Monday Mayhem: STRETCH!

I’ve always wanted to be a dancer.

It’s a truth that not many know about me! But there it is. In black and white now, for all the world to see. When I was a little girl my mom spoke often of putting me in ballet, but the cosmos did not align in my favor for many things that I wanted as a little girl.

Life happens.

You grow up. You tuck away your childhood dreams and go on.

I admired ballerinas from afar, attended Alvin Ailey performances and with my daughter watched the Nutcracker with awe and wonder.

Fortunately, when she expressed a desire to dance, I was able to enroll her in a little studio not far from our house and I’ve watched with awe and wonder as she’s developed grace and poise in a very short time. When I registered her for the summer the studio owner reminded me, again, that they offer “adult” classes and I told myself, again, that I’m “too old for this” now. My time has passed. I’m past my prime.

It would be a stretch to take ballet at my age…literally!

But, then I thought, why not stretch? Stretching is good! Physically, stretching increases range of motion, prevents injury and  improves balance, but psychologically? Emotionally? Professionally? Stretching can be scary. Reaching for goals that are not just beyond my reach, but beyond my zip code!  Extending myself to attempt things that are so far outside of my skillset that I have to do research before I can even start? No. My courage is a bit atrophied from decades of settling for tasks that fall safely within the parameters of my paygrade, from sticking with activities that lie limply under the canopy of my job description. So, the thought of crawling out from under that safe, yet confining space was frightening!

When atrophied muscles begin to move, the result is resistance. When we wander into unknown territory, the initial move is hard. To stretch beyond the comfort zone is to pull away from the familiar and to risk pain. That’s why it’s easier to stay where I am, to stick to what’s expected of me at my age, to settle, rather than to stretch.

But, there’s another reality:  if I do nothing I die! For years I’ve watched others do things I wished I could do. I’ve spent much of my life on the bench, observing from the sideline. At the end of my life will I be content to say, “boy it sure was fun to watch everyone else living their life!” No! It’s high time I get in the game and do some living myself!  Physically, if a person doesn’t move, they will deteriorate. Psychologically, emotionally and professionally the same is true too. Because anything that is not moving is declining; anything that isn’t living is dying!

The bottom line is, I have two choices. I can either get old or I can grow old.

If I get old I stay where I am, in my comfort zone, doing what’s safe, completing the easy tasks that I know I can do, never stretching myself to do any more or to try anything new. And every year I’ll get older.

Or I can step out of my comfort zone. Break away from what’s safe, challenge myself to tasks that seem too hard for me, stretch myself to do more than I think I’m capable of and to try new things that I never thought I could. And every year I’ll grow older.  I’ll stretch, I’ll change; hopefully I’ll be stronger and better for the effort and experience.

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So, what about you? Do you need to stretch? Have you settled into a safe space and allowed your literal or metaphorical muscles to atrophy? Maybe it’s time to peek out from under your canopy. In the meantime, if, you’ll excuse me, I have some stretching to do, my ballet class will be starting soon!

  • Learn more about the benefits of stretching from Prevention
  • Learn more about my favorite little dance studio Arabesque Dance Arts
  • Also, check out “Hi, I’m K” where I’ve uploaded pictures from my ballerina daughter’s birthday “spa” party!

*Want more Monday Mayhem? Click here!

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Monday Mayhem: Wonder Woman!

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve loved Wonder Woman!

Correction: when I was a little girl, I believed I was Wonder Woman!

I would dress up in my favorite little jumpsuit, spin around so I could transform from my human self to my superhuman self and I’d grab my jump rope, er, my lasso and I’d run around the back yard singing my “Wonder Woman” theme song and chasing imaginary bad guys.

I was fearless.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us, it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. MaryAnne Williamson

So you can imagine my excitement when the new Wonder Woman movie came out. My whole childhood came flooding back–all of the giddiness and nostalgia for that shero who kicks butt like no other woman in history! I saw the new movie and it was great. Gal Gadot is amazing as Wonder Woman. She’s everything a little girl’s hero is supposed to be!

Fearless.

But, over the years when I have read the MaryAnne Williamson quote above I have struggled with the notion that I am powerful. Williamson’s words encourage, but also challenge me. They are comforting but also galvanizing. In the same breath that she says “don’t worry” she also says “get up!” She will not tolerate belly-aching.

