Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Facing Your Fears


My heart is racing, I am flustered, I am nervous, I am scared out of my mind, to the point where I am actually shaking and all I did to induce this state was make a phone call! Ok, not just any phone call, as you can probably guess, it was extremely nerve racking. I just made an appointment to go skydiving!

My husband “gifted” me with a skydiving jump for my birthday. I use quotations because I would NEVER purchase a jump on my own. I am terrified by the mere thought of willingly (or not so willingly) hurling myself out of a plane, thousands of feet above the solid earth. I mean yeah, the remote idea of free falling through the air does have an exciting ring to it and yes it actually does look like fun when I witness other people doing it on TV. However, entertaining a casual thought about an adventure and being face to face with it are two entirely different things. I now have a reservation with a date and a time. It is very official. This is happening, thus the racing heart and shaking limbs.

My husband keeps telling me I’ll love it, it will be a super high, like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. He went skydiving a few years back for his birthday, but he’s an adrenalin junkie and thrives on adventure of all types. My dad went last year for his birthday as well. He was extremely nervous beforehand, as I am now, but also tells me I’ll love it. He did. Just prior to going up he was close to vomiting, but when it was over he was overflowing with exuberance and contagious energy. He loved it.

I’m pretty confident my experience will be similar to my dad’s and logically thinking, when it’s over and I’m safe and sound on the ground, I know I’ll be glad I faced my fears and went for it. I do enjoy excitement, thrill and adventure. But there is something horrifically unnatural about a human being falling through the sky. We aren’t made to fly and my brain knows it! Every fiber of my being is screaming “This is ludicrous!! Save yourself! DO NOT JUMP you suicidal maniac!”

I have nightmare visions of my parachute failing to open (the backup chute fails as well in this dream) and I die a gruesome death, gone in the blink of an eye, never to see my family again, never able to realize my life potential or be there for my children as they grow. I know, it’s a horrible vision! Who thinks like this? Well, I do. I rarely focus on doomsday scenarios as I consider them a complete waste of time and mental capabilities, yet in this instance I can’t stop! It seems as though I’m willingly and knowingly putting myself in a death trap.

Now if I take a step back and contemplate this rationally I know that overall skydiving is pretty safe. There are tons of precautions taken and I am strapped to a professional. I also know that my life can end at any given time for any given reason. There is no guarantee that I will live through the day, any day. However, I NEVER entertain this thought. I never consider the fact that today might be my last day. It’s a ridiculous way to live.

Since the idea of skydiving scares the crap out of me and yet I am choosing to do it, I am indeed facing my fears. I believe that we should face our fears because usually they are unwarranted and only serve to hold us back from accomplishment and growth. Therefore I support the notion. However now that I am facing one of my own fears I am truly terrified and I must admit, I do want to bow out and continue on with my life as is. But there is a small part of me, a teeny tiny part, deeply hidden way down in there, that is cheering enthusiastically, encouraging me to go for it and have some major fun! This is the part of me that is ready to overcome this fear, to grow, to mature, to experience and consequently enhance my life on a variety of levels afterward.

Since I want to live the fullest life I possibly can, I choose to listen to my itsy-bitsy cheering section and jump out of the stupid plane. (Oh man, it better be worth it!) Of course I do have some motivation in the form of an there-is-no-way-you’re-getting-out-of-this plan to ensure I actually appear on the scheduled date and time: a friend is jumping with me! My husband knows me well, I need this motivation! I think she’s there to actually physically push me out of the plane if I have second thoughts. We all need friends like this, right?

So, I encourage you too to face your fears as they appear in your life. Grab a buddy who will hold your hand on the way up then push you out of the plane at the appropriate time. As long as you live through it (and chances are very good that you will) you’ll be happy you jumped!This is what I'm telling myself anyway... :)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Not A Laughing Matter (well it kind of is)

What do you do when as a parent you see your own inappropriate behavior displayed in your children?

My middle child has recently developed the habit of laughing when he’s being disciplined. He is not trying to be disrespectful, this is just the response discipline is currently triggering in him. How do I know this? Because I used to do the very same thing! As a child, even in to my teenage years I would burst into giggles at the most inopportune moments. I never meant it as disrespect, but certain instances would ignite laughter nearly impossible to hold back. For instance, the time I was singing a duet in church (there were a few years way back when I thought I could sing) and totally sang the wrong part. Instead of continuing despite the slight mishap like most people would do, I began to giggle and proceeded to sing/laugh for the remainder of the number. Or one of the many times in school I was caught talking when I should have been listening. If the teacher called me on it I my shoulders would start shaking and the laughter would well up inside me.

I do not know why this happened. I never intended it as rudeness. I didn’t intend for it at all, it just spontaneously erupted. It wasn’t my typical response to embarrassment or scolding but it occurred often enough to present a problem. I did my best to will myself to stop but I rarely succeeded.

