A visit to the doctor, orthodontist, school function or anywhere really, will alert you to the fact that people don’t know how to talk to your son, if he doesn’t play sports.
Our society is programmed in a way, that a boy who doesn’t play sports is an anomaly. What can we possibly have to say to a boy, if we can’t ask him about football, basketball or soccer?
My son not only doesn’t play sports……he doesn’t watch them either. GASP!! I know, it’s a tragedy right?
My son has a deep abiding empathy for others.
My son is a critical thinker.
My son is constantly questioning the world.
My son is not a box checker.
My son has a thirst for knowledge about space that won’t quit.
But the world has no questions for him except for, “so….do you play basketball”?
REALLY? This thirteen year old boy, who could change the world has to constantly answer why he isn’t interested in sports. Can’t we do better than that?
Until age eleven, I watched my son pick grass on the baseball field. I watched him run half-heartedly down a basketball court and cheer for his teammates every single time they scored. Like a good American, we tried every single sport there was, encouraging him to get involved, and choose from the buffet our country offers.
The looks I get from other mothers when I say that I gave him the choice at age eleven whether to play sports or not…..is one of reprehension.
How dare I guide and support instead of mold him in the image that is expected for our boys.
I get it, I really do…our boys are to follow a plan set out for success right? We believe that you get them involved in sports, they play through high school, gaining popularity and acceptance along the way. This quells our fears. Society has instilled a fear in us that if our boy doesn’t play sports, than he is uninvolved. He is clearly sitting around doing nothing.
We ignore the statistics behind head trauma.
We ignore the statistics regarding how many of those boys actually play in college.
We ignore whether our children are enjoying themselves.
We ignore what their true passion might be.
We ignore that competitive sports keep them so busy, they have little time for much else.
I am not saying that sports don’t have absolute value. They do. Especially if your son or daughter loves the sport. They push themselves, they learn about themselves, they challenge themselves and meet those challenges. All really good things.
If your son or daughter doesn’t have passion for the sport, I mean real passion. Then what are we doing?
Why not look deeper? Why not look beyond societies expectations.
To what degree does your child’s involvement in sports have to do with YOU?
What if, we got to know our child? What if we asked them if they wanted to play sports or get involved in robotics, student government, forensics, or the like?
What if we said, who are you and what do you like?
What if we said, it’s okay to not like sports?
What if we said, whoever you are is enough?
What if we put our desires aside and opened the door for more?
The self-worth gained from a parent who says “you are enough” is valuable beyond measure. That parent opens the door to more. That parent learns more about their child and more about themselves than ever before.
We owe our boys more than funneling them into a system they don’t fit into. If your boy isn’t an athlete….guess what. It’s okay. They are going to be okay.
You are enough, and so are they.
Our careers help to define who we are. We lead with “so what do you do?” and everyone just magically knows what this means, and answers accordingly. Often, we go to school for years and pay inordinate amounts of money, to ensure that our answer to this question of “what do you do” sounds the way we want it to, pays what we need it to, and delivers the adequate amount of career satisfaction that we believe our time and effort affords us.
So, what happens when reality hits? What happens when the career we have worked so hard for, prepared so long for, isn’t all that it’s cut out to be?
We all happily hop on the complain train. We begin to imagine that things would be different, everything would be better, “if only”.
If only I liked my boss.
If only they treated me with more respect.
If only I got paid more.
If only they would listen to my ideas.
If only they followed through.
If only thinking keeps us in a box. It makes us the victim. If only thinking puts the power outside of ourselves and hands it to situations, to other people, and to things out of our control.
Mindfulness is a word being thrown around quite often these days. Depending on your level of research into it, you might see it as a tool to calm down, a tool to clear your mind or a tool to induce a feeling of peace.
I challenge that narrow definition of mindfulness. Let’s harness the power created through mindfulness and use it to enhance our happiness at work. Let’s use it to propel us forward and increase our motivation and productivity.
Practicing mindfulness increases your self awareness, your accountability and your empathy, towards yourself and towards others. These three benefits can re-train our brains to stop standing in our own way on the path to happiness and success.
