Sunshine and Shadow

There’ll always be elements of sunshine and shadow in our lives, and it’s our perceptions of each that make us happy or miserable.

This morning while walking a few miles at Scott Park, I was again struck with the contrast of sunshine and shadow, just like our lives. Even when you’re walking in the light, there are some things going on that you could notice and complain about. Some people do, loudly and frequently. “It’s hot as heck,” they say, “and my eyes hurt.”  Then you’re in the shadow. It’s good too, but sometimes you’re so busy feeling sorry for yourself that you don’t notice the slight temperature change or the slight breeze that cools your skin.   

Have you got anything good going on right now? Can you walk? Can you see? Did you sleep in a bed last night instead of on the street somewhere? Will you have lunch later today? Sunday morning before going to church, I spent some time watering my plants and flowers. I was lamenting the fact that I’d spent a small fortune on them, and despite my frequent attention, many were dying. Plus, it was almost unbearably hot, and I just wanted to get it over with and scoot inside to the air conditioned comfort. I was also thinking about a lesson I had to teach in a couple of hours, one that I felt a little anxious about. Although I’d spent hours reading and preparing, I still felt inadequate to adequately cover the topic.

Did you see a few good things going on in the above paragraph? There were several. I have an air conditioned home that has some pretty flowers and plants around it. I have running water that enables me to stand and water the petunias and ferns.  I don’t have to go to a well to get it. I have eyes to see not only my yard but all of Mother Nature’s handiwork. I have the opportunity to worship at a church of my choice…and to teach. I don’t live in a country where women’s voices are stifled. Here’s what happened to wake me up from my pouty, self-centeredness. I looked up. That’s it. I looked up and saw the treetops gently moving with the breeze, and beyond them was the bluest sky I’d seen lately…or at least that I’d taken note of. I gulped at the magnificence of the sight and wondered how many just like it I’d missed because I’d been too busy grumbling or looking down.

Hours later and several degrees hotter, I remind myself that I live in the American South, the land of magnolia trees, grits, and beautiful beaches. Hmmm. Makes me want to reread To Kill a Mockingbird.

Gliding Along

I saw something Saturday afternoon that defies description. Sounds like a hackneyed phrase, but still…it was awesome.

Stressed to the max, I escaped to the beach for about an hour. Why stressed? The end of the semester with six classes (make that seven when you add the online one from another college), Elizabeth’s house closing and all the puzzle pieces that went into that, and then learning that my beautiful young niece had being stricken with spinal meningitis. We didn’t know whether it was bacterial or viral at the time; we just knew that she was in excruciating pain and running a high fever. There were other issues going on too, stuff I’d rather not go into at the moment. I needed my mama to talk to! So what did I do? I went to the strand to walk and think and pray until I regained my usual optimistic perspective. Surely I’d find some solace there.

I walked for a while and then sat in my trusty beach chair to read. After a few moments, I closed my eyes and enjoyed seeing the vibrant oranges and reds and pinks, a regular light show going on behind my eyelids. I don’t how the retina’s cones provided that, but the show was magnificent. Eyes still shut, I became more aware of the squawking seabirds, the laughter of playing children, the roar of the ocean, and the muted, constant hum of nearby conversations.

Leaning back, I opened my eyes and saw a breathtaking sight, four pelicans gracefully gliding above me. Between me and a cloud, their movements seemed almost languid, and yet they were moving along at quite a clip (compared to humans). As the one in front lifted its wings, then the one behind followed, and the one behind, and then….you get the picture. It was a beautiful sight and one I’ll never forget.

Even this morning, as I think of their unity as they moved gracefully across the sky, I feel peace. I could take a lesson: Stay together, be cool, move at a decent (not unduly rushed) state, and glide…just glide. Things will work out. Sarah Beth is on the mend, Elizabeth moved in her new home over the weekend, and well, things are moving steadily forward with my end of semester stuff. I’m gliding along.

Get Moving!

