Saturday, January 19, 2013

Lessons Learned from Impossible Dreams

* I can do hard things. 

When you take the first step down a road that seems impossible, beautiful doors open. Possibilities and chain reactions begin unfolding in ways you never imagined.

* Hope breeds hope; success feeds success.

When you start with a small grain of hope, and you walk forward clinging to that in spite of fears and doubt, something amazing happens. That hope begins expanding. It soars, giving wings to even the most fragile of dreams. Each small success is a package wrapped in a new layer of hope that can fuel a push to the next achievement.

* I can run when it hurts. I can run when it's well below freezing. I can even run when the air is icky.

I've been complaining because it's too cold and icky to run. Yesterday, as I sat in my car, I watched a feeble, elderly gentleman wading through the snow. His walk can only be described as a shuffle. His progress was painfully slow, and my heart ached watching his agonizing movements. He was bent almost double with the effort. But, he did it. He shuffled and rested, shuffled and rested.

I don't know why this man was out walking in the bitter cold and icky air, but I do know that it inspired me. I'm relatively healthy and strong. It does not take that kind of effort for me to reach my goal of being healthy. I might murmur occasionally, but I hope I won't complain so easily when it takes a bit of extra determination to reach my goals. I've been blessed in a lot of ways, and I'm probably capable of giving a bit more than I do.

* Dreams are a very personal thing. They can and should be held close.

I've learned that, in my life, unless I own my dream, unless I'm seeking it for my own self, it's fairly fleeting. While dreams come with a bit of innate hope, they also require a bit of iron will to be fully realized. I'm just lazy enough by nature that if I'm not chasing a dream because I want it, because it is fully and completely mine, I won't stick it out.

Running has always been a distant dream, in large part, because I was never at a point in my life where I was running solely for me. I'd try to get healthier because I wanted to lose weight, because I wanted my husband (now ex) to find me attractive, etc. Later, after my divorce, I'd try to get healthier because I worried about dating and how shallow that can be. There were a million reasons, and none of them were truly mine.

It wasn't until I learned to value me for exactly who I already was, to realize I was worth putting forth the effort to make myself happy, and to learn to run purely for it's own sake without any of the old qualifying reasons that I began to make my dream my own. It's found wings and roots as I've found my own individual worth.


I don't mean this in a "Run, Forest! Run!" sort of way. It's better to take it slowly and not kill your dream before you have a chance to taste it. No, what I mean is ... just don't stop. Even if you have a week or two where you just can't make progress on your dream -- for whatever reason -- be planning ahead for the time that you can. Don't think in terms of starting over. Think in terms of picking up where you left off. Sure, there will be times when you have to back track a bit, but it's not starting over if you never quit.

* Don't beat yourself with your mistakes.

Guilt is only healthy as long as its productive. Guilt has its place. It can and should motivate you to do a little more, to be a little better. It's pretty important to be able to recognize and even feel remorseful when you've fallen short of your potential. At the same time, if you wallow in it, guilt can be absolutely crippling. That, and it sort of screams cheesecake and chocolate donuts, if you know what I mean ... :)

Pick yourself up. Allow yourself your moment and move on. Try again tomorrow. The only time frame is usually one you've set for yourself. Who really says that you have to be perfect over night?

* Splurge sometimes ... just because.

Nope ... it's not always worth it to shelve my dream for a day. In this case, missing a run or eating a big old slab of cheesecake is not always as enjoyable as my brain or taste buds think it will be. But, the point is, they still occasionally think that way. I've learned to smile and say, "What's the worst that's going to happen? I'll be up one or two pounds tomorrow, and then I'll go back to my usual routine and, in a couple of days, I'll be right back where I am now." or "So I may have to ease into my next run a bit more." It's okay. It doesn't need to induce guilt or panic -- those things are usually pretty self-defeating in my world. It's a process and I won't be where I want over night, so why borrow trouble?

* It's always worth it.

Dreams heal our hearts, our minds, and our souls. Sometimes, like this particular dream, they even heal our bodies. They help us to envision our best selves. In our dreams, we see, not just who we are, but who we can become. Sometimes, it feels like such a stretch that we'll never really be that dream self, but, as I said: Hope breeds hope; success feeds success.

One of my favorite scriptures talks about this.

Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise. (Alma 37:6, Book of Mormon)
Dreams can be small and simple, or they can be as big as the universe, but they all start with one small step, and then another, and still another ... Small and simple things move us to where we want to be, to who we want to be. Little steps build greatness ...

One of My Impossible Dreams

This is a picture of me today. It's also a picture of me three years ago. How is that possible, you ask? Pull up a seat, and I'd be happy to explain.

The pajama pants I'm holding are mine -- from three and a half years ago. At the time they were snug. (Read: I was a bit worried about the stress on the seams.) These pants wandered into my life as I was making a new start. It was a terrifying time of fledgling hope.

