This is how Time works

Dear Daughter,

I don’t care what anyone tells you… Time is not a measure, it is a being. A living, breathing, bipolar being. I swear it has a personality. Multiple, actually. One minute, Time can be your best friend and another? Your worst enemy. It likes to mess with you too, that Time. It makes you think you’ll have lots of it and then, out of nowhere, it’s gone. And yet, it’s always there. It’s enough to drive a grown woman mad.

Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned about Time through the years:

1) Time really does fly when you’re having fun. It’s one of life’s cruelest realities, right up there with the fact that healthy food tastes bad and unhealthy food tastes good. Say you’re in Aruba for your honeymoon. At first you think five days in Aruba is a long time. But the bright and sunny days pass by as quickly as the waves of the Aruban shore. And before you know it, you’re gripping onto your beach chair for dear life, forcing your husband to pry your fingers from it and tell you to get moving already so you don’t miss your flight. This is strictly hypothetical, of course.

2) It also flies when you have things to do. I always, always underestimate the amount of time it will take me to do my Saturday chores (cleaning the house, grocery shopping, laundry, etc.) Throughout the week, I tend to put things off until the weekend because I think I’ll have all the Time in the world. But when you lump it all into one day, it’s like Time speeds up just to mess with you. You end up accomplishing two out of the eight things on your to-do list, which makes you feel like a big whopping failure. Depressing, I know. The point here is to have low expectations. I normally would  never recommend that but in this case, it seems to be the only way to end the day not wanting to punish yourself.

3) It does NOT fly when you’re at work or school. I think when we’re in situations where we’re bored, we’re just more aware of time. So we look at the clock more often, only to see that just two minutes have passed, not the 30 minutes we were hoping for. This can be fixed, at work anyway, by referring to #2 above. If you make sure you have a lot of work to do, Time will pass more quickly, and before you know it you’ll be on your way home, singing “Forget You” at the top of your lungs and contemplating whether or not to cook that healthy chicken dish tonight or just pick up a junior cheeseburger deluxe from Wendys. Once again: hypothetical.

4) Sometimes it stands still. These moments are rare, and they can be good or bad. It could happen when you see a loved one who’s been gone for a long time, or during an accident when your life flashes before your eyes. Whenever it does happen, take note and etch it into your memory. When time stands still, it’s because your life is about to change.

The bottom line is to make the most of Time. There are 24 hours in a day—always has been, always will be. Knowing that, and knowing the four rules above, get ahead of Time. Don’t let it control you. Know what to expect and plan accordingly. Spend your Time on things that matter. (For the record, sometimes what matters is alone time and family time. Just saying you don’t always have to be productive.) And as much as Time will drive you crazy, it really is precious. Don’t waste it.

Love,
Mom

One Day…

I saw this on Facebook last night and thought it was appropriate because of my announcement yesterday. For so long, I’ve been saying “One day I’m going to write a book.” I’ve finally turned “one day” into “today.”

Two words can disqualify every dream you’ve ever had:
One day.

One day I’m going to start my own business.
One day I’m going to move overseas.
One day I’m going to live wholeheartedly for Christ.
One day I’m going to lose weight.
One day I’m going to make a difference.

If you’re not careful, one day becomes the next day, and the next day becomes the next day, and the next day becomes…

The best time to start a diet is tomorrow.
The best time to start making a difference is tomorrow.
The best time to do anything is tomorrow…

…if you don’t want to ever actually do it.
Tomorrow always comes but the dream never happens.

Stop waiting.
There’s only one day that’s appropriate to start chasing your dream: Today.

Make today your “one day.”

–Joel Sullivan

Relying on others vs. yourself

Dear Daughter,

Last night, on the very funny show Modern Family, the father Phil decides that he wants to walk on a tightrope. So he gets all of the equipment and places the tightrope only a foot or so off the ground at first, just so he can get the hang of it before making it higher. He struggles, however; he falls off the tightrope every time and eventually decides to give up. But then his son, who’s probably about 10 years old, says something very wise:

“Maybe you keep falling because part of you knows you can fall. Maybe if the wire was much, much higher, you wouldn’t fall.”

I’ve found that this philosophy applies to a lot of areas in life. Sometimes, when you know that someone is there to catch you, you’re more likely to fall.