Just a couple of quick thoughts about how Elizabeth, Carla, and I plan to use ME from this day forward. We were sitting around talking about size and shape and the impact that just a tiny bit of exercise could make on both. This is a topic that comes up quite often since we seem to eat more and move less when we’re on vacation.

I don’t have the time or inclination to get into the tremendous value of the E word (exercise) today, but I do want to mention that we all three agreed that it’s the secret to weight control, overall fitness, energy level, disease resistance, stress reduction, and even confidence level. We also agreed that sometimes it’s near nigh impossible to work in a fitness routine when life is so BUSY.  “Still,” I insisted in my diatribe with these young women, “You can do something. Just move!”

Movement and exercise are vital for both physical and psychological health, and I’m as sure of that as I am sure that the sun’s going to come up tomorrow. We sat there staring at each other for a few minutes, and then I lowered the boom (so to speak).  I asked them if they’d ever heard the phrase, “If it is to me it’s up to me,” and neither of them had. Elizabeth giggled and then asked me to repeat it.

“Hey, think of it like this. ME stands for Movement/Exercise, and if it’s going to happen, it’s up to me to get moving.  It’s up to ME and for Me.” I think they liked my little acronym, and I hope they read this blog and get moving. ME, Ladies…ME.

Always Too Early to Quit

Norman Vincent Peale

 Ever get stuck on a project? Ever feel like whenever you take one step forward, you take two steps back? Ever feel like throwing in the towel and giving up on something you’ve been working on? I have. I think one of the things that holds me back is time…yes, and maybe lack of focus too. Like you, I have 168 hours per week to do things, and yet my hours seem to be frittered away by details, especially those involved with making a buck. I’m not complaining, just sayin’. 

Whenever I feel discouraged, I love reading success stories, especially those that come about after a few trials and tribulations. It’s a bit disheartening to read about instant success if you’ve been plodding and planning and trying your dead level best to succeed at something and have it come to naught. From what I can pick up, however, that’s not how it usually happens. 

Someone once said (maybe you can provide the source of this quote) that most overnight successes take about 20 years. While it might seem easy and quick to the outsider looking in, achieving major accomplishments takes time, effort, and maybe even a little help from above. Rome wasn’t built in a day, right? 

This morning I’m thinking of Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, minister and prolific writer. The only book I’m familiar with is his famous The Power of Positive Thinking.  Published in 1952 and translated into at least 42 languages, this book was once rejected so many times that he gave up on it. The story I heard is that he threw the crumpled manuscript into the trashcan and forbade his wife to remove. Evidently, she had more confidence in his work than he did because she took the trashcan, manuscript within, to a publisher who saw the “power” of the book and took a chance on Peale’s seminal work. 20 million copies later, the book is still going strong. 

I often spout his quote, “Change your thoughts and you change your world,” in classes when cognitive psychology is being discussed. It’s a simple, yet powerful thought. This morning I came across an even shorter one that I’m going to keep in mind: “It is always too early to quit.” 

I KNOW that if my friends and I get frustrated with our project progress, then there are others who do the same. From now on, I’m going to remind myself of Peale’s advice. It worked for him.

Good Stuff

When my hubby left for work yesterday morning, I walked him to the door and went through the usual morning routine, including a quick kiss and “I love you” reminder. As he walked out into the frigid morning, I felt prompted to add, “Hey, I hope some good things happen to you today.” “Me too,” he said as he walked down the steps.

As I turned to walk back into the warm house, I thought about how several good things had already happened for both of us:

  • We woke up. Some people don’t; some are in comas or in drug or alcohol induced states…or perhaps they died during the night. In that case, one can hope that they’re in a better place, but that’s a subject for another day.
  • When we woke up, we were able to get ourselves up out of bed and start our day. My friend Joan Ella is a nurse who made me realize that some people wake up in hospitals or perhaps even in their own homes and they literally cannot get up. It could be their legs, but it could also be some other problem such as recovery from surgery, a stroke, or problems associated with advanced age. Those people have to wait for someone else to help them with going to the bathroom, bathing, brushing their teeth, dressing, and sometimes even feeding themselves.
  • While we sometimes whine about the proverbial 9-to-5 that we’ve done all of our adult lives, it’s great to have jobs, especially at this time when so many people don’t. It’s also great to be able to get in our cars and drive somewhere as opposed to being stuck in a hospital room or a recliner.
  • Speaking of jobs, we like them…another great blessing. It’d be horrible to live a life of quiet desperation that Thoreau described.
  • We like our vehicles and are grateful for reliable transportation.

