Wednesday, July 25, 2018

55 Things I Know at 55

For her 35th birthday, my niece shared a list of 35 things she knows. I thought it was a great idea, so I made a list of 55 things I know, or think I know, for my 55th birthday. They say that with age comes wisdom. With age comes time to learn the wisdom of others and to learn from your own mistakes.
  1. Nothing beats determination. Try, try again. Never give up.
  2. Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it's thinking of yourself less. - C.S. Lewis
  3. One of the worst things you can do to yourself is compare yourself to someone else.
  4. Forgiveness frees the forgiver. Hanging onto a grudge is like letting someone live rent free in your head.
  5. I got a couple dents in my fender, got a couple rips in my jeans. Try to fit the pieces together but perfection is my enemy. And on my own I'm so clumsy but on Your shoulders I can see I'm free to be me and You're free to be You. - Francesca Battistelli
  6. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  7. When people show you who they are, believe them the first time. - Maya Angelou.
  8. I am a work in progress. God is not done with me yet!
  9. There is something magical about mornings. Nature awakens. It's a fresh start. It's not so "peopley" outside.
  10. We all make mistakes. If you get a second chance, make the most of it.
  11. If you live without something you really enjoy long enough (e.g. ice cream), you won't even miss it.
  12. I don't have all the answers. I don't have to have all the answers. I can be content with not knowing the unknowable.
  13. I don't have to prove that I am right. When I know that I'm right, it is enough.
  14. It is a waste of time and energy to argue with a person who thinks they know everything.
  15. I don't need physical pampering (manicures, facials, massages and the like). But I gotta have coffee.
  16. I know what the Lord requires of me: to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly before him.
  17. Protect your skin and eyes: slip, slop, slap and wrap. Clothes, sunscreen, hat and sunglasses.
  18. Only floss the teeth you want to keep.
  19. Blessed are those who do not fear solitude, who are not afraid of their own company, who are not always desperately looking for something to do, something to amuse themselves with, something to judge. If you are never alone, you cannot know yourself. - Paulo Coelho
  20. The diversity of species that inhabit the Earth is astounding. Take the time to learn about just a few of them.
  21. I have never regretted being kind or patient.
  22. No one likes to be micromanaged. If you don't trust people to do a job, do it yourself.
  23. The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go. —Dr. Seuss
  24. People were not meant to be couch potatoes. 
  25. I am not athletic but I figured out how good it feels to push myself physically, to prove my endurance. Endorphins!
  26. Some of the most useful inventions were created by mistake.
  27. A smile costs nothing and makes a world of difference. We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do. - Mother Teresa. A smile is a curve that sets everything straight. - Phyllis Diller
  28. It is our responsibility as human beings to take care of the earth and the creatures that inhabit it.
  29. When I make a mistake in Microsoft Excel, I can click the "undo" icon and reverse my last action. Real life is not like that. You can't unbreak a promise or take back careless words.
  30. Children are a blessing but you don't have to have them to be happy. A good marriage is a blessing but you don't have to be married to be happy. Live your life.
  31. Our culture idealizes extroversion but extroversion is not better than introversion. Both types have strengths and weaknesses.
  32. Don't dwell on your mistakes. Learn from them and move on.
  33. The other lane almost always appears to be moving faster. Most of the time, it is not.
  34. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
  35. I learn more from failure than from success. Perhaps because failure is humbling.
  36. When I enrolled in college, I thought about becoming a psychologist because I love learning about the human mind but I didn't want to have to talk to people. I thought about becoming a journalist because I love to write but I didn't want to have to talk to people. Thank goodness I have many interests because I found a livelihood that was right for me.
  37. Sometimes you have to get out of your comfort zone - like talking to people.
  38. We should listen to hear and not to respond (I took this one from my niece's list). Hold back on giving unsolicited advice or telling your own story.
  39. Don't automatically assume that other people share your values.
  40. You don't have to put two spaces at the end of a sentence as I was taught.  Old habits die hard.
  41. Singing is a powerful memory technique. Every time I climb over rocks on a hike, a commercial from my childhood pops into my head. Fat kids, skinny kids, kids who climb on rocks. Every time.
  42. True beauty comes from within: a gentle and quiet spirit.
  43. Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another, and feeling with the heart of another.
  44. Confession is good for the soul.
  45. Sometimes your only available transportation is a leap of faith.
  46. Google and other search engines taught me that my thoughts are not unique. 
  47. If you experience cognitive dissonance, it may be time to change your beliefs.
  48. No matter how old you are, you still feel like the same young person inside. 
  49. Change is inevitable. Growth is optional. - John C. Maxwell
  50. Reading "A Purpose Driven Life" did not show me my purpose. I found my reason for being in five words of Jesus: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
  51. When you believe in your values and yourself, you don't have to worry about what other people think. Even insults lose their power to sting.
  52. The ability to say no to yourself in the face of temptation is a super power.
  53. The best bucket list I have ever seen is a short and simple one: 1. Move to the beach, 2. Have no regrets.
  54. I know my Redeemer lives. Let all creation testify, let this life within me cry, I know my Redeemer lives! Because he lives, I can face tomorrow. - Nicole Mullen.
  55. Not one day is promised, not one day. Don't take your loved ones for granted.
And here's another one to grow on - life is a journey not a competition!

