealth

b : the people with common interests living in a particular area; broadly : the area itself <the problems of a large community>

c : an interacting population of various kinds of individuals (as species) in a common location

d : a group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together within a larger society <a community of retired persons>

e : a group linked by a common policy

f : a body of persons or nations having a common history or common social, economic, and political interests <the international community>

g : a body of persons of common and especially professional interests scattered through a larger society <the academic community>

2: society at large

3

a : joint ownership or participation <community of goods>

b : common character : likeness <community of interests>

c : social activity : fellowship

d : a social state or condition”

I was out for a run by myself the other afternoon. It was quite warm, late afternoon, and commute time. I chose to run along the shoulder of a fairly busy road, here in Napa, one that connects my neighborhood to the downtown area. As I returned home, I headed up what may seem to most, a very small hill in the neighborhood, the last little hill, but after seven miles pounding the hard, hot, blacktop, it has become an incredibly long and daunting proposition. I generally stop running at the top of the little hill, turn off all my tracking, mapping, pacing, locating, GPS systems (I use three in all, geek that I am). I then walk across the footbridge from the shiny, new more expensive neighborhood to my own, much older, somewhat worn, more comfortable neighborhood. There, at what was the dead end until just recently when the footbridge connecting the two neighborhoods was built, is “the pool”. And it looked so inviting.

When we first moved to this neighborhood, back when it was the shiny, new, expensive neighborhood, in the mid 1960’s, this spot where the pool is now, was just another empty lot. Homes were built on most of the lots, with bare patches of fields between building phases, all, eventually, filled with houses. This was our community, a new neighborhood perched on the far edge of town, where only homes and a school grew in a field alongside fields of cows and sheep. Not a vineyard in sight. There were plentiful oak trees to climb and hang tree swings in. After the first few summers and a few uncomfortable lessons, though, we learned to recognize poison oak and where NOT to hang the tree swings. This was an era where, for the most part, young families moved into new neighborhoods and stayed for many, many years. Families became friends and a strong sense of community existed that transcended time and even the eventual “moving away” of many of the original families. This core group of families visited nearly daily. It was not uncommon for all the neighbors on the block to gather on one another’s front porch steps to visit after work. Highballs and cigarettes, for the adults, while the kids played hide and go seek nearby. Idyllic suburbia. Community.

It was this group of adults, my parents, the neighbors, on the steps, laughing, drinking, some, most, smoking, that decided to collaborate and purchase that lot at the end of the street, the edge of our universe, as we knew it. I was four years old. I couldn’t imagine what existed beyond that lot, the creek dividing US from the rest of the world. I could only see cows on the other side through the trees. Now there are houses. On this lot was built a large swimming pool, larger than any of our generous sized yards would accommodate. I’m not entirely sure how the money was collected, allocated, organized or accounted for. Mom hasn’t quite got around to that story during our shared mealtime. But it was done. Memberships were sold to generate revenue, I assume, to pay for the pool, or the loan for the pool, the property and to maintain it. A governing board was established, on which my mother served, as I remember, for a term or two. A lifeguard was hired every summer to teach lessons in the morning and to supervise all of us, without our parents, every afternoon between 1:00 and 5:00 PM. That was my mom’s duty as a board member. I remember her interviewing various young candidates in the living room. I remember that she took a class on how to recognize whether young people were imbibing in marijuana use. She didn’t want to hire a “druggy” as a lifeguard. The kids all loved the lifeguard, like an idol. We swam every, single day, every allowable moment. And more. Swimming when the lifeguard wasn’t on duty had to be supervised by some parent or adult. I think they drew straws.

This community, an active community, developed out of the desire of a group of people to create something together they would have difficulty doing on their own. They were joined out of their goals, their friendships, their fellowship and their ideas. Together, they created something wonderful that was played a very large role in the childhood of many, many young people. That accomplishment, over forty years later, continues to thrive and provide more and more generations of young people with memories, skills, fun and friendship. The power of an active community.