Self Awareness: The first step in being able to harness our personal power and quiet “if only” thinking is to raise our self awareness. Self awareness is this valuable window to our own behavior. If we are lacking that window, how can we view ourselves as others view us? How can we know our own strengths and weaknesses? How can we know our own power, what we are truly capable of and in which direction we want to point that power?
At Home: Each morning, build in 15 extra minutes to practice raising your self awareness. Find a comfortable place in your home, and create your space. Sit comfortably for 15 minutes and just notice. Notice the thoughts that are ruminating in your head. Label them as just a planning thought, or an anxiety thought, perhaps an anger thought. Then imagine letting the thought go, in whatever way feels right to you. This practice begins to raise your personal awareness of what is happening in your brain. It allows you to see your thoughts as separate from yourself. You are not required to participate in every thought you have. Freedom!
At work: Pause throughout the day, and just notice if you feel any tension in your body. Notice the thoughts in your head, and label them, letting them go one by one. Remember to breathe, fully exhaling, during each pause throughout your day. Use your pause to craft a response to triggers, instead of the old stand-by reaction.
Accountability: Now lets use the window we have created, to raise our personal accountability. For example, if you notice during your sitting practice, that you have an awful lot of anxiety thoughts, or anger thoughts. What behavior can you be accountable for related to these thoughts? If my thoughts are centered around anxiety, you can bet I have bitten someone’s head off, or responded in a less than helpful, smart-ass way to a coworker. Use accountability to create the environment you want.
At Home: At the end of your morning self awareness practice, build in 5 minutes to cultivate gratitude. Begin to bring into your awareness all that you have to be grateful for in your life. Be accountable for your place in that gratitude. What good are your responsible for bringing into your world? Sit in that place and breathe through your heart, enhancing the good feelings of positive accountability. You are powerful, you are worthy and you are enough.
At Work: Instead of “if only” thinking, change it to, what can I be accountable for? Some situations are truly out of our control, however, sometimes we miss how our behavior effects the outcome. Be accountable for less than forward thinking, missing the big picture, black and white thinking, or riding the complain train. Be accountable for the energy you bring with you each morning. You set the tone for your day, no one else…..just you.
Empathy: Don’t be so hard on yourself! When we raise our self awareness, and accountability, it’s easy to beat ourselves up for what we see. Don’t waste your time in this unhealthy cycle. Our minds natural tendency is to attach to the negative. Know this, and fight it with compassion.
At Home: In your morning practice, don’t beat yourself up for ruminating thoughts, or feelings of inadequacy. Simply let them go, and try again, with the understanding that this is hard. We are re-training our brains and it isn’t easy, show yourself the compassion you would show a friend who is struggling.
At Work: When you catch yourself engaging in the complain train, or caught up in “if only” thinking, instead of beating yourself up, remind yourself of how easy it is to ride that train, and decide to choose a path of response instead of reaction. Use the empathy you have cultivated for yourself, and extend it to others. This sets them at ease and creates a path of understanding for you to work together, not against each other. Empathy creates an environment of teamwork.
What I am suggesting, isn’t easy, I know this.
I’m suggesting you take your happiness back.
I’m suggesting you take your time back.
I’m suggesting you take your mind back.
I’m suggesting you take your power back.
The real questions here are, have you had enough? Are you at your limit? Are you ready to move forward?
At age 19, I was given one of the best gifts I had ever and will ever receive. You were a shelter pup, dropped off from a farm in Indiana. Completely black with huge paws, and a resolve that challenged me. My life was never the same again. The next few years would be a series of chewed up underwear, stolen bones from the trash, ripped up flooring, and more love than I had ever experienced up to that point in my life. My life evolved as you grew. What was once just you and I, became a family. You made room for more love, you showed me how much I had inside of me. You loved my children as I loved you. For that, I am forever grateful.
You taught me many things in my youth.
You taught me you don’t give up on something just because it’s hard.
You taught me, true love is worth all the work.
You taught me there is more than one way to accomplish what you want.