In Wonder Woman there is a scene on the battle field when the men try to persuade Diana that although her desire to help the people in one village along the front devastated by the war were merely necessary casualties not worth saving, she refuses to move on towards her ultimate destination without doing something to help.  But her companions insist that her efforts will be useless.

How often do I convince myself that my efforts will be useless?

There are always reasons why I can’t—I can’t get time off from work, can’t get the extra funds, can’t muster the courage. Williamson says we ask “who are we to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous,” but I’ve never once asked myself these questions! I have taken it for granted that I am none of these!

Yet she says who am I not to be?

Williamson, like Wonder Woman, asks why not?

With this statement she challenges my existentialism.

In the politics of popular opinion, she demands  a recount:  Who am I “not” to be implies that I have made myself exceptional by denying what is.  I have actually stepped outside of truth in search of a lie! ‘Who am I “not” to be suggests that I have taken up my bed, walked out of my house and into a foreign land in search of home.

As I ponder how foolish this sounds, I am left with no response to her question. And neither did those men who watched, dumbfounded, as Diana strutted onto the battlefield as if it were a New York runway. With sheer confidence and not a shred of fear Wonder Woman handled her business!

So, what are we waiting for? My younger self would have done the same! I would have donned my superhero costume and claimed my superhero title without any hesitation. So, what happened with age and the suppposed acceptance of reality? The loss of gumption. The inability to stake claim to the possibilities.

What Wonder Woman and Williamson have reminded me is that “we are all meant to shine [because] we are born to make manifest the glory of God who is within us.”

So, get out there and fulfill your destiny. Do the impossible!

Happy Monday!

Let’s start by doing the Jumprope

 

Mayhem Monday: Dreams & Determination!

My niece and nephew graduated this weekend and, of course, I’m super proud of them! They each chose a different path, but both tore through the academic wilderness and emerged unscathed–well, they survived anyway. After all, what’s a war without a few batttle scars?

Victory is the child of preparation and determination.

(Sean Hampton, actor)

They were priveleged with great parents who prepared them for their successes, who equipped them with all of the necessary tools–private schools, summer camps, extra curriculars–as well as the intangibles like love and security.  Yet, Tyler and Greg had to find their own way in college. Mom and Dad couldn’t study for them or finish their assignments. Once the foundation was laid, the building was up to them.

The “Different World” can be a scary place when you’re facing it all alone…

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Funny thing is, a different world is where Greg and Tyler are NOW!

Kids often think that preparation is the time at home.  To an extent that’s true, but what my niece and nephew are about to discover is that they’ve actually been in a safe haven all this time. College is just an extention of home. It’s still a place of preparation as professors and administrators dictate courses and curfews (especially when you attend, as they did, a parochial school affiliated with a highly conservative religious organization.)

Oh yes, the real world is still waiting…

But I’m proud of them, nonetheless.  I know they’ll make it.

We’ve done all we can to prepare them–we, the parents, the aunties, the professors, the surrogates.  Now we’ll watch as they spread their wings, and we’ll hope that the determination that brought them this far will carry them the rest of the way!

And for all the other Tylers and Gregs out there, setting out on your own, just know that life is full of surprises. Your future may or may not turn out the way you envisioned it, but you can be sure that success is possible if you stay open to the many ways it may be manifested. For our Mayhem Monday motiviation, check out Laura Berman Fortgang’s TED Talk on “Finding Your Dream Without Looking at Your Resume!” And I wish you all Godspeed!

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Monday Mayhem: Intentional

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Note: This is a “Monday Mayhem Post” that’s a little late, so, just go with it…lol!

When I look at my students dozing off in class I wonder…

Why are they here? Why did they bother to roll out of bed, slide into their sweats and flop into those horrible green desks today? Why are they staring at me with those blank stares or into the blank screens of their laptops or cell phones? Why do any of us bother?

Professors dress up. We slip on our uncomfortable heels and button up our bow ties. We revise our syllabi and re-write our semeter schedules to make room for one more assignment, because, well, just because…

Is it intentional?

I’ve been challenging myself and my students lately to think about this. What are we doing–and why? Two of the four classes I teach each semester are sections of the “dreaded” Freshman Composition. The class everyone loves to hate. One of the reasons it’s so hated is that it’s considered to be a “pointless” class–an extention of 12th grade English–touché.