We have since sold our membership and I understand the waiting list to obtain one is several years long. So, hot and sweaty, I walked past the pool, home, and took a cool shower instead. But, to me, this pool is proof of the power of community. This pool was such an anchor in my childhood, too. I cannot imagine, at all, what life would have been without it. My friends were all there, everyday, all summer, every summer. And any friends that didn’t “belong”, could come along as a guest, so it really didn’t matter. I took all my swimming lessons there. As a teen, once I was old enough to go “after hours”, without a parent, we did just that. It was at this pool that I smoked my first cigarette. It was at this pool that I drank my first adult beverage. It was at this pool that I discovered I could do daring and scary things, like jump off the roof of the bathroom into the pool. And live.

The pool.
The pool.

I have moved back to the neighborhood I grew up in. The community. My mom is among only a few of the “original” neighbors left. Most have moved away, many have passed away. I know far fewer people here than I did as a kid. We still refer to all the houses by the original owners’ names, though. The Mann’s house, the Hosman’s house, the Price’s house. The houses don’t have addresses or house numbers, they have surnames.

Before moving back here, I lived in a “newer” neighborhood, but they called it a “planned unit development”. It was nice. Well planned. I lived there with my son, in a house he rented with his high school friends who all moved on, leaving him alone with the lease payment and a couple of extra bedrooms. So I moved in. There was a fabulous “clubhouse” in this neighborhood that we “belonged” to by the fact that we were residents. We had only to prove so with a copy of our lease and a letter from our landlord. Two pools, a Jacuzzi pool, a gym, television rooms, game rooms, tennis courts, basketball courts, free Wi-Fi, meeting rooms, library rooms, a kitchen, a large grassy area. It was built by the developer, not by the neighbors, and while it was wonderful, it lacked that sense of community I remember from “the pool”. The neighbors here, were not in community other than sharing the same roadways to and from work, and the shared gardening service provided for in the required association dues. No one spoke to one another, no one visited, no one could even identify their next-door neighbor in a line up, if they had to. The front yards are smaller than my mom’s porch steps. It was strange. You could often walk down the street, encounter someone along the way, say hello and actually not get a reply. It was sad. Tragic, actually. This was a “passive community”, we were community only out of circumstance, not because we shared a goal or wished to collaborate to do something more.

I’ve lived in other neighborhoods in the Sacramento area where the neighbors were neighborly. In one old village I lived in, you couldn’t set foot out the front door without finding yourself in a jolly conversation, an impromptu garden tour, an offer for a beer, a glass of wine, or an iced tea. Many people who grew up here and moved away, would actually move back, at some point, if they could. We used to Christmas carol. We’d all gather at one of the homes, eat and drink and be merry, then take to the streets to sing at the one or two homes that weren’t participating. And often, there, we’d be invited in for a glass of wine or something. It was magical. And this was the neighborhood I raised my kids in for most of their early childhood.

Beyond where we live, though, there are many communities that we are part of. We commune in many ways, in worship, in learning, in sports, in fitness, in recreation, in service to others, in politics, even in what we watch on television, American Idol fans, for example. It is our nature, to commune. And in community, we can prosper, if we seek to. Or in community we can just exist, if we choose to.

Relationships are community, too. A couple, whether married or not, can accomplish more together than as single individuals when both parties contribute. When one party fails to contribute, or in some other way violates or destroys the prosperity of the union, the community ceases to exist.

As individuals, we become stronger in community. In our individual effort to evolve, by aligning with a community, or several communities, we can often meet our goals faster, more efficiently and more effectively, whether fitness goals, spiritual goals, health goals, financial goals, social goals, or even relationship goals, working together will almost always benefit each person individually and the group as a whole. As we evolve into the people we seek to become, we then are able to contribute to our various communities, and to the world, in a more meaningful, purposeful and fulfilling way.

Consider the U.S. Army’s popular double entendre advertising campaign, “An Army of One”. Each soldier, individually, is made strong by being a part of the “community”, the Army, and, in turn, the Army, as one large body, or community, is stronger. This is much as community, of any sort, and the individual relate. As one we are strong because of our community, and because of our strength, our community is stronger. It’s a win win.

