Friday, November 13, 2009
That's what mama said to me when I was a little girl. Not so little that it didn't bring me up short and make me think deeply about life, time, and perhaps at a very juvenile level, our ultimate purpose. I know I was younger than 11, because I can close my eyes and see the room we were in when she said those words to me and we'd moved out of that house by then. I wouldn't be surprised if it was this time of year, too, since what 9 or 10 year old isn't wishing the time between Now and Christmas morning wouldn't just disappear. as expressed in the classic children's lament "I wish it were Christmas NOW!"?
But something in mama's voice when she said those powerful words struck deep into my heart and ever since, I have been acutely aware of time as currency. A special type of currency that, once spent, is gone for good. Like the three wishes in the fairy tales - you don't get to change your mind, take them back, or swap them out. Even if you still have one wish left - or 10 minutes left - if you've spent either of them foolishly - you have to use the last bits of them to fix what you mucked up with your prior carelessness - or live with consequences too terrible to bear.
This was not the first time I had had an inkling that life was a process of conscious choice but it was a major building block in forming my approach to life. I understood that a life was finite. To continue the math metaphor, I even understood that I would never know just how much time currency was in my life-span bank. Like the $200 you are given at the beginning of a Monopoly game, I understood that I would start out with an amount of time and it was up to me to determine how I spent it. The correlation, while not exact, was similar enough to work with the newly learned math skills of the average 4th grader.
But while I took mama's words deeply inside, I didn't actually agree with them. Not fully at least. I had already had enough spelling tests and bad report card days in school to know that there were bad minutes - like the minutes between before a spanking and after one - that would be worth wishing away and good minutes - like when the sunshine came out on Easter morning and you were sitting in the rich green backyard grass with your basket of candy and nobody was going to tell you to stop eating it - that were worth savoring, worth spending as slowly as possible.
Hmmm. Obviously, sugar and chocolate was playing a pivotal role in my life at an early date!
And so I grew up developing the skill of getting through rough times by dwelling, in my mind and my heart, on the good times that I know will eventually show up. It took me a long time to get modestly good at this without letting it take over my life, for the big danger is that this spending of your time, this trading of your life in the present for the hope of some golden future, can leave you unaware and un-noticing of the treasures that can be found in even the worst times. I am thinking here of the dozens of loving people who have stepped out of the woodwork to help my cousin deal with her brother's unexpected death - like lawyers giving her pro bono service as she deals with the Paperwork of Death.
But the other thing I began to understand, with this exchange of time for experience, is that the process can often be as wonderful as the goal achieved. I know that goal setting and goal reaching is the Big Deal these days and I am mighty glad that I have some young people on my staff who were trained up in this skill because they do get lots of stuff done for me in a timely manner. I have actually learned to achieve a few goals myself - though usually I am not aware that they were goals till I am done and looking backwards.
Instead, when I am not getting over rough ground as lightly as possible by dreaming of a happier future, I can truly enjoy the process. I'm especially enjoying the Spark People process - and the weight loss thing - and the healthier choices aspects that are now shaping my days. I am loving how good it feels to drink enough water. I am tickled pink when I have the stamina to get through a big chore and still feel like having a good time when it's done. I am totally enjoying reading the SP articles and playing with the trivia questions and learning things I hadn't known. This all feels like the fun of opening presents on Christmas morning.
I know I will love being at my goal weight and I'll love it the day I can button up THAT dress. I am going to enjoy playing with my Christmas presents. But honest and true - I am not going to wish my weight losing life away. I'm having too much fun.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
First I want to thank everyone who left me encouraging comments on yesterday's post. It's simply wonderful to feel the kindness of your thoughts - the sympathy and understanding. Thank you so much. I am substantially better today than I was yesterday.
If you have ever taken a Myers Briggs Personality Test you'll know there are E people and I people. Extroverts and Introverts - and the defining attributes aren't sociable friendly people vs. unsociable unfriendly sorts. The difference between an E and an I has more to do with energy levels and problem solving styles. E's are energized when others are around and solve problems in groups. They make superb committee people. I's, otoh, find their energy sapped by crowds and are the type to go off, like Jack Horner, into a corner, and come out with a plum of a solution to any problem. I am married to an I who can focus for months at a time on a project, in his corner office and come out with a 900 page book! I am an E. I NEVER try to tackle a problem by myself. If I don't have a committee, I'll scoop up strangers and pump them for their opinions and viewpoints.