Now my son who is 4 (days away from turning 5!) is following in my footsteps. I see it in his face. I know he’s doing his best to gain control and listen intently to my words, but the chuckles are a mighty force to be reckoned with. I understand this entirely so even though I get annoyed since it seems as though he’s being outright defiant, I overlook the shaking shoulders and stifled giggles and focus solely on the incident or behavior I am addressing. Of course when I‘m done doing my parental duty I tell him to stop laughing, but I know he physically can’t.

The worst part about all of this is that every time he starts laughing I want to laugh too! Being a grown adult and a seasoned parent I am able to control myself and maintain my composure, but man is it hard! I am so tempted to join in! It literally takes all of my well groomed willpower to deny myself the urge to laugh. The corners of my mouth twitch in protest. I’ve even had to look away for fear of caving.

How can I instruct my child on more appropriate responses when he’s being guided or disciplined when I can’t even do it myself? I guess some reflexes are so ingrained in us they continue to require conscious efforts to master even after years of work. I don’t know…. Any suggestions?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

No Way, Jose!!!

This past weekend my oldest son participated in a soccer tournament for the second time. We belong to a recreational league so tournaments are not a part of our soccer system. However he has had the opportunity to join a competitive tournament with his recreational team twice. I blogged a while back about the first tournament. It was painful and joyful at the same time. Our guys got the crap beat out of them repeatedly. They played well, they worked hard, they had admirable attitudes, but they just didn’t measure up. There are many different factors that contributed to this but bottom line is they were outplayed.

This weekend was different. In fact it was 180 degrees different. Our recreational team beat the pants off of every team they faced. They didn’t just win, they annihilated. Everyone, ourselves included, was blown away. Our boys improved leaps and bounds in just a matter of months. No one could believe that our little rec league team from nowhere showed up completely unknown and actually swept the tournament. It was surprise, elation, joy, disbelief, pride, excitement, entertainment, appreciation all rolled into one. A movie-worthy weekend.

But here is the part that stuck out to me the most. Yes, it was AWESOME to witness our team kick some butt. However, this fun is not the feeling that has stuck with me throughout the week. These past few days I’ve been contemplating some major differences between our team and the teams we competed against.

Our boys received constant positive feedback, both from the coaches and the spectators. We cheered and encouraged relentlessly throughout each game. This is nothing new for us. We do the same thing during each of their normal soccer games played at our rec league. Our coaches and parents for all our teams provide a consistent positive learning environment for the players. In our league we believe that this is the best and most effective means of teaching. We further believe that this approach will have positive long lasting effects on the child. We groom, we guide, we encourage. Within this framework there is also room for correction and discipline. We do not permit any degree of unsportsmanlike conduct, yet our focus is highly geared towards positive reinforcement.

During the tournament I was shocked to see and hear quite the opposite from the opposing teams. Their side only cheered when a goal was made. One coach yelled repeatedly at his team that they were better than us and they should easily beat us (we could hear every word). Many of their players unnecessarily roughed up our boys and used excessive force (I understand that some physicality is expected but trust me, this was well beyond the norm). One player was ejected from the game completely and then his coach tried to sneak him back in later on. The list can go on and on, but this is enough to make my point, which is this:
What in the hell are those coaches and parents teaching their children? Because let’s not forget, they are children, only 6 and 7 years old. They are being taught to lie, cheat, disrespect and presume themselves superior to others. Yes, it’s a soccer game, but the values (or lack thereof) are being absorbed into these children’s beings and will affect their person for years to come. Instead of improving their skill they will resort to low blows and cheating. They won’t feel accepted or worthy unless they succeed or win. They will look down on others who are different or who don’t qualify. They will play to win, not to enjoy. They are not learning from their mistakes, they are being told not to have any mistakes. It’s ridiculous!

I realize that I am oversimplifying and that not all those kids are destined to doom. But after observing the vast differences displayed over the weekend I am so very grateful to be a part of our rec league. We may not be as big as the other guys. We may not have the swanky attire and paid coaches. Heck, we don’t even belong in the same skill bracket. And yet there is no way I would switch to any of the teams we played. No way, Jose! To me instilling lifelong values and creating a supportive, nourishing environment is much more important in the long run than winning a particular game. But the best part is that our boys do have the same skill level as the other teams! They beat the snot out of them! Yet they did so with dignity, respect, hard work and outstanding attitudes. This is the way to play, win or lose. This is the basis for a productive, healthy, happy person.

I am so very proud of our team that exhibits skill and sportsmanship. I am proud of our coaches who do not criticize, but construct. I am proud of our parents and friends and family members who encourage and support no matter what.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Thirty Something

I am officially a year older. My birthday was on Saturday and I have graduated to the wonderful age of 34.

When I detach myself from my own age and objectively consider people in their thirties I picture well put together adults, people who have life figured out for the most part, people leading happy, productive lives, with either a booming career or a full family life, or both. I envision responsible, contributing members of society. I mean 30 sometihng sounds so mature and groomed. Gone are the fun more adventurous years of your 20’s. And long gone are the reckless and crazy teenage years. By your 30’s you should have sewn your wild oats, lived dangerously, made mistakes and taken risks. Anyone who is in their 30’s, especially mid thirties is definitely an adult now and should behave accordingly.

