Tag Archives: gratitude

Learning a &@$#%! Lesson

Dr. Wayne Dyer believed that everyone he met had something to teach him. All he had to do was open himself to the possibility that in every encounter with other people, be they family, friends, or complete strangers, there was an opportunity to learn.

I find this remarkable coming from one of the most influential teachers of recent times. Perhaps his success and his insights were due in part to being so receptive, taking in at least as much as he was putting out.

I’ve applied this principle many times. I can’t say exactly what I’ve learned as a result, but it helps me deal with unusual or unpleasant situations. The ability to think, “What is this person/encounter trying to teach me?” allows me to step back from a reflexive emotional reaction and view things at least partly from a detached perspective. It can get surreal, like a kind of out-of-body experience, but it works.

Why, just this morning. . .

I’m at a recycling conference in Kalamazoo this week, sustainability being one of my passions. I began the day with a run (another passion) around the Western Michigan University campus, including this pretty little park that began as storm water containment and became a wetland with local plantings.

As it was a beautiful spring morning, I ate breakfast outside and then, almost reluctantly, changed and headed to the conference. As I walked down the sidewalk toward the hotel, a woman on an old bike passed me from behind, pedaling hard. She yelled several obscenities at me as she went by.

After the initial shock, I wondered what the heck I’d done. I hadn’t blocked the sidewalk, and it couldn’t have been personal; we didn’t know each other, and the whole thing lasted maybe three seconds. Perhaps she had some mental challenges, or was just in a bad mood. But there was no point in speculation. I had to let it go.

So – what could I possibly learn from that? Yes, that thought really did come to mind. Most likely, nothing. Regardless, I told myself, I couldn’t let her bad attitude ruin my day. Getting angry at her would have been “yelling at an empty boat” – accomplishing nothing and spoiling my good mood.

But then I realized what kind of mood I’d really been in.

Right after the run I had indeed been in a good mood. It’s one of the benefits running provides me. But during breakfast my mind had drifted to our current political situation, which I happen to despise, and gradually I’d slipped into cynical mode, coming up with “snide yet humorous” things to write about our government leaders. I’d been slowly poisoning my good mood, withdrawing into myself and closing off the world around me.

And her blast of expletives, however shocking and unpleasant, had been a reboot, a mental defibrillation. For my bad attitude had vanished, and in its place came forgiveness and gratitude for what she’d done. Ass-kicked out of self-absorption, I had reopened myself to learn, and could make full use of the conference. Which was a good thing, because today’s sessions and conversations were packed full of things I hadn’t known about, or that improved my existing knowledge. It was one of the most productive learning and networking days I’ve ever had.

So thank you, mysterious bike lady, for the lesson. And Dr. Dyer, even though we never met and you’re now beyond my ability to do so, thank you too.

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A Post from the Cave

Yesterday I was innocently working from home when my cell phone rang. The caller ID read “UNAVAILABLE” so I should have known better. But just in case it was someone from the office, I picked up and said hello.

“Hello?” a female voice replied. Then after a moment, “I’m so sorry – I was adjusting my headset! Anyway, I’m calling because you recently stayed at one of our resorts, and we have this offer . . .”

picard-face-palm

Oh, Lord. I let her pitch her absolutely fabulous offer, until she wanted to ask me a few questions. Then I said, “I suppose there’s a timeshare presentation involved in this?”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t understand you,” she replied. “Can I ask you a few questions?” I repeated my timeshare suspicion. “Can I ask you a few questions?” she said again.

I hung up. She was a robot, pre-screening before handing me off to a closer. But I have to admit I was fooled for a bit. They are getting better at this. Robot callers even deny they’re robots. Read an example here.

No, totes true dude, I'm a human - beep beep beep - HA HA HA HA- How about them Cubs?

No, totes truly dude, I’m a human – beep beep beep – HA HA HA HA- How about them Cubs?

Which got me thinking (hey, it’s better than working, right?) about the new waves of technology that make virtual reality closer to “real” reality. Video games use the moves of real athletes who were wired up just for that purpose. An increasing number of movies are either partly, or completely, CGI generated. And new VR headsets are coming that will let the wearer participate in some incredible experiences. Say, simulating a mountain bike adventure on your stationary bike, riding a roller coaster from your couch, or even flying like a bird. Click here for details.

I find a kind of odd symmetry here with what else is going on in the world. With the country’s future and the world’s future more uncertain that ever, it’s natural, I suppose, for the visual and tactile boundaries between fantasy and reality to blur as well. How long before we simply sit in chairs all day living entirely in a fantasy world? (Perhaps we are now. Plato suggested that we were.)

platos-cave

Look! I can do a bunny rabbit!

But as we approach our country’s annual day of gratitude and overeating, there are a few things I can be certain of, and count on:

  • I have the love of my family and can count on them supporting me no matter what, and that I would do the same for them.
  • I can count on Skip and the Body Specs crew mashing me into the floor so I can get back up stronger than ever.
  • I can count on pain, blisters, and bruises from running marathons and trail ultramarathons, and that I will treasure each one anyway.
  • Our cats will continue walking on the books we’re trying to read, nagging for food when I’m trying to concentrate, and being an unending source of affection and comic relief. (Screw you and your feline hatred, The Atlantic; cats rule.)
  • I’m certain that people will continue to say to me, “So I was reading your blog the other day…” when I didn’t think they knew I had a blog.

