Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Greatest American Hero

Anyone else remember the feeling of being bowled over and opened up by stuff as a kid?  I do.  Something as cool as a school assembly could blow my mind (I won't even get started about the time I learned where meat comes from) and I would embrace it passionately.  In fact, there is still a school assembly I remember from way back in elementary school, I was probably in about 4th or 5th grade (yes, that was a very long time ago).  The guy came out on stage dressed like The Greatest American Hero (remember that show? Now I'm really dating myself!) with the theme song and everything.  I was a big fan of the show at the time, so that caught my attention.  His message was "Don't sweat the small stuff" and throughout his speech, he talked about problems and overcoming them and how we ought to let the small stuff go.  Then at the very end he said he had a very important secret to tell us.  He worked us until we were on the edge of our seats, leaning in with anticipation and he said, "It's all small stuff!"  I was wowed.  My whole little self clung to those words with passion, I even drew pictures and carefully lettered the words as if they were a motto. 
In middle and high school, it was poetry and snippets from books or songs that moved me, and I tried to force myself to live by what inspired me.  "Carpe Diem" Yes, from Dead Poet's Society not from actually reading the poetry myself, and I just wanted to live more, but I really didn't know what that meant.  Me being a naturally introverted person, I feel like living more means thinking more, not necessarily sky diving or going on safari, or, more common for my generation, going to raves and huffing.  I did go out dancing all the time(dry clubs), that was my way of living more and I loved it.
Then there was my married, adult life, because there was a big depressing lack of inspiration for me between high school and then.  I married a man who is very fit, healthy and disciplined and I wanted so much to be that, but it's really not in my DNA.  I started looking at fitness magazines for inspiration and this is what inspired me most:
I liked her physique because she is toned and fit but doesn't look like she has used steroids to get there.  There was even a time when I successfully stuck to a diet and training plan solely on the self-inspired mantra, "Live like Maggie, look like Maggie."  I literally pretended I was already fit and that being fit and healthy was just how I lived.  It worked for a few months, but like usual, life reminded me of who I am and when I took the blinders off I had to realize that comparing my 5-ft, stocky body to the lean and long body of this genetically-gifted gal was only setting myself up to feel bad about my own body.  I had to come to terms with the fact that no matter how much I "lived like Maggie" I was never going to have abs like that or legs that long and lean.  It was hard, after that, to be inspired by the gals I saw in fitness magazines, and I found women who'd lost a significant amount of weight to be more inspiring because it was something I could acheive. 
Today, as I read my Dhammapada passage I thought about how my brain takes in these messages of inspiration.  The basic concept of the passage today was that an ill-prepared thatched roof allows rain to seep in, as an untrained mind allows desires in, but a well prepared thatched roof does not allow the rain in, just as a well-trained mind does not allow desires in.  I paused to consider its meaning to me and my own journey.  I let the rain through my roof a lot, maybe not because I have no training, but maybe the roof has a small deficiency and I am too tired or lazy to go fix it.  So the rain comes.  And on sunny days I try to patch it up and it stops the rain for a while until a new weak spot comes and the rain flows through again.  So, maybe in my case, I need to make it a little tougher for the rain to get through; ask myself more questions before caving and eating something, especially when I'm not particularly hungry, make myself put my phone down and do something that actually make me feel good instead of just numb, take the time to focus on the me that is inside all the people and things I wish I were.  And this goes well with yesterday's lesson about what is vital and what is trivial, because failing to separate the two leads to the feeling that everything is vital, and everything must be done, and the "shoulds" of life end up making us feel like we "aren't".  It all becomes "big stuff" and overwhelms us until all we want to do is be numb and checkout for a little bit. 
So maybe I am on the right track with focusing on doing things that make me feel good. That is vital, in my opinion.  How can I make good choices when I don't feel good?  How can I call it living if the only time I am focused and in the moment is at work, and lots of times that only stresses me out? 
Last night, after getting through responsibilities after work (homework was extra greuling with my son) I had a little free time while my husband was in the shower.  My first instinct is to go on my phone.  I opened up Ancestry.com and began to page through records in the familiar quest that usually leads down a deep rabbit hole of records for other relatives.  I'm so addicted.  Then, I stopped after only a minute of browsing.  I closed the webpage and loaded up my hip-opening yoga video.  It's funny how I simultaneously felt guilty for taking the time to do this 20-minute session, because my dog was begging me to play, laying his stuffed giraffe on my hand when I would go down into a pose.  No one else was giving him attention and I felt bad, but I kept going anyway, promising to play when I was done.  He laid patiently next to me, trying to sneak a face lick from time to time, and when I was done, I felt all the tight places buzzing with fresh blood supply and I was so happy I decided to do it.  I even slept better.  So, I think I am going to try and make an effort to do 5 things every day that genuinely make me feel good.  Not saying I won't still spend hours on geneology, but I will also make an effort to do more things that feel good and make me happy.  What's more important than that?  The rest, as they say, is all small stuff.

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