Just Keep Swimming?

oppositeofmaybeThe Husband described me once as a shark. He meant it as a compliment. According to him (which might mean it’s totally untrue) sharks have to keep moving forward in order to breathe. Like I said, it might be a totally made up fact about sharks, but it makes for a good metaphor and there is nothing The Husband likes more than a good metaphor.

I was pretty proud of that description when The Husband first gave it to me. I have always fancied myself someone who can move on from things like pain and disappointment without allowing them to hinder any growth. For me, life is all about growing and anything that might get in the way of that needs to be faced head on so that it can be dealt with and put away. I make decisions after thorough, but quick research and I don’t look back. I don’t hold grudges. I don’t spend time with regret. I analyze. I learn. I move on. Like a shark, I keep moving forward for fear of losing my breath.

I’ve been pondering lately if I still want to be a shark. I mean, I do appreciate my resiliency and ability to make a life wherever I land after a fall. But lately, I’ve been wondering if I wouldn’t benefit from treading water for a bit; slowing down to notice where I am, feeling things for a little longer and then looking to see whether the direction I’ve chosen as forward is really the correct one. I see no need to go back and dredge up, but there may be something to staying still, or at least swimming in circles long enough to think about a new route.

This all sounds very vague, as if it is hinting toward there being some giant problem to solve. That is not the case. Everything  here is pretty solid right now actually. I just stop sometimes and question where I am going and now, while I have no desire to swim backward, I think there may be some benefit to staying still.

I wonder what The Husband knows about sharks breathing when still. Let’s hope his big book of metaphors says what I need.
This post was inspired by the novel  The Opposite of Maybe by Maddie Dawson. At the age of 44, Rosie finds herself suddenly single and pregnant. She tries to hide in her grandmother’s home, but meets two men that will change her life forever. Join From Left to Write on April 8 we discuss The Opposite of Maybe. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Teaching Empathy?

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It’s not a punctuation error, putting a question mark in that title. It really is a question I have. Can you teach empathy? I’ve done a fair amount of reading lately about empathy, as it is a pretty central concept for successful counseling relationships and every text-book I read treats empathic tendencies as if they’re something we bring the table as part of who we are. As if being empathic is ingrained. So, my question is, are you born this way or can you learn?

I am old enough now to embrace parts of me that I think are good and admit them without worry of judgement for being pompous or haughty. (It took close to forty years, but I have finally realized liking yourself is not a crime against others.) One thing I am proud of is my empathic nature. I want to be clear that when I use this word I don’t mean sympathy. My tendency is not a simple, “aw too bad” one. What I do, and always have done is readily put myself in someone else’s shoes. Ask The Husband, I believe he’d tell you it is the thing he loves and hates about me most. Not only does this make arguments difficult as I try to see ALL sides but  through our life together I have turned him into an over-tipper with the detailed stories about the server’s life that I spin while he calculates his 15, no 20, no 25% tip.Continue Reading

The Shift for Weight Loss

The-Shift_NY-Bestseller.jpeg-e1379967152235It is very rare that I do straight-up book reviews around here. Yes, I read like a maniac and I write posts inspired by some of the books I have read but rarely do I just come to this ole’ blog and flat out gush about something I’ve read.

Today, I’m going to do just that. A little while ago, I read something called Spark & Hustle, which was a book for business women and men that spoke right to me. I really loved not only the writer’s message about what it takes to be successful, but I appreciated her style, which was both no nonsense and soft at the same time. I wasn’t sure how she managed to pull that off, but I was hooked on Tory Johnson from that moment forward as someone I could look up to as a powerful, realistic working woman.

Imagine my surprise when I was pitched a weight-loss book to review and the author was none other than Tory herself. Huh? Tory Johnson isn’t a weight loss person, she’s a money and business person. Besides, did she even need to lose weight?

Now, you may know Tory from her segments on Good Morning America. Admittedly, I’m a viewer of the “other morning show” <ahem> so I don’t see much of Tory except on book covers and websites. The point is I didn’t see her much, so I never thought of her as someone who would need to lose weight which explains why I was surprised  at first. Then, after internet stalking her to find more images, the startling truth occurred to me-she looked like I do. She dressed in slimming colors, and she stands tall so she could hide a lot. Also, she was a confident, successful woman in the public eye so who would have thought she could struggle with anything, much less food and her weight? It’s easy to hide extra pounds behind a confident walk and some black clothes. At least I used to think so.

The book The Shift: How I Finally Lost Weight and Discovered a Happier Life is about the day when Tory, through some attention from a television boss, had to really look at herself because she couldn’t hide behind slimming colors anymore. The book takes you on her yearlong journey to lose weight but it is so much more than a weight-loss book. There are no tricks or schemes. There is just a lot of truth-telling, inspiration and motivation to get right with your health through fixing your food.