The above are just things I thought of while DH was leaving the driveway. Here’s some more good stuff that happened:

  • Jim and I got to work early enough to fully get our ducks in a row before class.
  • Driving to Sumter, we saw the huge orange sun as it rose on the horizon.
  • As I was sitting in my office looking over some material, a young woman stopped and said, “Ma’am, I just stopped to say how pretty you look today. That’s a gorgeous coat and scarf.”  Nice, huh? I returned the compliment and told her how much I appreciated her sweet words. I also vowed to pass it on to someone else during the day. Just so you’ll know, I personally think the combination of the white coat and pink scarf is what turned her head.
  • The above mentioned attire kept me warm. I’ve been thinking of ways to help people who are cold without making a big deal over it…something simple like leaving gloves or scarves accidently on purpose where they can be found.
  • I met a new person, an psychology adjunct who’s bubbly and smart and interested in the psychology blog. Yay!
  • I got to see my sister for a few minutes. Love her lots.
  • Enjoyed Taco Bell for lunch. Variety’s nice.
  • I watched Whitney and Allie play with their new hula hoops.

Time to go to work. I hope lots of good things happened to you yesterday too. Let me rephrase that: I hope you paid attention to the good things that happened to you yesterday. I hope you took the time to realize that no matter what’s going on in your life, there’s always some good stuff too. Mmmm. I’m getting ready to take a warm shower, a treat that many don’t enjoy. I’ve got a feeling that today is going to be another day with blessings galore.

Do It Anyway

If you read the blog entitled “Guiding Word,” you know that some friends and I choose a word at the beginning of each year to serve as a guide for our thinking, feeling, and acting. If you haven’t read it, you should. Ha Ha. I’m feeling pretty upbeat this morning, perhaps because of the gift of extra morning time. Church begins at 12:30 for those of us in the Camden Ward this year, and generally speaking, my mind works better during the first part of the day.

But I digress. The purpose of this post is to talk about Christy’s word a few minutes: Courage. It’s something we all need a double dose of from time to time, and her post about it is so inspiring that I can’t stop thinking about it. Check it out at http://christypeake.blogspot.com.

Her post reminded me of a book entitled Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers. Dr. Jeffers says that people see fear in the wrong way, and that it’s actually a green light to keep going. Trepidation is undeniably real, but we just need to push forward, to feel the fear and do it anyway. Sure, security and routine are safe, but can’t they be a little risky?

Jeffers believes that the killer fear is that you won’t be able to handle something, and she suggests practical ways to help you get to the point where you know you can handle anything that comes your way. You must practice positive thinking every single day until sooner or later the positivity you create will begin to seem more real.  

We all know this already, but there’s just something about Jeffers’ writing that makes you really take heed to what she’s saying. She says we need energizing everyday, and that just like eating breakfast energizes and fuels our body, reading inspirational quotes and books fuels our psyches. Take control of your mental inputs, Jeffers advises. Say things like, “I am a confident person in every situation.” Never be fearful of mistakes. Lighten up and be happy that you had the experience…that you tried.

Wouldn’t be awful to come to the end of your life and still be thinking coulda, shoulda, woulda.  From teaching Human Growth and Development, I’ve learned that the #1 regret of elderly people is that they DIDN’T give things a try, that they let their fears hold them back. By that time, it’s too late to make that call, start that business, write that article, or fly around the world. I don’t know about you, but I will not be one of those people who says on her death bed, “Sure wish I’d taken more chances.”

