Doing Life

One of my favorite things about being a teacher is doing life with kids.  I feel as if I was put on the earth to take part in this grand experiment of helping middle schoolers through what I feel is the most difficult portion of their lives.  And doing life with them is how I do it.

What is “doing life”?  It’s really simple, going through the daily trials and tribulations of pre-puberty, puberty and post puberty.  Or maybe even simpler, I walk beside them and try to feel what they feel (I’m really just a big kid who still doesn’t know what I want to be when I grow up).  Need simpler? I do life, what ever that is, without judgement and with empathy.

When they need a cheerleader, I cheer.  When they need a laugh, I tell stupid jokes.  When they need a push to get started I tell them to stop picking their nose and eating boogers. But most of all, I allow them to get through the day and be a kid, because that is truly the most important thing my students should be.

In today’s world everything is fast forward (I’m still traumatized by all day kindergarten).  We forget what it’s like to get home, have dinner at a table with our family and then watch TV (with our family) until it’s time to go to bed (9 pm when I was a kid).  And who could forget those special days when, because you were ‘good’, you got a bottle of pop or a handful of penny candy from Murphy’s on the corner.

I miss those days (and my Grandma Murphy) so I try to slow things down, be more like her and let those darn kids do life.

Now that I think about it, maybe I’m not doing life with them…maybe they’re doing life with me.

RAIN

This has been on my mind for a while now and the day of our first snow of the season felt like a great day to let my fingers do the talking.

Recently we had a stretch of rain in my area and I was forced to take a walk on one of the days we were blessed with the wet stuff.  It was during this jaunt I finally figured out why I like rain.

Over the years, some of my favorite activities have taken place during a rain.  Like the time I shot 39 in a down pour.  Or that time I made it home from a run just as the storm hit (trees were down everywhere) and I got soaked.  Then there is that time we drove home in a torrential weather system, hail and all, moving along at 35 MPH and probably still going too fast.

There are many more moments like these but I’ll spare you the trip down memory lane.  The point of this is to share with you how I finally figured out why I enjoy rain during my most recent adventure.

What I realized was thatnduring all of those events, the isolation forced upon me through the curtain of rain was in fact a meditating experience.  I know this now because recently I began my journey of mindfulness practice and the similarities between them are striking.

The calm, quiet focus of that round of golf is unforgettable.  Even though I was in a foursome, I was alone because of the rain.  Dripping water off of the bill of my cap placed a wall between my companions and me.  The solituted was incredible.  I was able to eliminate the chatter of meaningless conversation (with my playing partners, but also myself) and elevate my concentration.

The rainstorm I almost beat home was a similar experience.  I could see the clouds move in and feel the still in the air.  Instead of focusing on the aches and pains of the run, I focused on being efficient and beating the storm.  Although I did get drenched, I felt like I still won the race.  The calm I felt as I pushed my body to it’s limits was exhilirating.

Back to my recent walk in the rain.  Once again, rain drops were creating a wall of solitude, this time off of my umbrella.  I was getting wet on the edges of my body, my feet, my elbows, my knees.  Just the places I couldn’t get covered adequatly.  But the dampness was a reminder that it was the elements and me.

In that moment of solitude, I realized I was meditating.  I was following my breath and focusing only on it.  Time slipped away and I was transported back to the time I was running with a buddy and the sound of his breath and my ability to focus on it, gave me the greatest feeling I have ever experienced.

My practice will get me there again, but this time it will be my breath and I will be dry.

Yes, I am a runner!

Let Your Mind Run: A Memoir of Thinking My Way to Victory by Deena Kastor, Michelle Hamilton, narrated by Deena Kastor.  Try Audible and get it here: https://www.audible.com/pd?asin=B07CCZFF7L&source_code=ASSORAP0511160006

As I took my place inside of the circle, the woman next to me asked, “Are you a runner? My dad is and he has gear like yours.” I stumbled with my reply, mumbling something about wanting to be, used to be, hope to be again. Thankfully the tone of the meditation bowl sounded and I was off the hook.

It’s not that I’m adverse to the idea of being called a runner. Or even against claiming the mantle. I just have this notion that being a runner is more than putting on some colorful ASIC shoes and cool running clothes.

In my mind, being a runner is logging the miles, embracing the suck, living healthy AND the cool swag. Or as legendary running Coach Joe Vigil described it, “Living the athlete’s life.” Unfortunately at this time the only thing I can check off that list is the swag.

The last time I laced up my shoes to “compete” was June of 2016 when I ran the Grandma’s Marathon for the third time.  I finished in a personal record of 6+ hours (record as in the longest it has taken me to run 26.2 miles).  It was agonizing and exilerating and fulfilling and humbling all at the same time.  Even after finishing I couldn’t find it in me to say I was a runner.

Since that time, I have continued the struggle.  Prior to running the marathon, I had struggled to get in any of my scheduled training runs, struggled to find a happy place, struggled to do anything resembling that of the life of an athlete, let alone a runner.