For me it came at the perfect time. After my own successful weight loss journey culminated with me beginning to coach other people on their own weight loss, I noticed my own scale start creeping back up again until my weight became dangerously high. I went through what amounts to stages of grief over the loss of my loss. I was angry that I couldn’t be “normal” and eat what I want. I was sad that clearly I wasn’t good enough to be thin because I knew just what to do and yet I was fat anyway. I was embarrassed to see my clients, guilty that I couldn’t even follow my own advice and finally, beaten down so much that I started to think that maybe I had to learn to accept myself at this weight as if it was the natural order of things.

Tory’s book reminded me of all the things I knew and told clients but often forgot for myself. Things like weight loss isn’t a quick project, it requires life-long changes in behavior. Also, I didn’t get overweight by eating “normal”. Normal (healthy-weight) people don’t eat whatever they want, whenever they want it no matter how tired, or busy, or happy or sad they may be. To eat anything at anytime isn’t normal. It’s disordered. And finally, The Shift reminded me there is nothing to be gained (no pun intended) from taking time to beat myself up over getting here. It is never too late to change and time is better spent moving forward than looking back.

I know all this stuff. Hell, people paid me really well to help them remember all this stuff. But sometimes, the coach needs a coach and Tory and her book acted as just that for me. The Shift is just what I needed to get back into being the person I used to love to be-happy, successful, confident and thin.

I was given a copy of The Shift for review. All opinions are my own. 

 

Teach Your Children Well

Reprimanded at a Restaurant.

Reprimanded at a Restaurant.

As a classroom teacher, especially in the area of literacy, we threw around the phrase “explicit instruction” a lot. Mostly, it meant we could no longer rely on the often mis-understood definition of Whole Reading and let kids just immerse themselves in text and hope the somehow caught the rules and regulations of the English Language. That wasn’t the way Whole Language was meant to go, but that’s the way it was going in many classrooms so Reading Specialists of my generation were taught to go back to explicit instruction, meaning (simply put) teach phonics rules and grammar concepts in black and white again.

I keep thinking of this concept with parenting. I spent a good many years explicitly instructing my kids in certain areas. For instance, I sat in a restaurant yesterday with my six-year-old, and with the exception of some breaks where he went and ran around in the kid-approved courtyard, he was good as gold.

The table behind us however was not. The kids were “just being kids” like mine are oft to do in our dining room. They looked around the same age as mine.  They were screaming (loudly!) and teasing each other and occasionally whacking each other on the head. All good fun… for your own dining room, but quite annoying in a public restaurant. As I sat there trying to enjoy my meal and not be That Woman, who gives the evil eye to the poor mom just trying to get through dinner, I started thinking about what we did differently.

Now, let me be clear, we are not perfect parents. We screw up a lot of stuff. But, our kids are pretty well-behaved right now and a lot of that has to do with the instruction we provided. We taught them early on that their behavior effects other people and thus they needed to learn the difference in what was acceptable in all kinds of locales. We didn’t eat out when they were very little because the expectations were impossible to meet and I was exhausted from trying. When they got a bit older we did our part to pick the right places, provide distractions and set realistic expectations. However, we also began to demand of them certain behaviors. If they didn’t practice them, we left. Yes, we left restaurants once or twice. It only took once or twice for a stern warning to soon be enough to cease behavior.

Now, they’re mostly pretty good when we go out to eat, because they know how they are meant to behave in public places where food is served and conversation is expected. (Come to think of it, this may explain the youngest child’s cafeteria-phobia.) This is so because we taught them these things. We didn’t just expect them to catch them or learn from our example or understand why we were yelling at them when the did it wrong. We also did no allow them to figure it out on their own to the detriment of other diners.

My kids are older now. I have some of the good fortune of looking back on those early years where everything seemed instructional and being able to look objectively at what we did and didn’t do well. I get that it is hard, really hard,  so I won’t judge that mom in the restaurant. Perhaps she was just having an off day and had nothing left to teach. I remember those days too. You get to a place that you think will be a relief and your kids prove you totally wrong but you’re so far in you don’t know how to get out. Yeah, I remember that well. I hope she got them to bed early.

The place we are now with our kids and their ages is where we start to pull back from the explicit instruction and enter the guided parenting phase. This is particularly hard because I have to know when to butt in or stay out. Even more difficult, it is now imperative that I divorce that piece of my self-image that used to be intertwined  from the actions of my kids. They can make their own decisions and how they act is no longer a total reflection of me and my parenting.

Let me be clear, I’m still in charge. It’s just that my job requires a lot more finesse now than it used to and my promotions are no longer based solely on my kids and how they act. It’s tricky here in this land of older kids. I mess up more often than I’d like to admit. I hope there is no one in a restaurant judging my foibles when I do.

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This post was inspired by the book Mother, Mother: A Novel by Koren Zailckas, which is about a missing kid and a mom who literally can not divorce her sense of self from the way not just her children, but everyone around her acts. I was given the book as a member of the From Left to Write Book Club. Check out their site for other inspired posts. Then check out the book because it’s freaking awesome.