For example (a very practical one), when I was out of college and just learning how to cook (things other than Ramen noodles and mac ‘n cheese), there was a huge difference in how I acted in the kitchen when by myself as opposed to when I was with my mom. When Mom was with me, I questioned every move I made. I would ask her if I’d measured the ingredients correctly, or if I’d stirred for long enough or if the chicken was cooked enough. But when cooking by myself, I didn’t have anyone else to rely on to answer those questions for me. I had to figure it out for myself, and doing so helped me become a better, more independent cook. You’d think I would have learned more from Mom’s expertise (and don’t get me wrong, I did learn a LOT from her), but it was stepping outside my comfort zone and experiencing my own trials and errors that had the greatest impact on my ability.

There are countless other ways in which this concept applies. If you’re grieving something and you know someone is there to listen to every tearful woe, you might grieve a little longer than you would otherwise. Drug or alcohol addicts who have loved ones that keep taking them back in when they mess up are more likely to keep messing up, because they know they won’t really lose anything either way.

There’s a fine line between having support and knowing when to do things on your own. You don’t want to abandon the people who are there to help you, but there comes a time when you do need to step out and experience life on your own, or else you’ll never grow. It can be painful and scary, and you might even fail, but the lessons you learn from doing so will make you far better, without a doubt.

After listening to his son’s wise words, Phil hangs the tightrope seven feet off the ground. And sure enough, he makes it all the way across. He knew that this time around, the consequences of falling were far greater, so he tried harder, focused more intently on doing it the right way, and therefore found success.

We all need to rely on other people to help us get through life. But every once in a while, you need to place the tightrope a little higher and trust in your own ability.

Love,
Mom

My own list of failures

Dear Daughter,

In yesterday’s letter, I urged you to acknowledge your weaknesses, so that you don’t assume you’re good at everything and blame others when you fail. Today, I’ve decided to lead by example. I’m going to share my own weaknesses, the things that shrink my ego down to the size of a peanut. Here goes…

1) Running. I’ve been told on way too many occasions that when I run, I “look funny.” No one can say why I look funny or help me correct it; apparently there’s just something about the way I run that makes them point, stare and chuckle. Needless to say, such comments make me reluctant to go for a jog around the block. In recent years, however, I’ve decided that I don’t care what people think, and I don’t care that running is one of the most painful experiences on earth… I try running whenever I can just because it’s good exercise. I will never ever admit to being good at it, though. Especially when I can see the neighbors snickering at me behind their curtains.

2) Anything having to do with math. I’m a lover of words, not numbers. Writing comes easily to me, math never has and never will. For example, the other day you asked me what 6 x 4 is and I honestly did not know the answer. Need I say more?

3) Art. I don’t know where you inherited your artistic ability, but it certainly wasn’t from me. I can barely draw stick figures. Whenever I get a blue card in the Cranium game, I break into a cold sweat. They want me to draw with my eyes closed?! I can’t even draw with them open! And the Sculpturade one? Whatever I sculpt always turns out looking like a piece of… it’s just not good, okay?

4) Doing hair. I can put your hair in a ponytail; that’s about it. Lately, girls have been wearing small braids that start at their part and go down the side of their head. I want so badly to be able to do that to my and your hair but every time I try I fail miserably. It’s a good thing you’re not very girly because you would be utterly disappointed by your mother’s hair-stylin’ skillz. (Or lack thereof.)

5) Cutting potatoes. I know this seems like an odd item to include, but I’ve seriously had a complex about it my whole life. When most people cut their potatoes, they cut them into smooth, crisp lines and perfectly shaped pieces. My potato falls apart on me every time, and when I’m done it looks like a hacked, crumbled mess. It really boggles my mind. What am I doing differently than everyone else? I like to blame the potato but that’s something an entitled college student would do, so I’ll own up to my failures and acknowledge that it’s all me.

I could probably go on and on, but I’ve humbled myself enough for one day. My point is, I know I’m bad at these things and always will be. In school, I had to work really hard at math and art because otherwise my grades would have tanked. This involved lots of tears and frustration, but I made it through. And you will, too.

And now you know why I never make potatoes.