So these are my objective, detached thoughts. But do they coincide with reality? Do I consider myself responsible, productive, contributing? Do I have my life together? Am I on the right track? Have I left my carefree days behind me? And more importantly, do I have to? Honestly, I think the answer to my questions are both yes and no.

Yes, I feel more confident as a person, in who I am and what I want my life to reflect. Yes, I do lead a full, productive life. Yes, I am more responsible. But at times I still long to be wild and crazy, to throw caution to the wind and say “to heck with it!” I embrace my life and am so very grateful for it, I believe it to be on the right track and yet I also have so much more I want to be, do and see. I’m not anywhere near reaching my full potential or finishing my “bucket list”. And there are still times I feel lost and confused, unsure of what path to choose when I reach a fork in the road. Just because I’m an adult doesn’t necessarily mean I have it all figured out. In fact, I’m pretty sure I make a real mess of things more often than need be.

As a young girl I remember when my parents were in their 30’s. I thought they were geniuses. To me it appeared as though they knew it all and had their lives completely together. Maybe this is why I have these feelings about what a person in their 30’s should look like? Now that I am in my 30’s I’m not so sure that my understanding of my parents at this age was accurate. I think they did they best they could with the knowledge they had, just as we all do. But I suspect that if I were to go back in time and ask my 30 something year old parents if they feel mature, confident, responsible and together they would respond as I do: yes and no. (I must clarify that I do believe they were well above average though).

It seems to me that a person in their 30’s has acquired enough life experience to know that yeah, they know a lot, but also to know that there is so much more to learn and they are eager to learn it. In other words they know that they know, but they also know that they don’t know and they are willing to accept and admit this fact. They no longer harbor the need to prove themselves and are mature enough to seek growth, probably for the first time ever, and therefore are open to developing as a person. But they are also confident in what they have learned thus far, making life a great balancing act.

Reaching this understanding is intensely liberating. This is probably why 30-something adults give the illusion of having it all together. There is no more (or at least a lot less!) pressure to impress or prove. You are free to be you, knowing you aren’t perfect but not trying to be either, just working to do your best and be the best version of you.

As a 34 year old woman I am happy to be me, to live my life, to care for my children, to pursue my dreams and goals. I have a firm foundation to lean on. I am confident and content. However, I am also open to new ideas, to growth and change. I am eager for excitement and fun. I crave to learn more, to be more, to do more. I am blessed by what I have and also look forward to what’s to come. I rarely feel intimidated or insecure anymore, or if I do, it’s not for long. I know I don’t have to impress everyone or prove myself. I can’t be everything to everyone, it’s a ridiculous notion. But I can be the best me, which is important, and I can work towards improving me as I continue to journey through life. This is what being 30-something means to me.

I wonder what 40-something will mean….?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

This Or That?

I know that most people are going to relate to this sentiment: I don’t seem to have enough time to get everything done I need to! I feel as though I am continually behind on my to-do list. Part of the problem is that there is never an end to the to-do list, it is added to regularly. Life just keeps getting fuller.

I love my life, well most of it anyway, and a good portion of my to-do list is comprised of tasks and events I willingly engage in. I love blogging (or really any form of writing), I look forward to playing outside with my kids, I get excited to work on my book, I anticipate soccer games, I relish our weekend getaways, I enjoy helping my kids with homework or school projects, it makes me feel good to work out and of course, I’m always game for dinner time (yum!).

The problem is that these things only make up a part of my life. I also am swamped with all the items I don’t particularly like or want to do, namely cleaning. Everywhere I look there is something or someone for me to clean. Between my three children and two dogs the floor is continually a mess. Spills, stains, crumbs, dirt, toys and clothes litter the floors. They appear as if by magic! I’ll turn around from cleaning one mess only to find a newly formed one in front of me. How do they materialize so quickly? If I wanted to I could spend my entire day removing stains and clutter from my floors. It’s actually quite depressing if I think about it…. So, moving on!

My daily dilemma is that I must choose between items I want to do and items I need to do. I am not lazy nor do I procrastinate. I am organized and responsible. I don’t waste time or neglect my duties, and yet I seem to always be playing catch-up. I’m always rushed and busy and there is always another chore waiting for me.

I long to write my book and work on my business but being a stay at home mom means that my children come first, therefore when they need me (which is constantly) I must put my wants (namely my writing and my business) on hold and care for them. Finding the available time for me, for what I want to accomplish poses a real challenge. When the kids are in bed for the night and I am finally granted uninterrupted time my body is exhausted and my brain is completely fried rendering it almost useless. This makes it difficult to successfully accomplish anything. So then my dilemma becomes, do I trudge through and try to get some of my work done anyway or do I sit and let my body rest?

I think the answer is I just need more time, just a few more hours each day. Or no, maybe a housekeeper is the best solution. Then again a part time nanny would be nice…. Hmm, another dilemma.

(BTW, I had to stop and help out my kids 9 times while writing this!)