Friday, May 4, 2018

Dear Younger Me

A couple of months ago, my childhood pen pal found me on Facebook. We got together for lunch to catch up on forty years of life. Lori gave me letters that I had written to her from 1974-1976 when we would have been in the sixth through eighth grades. You wouldn't know it from my letters, but those were tumultuous times. 

Coincidentally, my sixth grade teacher wrote me a message on Facebook saying I should share a blog post I wrote about the sixth grade to show kids that time has a way of taking care of things. The world is much different than it was when I was a kid, but kids still face many of the same challenges. Sometimes I hear adults say that they would like to be a kid again. I wouldn't want to relive my childhood unless I could do it armed with the life experience I have now. What would the adult me tell the child me if she could?

Dear Younger Me:

I usually start out my letters with "I am fine. How are you?" I won't ask how you are because I already know. I'm writing to let you know that although you have a bumpy road ahead of you, you will come out of it pretty much unscathed. Someday you'll even be able to look back on these years without a feeling of angst.

If you feel like you don't fit in right now, you are not alone. Shy people like you aren't popular. You aren't cool. You won't be a star athlete; you won't even have the opportunity to try out for the team. That's okay. It is not unusual to feel like a misfit in school - look at all the movies that have been written about this! Yet kids who feel like misfits still grow up to be amazing, successful, functional adults.

Speaking of fitting in, I have to warn you that people are determined to force square pegs to fit in round holes even though there are slots that fit square pegs perfectly. People will try to change you into something that you are not. They already tell you to speak up, to be more social. It's not working, is it? They have been calling you bashful and shy since you were knee-high to a grasshopper. The labels tell you that you are different; that you are not what you're supposed to be. All it does is make you feel like there is something wrong with you. There isn't.

Someday, you will find your tribe. You'll discover that there are millions of people like you. Introverts are awesome! You'll find a job that makes the most of your strengths. But in the meantime, you'll have to put up with the pressure to conform to the "extrovert ideal." You'll have to participate in activities that were designed for extroverts - things that fill you with dread and anxiety. It won't be easy but you have to get out of your comfort zone once in a while. Facing your fears will make you even stronger!

I know that you are embarrassed and ashamed of being poor. Things are also a bit crazy at home. Take a walk in someone else's shoes. You're not the only one from a "broken" home. Unless you see the bruises, you don't know what another child is going through. Count your blessings. 

You already know that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover. But you have let a few snobby people convince you that your worth is determined by social status - how much money your parents have, the clothes you wear. They are wrong! (I'm going to let you in on a secret: you'll be able to afford nice things when you grow up but you won't even want them.)

The hardships you face today will teach you an invaluable lesson. Your worth is defined by the content of your character. Period. So be honest. Be reliable. Always do your best. Go the extra mile. Treat other people the way you want to be treated. You will regret a lot of things in your life, but you will never regret being kind.

There's one more thing I want to bring up before I close. Your mom. Over the next few years, she's going to frustrate the heck out of you. You won't understand her choices. You'll spend years trying to understand why she does the things she does. You don't realize how young she is and how much weight she has on her shoulders. The only thing you need to know is this: she loves you and she's doing the best she can. Give her a big hug for me, okay?

Your friend always,


P.S. U-R 2-Nice 2-B 4-gotten

My sixth grade teacher is right. Time changes things. Forty-three years ago, I would not have shared what I write with strangers. In one of my letters, I wrote about something upsetting that happened in Reading class. My teacher asked me for all of the stories I had written. She had a committee of my peers read them to select one to put in the newspaper. I was mad because I didn't want my stories to be published! I was very self-conscious and hated being the center of attention.

Time certainly changed my perspective on the struggles of my childhood. They say that adversity builds character. Perseverance. Determination. Empathy. If I could go back and relive my childhood, would I be willing to trade some measure of adversity for some measure of character building? No, I wouldn't. Painful memories fade. The lessons you learn in a "hard knock life" last forever.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Getting Into My Zone

All I wanted for Christmas was a Myzone heart rate monitor. I already had two Polar heart rate monitors with dead batteries and a Suunto HR monitor that still works. I don't use the Suunto HR monitor anymore but I wear the watch that came with it everyday. This monitor is different. What I like about it is that when I work out with it at my athletic club, the results of my efforts appear on a TV screen. A tile displays my heart rate, the percentage of my maximum heart rate and the meps (Myzone energy points) I've earned.

I usually resist the urge to get the latest fitness gadgets. I was very tempted by Fitbits at one time but I never bought one because there were too many kinds to choose from. 

But now I need motivation to work out harder. Since I started working out in the morning a year or so ago, I've neglected the cardiovascular part of my workout. When I drag myself to the gym 10-15 minutes later than I intend to, I don't have time to do 30 minutes of cardio. I spent several weeks doing rehab exercises for the back of my knee and that also cut into my cardio workouts. So even though I exercise at least five times a week, I've gained several pounds.