Love,
Mom

How to keep from feeling entitled

Dear Daughter,

I read an article the other day about how current college students are part of the Entitlement Generation. This means they feel entitled to good grades and a hefty paycheck, even if they haven’t put in the hard work to earn such rewards. They complain when professors give them a low grade, and when it comes time to search for a post-college job, the article says many of them feel they deserve “high salaries and quick promotions. On average, they expected a starting salary of $53,000 a year.”

This mentality has led to a general disrespect of authority, and well, to put it bluntly, it’s turned our young adults into punks. I’m only a decade or so older than them, and even I have noticed that.

The writer of the article blames parents, and she might be onto something. “The entitlement mindset… came from a generation of adults who believed that kids should never be allowed to fail, or told the truth about their abilities, or learn that getting what you want is sometimes hard.”

I don’t think parents wanted their children to be spoiled punks; they wanted their kids to feel secure about their academic or athletic performance, and to stick up for themselves when they’re being treated unjustly. These are good lessons to teach a child but only to an extent. I find myself falling into this way of thinking with you sometimes, and now my eyes are opened to the consequences of such parenting.

Daughter, in order for you to truly succeed in life, here’s what you need to know…

You will be great at some things and really, stinkin’ bad at others. Acknowledge your weaknesses and focus on and work hard at your strengths. (Especially if it ends up getting you a free ride to college! Please?) When I say “work hard,” I mean it. Don’t spend just an average amount of time and effort and expect greatness. Invest in your strengths and interests; give them the time that they deserve.

For those things that you dislike but are forced to do, i.e. calculus or physics, (maybe you’ll like those subjects but they were the bane of my existence), work just as hard as you would at the subjects you do enjoy. Learn what it takes to do well at something that doesn’t come naturally to you. This is a humbling practice, but in the end you might find it’s even more rewarding than succeeding at the easy stuff.

Respect. Your. Elders. Every once in a blue moon a teacher will give you a grade that’s truly unfair, but that rarely ever happens. If you get a D on a test, it’s because you deserve it. Work hard so that you don’t get any Ds, but even if you do, don’t go whining about it to the teacher. Own up to the fact that he or she knows way more than you do and gave you the grade you deserved. When it comes to sports or some other activity, put in the work that your coach requires of you. Don’t ever get too big for your britches and think you don’t need to pay your dues. You’re not that good.

In the meantime, I promise to do a better job of keepin’ it real. (In love, of course.) I’ll encourage you where you need encouraging and I’ll rebuke you where you need rebuking. Because if you grow up thinking you deserve only the best and will throw a fit when you don’t get that, you’re in for a tough life, my dear.

Love,
Mom

When you just want to hit the snooze button

Dear Daughter,

As I write this, it’s 5:06 a.m. and I can barely keep my eyes open. I’ve been waking up at 4:30 every morning to write this blog, simply because that’s the only time that works for me to write it. While some mornings I’m full of energy and ready to write, there are many others, like today, when I just want to crawl back into bed and say “forget it.” After all, what does it matter if I miss just one day?

But it does matter. Because every time I write a letter to you, you learn a little bit more about life and how to walk through it. Every time I write period I practice my craft and therefore refine my writing more and more each day.

But the main reason I shouldn’t go back to bed is because of integrity.

I had promised myself and you and others that I would write this blog every day, Monday-Friday. If I go back on that promise, it means I’m lacking integrity. It means I will not have kept my word. And while it may not seem like a big deal in the short term, in the long run it means something. It’s telling you and others that you can’t depend on me.

Practicing integrity is something I’m pretty lousy at, so I’m trying to get better. That’s why I didn’t go back to bed today. Daughter, I encourage you, while you’re young, to be intentional about integrity. Make it a point to do what you say you’re going to do, no matter what. That applies to school, work, diet, exercise, and simply helping friends when you say you’re going to.

There will be countless times when you won’t want to follow through with what you’ve promised. But if you fight through those times and you do accomplish what you’ve promised, the reward is that much greater. You will walk proudly knowing you’ve done something meaningful despite your desire not to; whereas if you didn’t follow through, you’d walk with shame and regret, and that’s no way to live.

Integrity doesn’t come naturally to anyone. You have to really work at it. But trust me, the hard work will pay off tenfold.

Love,
Mom