Please do not confuse community and my support of, in any way, with communism. Community is only successful because it is voluntary. We seek out and choose to join or belong to a community. If, at some point, we choose to no longer participate, we don’t re-enroll or we resign in some manner. Communism is forced. Even when “chosen” in some form of election, it is often out of some sort of force; duress, coercion, bribery, conspiracy, fear, ignorance, propaganda and/or apathy. Once part of a communist society, it is nearly impossible to choose to no longer participate. In communism, the individual is lost and defiled. In community, the individual is celebrated and exalted.

I have taken up running in the past year. I haven’t been a runner in any way, shape or form since, well, junior high, and that was “forced”. I do remember as a small child, though, running, usually up to the swimming pool, and feeling absolutely liberated, free. In my mid-life I have been longing for the same feeling of liberation and freedom. I decided I’d “learn” to run. I set a goal to run a half marathon, “thirteen by thirteen”, which I have successfully done. Now I’ve adjusted my goal. On advice from a friend I joined a running club, which I speak of often. In that club, a community of many runners, over 500, we are divided into smaller “pace groups” by color and by pace time, matched to our goals and our abilities. Every week, we run with our smaller groups, all the smaller groups running, in staggered clumps, up and down the American River Parkway. Many small communities, all part of a large club or community. All seeking individual goals with the support and assistance of the community. During the week, with much effort, I run alone. It takes a great deal more self-discipline, motivation and sheer will to lace up my shoes and take off on my own. It takes even more self-discipline, motivation and sheer will to go the planned distance, to run the entire time, to just keep going. In the group, it is, by comparison, effortless. But, the coaching, the skill, the lessons I am taught on form, fuel, water, and biomechanics would make what I do on my own much harder, perhaps impossible, and likely detrimental in possibly causing myself an injury. So from community I am improved as an individual. And, as an individual, I contribute to the community.

I spent many years involved in Scouting; Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and Venturing Scouts (a co-ed, high adventure program through Boy Scouts of America). I derived a great amount of skill, education, and leadership opportunities through my involvement in these organizations. They improved my skills as a parent, as a professional, as a person, in communication, event planning and organization, fitness, health, safety, self-esteem, and friendship. And through my involvement, dozens of youth who may not otherwise have ever been able to participate in such excellent programs, were given the opportunity. I feel as though I touched many young lives and in some small way, made some positive impact. I gave and I received. Through my involvement in these communities, I saw entire groups of young people grow from kindergarten through college, into fine, fulfilled individuals, and I had some hand in that. Through my involvement with these communities, I too grew into a fine, fulfilled individual, and the community absolutely, provided that opportunity to me.

In our effort to evolve, let’s look not only at our individual opportunities, but also for opportunities in community. If, currently, your effort to evolve is not in some way linked to some community or communities, take the time to identify one, or several, that may benefit from your involvement, and in turn, promote your effort to evolve. We are all in this together. We are ourselves, a community, making an effort to evolve.

Scarlett’s Letter July 16, 2013

Today, I worked fourteen hours. The end.

 
Ever have one of those days? This relates to an article I wrote on the fallacy of “balance” in life. We all assume we want “balance”, but balance, trying to keep everything equally attended to actually results in mediocrity in everything we attempt. Great things are done only by applying a great amount of energy to the related tasks, the trick comes in applying energy, in great amounts, to the right things, at the right time, so as to achieve excellence in all areas that require your attention. Herein lies another trick, determining which areas in your life require your attention, and which ones you really shouldn’t bother with. So many tricks. I recommend “The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results ”, a book by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan.

Today, my only focus was work. I was scheduled to train for eight hours, and when that was done, having just returned from a two week vacation, I had six hours of very important administrative work to attend to, namely, my expense reimbursement reports. After eight hours on the phone with a client, and six hours of tedium entering expenses, scanning receipts, and all that, I. Am. Done. Wine.

There will be no effort or energy applied to any other area of my life; fitness, reading, studying, organizing, minimalizing, etc. Yes, I will eat, likely a frozen pizza I happen to have in the freezer, the last morsel of food I own, but I will not go grocery shopping. Not tonight. Other than that, a phone call to my Sweetie and this very short article. My energy for the day has been applied and none is left for any other important areas of my life.

Tomorrow will be a different story.

