Posted by: maureen in running on
Mar 27, 2013
Before running became the nonnegotiable part of my life it is now, I had to do quite the sales pitch on myself to haul my behind over to the track at the high school. Then I’d have to keep that sales pitch going, lap after lap.
Know what helped?
Pretending the bleachers were filled with people cheering me on. “Good job!” I imagined them hollering. “Way to go!” And, “It’s great you’re leaving baby Katie with Dad for a while on this beautiful summer evening to do something nice for yourself.”
Well, nice--and hell.
It was hell. I wasn’t in shape, I didn’t want to miss a second with Kate, and that was that.
The pretend cheerleaders must’ve helped. Certainly they didn’t hurt. Because eventually, through the process of learning and unlearning and relearning the importance of exercising, it’s what I do. No discussion. No skipping workouts unless I’ve made them up in advance. It’s soothing, really. There are no decisions to be made about exercise. I just do it.
To the extent anything else good happens, I attribute it to this: running is magic.
So is being your own cheerleader. More thoughts on that next week.
Posted by: maureen in wish, time, life on
Mar 26, 2013
Ever wish some people would just let you be?
You go first. Let them be.
If they want to be critical, let ‘em.
That, of course, is easier to say than do. I have to remind myself constantly I’m not running for mayor.
Not everyone is going to like you. It’s mathematically impossible, because people disagree with each other. Trying to get them to like you is a waste of time. If they were so open-minded you wouldn’t be on their list to begin with.
Have you noticed how rarely those who think you’re doing the wrong thing with your life are happy with theirs?
Happy people, in my experience, are busy being just that.
Posted by: maureen in discipline on
Mar 25, 2013
I spent a lot of time daydreaming while we were watching Minnesota play Florida Sunday. If you saw the game, you can relate.
What inspired me the most was the big pizza the people at the next table had ordered. It was huge. It was also weighed down with so much sausage and so many mushrooms and so much cheese--just so much cheese--it was difficult to think of anything else.
So I thought, “What the heck?” I imagined taking one bite, and then another, until I’d eaten three or four slices and washed them down with something else I haven’t had in almost four years. A&W root beer. Yeah, that would be good.
But I didn’t stop there. I imagined how I’d feel afterward. Red-faced from trashing much of what I’ve claimed to be about, granted--but also bloated, and sleepy. I’d want to take a nap. And when I woke up I’d probably want to do it all over again--or go in search of something even more decadent. Stale Cheetos, chased with a big bowl of Fruity Pebbles.
Do you see where this is going? Nowhere good. It’s a vicious cycle. I love pizza and everything else I just mentioned. I love it.
But I don’t love the feeling--lethargic--it leaves me with. And I especially don’t love craving it all the more for having indulged.
Maybe you’ve heard that discipline is remembering what you want. I think it’s remembering what you want most.
What I want most is how I feel now.
Junk food still calls, obviously. But I don’t answer. And that feels terrific.
Posted by: maureen in report, hunger, basketball on
Mar 24, 2013
When I was in elementary school my dad used to take me to Creighton basketball games. We had really good seats behind the bench, I had Dad all to myself, and I felt like--as Katie might say--a badass.
How much I enjoyed any particular game, though, depended on what had happened in school that day. Had I aced my tests? Gotten good grades on my homework? Not embarrassed myself with (gasp) the wrong answer when I was called on?
It started early, this hunger to do a good job at life. I found it difficult to relax if I didn’t have evidence of that.
Now that I’m older I get to design my own report cards. I choose the subjects. I decide how to keep score. My teachers are everywhere, and graduation means being able to do more of what I love doing.
March Madness, is to me, a reminder to up my game. What am I playing at? Am I leaving it all on the floor? It’s more fun to watch the tournament when I feel good about the answers to those questions.
And when I do? What better way to celebrate the game of life than by watching other people at the top of theirs?
I have to go now. Creighton’s playing Duke for a chance to go to the Sweet 16.
Posted by: maureen in writing, time, experiment on
Mar 20, 2013
When my agent suggested I start blogging several years ago, I resisted. I was afraid of failing, sure--but I was more afraid of what I’d be giving up. The time was going to have to come from somewhere.
Well, apparently I’d been spending a lot of time…wishing I was writing more! Because the only thing I have less of is regret.
Writers write. My agent knew what others have noticed, that I have a burning need to be a journalist--to experiment with my life, and to share the results with you.
I’d been doing that in private until she came along. And one thing that strikes me, looking back over all those notes--we’re talking thousands of pages--is how earnest I was about my career, how concerned I was about where I was going and whether I was getting there quickly enough.
I’ve felt very little of that the past few years. I’ve found work I love. I want to get better at it, and I want to do more of it. I’m much less concerned with where I’m going because I’m having so much fun where I am. I don’t even mind working out or doing laundry or whatever it is--not as much, anyway--because I’m always daydreaming about who might be fun to have on the talk show or whether to share something personal on the blog.
The reward is in the doing.
My agent knew me better than I knew myself, and I owe much of what I love about my life to her. I’ll never be able to thank her enough.
I hope you have at least one person in your life who notices what you’re good at, who notices what you love, and suggests you do more of that.
And if you’re a blogger, I hope you have at least one reader like the one I heard from today, who prints out a post for safekeeping--the way people used to do with Erma Bombeck columns--and thanks you for writing it.
I hope you bask in it, too. Because while the reward is in the doing, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a little icing on that cake.
Posted by: maureen in time, breath, beauty on
Mar 19, 2013
Every time I notice the school bus pulling up in front of our house to pick up the neighbor kid, I stop. I stop, and I watch it until it’s out of sight.
It reminds me how quickly life is whooshing by. I don’t want to miss it.