How does having this fitness gadget motivate me? The process of measuring effort motivates me to push myself harder. Myzone shows how hard you are working with five color-coded heart rate zones. The lowest level, grey, is 50-60% of your maximum heart rate. The highest level, red, is 90-100% of your maximum heart rate. 

I have always found that the maximum heart rate calculation is too low for me. Maximum heart rate is usually calculated as 220 minus your age. Myzone uses the formula (206.3 minus .711 times your age) which is a few beats higher. At my age, the maximum heart rate is 168 per the formula.

The first time I used the monitor, it said I was in the red zone (90% of the maximum) when my heart rate hit 150. But I don't feel like I am working hard at 150. I am not gasping for breath. I asked Renee, a trainer, about this and she said that Myzone would recalibrate itself. I can already see that happening. After using the monitor a few times, I didn't reach 90% until my heart rate was 154 or 155. Now Myzone shows a maximum heart rate for me of 173.

Myzone initially showed my resting heart rate as 75, typical for a person my age. After I used it a few days, it adjusted my RHR to 65. Renee said that I should put the fitness belt on while I am still in bed to measure my resting heart rate more accurately. I measured my resting rate this morning at 51. I thought it would be between 55 and 60.

My goal is to burn 500 calories each time I go to the gym, unless it is a rest day. I can reach my goal by running a 5k or by exercising about 40 minutes on other machines.

1/31 Update:

I've been using the My Zone heart rate monitor for just over a month now. A couple of weeks ago, I did a fitness test on a treadmill.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Free to be real

A few months ago, after my brother-in-law Greg passed away, I played dress-up with his granddaughter, Macy. My sister Amy took a picture of us. I thought about sharing the photo on social media at the time because it captured a fun moment but I didn't because I don't like the way I look. When I jut out my chin, an unconscious gesture, I accentuate the strong jaws I inherited from my paternal grandfather. Today, I'm willing to share the goofy photo because life is teaching me that I'd rather be flawed and real than perfect and fake - both inside and out.

I have always been reserved, holding back from expressing myself freely. It's a protective instinct. I have to really, really trust that I am safe with people to let my hair down. Although I am more comfortable expressing myself by writing, I still censor myself too much. I filter out what I don't want other people to see, holding back what I really think. control what I say or do, especially to avoid criticism. When I censor myself, I conform to the expectations of others instead of sharing my unique perspective. Sometimes I keep my thoughts to myself because what I have to say might offend or turn off one friend or another. Not appropriate for atheists. Not appropriate for Evangelicals. Too boring. Too weird. Too much navel-gazing.

Censoring myself to avoid disappointing or offending or boring others is not extending the same grace to myself that I would to someone else. I don't expect or want other people to be a cookie-cutter version of me so why should I try to be like anyone else? Self-censorship isn't being real and authentic. By editing out parts of me, I present an incomplete image, just as in keeping an unflattering photo to myself, I hid my playful side. 

I will never be perfect and that's okay

Like everyone else, I have a public personality or persona. My persona is the social facade that reflects the role I play in life. It is the image people expect me to uphold, the image I present to meet the demands of my environment or the situation I am in. My persona is the way I want other people to see me. 

The persona is a mask disguising the real self. It often represents an idealized image or role. Some of us have a professional buttoned-down persona, others want to be seen as the life of the party, others maintain a facade of toughness, and still others resist being typecast. Your reputation is based on the impression people have of you, so in that sense, image is everything.

When the persona is false, based on pretending to be something you're not, image is nothing. Pretending to know everything when no one does. Pretending to have a perfect life when no one does. Basing your image on things that are superficial - like money or the way you look. That kind of image is meaningless. We may fool a few people with a false persona but perceptive people see through the act whether we want them to or not. 

Spiritually speaking, people who put a lot of effort into protecting and maintaining a chosen persona have a lot more inner work to do to face the truth about themselves. In Falling Upward, Richard Rohr wrote that you should be really careful about any idealized role or image because they are hard to live up to and can trap you in a "lifelong delusion."

I have to admit that I do have an idealized image. She is a Nice Person, a Good Person, like my grandma. I want to be seen as kind, gentle, and considerate - the kind of person who doesn't step on toes or make anyone feel bad. I want the world to see me as someone who is never angry and never says anything bad about anyone else. The real me falls far short of my ideal.

I've always been turned off by people who are pretentious, fake, phony, or hypocritical. I'd rather be around people who admit that they don't have all the answers, that they don't do everything right, that they don't always look good. I'd rather be that kind of person myself.

I have learned that my idealized self is not worth protecting because 1) it isn't achievable and 2) although I will never be perfectly goodGod loves me anyway. Francesca Battistelli's song, Free to Be Me, sums it up well:
When I was just a girl I thought I had it figured out. My life would turn out right, and I'd make it here somehow. But things don't always come that easy and sometime I would doubt.
'Cause I got a couple dents in my fender. Got a couple rips in my jeans. Try to fit the pieces together but perfection is my enemy. On my own I'm so clumsy but on Your shoulders I can see, I'm free to be me.
I have nothing to prove. I'm free to be the real me.