Thursday, July 25, 2019

The Man in the Arena (and the Trenches)

Last weekend, I took the Road Runners Club of America Level I Coaching Certification Course.  Thirty five or so of us attended, and really the only thing we had in common was that we all loved to run.  I was a stand out at the training, but not in the way you might think.  I am a run/walker, which means I combine intervals of running and walking into all of my runs.  It has kept me injury free for years, so I'm sticking with it.  Many "serious" runners don't consider me to be a real runner, because to them, real runners run the entire run; only beginners walk part of the run.  I wish I could say that their attitude didn't bother me, but it did.  I could feel the judgment.  No one who knows me would say I'm not a runner.  I may not be the fastest person in the world, but I am a solid middle of the pack runner.  I was also the only person in the room who warms up before each and every run, no exceptions.  The instructors didn't believe me; then when they did, they looked at me like I had three heads.  I shouldn't have cared, but I did.  Finally, I just said it was because I'm injury-prone, and that seemed to satisfy them..  I'm not changing how I run, but I sure felt uncomfortable so I made an excuse to make my choices seem more palatable to others. .

Daughter is getting married.  She and her fiancĂ© are doing it their way.  We're going to have a taco bar, and lawn games.  They are not, at this point, making this a state-sanctioned union. Their wedding is going to be a ceremony of commitment between them, in front of their closest family and friends.  Their union is no less committed (and maybe even more so) than a lot of "legal" marriages.  What's more, they are comfortable with their choice.  The problem is that other people are not, and are voicing their judgments on their choice.  They feel the judgment and it doesn't feel good.  They know what others think shouldn't bother them, but it does. They're not changing what's right for them.

Here in the Trenches, divorce comes with lots of judgments.  You're judged if you had an affair.  You're judged if your spouse has an affair.  You're judged if you leave your spouse.  You're judged if your spouse leaves you.  You're judged if you have custody of your children; you're judged if you don't.  People who used to be your friends aren't any more.  Some people even stop talking to you.  Some people start talking to you because you're divorced.  Unlike me with my running, and Daughter with her wedding, a divorce isn't something most people would choose to do if they had a chance. That doesn't make all of those judgments feel any more or less awful.  When you're in the Trenches, however, you are already under stress, so your ability to handle the judgments is decreased.  It's hard to say you don't give a fig when your entire life is shifting and changing.  You start to second guess yourself and your actions.  You wonder if all those people on the periphery are actually right.  I can't answer that for you; I can't know whether their judgments are correct.  What I do know is that Theodore Roosevelt was right, when he said:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Here in the Trenches.

Monday, July 1, 2019

From the Mouths of Babes - Avoiding Divorce

(Sorry you can't see her cuteness from the front, but she's in the 
Baby Protection Program)

During the school year, I am the Monday morning babysitter for my almost two year old granddaughter.  It's probably my most favorite job.  Grandbaby is really into trust falls right now. You know what those are:  they are when you go to the edge of a ledge, or you collapse backwards and simply fall, trusting that there is someone there to catch you so you don't hurt yourself.  Secure children do it effortlessly.  Once we become adults, we have to go to team building retreats to learn how to do it all over again.  But I digress.

Grandbaby climbs up on her ledge.  She looks me straight in the eye.  She gets the biggest smile on her face, you know, the kind that goes all the way up your eyes.  Then she falls.  She knows I'm going to catch her.  There is not a doubt in her mind that's what Grandma is going to do - again and again.  In fact, she's positive I will never let her fall.  Thank goodness I still have good reflexes!  Grandbaby's trust falls have a lot to teach us about how to stay out of the Trenches.  You know what they say about the mouthes of babes...... As I reflect on it, I have 5 main lessons:

1.  Pay attention.  When I am with Grandbaby, my phone is in my bag.  It is not in my hand (unless I'm taking a picture of her cuteness!).  It is not on the chair next to me.  It is not in my back pocket.  When I am with Grandbaby, I am WITH Grandbaby.  She is my entire focus for the 3 hours before the other grandma comes.  I understand I am only with her one day a week, but how many of you make your spouse your entire focus for even 30 minutes one day a week?  Not many, I bet.  I know you're tired at the end of the day and really just want to vege out, but paying attention is important.  It  keeps the relationship moving and it builds trust.

2.  Be where they are.  When I'm with Grandbaby, I am not thinking about what I want to do.  I am focused on what she wants.  Trust me, no sane adult wants to build a tower and have it knocked down a zillion times, or play which stuffed animal gets to be in the crib with baby and which ones have to sit in the chair. That's what she wants to do, and so that's what we do.  I am showing an interest in what she wants without expecting her to do the same for me (even if she could at this age).  I never let her know that the zillionth tower is any less exciting than the first.   I know, listening to your spouse drone on about a topic that interests you not at all is hard, but we all know when people aren't really listening to us; try really listening and see what happens.  Every once in a while do an activity you don't love but your spouse does (and do not let your spouse know how much you hate it and are just doing it for them).

3.  Be predictable.  I don't mean be boring.  When Grandma comes in the morning, she brings pancakes.  Every time.  In fact, I am so predictable on this that when I babysat at night, Grandbaby pointed to my bag and said "cake, cakes." When the other grandma comes, Grandbaby expects different things from her.  She feels secure because she knows she can count on us for certain things.  It's not many things, but they're important to her.  Children aren't the only ones who need predictability.  Adults need to know that if you say you're going to be home at 6, then you're at home at six.  When you say you'll mow the lawn, paint the room, do the laundry, that you'll actually do them and don't have to be nagged.  Don't let your predictability be that you don't do what you say - it's a sure relationship killer.

4.  Let them know the relationship is important.  Do you really want to be known for always missing milestone occasions?  I get it, the greeting card industry is a racket, but I'm not talking about buying a card.  Unless a judge or a doctor absolutely cannot accommodate me (and that is rare because being with Grandbaby is a priority) or I'm sick, which unfortunately has happened a bit more than I'd like, I am there on Monday.  Is it a pain to get up at 5am so I can be at Grandbaby's home before 7?  You betcha.  Is it deadly when I had an event that ended late the night before? Oh yes.  I am, however, there.  How canyon let your spouse know they're important to you?

5.  You can't downplay the value of touch and laughter.  Grandbaby gets lots of huggles.  We hold hands a lot.  I pick her up and carry her.  She gets "zerbets" on her tummy.  We giggle and laugh (as do the school crossing guards who watch us running down the street, counting trees). Truth be told, I love my huggles too.  Human beings need touch.  They need laughter.  Life is hard.  Days are long. Children are tiring.  I get it.  When was the last time you and your spouse touched?  I am not talking about sex or foreplay.  I am talking about holding hands, touching a hand or a shoulder, giving a hug. Touch without expectation of anything else is magical.  When life gets in the way, sometimes that gets put to the side; and the relationship suffers.

Will following all of these lessons from Mondays with Grandbaby keep you out of the Trenches?  Maybe.  Not following any of them, however, will bring you to my door.  Here in the Trenches.