Gift Appreciation Mode

Comparison.

Comparison is a thing I do.

Comparison happens when I interact with you and cannot help but observe how smart, funny, insightful, amazing, determined, gifted, and completely awesome you are, and then measure this against myself and find a deficit.

This comparison deficit transforms itself into insecurity.

This insecurity finds ways to interfere with other aspects of life, including my relationship with you.

But during a recent conversation with a friend, I discovered a better option.

What if I just started to look at your smart, insightful, amazing, determined, and completely awesomeness as a gift?

A gift that you have to bring into the world and make it a better place.

What if I just spent the next few weeks or months in Gift Appreciation Mode?

Would Gift Appreciation Mode help rewire how my brain works?

Gift Appreciation Mode would allow me to just watch your smart, insightful, amazing, determined, and completely awesomeness, and instead of comparing or judging, I would just sit and appreciate it, like a fine work of art.

Gift Appreciation Mode could act like a ticket to the best museum of awesomeness around me, and all I have to do is walk around, view the exhibits, and appreciate those gifts for the beauty they bring into the world.

Comparison is harmful.

Gift Appreciation Mode brings healing.

Comparison excludes and separates.

Gift Appreciation Mode opens and connects.

I hope the Gift Appreciation Mode museum of awesomeness has a gift shop at the end, or at least one of those cool audio tours. I wonder who we could get to do the voice…

Mourning the loss of who you thought you would be

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(Image Courtesy of the Great Robin Lake)

We start out in life thinking we are going to be a certain thing.

We make plans. We make choices. We move in a direction. We become invested in who we are going to be.

Sometimes dreams don’t work out. Plans change. Choices are made. Sometimes we fail. Maybe we succeed at different things. Our journey took us in interesting directions, and the people we met and experiences we had created forks in the road. We took some of those forks.

We are “here” today, right where we ended up. Not to say that “here” is a bad place.

In some ways “here” is better than we expected, in other ways maybe not as good.

However, there was a lot of us in the original plan. It was part of our story. Part of our narrative about who we were, and how we described ourselves.

And if, as I recently realized about my own original plan, it was wrapped up in a healthy (or unhealthy) dose of ego and pride, part of it remains with us years or decades later.

A few recent events triggered some interesting emotions surrounding an old plan. What I thought was long gone, had just been lying dormant. The freshness of the ego and pride associated with these events caught me a little off guard.

But I had to ask,

“Why are these emotions still here years later?”

“These plans, or goals are long dead, how did they return?”

It was in asking the questions that the answer came into focus.

Long dead.

What do we do when someone or something dies? We mourn.

Mourn:to feel regret or sadness about (the loss or disappearance of something).

When we don’t mourn, losses remain.

Even when we move forward, un-mourned losses lay dormant.

I never took the time to mourn the loss of who I thought I would be. Life moved forward, the plans changed. Life turned out better than the original plan.

But the un-mourned losses remained.

Where has your life taken you? Where have your plans changed, and your dreams shifted?

Where should you be mourning the loss of who you thought you would be?

Mourn. And may mourning help you move forward in your journey.

Celebrate Events

Flags in DC

(Image Courtesy of My Daughter, and the Washington Monument)

A few years ago I wrote about lessons I learned from my mom.

They were simple lessons:

Be Tough. Work Hard. Celebrate Events.

Last week, I was able to share these lessons with the crowd of family and friends that gathered for her memorial service.

More than just the words, or the lessons. We decided to put one of her lessons into practice: Celebrate Events.

We decided to make this 3,138 mile journey memorable and celebrated events along the way.

Car Trouble.

Mountain views.

Hershey Park.

Fast Rides.

Park food.

Visits with great friends.

Sushi. (Arguably the best I have had.)

Long days in the car.

Audio books.

Car Dancing.

Hotel pools.

Traffic.

Food. Food. Food.

Hugs from those who are close.

Tears, memories, and more hugs.

Connection with those you love.

Ocean.

More driving.

Sea World.

Cousins!

More rides.

Florida rain.

A round of frozen drinks to toast the one we lost.

Driving still.

The meal at the Bull.

