Take the Yoke

KB Snatch

I’ve been in a malaise of stress and mental exhaustion since I last wrote. And let me tell you, comfort eating does not cure a damn thing. Chocolate bars won’t help you sleep; potato chips won’t play taxi driver for your kids; and raw cookie dough won’t fix the timing belt on your retro car.

However, five extra pounds in the winter does not have to turn into ten or twenty–it can stop here. And despite the recent proliferation of lebkuchen in Germany and my lack of regimented marathon training, my weight can dial back to normal based on the choices that I make.

Laziness, negativity, cookie-dough-eating: these are choices.

So what if you don’t feel motivated (to exercise, to write, to eat healthy)? Who the hell cares? Do what you know is right–no matter how ‘motivated’ you feel.

And as long as you are breathing and thinking somewhat clearly, then it’s not too late.

Every time I run a marathon, the first five miles are spent vowing to NEVER run another one again.

This has happened eight times.

Motivation is great, but it’s irrelevant. It’s better to just get the job done.

I’m not a pilot, so I apologize if my metaphor is inaccurate; but one thing I DO know is that if you’re in a nosedive, then you should pull up.

So you’ve been smoking for thirty years.

Pull up.

You’ve been eating crap for forty years.

Pull up.

Your only exercise is getting up to use the bathroom during commercial breaks.

Pull up.

It’s not too late.

And even if it turns out it IS too late, you don’t want the blackbox to reveal you were pushing forward on the yoke the entire time, telling the copilot, ‘I just can’t help it.’

Visualize what you want your life to look like–not just five years from now, but in the moment. And be utterly content with where you are in the dangerous process of dream-making.

If you look out and see nothing but the ground rushing towards you, then it’s time to take a deep breath, grab the yoke, and pull it back.

That’s what I’m choosing. 

 

 

 


Lessons from My 13 Year-Old Self: Contentment

Wonder Woman2

5 January 1987

Dear Diary,

It’s about ten o’clock. I had school today. Yuck! Thankfully, it went by quickly and I didn’t have much homework. I’ll probably flunk Home Economics. We have a test soon. Yuck! I can’t wait until this weekend. Will it NEVER come?! I can’t wait. School is so weird. It’s like it’s not real. I want to lose 10 lbs. I weigh about 130. I’m watching ‘Footloose.’ I can’t wait until this summer. I have to go to bed now.

–K.L.

I had forgotten about the journal I had gotten for Christmas when I was thirteen, until my mom brought it to me, along with some of my vintage clothes, a politically incorrect version of the game “Life,” and my 1979 Wonder Woman comic book.

Reading aloud the narratives of our family vacations with my “thrifty” (read: cheap) step-dad; my  mom and I laughed until we cried.  I was quite a drama queen–feeling my life would be over because of a move or doing badly on a test or some general heartbreak.

But aside from the dramatic use of middle-school Spanish to close each entry (Hasta Luego! Buenas Noches!) the sad theme of the diary is the lack of contentment within myself. In fact, this has been a sad theme for much of my life–I just never realized it until recently.

It feels like I’ve always struggled with this: looking for weight loss, or to win the lottery, or some relationship to make me feel whole. For much of my life, I felt like I was waiting for life to begin. And while I don’t believe that time is ever wasted (it may be misused, but it’s always character building); there were few moments when I felt like I was doing what I was SUPPOSED to be doing. Usually, I was busy trying to please other people–to say what they needed to hear in order to keep everyone happy. I never wanted to fail anyone.

But the fact is that we should never be the cornerstone of any person’s life, except our own. We each have a unique personality. We have talents, hopes and dreams. And when we use our talents, and are true to our character, then we can accomplish our dreams.

Home economics was never my forte (and still is NOT). But I’m finding that by aligning my personality–that person I REALLY am inside–with my goals, I am much more content. I have dreams that are within my grasp. But I’m the only one who can do the work to make them come true.

Regardless of the wishes of my 13 year-old self, winning 10 million dollars or getting a date would not have made me feel complete. No single thing outside of myself could possibly make me happy.

I have to start with the quiet confidence that my happiness, my desires and dreams matter in the scheme of things. 

It’s only when I am truly content with the present, and have made peace with the past, that I can move boldly into the future–no matter what.

Life has begun. And it feels good. 


Take Off Your Sunday Shoes

My son works on Sunday.

There. I admit it. I am a permissive mom.

Why is he working on Sunday? For the money, of course. So he won’t lose his job, of course.

