When my oldest was not even a year old, my husband and I decided it would be a great idea to do a little biking tour of Oregon wineries (we lived in Portland at the time), WITH our 11-month-old. We had just gotten a Burley bike trailer, you see, and we were eager to put it to use. We booked a kid-friendly B&B, mapped out a good route, and away we went.
I know it wasn't all easy and good. I know the route had big hills and narrow shoulders and speeding semi-trucks. I know that Aleida cried...a lot. I know that I wasn't in the best shape and arrived at the wineries sweaty and out of breath. But all I remember, 8 years later, is the fun and the fact that we did it. We tell the story about biking up a big hill with a crying child and we laugh. We recall the looks from the other wine tasters, some admiring, others judging, and we revel in our adventurousness. "Aleida wasn't even a year old!" we say. "We took a crawling baby on a winery bike tour in Oregon!" we laugh.
This probably wasn't the first time, but it stands out in my memory as one of the important moments when I realized that we would be this couple, and now this family. We are a high effort family. When our kids were 3 and 5, we took a trip with another family (who had 2 kids, also under 5) to Nicaragua. Even the flight attendant questioned our choice: "You're taking a family vacation to Nicaragua?"
Two summers ago, when my kids were 6 and 8, we hiked our first 14er and went on our first backpacking trip, which prompted Aleida to say, "Summer break is hard in a family like ours." And she's right: it IS hard.
Just this weekend, my husband said, "You've gotta love effort, and I do love effort." I can't even remember what we were talking about because we literally had half a dozen scenarios he could've been referring to--just in the past week. We went snowshoeing and sledding in deep snow on Black Friday (a new tradition we are calling "White Friday), and yesterday we drove 1.5 hours to go cut down our own Christmas Tree. We are a high effort family. Admittedly, my husband is the leader. I often roll my eyes or get heart palpitations when he conjures up a new undertaking, but ultimately, I am grateful for it. I am less effort-averse than I use to be, and I know my kids--who whine and complain and cry like all other kids--are learning to appreciate the pay off if worth their exertions.
Still, I am sometimes self-conscious about the level of effort we put out there. To be fair, we live in an abnormally active town, full of sponsored mountain bikers and ultra marathoners, and we are surrounded by like-minded families who take their kids skiing at age two and plan camping trips and adventure vacations. But outside of our little snow globe of high effort, I know that some people think we are crazy. And maybe we are...but here's the thing about effort:
Effort is the main ingredient when making the best memories. Effort creates the best stories. Effort is behind all the hilarious fails and spectacular successes and amazing discoveries and awesome inventions. Without effort, you cannot see what you are really made of. Without effort, you cannot feel proud of yourself. Effort means learning and progress and improvement.
I sometimes joke that I do things just so that I can say I did them. And while I'm all for enjoying the process, I'm also a big fan of looking back and telling the stories. And because of this motivation to have good stories, I have learned to appreciate and savor the effort. No pain, no gain, right? Likewise, no effort, no stories. So the next time you find yourself thinking, "That's a lot of effort," I encourage you to reframe it to..."Just think of the stories!"
We are a high effort family, but boy, do we have stories.
Yesterday, I held a free Mindfulness workshop at the local library. I wanted to share strategies that participants could use on a daily basis.
You see, until fairly recently, I falsely equated mindfulness with long sessions of yoga and meditation. While those activities are definitely good for developing mindfulness, it's an unfortunate myth that you need to set aside large chunks of time to be more present. I appreciate yoga and meditation, but I don't prioritize those activities. I have had much better results incorporating short, daily mindfulness practices and I wanted to share that with other busy people. I know several people wanted to come to the workshop but couldn't make it, so I'm summarizing the strategies here. You're welcome.
Mindfulness Strategy #1: Find an Anchor An anchor is a lovely metaphor. Just as an anchor on a ship keeps it from straying too far from its location, an anchor for your mind can keep you from straying too far from the present moment. If you find yourself going down rabbit holes of thought or feeling undesired emotions, an anchor can reel you back in. Some example anchors include:
Mindfulness Strategy #3: Thought Download For verbal and visual people, this can be a helpful exercise. The concept is very simple: Take five minutes to write down ALL of your thoughts surrounding a certain issue (your in-laws visiting, a project that is stressing you out, a difficult conversation, etc) or feeling (anxiety, stress, sadness). Do not censor or judge, just let it flow. This alone can be enough to allow you to move on. However, it can also be a springboard to many other in-depth activities such as recognizing facts versus assumptions, seeing/understanding your thought process, and beginning to take those hurtful or unproductive thoughts and changing them to something new. A life coach can be very supportive of this process. (Hint, hint.)