Washington D.C.

Gluten Free Grilled Cheese!!!

Memorials that move you.

Remembering great people and great events.

Walking. Walking. Walking.

Museum.

More road time.

TRAFFIC.

Family.

Driving still.

Home.

Despite the loss, despite the sadness, we celebrated.

Great new memories.

New stories.

Mom, we will miss you.

Thanks again for the lessons.

 

Savoring the Quirks

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Everyone has quirks.

Some quirks are endearing.

Some quirks are irritating.

Why don’t they replace that roll?

Why do they wait until the recycling is overflowing?

Why do they always bring up that thing when you visit?

Why do they [insert our issue, pet peeve, history, expectation, or offense] here?

Recently we have experienced some loss.

Recently those around us have experienced some loss.

Recently we got news that more loss is coming.

Loss causes a shift in perspective.

What was once irritation now causes comfort.

An empty roll means they are still here. Maybe just a few moments ago.

Messy toys on a table, way too many wet shoes piled in a heap by the back door, fingernail polish on the coffee table, the piercing pain when you step on a LEGO, the fuel gauge left on empty, piles of unopened mail, the strange pile of receipts by the phone, clutter on the stairs, jackets on the backs of chairs, modeling clay in the carpet, gum in the driveway, mystery stains on the kitchen floor, the overflowing hamper, the heap of clothes by the shower, whatever gets stuck in the drain, loud voices downstairs in the morning, slurping noises while drinking, loud crunchy chewing, and the list goes on, and on, and on.

Today you have all these things. Someday they will cease.

Instead of irritation. Choose savoring the quirks.

Maybe these quirks can be reminders of what you have.

 

Thanks for the Delay

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(Image Courtesy of http://www.telegraph.co.uk)

A solitary airport employee stood behind the small podium looking back and forth between the screen, and their own hands. As I approached, their gaze looked down towards the floor. Any attempt at eye contact seemed impossible.

A few minutes earlier, as most of us prepared to board the flight, the announcement was made. Due to delays for an inbound flight, our flight was going to postpone boarding and wait 30 minutes.

Sighs, frustrated words, angry looks, and tension filled the boarding area. Some of which was directed at this solitary employee.

I waited.

Another employee joined that employee and some softer words were exchanged. Finally, they both looked up at me.

“Can we help you?”

“Yes, I just wanted to say Thanks for the Delay.”

They paused.

“Please let me explain. The last time I flew with you, my plane was a late. Storms caused us a delay, and you held my connecting flight, just like you are doing right now. So, Thanks for the Delay. I know what it feels like to think that you will be stranded, and you took care of me.”

Smiles. Relief. More Smiles.

“Well, you are welcome. Funny, someone who came up here was explaining that someone else’s delay was not their problem at all.”

I smiled, waved, and went for a walk to get a smoothie (before the delay, there was no time to get one). As I was leaving I overheard them speaking to each other.

“You know, we may just have to remember that.”

I hope they do. More so, I hope we remember that sometimes planes wait for us. Sometimes you are the customer getting help. Other times, you may have a slight inconvenience when they are providing the same level of service to someone else.

At the end, due to a combination of winds and a flight crew that pushed a little harder on the gas, the flight arrived only 15 minutes later than originally expected.

15 minutes was all it cost so that a handful of people were not stranded in a strange city overnight. Seems like a pretty good trade.

Thanks for the Delay.

 

The Hill Rule

The Hill Rule

Our youngest daughter recently began running with me. We found some new shoes and planned a run.

“How far do you want to go on your first run?”

“How far do you normally go when you go off running?”

“Well my typical everyday route is a 5k.”

“How far is that?”

“3.1 miles.”

“Okay we should do that.”

We ran. We talked. We laughed.

We had to slow down a few times. She is used to sprinting on the soccer field.

As I watched her, her stride, gate, and frame something became clear: it is only a matter of time before she can out run me. With a combination of pride and a little envy, I realized my job is to coach her well, enjoy this time with her, and help her excel in something that she seems designed to do.

Each step confirmed that she is a runner.

But there is a hill.