So, this semester, I’m being intentional.

I’m going to assume that their writing skills will progress naturally through the writing process, as writing skills tend to do, and I will instruct my students on the grammatical and usage standards, as any good English teacher should.  But, rather than have them write the traditional final essay–that they’ll read once (maybe) and never again–which I’ll, then, read once (or twice) then stick in a file–I’m going to have them, instead, create something of value, something meaningful, something that goes beyond this freshman class! I’m challenging these students to create a document that has legs!

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I want them to write with intention, to a real audience. Well, I’m real, but not just to me–to people other than me.

They’re going to identify a problem that they care about–a problem that they want to find a solution to–then they’re going to search out a solution to that problem and write to people who might be able to do something about…

  • the friend whose dad got deported
  • this religious organization that’s still segregated in 2017
  • the family with a history of violence and abuse

It’s about being intentional.

Because, what’s the point of learning how to write better if your essay just gets shoved in a drawer?

So, they’ll submit their articles to magazines or newspapers, or they’ll send off their letters to senators or presidents. They’ll draft feasibility reports or white papers for corporations. Whatever document they think will best serve a real purpose, that they think will make a real difference, that’s what they’ll create!

Who knows? Maybe the documents will still end up in a drawer, but if these students pour their hearts into these projects, their documents will no longer be “essays for Dr. Roper” but rather personal projects that achieve a purpose that they actually care about. These should go far beyond this class.  That would make me very happy.

I don’t expect perfect projects, but I’m excited because the act of doing this is enough to shake all of us out of the doldrums. Doing something that matters is worth it’s weight in gold.

So, what about you? Have you gotten stuck in a routine? Been doing the same old thing in the same old way? Why not re-evaluate?

Why are you here? Why did you bother to roll out of bed, slide into your slippers and flop into your day?  Are you staring out at your life, blankly wondering when, or how, it’s going to end? That’s no way to live! Challenge yourself! Try something new! Look for ways to make the mundane more meaningful. Why not start by looking for a problem you can solve? Even a small one.  Small accomplishments can go a long way towards moving you in the direction of your goal.

For us writers, that may mean a few words, a few pages or 10 minutes!  Just be intentional. You won’t regret it.

Happy Monday.

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The Daily Post Photo Challenge: Resilient

In the movie The Pursuit of Happy-ness Will Smith plays Chris Gardner, a man who is catapulted into one crisis after another as he attempts to attain his dream job and secure a stable and prosperous future for himself and his son. Always a half step away from homelessness Gardner, nonetheless, forges ahead, relentlessly pursuing.

To me, Chris Gardner epitomizes resilience and this movie based on his real life story has inspired me not to quit.

I am awe struck by the manner in which Gardner maintains his drive and determination in spite of what seem to be insurmountable odds. I am gripped by the image of this man, in full sprint, sweat pouring from him, as he feverishly chases after the impossible and improbable.

The odds were against him and his stakes were much higher than mine.  Yet he never quit.

I say that writing is my passion, but when I observe the passion with which Chris Gardner pursued his dream, I realize that I have not pushed hard enough.  I’ve given in to discouragement too easily.  I’ve allowed those little voices in my head to tell me my time has passed; there’s nothing that I can contribute to the publishing world that hasn’t already been done–nothing to say that hasn’t already been said.

But, then there’s that scene in the movie when Gardner discourages his son from pursuing his love of basketball. “It’s not in you” Gardner tells him. “So don’t waste your time with NBA dreams.” The little boy drops his head and packs away his ball. How many times have I been that boy? Feeling like the world is shutting me down, telling me “don’t waste your time” and so I’ve packed away my pens and paper.

But then Gardner catches himself. Realizing the power of his words to either bring life–or death –to a son whose whole existence depends on his father–Gardner recants: “Hey,” he calls his son back. “Don’t ever let anybody tell you you can’t do something, that you can’t achieve your dreams…not even me.”

And so, I return again to the writing desk.  With no less sweat and tears than the man in full pursuit, I clamor for that prize–and so should you. Don’t let anyone–even you–tell you that you can’t. Let’s be like Chris Gardner and feverishly chase after the impossible and improbable. Because the real lesson of resilience is that happiness is in the pursuit!

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