Trust me, I intend to be a runner again someday.  I just need that little shove that gets me over the starting line.  That little impetunce that motivates me to give me permission to be selfish and spend the time I crave, alone, on the road with my thoughts and the suck.

I am constantly looking for the sign that tells me I am ready to join the most positive people on the planet.  The legions of men and women who take to the streets and trials and roads of their neighborhoods to live the life of an athlete.

New gear?  That often helps.  New goals?  They often help.  New gratitude?  That often inspires.  None of it ever seems to last longer than a three day binge of getting out the door, running two miles, feeling great about my ability to clock twenty eight minutes of activity and then finding an excuse to miss the next two miler.

To say I am helpless/hopeless would be an understatement.  I am both in spades.  I feel as if I am beyond help, unreachable by the longest life line.  Beyond hope, it seems not even the grace of God himself can save me from this black hole of a lost soul.

That is until I listened to Deena Kastor and her amazing story of the power of positive.  Her retelling of the events of her running life and how, in those moments of doubt, she used positive affirmations and belief in herself to overcome obstacles that I, on my daily runs, have and do experience.

Possibly the most important thing Deena did was give me permission as well as a way to say I am a runner.  Quite simply, just claim it.  I AM A RUNNER!

Thank you Deena Kastor, your book is my new favorite.  I look forward to taking you with me on many runs, being inspired by your words of encouragement and coached on the ways to over come the small obstacles using positivity.

What does it mean?

I know we have all experienced it. An event in our lives when we ask, “What does it mean?”

More often than not it’s when a loved one dies unexpectedly. Other times we don’t get the job or promotion we were certain we would get or maybe “deserve”. Then there are those times when something unusual happens, like you forget your wallet, go back to get it, then on your usual route to wherever it is you were going you hit every green light.

Some of us are more aware of these events. We acutely sense that there are higher powers in charge. We are naturally curious. Or a combination of both. There may even be some other reason we are in tune with these happenings.

Yet others of us are only jolted to attention by the most extreme cases. Content with going along with the flow until the unusual or life altering occurs.

Regardless of which camp we reside in, we all have reactions. Again, the depth of these responses varies by individual and event. But we all make decisions based on what happens, even if it’s just that passing moment when you decide to smile at the grumpy clerk at the convenience store who always looks unhappy and never seems to be in as big of a hurry as you are.

If you ask me, the answer to the question lies in our response and not in the event. Do you change the world around you? Or do you allow the world to continue as normal?

Do you decide to make a difference in others lives? Allow them to make a difference in yours? Or continue down the same path, happy with the direction you are headed?

Do you make a drastic change like quitting the bottle? Or a small one like saying please and thank you in response to others kindness and generosity?

Do you search for understanding in the small and large events that follow? Do you put your head down and forge onward not wanting to or maybe afraid to find the answers? Or do you know the answers, but refuse to believe because that would mean you may have to admit that you are flawed just like everyone else?

Well, this has been one of those calendar years. From getting the news friends and loved ones have passed both thankfully and unexpectedly. To being told your monetary value is less than it was before, but your personal and professional value is sky high.

From the disappointment of not landing a job then the elation of finding out you are in the running after all. To the utter despair in finding out you still didn’t make the cut.

The ebb and flow of life can be trying. The search for clues can be exhausting. The loneliness can at times be chilling.

In spite of all of the heartache that seems to follow many of us, I have to believe the constant renewal of the awareness of our existence is a blessing not a curse. I have to believe we are fortunate to be on this wonderful ride called life. I have to believe things will get better and they all have a meaning.

I have to believe, because not believing is, in my opinion, admitting you have given up.

Don’t give up, don’t ever give up. – Jim Valvano

Hang in there world, the glass is only half full. Decide to keep pouring. Knowing that when that moment arrives and your cup overflows, it is not only because of you and the decision you made. But also because you were given the ability to decide by a power that is greater than we are, Who has a plan for us that only He knows and yet He still trusts us enough with the power of choice.

Now what?

I finally got around to doing it. What is ‘it’?

  • Getting my own website
  • Writing my first blog post on my website
  • Admitting I’m a procrastinator
  • Putting together a list of things I want to get around to (in my ADD world that list is never ending)

So, now what?

To be honest, I’m not sure but I hope to add to the list above. If not, it won’t be due to a lack of ideas but instead to an inability to focus or a lack of passion or a continued pursuit for that spark that makes me explode long enough to put something into action.

My employment position says I’m a teacher. In fact I often tell people that I’m a teacher. The truth is I’m someone looking for answers to questions I haven’t been asked. I’m someone who loves finding out what’s around the next bend. I’m someone who enjoys the journey of life and have been privileged to be given a chance to share the journey with many people.

Today I was recognized for being one of many who are on the same road, trail, path or whatever you want to call it.

In all honesty I’m not even the best teacher in my family. My wife and daughter run laps around me. But it is because of people like them that I continually push to get better.

So, like I always seem to say…Now what?

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