My job takes me out into the public every day - the RANDOM public which means not just friends and co-workers, but anybody who walks into the library. But it was those friends who came in yesterday who helped me so much as I wrestled with my sadness, my mortification, and my worries. Each one of them got to hear me puke out my story and as each one listened, nodded, cooed sympathetic sounds and patted me or hugged me they lifted some of the pain out of my heart, carried it away with them, and, since it wasn't their pain, tossed it in the trash on their way out of the building.
My favorite minister just happened to walk into the library while I was standing in the foyer. My knitting group met for lunch at the library. A Virgo Sister Friend called me out of the blue and we commiserated over how the world had suddenly grown unfriendly. You - dear spark buddies - posted encouragement here on my blog. And by the end of the day I was able to stop hunching over my aching heart and stand up straight.
And after work I went to the gym and began walking around the indoor track. I didn't want to pump it up too much because I had a speaking engagement later in the evening and I didn't want to get too sweaty. But after a few laps my blood began to flow - and then surge - and after maybe a half a mile I suddenly felt the endorphins kick in. My eyes felt awake - felt like the light had gotten brighter. My shoulder blades began to pull together, lifting my chest even higher. By the time I'd done 2 miles I could smile brightly at people as I changed and checked out.
ding ding ding ding ding
That's the Duh Bess Bell going off in my head - saying Earth To Bess - Don't ever underestimate the mental health value of exercise - When your heart is in pain - walk - or run or swim or use the elliptical machine - but whatever you do - MOVE. Move your body and you'll end up moving it away from heartache.
I knew that. I was just testing you.
Thank you for reading and thank you for commenting.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
I always tease my husband and tell him that the best wedding gift he gave me was his cousin H. She was just a little girl when I came into the family as a 19 year old girlfriend-with-staying-power. I'm in between the generations of my husband's precious, but a little stolid and proper family. I bridged the gap between parents and children - the "glamorous big girl" who played with the little ones.
And yesterday one of those little ones died of a massive, unexpected heart attack. He was the brother of my best friend and best gift H. He was 46. We are still trying to wrap our brains around this devastation because nobody plans for something like this. To our knowledge he had no heart disease symptoms, though heart disease runs strong in his family on both sides. Eveyr man in his mother's generation has had a heart attack and two have died from it. It looks suspiciously like the DNA is active in our children's generation too.
When a death comes suddenly and to someone who hasn't yet moved into the "old" category ... a category which seems to be extending further into the future every year I add to my own Not-Yet-Old category. I laugh at myself sometimes when I remember how utterly ancient I used to think 60 was and how, when my brother in law died at 69, of a HA, I was horrified that Someone So Young should actually die. Especially someone who ate properly, exercised, was smart enough to get good health care and who had enough money to pay for it. How could HE die so young in this day and age?
Imagine the difficulty in coming to terms with losing someone 11 years younger than I?
Swirling all around this personal tragedy though, are all the Other Things that life was planning on, demanding and expecting of me, marching inexorably towards me . Things I am scrambling to do in my darling H's stead because she is the next of kin and must take on more pressing matters. Things I was supposed to have done yesterday, last week, two weeks ago, but put off because of our own health surprises. And worse than things - there are MISTAKES I have made in my haste, distractedness and sadness. Like - forgetting to name an important sponsor of a festive community event I am hosting this Friday and so angering him that he withdrew his sponsorship. No apologies will satisfy him and for that I'm deeply sorry. But the event still must go on as planned. I will plaster a glassy eyed smile on my face and plod through the weekend - it's only gift for me now the fact that, come Monday, it will be behind me instead of looming up ahead.
And so. I am going to use a trick I figured out some years ago when I had some dreadful thing I had to deal with in the public arena. I asked myself - what will be the final result if everything goes wrong. The answer? I would come home. My husband would wrap his arms around me. My dogs would wag their tails and lick my hands. My cozy house would smell like love inside 4 walls. My work would be there on Monday morning. Somewhere out there in the world there would be people who didn't like me - who thought I was worthless and stupid. But they would be only SOME out of billions of people and right here at home there would be people who loved me ANYWAY.
And what would be the result if everything went surprisingly right?
I would come home. My husband would wrap his arms around me. My dogs would wag their tails and lick my hands. My cozy house would smell like love inside 4 walls. My work would be there on Monday morning. Somewhere out there in the world there would be people who didn't like me - who thought I was worthless and stupid. But they would be only SOME out of billions of people and right here at home there would be people who loved me ANYWAY.
So the end result is pretty much the same. Out there in the world I may blunder or I may step deftly but I can always come home to warm hugs, licked palms, and cozy walls. I guess there isn't really that much to worry about after all.
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