The Beautiful People

I don’t know who they are, exactly. I do know that I am not one of them, or at least that’s what I’ve been told many, many times in my life. They get things and I don’t. Somehow they are more deserving than me, or at least that’s what I’ve been led to believe many, many times in my life. I envision Jennifer Aniston, who is indeed beautiful, but I don’t think any more deserving than, say, me. Or you.

In the naiveté of childhood I would say, “Mommy, I’d like a house like that some day,” or “I want to live in Paris some day”, and often these musings were met with the same response, “that’s for the beautiful people.” Was my mom calling me ugly? Or just undeserving? Was she being pragmatic, or instilling in me limiting beliefs? Both. I’m sure her intent was to soothe me, to reassure me, that a good enough life was good enough. A modest cookie cutter house in a curb and gutter neighborhood, a reliable, economical car, a job as a nurse and a husband not from divorced parents who watches TV at night and mows the lawn on the weekend. Those seemed to be her very practical hopes and dreams for me. Her expectations, even, as I spent much of my life enduring “should” storms. I should study this, I should say that, I should buy this kind of house, that kind of car, etc. Of course, none of it was what I wanted, but I’m wondering if what I wanted was the opposite of what she expected, just out of my own stubborn rebellion. Could be.

The beautiful people, I gather, are people who are wealthy, have multiple homes, travel extravagantly, drive exotic cars, dine outrageously and live luxuriously. The beautiful people can afford all the shoes they want! They can afford all the Louboutin’s they want! Beautiful people only hang out with other beautiful people. If I had to guess. And I can’t be part of the club, according to my mom. Ever. I’m just NOT one of the beautiful people.

But, in my stubborn rebellion, I refuse to believe that. I AM in the same club as the beautiful people, I have a lot in common with them! We are like THIS! I have 206 bones in my body. So do the beautiful people. I inhale and my body uses some of the oxygen in the air and when I exhale I breathe out carbon dioxide. So do the beautiful people. If I drink too much wine I get weird. So do the beautiful people. If I wear new shoes and walk a lot, I get blisters. So do the beautiful people. I require a bit of sleep every night. So do the beautiful people. If I cut myself I bleed. So do the beautiful people. I am a human being, capable of endless possibilities and limited only by my beliefs. So are the beautiful people.

I hope I raised my own children to believe they are the beautiful people, capable of anything they set their minds to, empowered, unlimited. I know my parents had all the best intentions in the world in raising me, and, truthfully, I am grateful for them. With the exception of being automatically disqualified from the beautiful people club. Because now, at this advanced stage in life, I still want to be part of the club, and I have to battle those limiting beliefs that I am just not one of them, that I am somehow different or less deserving. But you know what? I don’t have a modest cookie cutter house in a curb and gutter neighborhood, a reliable, economical car, a job as a nurse and a husband not from divorced parents who watches TV at night and mows the lawn on the weekend. I lied. I do have a reliable, economical car, but I desperately want to trade it in on something a little flashier. My point is, I have rebelled against every other expectation, so why not the expectation that I’m not one of the beautiful people?

Limiting beliefs compromise our potential. They prevent us not only from achieving our potential, but from even recognizing the potential of or our potential. Most of us never come close to what we are truly capable of learning, doing, sharing. Just think, for a moment; if we were all limitless, do you think we’d still be struggling with a cure for cancer? For AIDS? Do you think our economy would be a shambles? Our political system devoid of true and worthy leaders? If we all reached a quarter of our potential, the world would be unrecognizable, I’m sure, from what we see today. And yet, only the bravest and most motivated of us will spend the better part of our lives trying to crawl out from under our learned or, often, self-imposed, limitations, leaving very little time left in life to accomplish great things. The single best thing we can do to turn the Titanic around is to teach our young people that they are unlimited. There are, indeed, many beautiful people out there who came from very limited situations, never claimed those limits as their own, and became those beautiful people.

I know I am going to battle against any and every limitation, learned, or self-imposed, in order to achieve something worthwhile and meaningful in this world. It’s more than a material conquest to me, oh no, I desperately want to make a difference! And the difference I’d like to make is to help people identify and discard their limitations and become beautiful people along with me. You, me, and Jen Aniston. Beautiful people.