I have a race later today. 10 miles. In February. In New England. Can’t wait.
One the biggest challenges I had with my Addison’s diagnosis and then the knee arthritis was being forced to slow down, and then, stop for a bit. I know many people have a tough time, for various reasons, calling them themselves an athlete. I had a really hard time not seeing myself as an athlete. For as long as I can remember sports and fitness were a daily part of my life. It was a huge piece of how I viewed myself, viewed the world, and approached my place in it. It wasn’t the only way, of course, but it was a big part to suddenly be missing.
I’m trying to teach the girls, or at least show, them that confidence is born out of doing hard things. So a 10-miler on a brisk February morning should be a good example. Their thing might not be sports, but the principles still apply. Rise to meet a challenge, don’t bring a misery mindset. I think we often mistake needing courage, confidence or self-esteem in order to try hard things. This feels backwards to me. We need to embrace a challenge and seek out difficult tasks to explore our own psychology and how we respond. Would I have the courage to take on fourth grade math, glitter slime, or the self-esteem for kitchen karaoke without it? I’m not sure I want to find out.
Writing is much like any other craft. It’s not exactly hard to do though it is hard to do well. Writing a book isn’t necessarily hard it just takes time. String enough dedicated, persistence days spent on anything, a book or a painting or training for a marathon and you will reach your goal.
If just sitting down each day feels a little vague to you, here are the 8 steps I use to keep writing word by word and day after day.
I spent the first seven years of my post-collegiate time in a job I really didn’t enjoy. And I knew it within days of starting. The fact that it took me almost a decade to pluck up the courage to leave probably tells you a lot about my personality. I do not like to make waves and I will suffer silently for long periods of time.
Cecilia is knee-deep in learning fractions and we’ve had the usual ups and downs. I’m trying to get her to understand the importance of asking questions. Sitting silently and suffering if you don’t know something is a huge waste of time. If you’re not asking questions, you’re probably not challenging yourself. Or, if you have all the answers, you are likely quite satisfied with yourself in your comfort zone. Neither is good.
Asking questions is a key part of learning a new skill and moving forward. I do not want them to be like me, too scared, shy or proud to ask for help and then suddenly look back at a huge swath of seven years of wasted time.
We might learn things quickly, but we often forget things at the same rate.
It was my birthday last week. Not a big one. Just another year passing. I’m getting older. Not unhappily. Not ungratefully. I hope.
So it wasn’t a big milestone, but almost 10 years ago I was on the cusp of becoming a Dad. I think looking backwards too much is only good for one thing: learning. The things I wish I had known. Like building a better wine cellar for starters. Or the wisdom of buying an extra freezer just for the bags of chicken nuggets. Many of these are obvious, maybe cliches, but I like cliches because they are true and few people live up to them.
Here are the 10 cliches I would have told my younger self to be sure to bore his kids with on a daily basis.
There are some conversations you are just never ready to have as a parent. It all might seem easy or straightforward when you are reading those child advice books, but actually having the conversation on a Wednesday night when your six year old is crying? Not so simple. You just muddle through, try to tell the truth, and do the best you can.
A family friend passed away suddenly this week and, while the girls have had a few family members and pets die before, this was the first time that Ally was old enough to have a framework to better understand and ask the tough questions. Like I said, we muddled through. We finally were able to get her to stop crying and go to sleep by agreeing to a verbal contract to take care of her two “lovies” if anything ever happened to her.
It’s been on my mind, maybe with my own birthday clicking off another year soon, for the rest of the week. If she’d sent me an Outlook invite that she’d start asking life’s ultimate questions on Wednesday night at 8, here’s what I might have said with a little forethought:
We always live with death by our side so don’t take anything for granted and try to appreciate each moment. Life is always changing. So often we live our lives like we’ll live forever but as soon as we remember that life is fleeting we find ourselves letting go of the distractions and being more present for one another. Try to find peace with the impermanence. If we can remember this and carry it with us, it won’t be morbid or sad, it will bring a lightness and ease and comfort.
Or the 6 year old version of that. Maybe the stuffed animal contract was the right way to go…
Ambitious goal #37 for 2019: trying to crack the code of self-awareness with a nine year old.
Me: Everything we experience in our lives involves us somehow.
Cecilia: Duh. Do I really have to do this math problem?
Me: Yes. Now, just because you experience something, just because something causes you to feel a certain way, just because you care about something, doesn’t mean it’s about you.
Cecilia: [blank look]
Turns out this is a hard concept for kids. Making everything about them is sort of their speciality and, let’s face it feels pretty good most of the time.
When things are good, you are the golden child who deserves to be recognized and applauded at every turn. When things are bad, you are the self-righteous victim, who has been wronged and deserves better.
One benefit of having to walk a dog twice a day is that you get through a lot of audiobooks. I finished listening to Charles Duhigg’s Better Stronger Faster this week and really enjoyed it. It’s one of those Gladwell-esque pop-science books that gives you a 10,000 foot view of a subject mostly through vignettes.
This particular book explored 8 scientific concepts for better productivity. One section was dedicated to focus and illustrated the dangers of cognitive tunneling through some harrowing airline stories. Cognitive tunneling occurs when you become intently focused on something directly in front of you. This tunnel actually reduces your ability to focus and you end up working on the easiest and most obvious task. Common sense goes out the window.
I’m not a pilot, but being a parent these days often feels like flying a jumbo jet blindfolded. Common sense and a wider perspective can sometimes get lost. Making sure Cecilia understands the logic and can solve a multi-step word problem at 7:30 on a Wednesday night can suddenly seem like a very critical thing. Emotions might get heightened.
So much of modern parenting feels like it’s focused solely on raising high achievers to earn high salaries. Is that really the raison d’etre for having children? One of my Dad goals for 2019 is to not get crazy tunnel vision on hyper achievement. Yes, of course, school is really important. But achievement alone doesn’t guarantee happiness. That’s on thing reality TV can teach us. I want to make sure the girls understand there are many ways to define success and many ways to have a meaningful life.
I’m sure there’s a Netflix show out there to explain all this to them…