Time passed. New things became our every day norms. I began learning to appreciate me for me. Two and a half years later, I decided the time had come to pick up old dreams, dust them off, and begin walking toward them again. This last June, I decided that I could and would learn to run. It started with miniscule intervals, sometimes more, sometimes less. Most weeks, I only went out three or four times.

I wasn't hoping to lose weight. I was hoping to make an old dream of running a reality. I had two rules I set for myself. Run some every time I went out, and don't quit.

The first two and a half months were torture, all except for each run's initial half second of amazement that my feet were running. My legs and lungs ached ALL the time. Ibuprofen and I were close friends. High heels and I were not. (And heaven forbid I combine the high heels with my front stairs ... death in a fashion statement ... ) It got to be a habit to take a couple ibuprofen just before I walked out the door and to take a hot soak in the tub as soon as I got home. I began to wonder if I'd have to choose between running and high heels. While I've had a passion for high heels for much longer, running was a goal.

After a while, I began to realize that, between my running music and the pain, any distractions were blocked out as I ran. I could actually be completely alone with my thoughts. Mentally, I began to look forward to and then to depend on those twenty minutes most days. I began noticing that I was a better mom. I was able to focus more clearly on everything else in my day if I'd take that small amount of time for my own mental and physical health.

This past December, I realized that my lungs and my legs no longer hurt all that badly. They also recovered within minutes after a run -- not hours or even days. I decided that the time had come to push myself a little harder than I'd bothered to do before. Within a couple of days, I was running over a mile without slowing to a walk. (Before that, I'd only been able to run 4 to 4.5 blocks without walking.) Now, I can easily and consistently run 1.5-2 miles straight.

I was surprised to realize that, along with learning to push myself and to learn to enjoy new things, I'd lost a bit of weight. The day the scale said I was down 30 lbs, there was a bit of ridiculous happy dancing going on. I'm still 19 lbs. heavier than my ideal weight. Maybe I'll drop it; maybe I won't. It doesn't really matter. I'm happy. I'm healthy. And, I can do things I never thought I was really capable of doing. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Family Scripture Study

Confession time: I stink pretty badly at consistent family scripture study. We'll go through spurts where we have it regularly, and then life blows up and family scripture study falls by the wayside.

Confession time (Part II): In all honesty, I worry more about helping my kids to build their own personal relationship with God's word than I do about studying it as a family. It's not that I don't think both are important. It's that I KNOW that someday, sometime, I won't be there to urge them to read their scriptures, to help explain or teach the bits they don't understand, or to encourage them to look to God for answers in their own lives. At some point, they have to learn to make that their own.

Sure, in a perfect world, even when they don't live at home, they'll be able to call or text, but what about those rough teenage years when they're turning inward to cope instead of reaching out? As a mom, it's a terrifying thought. It's more terrifying to think about the challenges if I don't do all I can to prepare them. I have to admit that the question of how to help my children grow to love the scriptures, and, more importantly, to understand and apply them is a dilemma that has haunted many of my waking hours and featured strongly in my own prayers and study.

I think, perhaps, that we've found something that will work for us. We've only tried it a couple of times, but so far, it's a hit. The other day, I told the girls that, each evening, when we hold our family scripture study, all of us will have an opportunity to share something from what we read in our personal study the night before. I explained that it could be something we liked, something that just stood out, or a question we had about what we read. They were pretty excited about the idea.

The next night, both girls had a couple of verses that they'd marked in their Bibles. Each of my daughters chose to share multiple verses when it was their turn. I found it interesting to see that, although each daughter had picked verses that were correlated with the other verses they shared, neither of my daughters picked verses that sat right next to the other verses they shared. These girls of mine were already able to see which verses linked together by theme even when they were on different pages.

It was fascinating to see my daughters discuss the verses that the other family members presented. Each was able to see the value of the other's choice and how it applied to her own life. As one daughter shared, the other listened with the intent of learning and applying the scriptures in her own day to day living. This wasn't something I told them to do. It just sort of, well ... came.

Another thing that amazed me was in listening to the girls explain why they'd chosen those verses. Each one had a specific reason. As they shared their reasons and we discussed unknown words, what it meant to use a symbol, etc. the girls began talking more about their own lives and choices. They began sharing, not just the things they felt they were doing right, but how they could see areas for improvement in the actions and decisions they were making each day. Again, it wasn't something I was telling them; they were building this learning as they went.

As a mother, it has been humbling to watch my prayers being answered, to see my children beginning to discover their own love affair with the scriptures. To see them laying the foundation, not just of reading, but of truly studying and internalizing the scriptures on their own has shown me glimpses of who they are becoming. More importantly, it's reminded me of who they already are. These sweet girls, just 8 and 10, are brilliant daughters of God. They come with a piece of divine inheritance that shines brightly already. They are deeply acquainted with Him. I don't need to teach them to know Him. I just need to provide opportunities for them to remember Him.