“You can go about your business,” someone once said, “as long as you remember that death is taking care of his.”
Your grandparents and their grandparents were once where you are now, thinking they had all the time in the world. But you don’t. It’s running out, and you don’t want to miss it (1) slaving away at someone else’s idea of what you should be doing, or (2) worrying that time is running out.
Better to be aware of the passage of time, and oblivious to it, at once.
How? By stopping more often. Find triggers to remind you to do that.
I stop at the top of our stairs just before I go to sleep. The picture window frames a breathtaking view of the starry sky.
I stop when I see sunlit or moonlit diamonds on the snow, which is constantly--because I live in Minnesota. I stop when I see sunlight or moonlight on the water, in the summer--which is constantly, because we live next to a lake.
I stop when I’m in the car, because Darrell’s driving and I’ve declared the car a work-free zone.
I stop when someone’s talking to me, just to listen--because it’s polite, and because it’s easier to learn something when you aren’t busy deciding what to say when it’s your turn to talk.
Then I get back to work, refreshed from drinking in the beauty of an ordinary day.
Posted by: maureen in souvenir, driving, construction on
Mar 18, 2013
A friend of the family fell asleep at the wheel last fall, and she escaped unharmed. I don’t know if we’ll ever recover from the thought of what might have happened, though.
I got reminded of that recently when I saw a statistic about how many people have admitted to texting while driving in the last month. It was staggering.
Be careful out there.
I’m not coming from a holier-than-thou perspective on this. There’s a mirror above the desk where I’m working, and I can see the souvenir on my forehead from the accident I got into the summer between my sophomore and junior years in college.
I wasn’t buckled, and I was hungry after a long day of working construction. I had a sack lunch of mostly fried chicken in the car, but it had fallen on the floor. I reached down to grab it and when I straightened up I heard glass shattering. The horn was blaring because I was pinned against the steering wheel.
I was okay, eventually. The trauma was mostly cosmetic, and it’s difficult to see these days unless you’re looking for it.
My boyfriend and I returned to the scene of the crash several weeks after it happened. We wanted to estimate how fast I'd been going when I hit the gaurdrail. He was driving this time, and he made the same turn I had--from a gravel road onto a paved road. The guardrail was only a few feet from that turn, and to hear my boyfriend tell it you’d have to want it. Even when he gunned it, he only got up to about fifteen miles an hour.
It doesn't take much speed to get in a lot of trouble if you drive into a guardrail.
So turn off the phone, buckle up, and stay alert when you’re driving.
And the chicken in that sack lunch? It can wait.
“Wait a minute,” I suddenly realized only a couple of months ago. We were visiting the person who’d made me that chicken. She’s still a good friend. And she was just as baffled by this as I was: “Why was I about to dig into some chicken that had been left in a hot car for ten hours on a blistering summer day in central Nebraska?”
I’m lucky I didn’t die of food poisoning!
Or embarrassment, for that matter. Because if memory serves, my dad had this observation: “My daughter wants to be a civil engineer. She’s trying to knock down bridges with her car.”
Posted by: maureen in project, happiness, choice on
Mar 17, 2013
The Happiness Project’s Gretchen Rubin
says making your bed will make you happier
Are you surprised?
Hit the snooze button, leave the bed a tangled mess of pillows and blankets--and pretty soon you’re having a donut instead of a real breakfast, texting the colleague across the hall instead of stopping by to have a real conversation about a project that matters, and cutting off someone in traffic because you’re sure you’ve had a worse day than that person and he can suck it.
“Make it a great day, or not. The choice is yours.” The announcements at Katie’s middle school always ended with that reminder, and for as much as we’ve joked about it over the years it’s embedded into our brains like that silly commercial about not squeezing the Charmin.
Making it a great day starts with making your bed. Justify the time by thinking about the figurative beds you’re making for you and your sweethearts.
The choice is yours!
Posted by: maureen in play, personality, laugh on
Mar 13, 2013
Once upon a time the people ushering me from one rung to the next on AT&T’s corporate ladder gave me some coaching.
I was about to be interviewed for a midlevel management position, and the suggestions were specific: “Cut your hair. Wear a suit and top it off with one of those (silly) little ties. And whatever you do, tone down the bubbly personality!”
Which I did. I sat in the lobby of a swanky office building in Kansas City, petrified. The receptionist--who later became one of my best friends because she was a sweetheart and thought I was, too--took me in. And at first she decided, “What a (insert unflattering noun).”
I carried off that oh-so-cool corporate demeanor for--what?--about three hours once I got the job. I’m surprised I was hired, considering the receptionist had shared her first impression of me with anyone who’d listen.
I had a lot of fun during those couple of years in corporate America--flying to and from New York City, for one thing, to attend still another marketing meeting--even though I hated the actual work. Which mostly meant, to borrow from Dave Barry, keeping the blame balloon afloat. I wasn’t very good at that, to begin with--but we had a lot of laughs at my lame (and occasionally adequate) attempts.
Oh-so-cool is so not me.
The highlight of that job was after my boss told our staff he thought we had a very honest, open group. I turned to my nemesis and said, “I agree. I have to believe that what you say behind my back isn’t any worse than what you say to my face.” Everyone cracked up. My boss pulled me aside later to tell me he thought I was the reason the group was so much fun. An agent would echo that many years later: “You don’t have any filters.”
Okay, so that would suck if I aspired to be a poker player. But I hate playing games--except for Scrabble, and Tetris.
I’d rather play it straight.
Posted by: maureen in adventure on
Mar 12, 2013
You know what ADD is, right? Barbara Winter
doesn’t think you do. She thinks more of us suffer from adventure
deficit disorder than anything.
What’s it going to be?
According to Helen Keller
, life is either a daring adventure--or nothing.
I’ll take daring adventure, please.