Mindfulness Strategy #4: Feel the Feels This can be challenging, but it is sooooo good for you if you can put the time in to practice. When you are feeling an undesirable emotion such as anxiety or fear or stress, you often don't realize that those emotions are not signs of actual danger. In fact, any time you are in actual danger, you aren't sitting there feeling anxiety...you are running or fighting or surviving. So anxiety (or any emotion) is simply a set of sensations in your body in reaction to your thoughts. If you can accept it and allow yourself to feel it, you can let go of it more easily than if you ignore it, quash it, or fight it. Try these 4 steps to help demystify and therefore free yourself from some emotions that aren't serving you.
Hopefully you can find a strategy or two in that list that resonates with you. Try them all and report back to let me know which ones were the most effective.
Yesterday, I had an experience that gets more profound the more I think about it. My cute little town, Golden, CO, had a time capsule reveal and dedication ceremony. 50 years ago, the people of Golden opened a time capsule buried in 1918 and then placed their own to be opened on November 11, 2018. First of all, the day itself is bursting with meaning. Many numerologists and spiritual gurus attribute power and significance to the 11th day of the 11th month. And I admit that I like the symmetry of it. Secondly, yesterday was Veteran's Day. It was also the Centennial of Armistice Day, which marked the cessation of World War 1. So it's a day to celebrate sacrifice and pride and peace. It also happened to be snowing the first big snow of the season, which added a buzz to the ambiance.
With remarks from the mayor, veterans, and high school students, the ceremony itself was thought provoking and impressive. And despite snowy weather and slick roads, the town hall and the history museum that was streaming the ceremony were both at full capacity with standing room only. After the ceremony, the items from the 1968 capsule were on display, mostly paper-based memorabilia--newspaper clippings, scrolls of signatures, and letters from residents. My girls enjoyed reading letters from the 5th graders of 1968 and seeing historical pictures of our town. We also got to see the new time capsule and we signed a ledger and wrote notes that will go inside, to be read in 50 years. It was the best kind of history lesson.
At one point, I asked my girls how old they would be when the next capsule was opened.
"57!" exclaimed my youngest, Cici.
"And I'll be 59," said Aleida. After a thoughtful pause, she added, "And you'll be 90, Mom."
Wow. This hit me harder than I expected. 90 years old. Longevity does not run in the females of my family. Both my mother and her mother died before reaching age 70, so the odds of me being alive for the next unveiling are fairly slim. 50 years from now, my children will be women with memories older than I am now. They will most likely have families of their own. They will have careers and a circle of friends they have yet to meet. They will have lived away from home--from me--for decades. Will they be at the unveiling in 50 years with their kids? Could I pick them out of the crowd if I could travel through time today?
My thoughts got heavy, my friends. And I'll admit that I fought with some anxiety. This was undeniable proof that time passes...and quickly. And in the face of such proof, I couldn't help but reflect on my life so far and consider what the future will hold. I have SO MANY THINGS left to do.
My anxiety did lead to motivation and resolve. Time will pass. There's no stopping that. But what we do with the rest of our lives is completely up to us. It's trite, I know, but today IS the first day of the rest of your life. What will you do with it?
Do you have goals but feel stuck when you think about trying to reach them? Do you start projects that go unfinished? Do you leave important conversations unsaid because you don't want to deal with the conflict or the fallout? Do you hold back on sharing your creations because you are a "perfectionist?" Behind all of these questions lurk a sneaky but powerful beast: the Fear of Failure.
Here's the irony: The only way to TRULY fail is to give in to the Fear of Failure. And some of us might be doing this without even realizing that we are doing it. Why? Because the Fear of Failure masquerades as many other less-evil-seeming motivations. When Fear of Failure is in disguise, we might not even make it to the first Big A--Awareness--because we are convinced that we are dealing with something else. Can you relate to any of these?