In addition to providing encouragement and some tips on breathing, I explained that there is The Hill Rule in running. For those of you not familiar with this particular rule, let me explain.

The Hill Rule: when running up a hill, you are not allowed to stop. If you need to stop there are only two options.

1. Stop before you get to the hill, catch your breath, then proceed up the hill.

2. Stop at the top of the hill, after you run up the hill.

The reason for The Hill Rule is simple. A large part of running is a mental game. Stopping in the middle of a hill imprints a pattern that you cannot run hills, and you will tend to stop when faced with the next larger hill. The Hill Rule breaks this pattern, and does acknowledge that hills are hard, but there are options to overcome them.

The more I thought about The Hill Rule, the more I could see how it applies to any obstacle we face. When we give up or stop in the middle, we develop a pattern that can continue the next time that obstacle arises. Frankly, a large part of life is a mental game. 

Try applying The Hill Rule to your next obstacle. Either stop and rest before you tackle it, or rest when it is over. No stopping in the middle.

We ran up that hill without stopping. We rested at the end, and celebrated the run.

We are looking forward to the next run, and there will be hills.

 

Harvesting My Own Crops: A lesson is being grateful

Two days ago, I went to the grocery store. Not just any grocery store, I went to the busy one at 11:30 AM on a Sunday morning.

The store was packed. Aisles were hard to navigate, and the scene was like something out of a pile up on the freeway. Some carts were pulled over on the side trying to find something, while others darted through small breaks to speed to the next lane. Our turn signals didn’t work, neither did the brake lights and you could sense that tension in the air around every corner, and there were a few small collisions.

As I approached the registers, it was quite a sight. Every register was open, and there was a line of at least four carts in every line. Behind the carts was a massive group of additional carts trying to figure out which line to join, and how to navigate from the group to an individual line.

The manager made an announcement.

“We know that today is busy, but please turn your carts to the side because the lines are so long, we need additional space in the front of the store.”

It was at this moment, I began to observe everyone around me. I slowed down and just began to watch. I also noted the time on my cell phone.

Frowns, swears, and grumbling.

Angrily moving carts to the side.

Hands being thrown up in the air.

Then the voices began to chime in.

“I can’t believe that everyone is shopping today, there is no need for this, you would think we are having a snow storm!”

“Why do we have to turn out carts to the side? I don’t need this!”

My cart eventually found its way from the group to a line, and it slowly edged toward the belt. I loaded my groceries and kept looking around. The bagger was working furiously to keep this line moving and asked the person in front of me if they wanted some larger item bagged or just placed in the cart.

“Just put it in a bag, this would go faster if you didn’t ask such questions!”

They looked towards me for some sort of approval of their statement. I didn’t.

When I arrived at the register, the cashiers were changing shifts. They both looked at me through weary eyes and kept apologizing for the wait. The bagger looked tired as well.

I paused, looked at them all and then something came out of my mouth that I think surprised all of them.

“I just want to thank all of you for working so hard to help us get our groceries today.”

I looked at the assortment of items on the belt, and suddenly I understood what an amazing time it is to be alive. I saw bread, various meats, eggs, fresh fruit and vegetables, and some berries.

“I mean it, think of all the time your little team here has saved me. I didn’t have to harvest my own crops, grind my own grains, bake this bread, tend to my garden, raise a bunch of chickens, cows and pigs. I really should be thanking you for saving me so much time, I can go home and simply watch TV all afternoon if I want. So THANK YOU.”

Smiles appeared on those weary faces. The bagger seemed to stand more upright and kept smiling as they placed items in my bags, and asked me about larger items.

The mood changed. The actual situation didn’t change. The lines were still long, but the perspective changed.

Instead of being angry, I chose being grateful.

Instead of complaining, I chose to say thanks.

As I made my way out to the car, I checked the time again. It had been 17 minutes. Just 17 minutes to accomplish what it would have taken my great, great, great, great grandparents weeks of labor to create. Those grandparents would have never imagined fresh berries and fruit in the winter, or bread you simply grab from the shelf, or the leisure time that I am now afforded.

Where can you choose to be grateful? Where can you thank those around you?