You taught me well behaved doesn’t always end in success.
You taught me being needed can be beautiful.
You taught me what happiness looked like.
You taught me that life is what you make it.
You taught me love expands to exactly the size it needs to be.
In my thirties, I noticed you didn’t move so easily anymore. Your athletic build that carried your body through the journey of all day swimming trips, car rides, frisbee throwing competitions, and camping, had begun to slow down. Your back legs would give out coming up the stairs, you would get lost in the woods behind our home where you once roamed so confidently. Your resolve had weakened. Day after day, regardless of how I tried to ignore it, your body and your spirit told me you were ready.
You taught me how to let go.
You taught me that the choice is never clear.
You taught me to listen to my intuition.
You taught me to love now.
You taught me that things change, and that’s okay.
You taught me, how to lose a friend like no other.
I said goodbye to my best friend, and I vowed to never forget how you smelled like home. I would never forget how your feet looked like giant rabbit feet, and you would snuggle up, tucking your head under my chin. I vowed to never forget, the funny space between your bottom teeth and the beautiful energy that you brought to my life, every single day.
I woke up one day in my forties, and realized, all of those things I vowed to never forget, were slipping from my memory. I cried for hours. It felt like a betrayal. I couldn’t smell your salty paws in my memory anymore. I couldn’t remember how your fur felt against my face. How could I? I immediately went to work beating myself up for all of the little things I could no longer remember about you my friend. From pain, comes growth, if you let it. You taught me this.
That day I vowed to hold on.
Hold onto the smells.
Hold onto the joy.
Hold onto the character.
Hold onto the fun times.
Hold onto the hard times.
Hold onto the little things.
I vowed to remember the idiosyncrasies of a life. A life we so often take for granted once the excitement wears off.
You sit by our side day after day. You exemplify how to live a mindful life, if we are paying attention. You bask in the day like no other being I’ve ever seen. You take each moment for what it is, not wishing it to be different.
Last year I lost a fur baby at too young of an age, and I watched another growing old gracefully. It reignited the old pain from when I lost you. It reminded me of what I will never get back. It sparked a resolve to hang on to what I can now so that tomorrow, when I need it, it will be there.
We create baby books for our children. We take photo after photo to hang onto the precious memories because our children grow too fast. We do our best to create ideas around hanging on to what we can’t lose. The energy of a unique life.
You deserve nothing less.
You are here for such a short time. I want to soak in all that you are and all that you bring. I want to hold on to each memory and the things that differentiate you from each other. When I look back on your life, I don’t want to remember a life cut short. I want to remember a funny nose, or cute teeth. I want to remember the idiosyncrasies that make each friend unique. I want something close by, so when my memory ages and is no longer as sharp as it once was, I have something tangible to remind me.
You taught me well Parker. I can never repay you. Your legacy has enriched more fur babies since you passed. Your story goes on through them and many more in the future. I live mindfully now Parker. You were right, each day is a gift and we must receive it.
I love you Lou Lou Bear,
A Way to Hold On: An idea sparked on a snowy afternoon when my teenage son had the back door open for the dogs to go outside. Our exuberant Red Heeler pup ran out the back door so fast there was no question as to her intent. Our 12 year old Irish Wolfhound/Lab mix stood ambivalently deciding whether he would exit or not. My son and I laughed about how Norman Foreman had always been ambivalent about going outside. This was one of the things that set him apart from any other dog we had ever had. I realized at that moment, that this was one of the memories I had to hold onto.
That day we created a memory jar for each fur friend. On slips of paper, we write funny, sad, frustrating or silly things that our fur friends do that we don’t want to forget. We hold on through our memories and the jar is a tangible way to do that.
When our fur friend passes, we have a celebration of life, during which we each take turns reading the slips of paper remembering a life, a soul. We laugh, we sob, we sit in silence. It’s our way of holding on I guess. It’s our way of being mindful. It’s our way of honoring these amazing souls that are just gifts to us temporarily.
An idea from our family to yours. We hope it enhances your relationship with these beautiful beings.