But also…

because you forgot the butter.

or the carrots

or the tortilla chips

or whatever it was you didn’t plan for on Saturday.

One of the things that most annoyed me when I moved to Germany was that stores were closed on Sundays, but now I see the benefits of it.

I’m not opposed to shops being open on Sunday (though I do think it enslaves people, but that’s another topic). I’m opposed to the offended look, the startled response, the attitude and yes, even the comments some churchgoers make when they see people working on Sunday.

Before you walk into a store wearing your church shoes, pause for a moment at the door and remember that no matter the workers’ motives, (religious ambivalence, financial need, etc) the real reason these people are working on Sunday is because you shop on Sunday.

If you hold the belief that Sunday is a day of rest, and you are offended when people do actually work on Sunday, then stop contributing to a system that forces people to work on that day.

“Forces.” Did I just write that word?

Yes.

Some of you might say: “Plenty of people WANT to work on Sunday.” or  “They have different religious beliefs.”  Or “They are happy to have the money.”

My answer: it doesn’t matter.

Your shopping habits mean that stores will be open. Whether people want to work that day or not is irrelevant. Because I’m willing to bet that regardless of religious beliefs or economic factors, MOST people would prefer have Sunday off, especially if they have families they barely see.

My son earns the most money on Sundays, not because of the generosity of churchgoers (sadly), but because of the sheer numbers of them who go shopping after church.

My point is this: before you allow your religious disapproval to travel from your brain to your eyebrows, and, heaven help us, to your mouth, think about your own part in this system and how your actions affect others.

I never did. Until now.


Self Branding

“Your Character. Your personality. It’s your graphic, your sign, your value, and the ONLY thing you can truly possess.”

A friend of mine wrote that.

push up

It was timely, because not only did I recently teach a chapter on ‘branding’ in my business English course, but I’ve been thinking about how to ‘brand’ myself in a new business endeavor.

What are the qualities and values I want potential clients to associate with my name? How do I even go about branding myself? But aside from business…what values am I forging in my own life?

It’s easy to dust of the thesaurus and look for adjectives. But it’s far more difficult to BE some of those things. I suppose it depends on the words you choose for your life’s brand. Most of the things I want require hard work.

I want to speak German fluently, but the words aren’t going to magically appear in my head. I want to do pull ups, but I can’t expect to wake up with the ability. But these are things we can wrap our hands around.

Intangibles are much tougher.

To be reliable: it means to be there for people.

Integrity: it means to actually LIVE what you say you believe.

To make friendships: means to risk rejection.

To love: means to risk the most tender part of yourself.

A good work ethic: (*this is earth-shattering, I know) but it means WORKING HARD.

Living your dreams: it means you will face failure on a daily basis.

But just like with pull-ups, forging your life’s brand requires effort, dedication and practice. You will not be struck by lightening in a freak laboratory accident nor will a radioactive spider-bite suddenly make your life complete.

The fire will rage. The hammer will fall. But actions determine whether the metal becomes a sword or vaporizes into noxious fumes.

We are born with certain personality traits, tendencies and characteristics. But much of our character is hammered by iron, in the heat of the forge; and we can’t see the results until things cool down.

And yet, we are not passive, shapeless creatures. Our actions shape our character. 

Inaction shapes it too.

You just have to decide what brand you want for your life. And once you figure it out, you have to work for it. Because if you don’t brand yourself, time or circumstance may do it for you.

And it may not be the brand you had hoped for.


A Person of Quality

Sitting on the floor

Words without action die and go to a purgatorial lexicon where they await redemption by a different author.

So, when I say I want to lose ten pounds, I need to actually stop eating M&Ms.  If I want to run a marathon, I have to get my shoes dirty. If I want to do pull ups, then it would help to wrap my hands around the bar and pull.

Sometimes certain words follow me around like stray toddlers until I pay attention to them.

Lately, ‘quality’ has been tugging at my pant-leg.

As defined by a free online dictionary with questionable pop-ups, it can mean:

  • Character with respect to fineness, or grade of excellence
  • High grade, superiority, excellence

When people talk about quality, they’re usually talking about diamonds or overpriced handbags. We’re reluctant to apply the word quality to people, because it gives the sense that some are better than others, which really isn’t true, so hold your hate mail until you see where this is going.

How can you be a person of quality?

Can you wear sweat pants with bleach stains; sit on the kitchen floor and take selfies with the dog; have a dog that shits on the rug; say the word sh**? Does a person of quality have a dent-less car and an expensive smile?

A real diamond is expensive, but that has nothing to do with the quality. If you have a fake diamond, there is no quality. It simply looks like something it’s not.