And finally, I’m certain that America will remain the land of the free and the home of the brave, as long as we remain brave enough to stand for what’s right. Our freedom was too hard earned to take for granted or let others try to diminish or take away.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Honored Beyond Words – But I’ll Do My Best

MOST VALUABLE RUNNER of 2014.

All I can say is – WOW. And thank you all so much.

Yesterday when I crossed the finish line at the Holiday Hustle 5K, I accomplished my goal of competing in every single event on the 2014 Running Fit calendar. It was a total of 23 events from January through December, including a snowshoe race, three triathlons, and six ultramarathons. Here’s the calendar (click it for a larger, more readable version):

Running Fit Calendar of Events 2014

No one has ever done this before, and throughout the year the wonderful staff at Running Fit Events cheered me on. And at each event I collected the little button pin. At each year’s Holiday Hustle, you bring your pins along, and the person with the most pins wins a prize. Since I had every 2014 pin, I was pretty sure I’d win, and I wanted to something more than just dump a pile of pins on them. So I put them on a posterboard along with some photos, to have something to display later in my man cave – when I get around to having one. So here’s what I made:

Collage - 2014 Running Fit races

Well, it received oohs and aahs from the staff, and they said they’d put it on display after the race. Little did I know how polite they were being, as they made an oblique reference to a “special award” for me.

So I ran the race, and got congratulations all round. Then they showed me what they’d prepared for me as the first-ever “Most Valuable Runner”. Not only had they come up with that awesome title, I had been out-postered! Check this out.

RFE poster - 2

And I got a couple of free race entries, too!

I was speechless. This has got to be about the coolest thing I’ve ever received. This is going up on a wall even if I never get around to that man cave. Thank you Randy, and Mandy, and Dawn, and Joanna, and everyone else at Running Fit Events for helping make this year so memorable for me. And special thanks to my family and friends who helped me reach the goal despite some challenges in other areas of life this year. I love you all.

Coming up soon, I will recap the year in running, cycling, and Aikido, including the highlights of a truly remarkable and unforgettable experience. And lowlights too – those are more fun to read, aren’t they. Until then, thank you all very much once again.

So Long, Mom, and Thanks for All the Comments

I was on mile seven of my Saturday morning run when I got the call. People don’t usually call me during this run, so I was pretty sure what it was about. And it was quickly confirmed. My mother had passed away.

The event was not unexpected; Mom had declined rapidly. For the last few weeks she’d been awake less and less often, finally slipping into a coma from which she rarely stirred. The night before, we’d had Thanksgiving dinner at my brother’s house, where Mom lived, and spent the evening with her. We’re very grateful for that final opportunity to include her in a family event.

We’ll hold a celebration for her during the holidays. In the meantime, life continues, as well as this blog, from which I’ve lost a dedicated reader. So this post is dedicated to her and the support she gave me in documenting my adventures on the web.

Mom's 80th birthday party last year.

Happier times: Mom’s 80th birthday party last year.

Growing up, Mom’s main contribution to keeping me and my siblings fit was kicking us out of the house on nice days. When I took up cycling, Aikido and running in my forties and began blogging about them, she became one of my first readers. Like the movie Julie and Julia, the first comment on my blog (then Fitness at 50) was from Mom. She continued to follow my posts and submit comments for over three years, until she was no longer well enough to use her computer.

She enjoyed the stories about the people I met and towns I visited on my long bike trips (click here for one in particular). Not so much with my race recaps. “Another one of those, ‘I did this, I did that’,” she’d say, discounting the idea that the blog was supposed to be about my personal adventures. Talk about tough critics! But I wrote more “color” stories as a result.

Mom's handle was "rhgramma" (rh standing for Red Hot).

Mom’s web handle was “rhgramma” (rh standing for Red Hot).

Here are a select few of her more colorful blog comments. You may get an idea where I get some of my sense of humor – and love for all things dark chocolate…

Oh! Usain Bolt is a man — a very fast man — I thought it was a name for a runner’s super drink. oh well . . .

Regarding Mr. Jurek’s book: — is “Eat and Run” anything like the signs you see along the country roads — “Eat and Get Gas’?

42 times the personal pronoun “I” appeared in this last blog. Only 8 (eight) more and you could have hit the 50 mark and added it to your goal of 50 things to accomplish. Oh well, there’s still time!!!

Have you considered giving up your day job and becoming a chocolate reviewer. Me — I’ll just go on being a chocolate “conna-sewer”: eating what I like and not eating what I don’t like. And right off the bat we can discard white “chocolate” and milk chocolate and any chocolate that has nuts or other ingredients that interrupt the chocolate flow ….

Stay tuned for a NEW BLOG! What it’s like to be Jeff’s mother — starting 50+ years ago.

Finally, I have Mom to thank for a great insight. I once wrote a post about going out one cold morning for a run, and how what started out as a slog turned into a terrific run as the sun came out and I warmed up. I wrote about how grateful I felt to be out there that morning, and it was almost like praying. Here’s the key paragraph from that post:

After six miles, the sun came out full and I shed my jacket. Conditions for the last twelve miles were perfect for running, and I was now grateful for choosing the morning to run. And while I was in the mood, I also took the time to be grateful for the other things that allowed me to be out there – for being healthy enough and strong enough to run, and having the freedom, both political and economic, to do so. It wasn’t a specific prayer; I just let myself experience the feeling of gratitude for a minute or so. I recommend this practice. It does a great job of making minor discomforts disappear for awhile.

Mom responded to the post by writing, “Gratitude IS prayer. Amen.”

Right on, Mom. Rest in peace.