Jeffers offers a perfect example of how she worked through humans’ #1 fear, rejection.  These are her words lifted right from her website:  “It took many, many rejections before my first book, FEEL THE FEAR AND DO IT ANYWAY, was finally accepted by a publisher. The worst rejection letter I ever got was that “Lady Di could be bicycling nude down the street giving this book away and nobody would read it.” Can you imagine being told that? I bet that publisher has regretted that snide comment hundreds of times. What if Jeffers had listened? What if she had given up? What if she had felt the fear and stopped?

I want to be more like Susan Jeffers and Christy Peake. I’m going to feel the fear and be courageous enough to do it anyway. What about you? As they say, life expands or contracts according to one’s courage.

Marathon Preparation

Marathon

I’ve been “in training” for the Outer Banks Half-Marathon for the past couple of months, and as a result, I’ve been reminded of lots of truisms about exercise. By the way, I put quotation marks around “in training” because I’m certain that my training and that of SERIOUS participants is quite different. Some people get out there and push themselves to the wall (whatever that means) for miles and miles and hours and hours. Me? Well, I’ll tell you in the following tips.

  • Just do it. Excuses don’t cut it when race day comes, so get up off the couch, lace up your shoes, and head out the door. I recently jotted down this quote overheard at a talk in church: “The will to win is nothing without the will to prepare.”
  • About the just doing it, they say you only need 30 minutes of exercise four or five times a week. For those of you who can’t afford 30 minutes at a stretch, then break it up into smaller segments. That works too; something’s better than nothing.
  • Listen to your body. I’ve said this to my children and friends so much that they’re probably sick of it. Still, if something hurts, that’s a message from your body to you. Take a day off…or at least slow down. That “no pain, no gain” slogan is for the birds. Maybe, just maybe, you can do that on race day, but if you have a stress injury or torn ligament, then there might not be a race day.
  • Pace yourself. If you know that you have six miles to cover one afternoon, don’t go out like a speed demon. Start slowly and then gain some momentum. My first husband once gave me some excellent advice that I’ve never forgotten. “Work on distance first…and then on speed.”  Saturday morning I walked 11 miles, and now that I know I can go the distance, maybe I’ll hustle a little faster on Sunday morning.
  • Conserve as much energy as possible. While this is sort of like the above advice, it’s sort of not. One of my brothers, the one who’ll be participating in the OBX Half-Marathon with me (ahead of me), once told me that when he had to travel a long way, he barely lifted his feet, almost shuffling.
  • Get the right shoes. On the recommendation of Anna, my nephew’s wife, I bought some ASICS with gel. So far, so good. I’ve also learned that just the right socks are important too. They can’t be too thin or too thick, but since this is an individual preference, you’ll have to experiment for yourself. It’s amazing the difference that the correct footwear can make.
  • Just keep going. Don’t quit. In 1997, I participated in a Team-in-Training Marathon for the Leukemia Society. Each participant raised over $3,000, and about 45 of us flew from Myrtle Beach to Anchorage, Alaska. My daughter Carrie and her friend Michelle were probably the least prepared of all the participants, but they did it. They finished the entire 26.2 miles, and they did it by taking one step at a time.
  • Keep the can-do attitude. When training for the above event, a motivational speaker once came to speak to our group. One of the many things she told us was that after the event, we’d be tired, aching, hungry, and sore. However, she said, “After a nice warm shower and a good night’s rest, you’ll be good to go. Some of the patients you’re raising money for will never have that experience.” That was a sobering thought, and I’ve never forgotten its impact.
  • As the BIG DAY approaches, I find myself thinking all sort of “what if” things. What if I don’t sleep the night before? What if I’m the last one to finish? What if I can’t do it? At such moments, I think of a great psychological concept, self-efficacy. In a nutshell, it refers to a person’s belief about whether he or she can accomplish something. Once self-doubt creeps in, you’re done. If you think you can’t, you’re right. You can’t. You might as well quit right then and save yourself the embarrassment of doing it later. On the other hand, if you think you can, then you can. I can.  Yes, there will be discomfort and the recurrent thoughts about why I let David talk me into doing it, but I can and will do this thing.

Hey, and guess what? You could too. Dick’s Sporting Goods has quite a selection of shoes.