True quality means being real. And it does cost a lot: your time, your sweat, your brainpower, your heart, your emotions, your thoughts.

It doesn’t mean blurting out every poisonous idea that wafts through your head. But it does mean living by the words you write.

The people I most admire are the ones who have mastered the art of being themselves.

I want to be a person of quality. 

There.

I wrote it.

Now I just have to live it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Groundhog Day

selfie glacier

I love movies where people get to repeat a single day.

When you have babies and toddlers, your entire life feels like ‘Groundhog Day’. You get stuck in this cycle of diapers and bottles and apple juice and chicken nuggets and the only thing that changes is the laundry pile, which never re-sets, but keeps growing.

But before you know it, the kids are writing their own scripts, and all you can do is watch it play out, as your job as director diminishes.

Which day would you re-live, if you could?

I’d like to say I’d chose the day one of my kids was born, but since I often felt I was being ripped in two, it would be a sentimental fiction.

The truth is that even if your perfect day involved lying in the sun, you still have to wash the white sand out of your bikini or put aloe on your crispy spots.

Time does not stand still, and no matter how hard you wish, a single day can’t be re-played. Time rushes forward, and our attitude determines if we ride its surf or drown in its depths.

Sometimes, the greatest use of time is decorating for autumn or making pink cupcakes with sprinkles. Other days, it’s working on a novel or back-squatting LESS weight. It might be surprising a friend with farm-fresh veggies, not knowing she’ll cry as she chops them into stew. Maybe it’s drinking coffee or taking a walk in the sunshine as your friend pours out her heart; these things should never be considered a waste.

We can’t live a single day over again, nor should we want to. But with each sunrise, we can make choices for health and happiness. Choices for the people we love. Choices that will fill hearts and light the spark of life in people who are stuck dreaming of Groundhog day.

 


Line of Sight

*Note the angle of this photo...from the front but not directly in my face. Thank you, coach.

*Note the angle of this photo…from the front but not directly in my face. Thank you, coach.

One of Ali’s repair jobs next door could explode, sending flaming chunks of automobile into our box, igniting the wallballs and turning the plyo boxes into a giant bonfire; and as the climbing rope burns like a candle wick and the ceiling starts to collapse; Rob would still finish his squat ladder, saying something like, “This should only take you six seconds,” as the bumpers smolder at the ends of the bar on his shoulders.

Of course, we’d expect that of a coach.

The rest of us mortals get annoyed or distracted by certain things.

I don’t mind if people watch me squat–it’s a part of this whole process. We encourage each other, and we help each other, because until I can feel the movement in my bones, I can’t always tell what I’m doing wrong.

But if you’re going to watch someone, don’t fucking stand directly in front of them. I mean, seriously. Think about it.

When I’m squatting, I’m keeping my head neutral, and if your body is directly in front of me, where do I look? Your face is too high, your feet are too low, if I look to the side I’ll get a kink in my neck: no, I have to look you squarely in the belly or at your shorts, depending on your height. And I don’t know about you, but this seems a little awkward to me–especially if you’re a guy.

The reader, at this point, might say, “Well, can’t you just tell him nicely to move?”

I probably could, IF I weren’t already descending towards the ground with 70 kilograms on my shoulders.

Sometimes we accidentally find ourselves standing in front of someone, or blocking the clock with our sweaty bodies as we chug our water bottles–I’m not talking about accidental bodily misplacement. I’m talking about deliberate hovering.

People, people, please, we all watch each other at Crossfit. It’s okay. But if you don’t know where to stand, take a look at what the coaches are doing. I have never once seen a coach stand directly in front of me. They always stand to the side a little, or directly to the side, so they can make sure my knees aren’t riding over my toes, or behind me, to endow me with their super-strength as I combat gravity with a barbell.

If you stand directly in front of me while I squat, (and by directly, I mean squarely eyeball to eyeball, 1 meter or less, AND you’re not actively lifting on the opposite rack) then unless you are one of my friends, all I can think about is punching you in the face when I’m done, and that’s probably not a healthy response.

If I were competing, I know there would be people in front of me–but if I’m strong enough to compete, then I hope my focus could endure ogling, hovering, flash photography, train wrecks and forest fires.

Until then, gentlemen, stay out of my line of sight; because if I don’t bore holes into your body with my stinkeye, then with all the ladylike grace I can muster, I’ll have to growl a string of bad words at you as I lift, and I don’t enjoy doing that, unless it’s an emergency.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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