Monday, July 26, 2010

Fortyness... Intentionally Selfless

As a woman and a mom, I know what it is to give of myself.

As a young parent, I gave of myself in giving birth to and caring for my newborn children. I gave of my sleep, of my time, and of my energy. Over the years I gave of myself in going with out so they could have, canceling appointments and commitments so that they could be where they needed to be, and exchanging wants for needs that fit the family and not my own personal preference. I gave of myself as I moved from state to state with Mr. Mom of Many Hats as he moved up the corporate ladder. Believe me, I know what it is to give.

There is a difference in this giving of self that is a part of my everydayness and selfless giving. In all of the giving of self that I have done, there has been some sort of reward in it for me. I am rewarded for the care, sacrifice and giving to my children by the smiles, thank yous, and joy in seeing them become successful and empathetic young women. I have been rewarded in my halfway across country moves and back by seeing new places, growing closer with my kids and husband, and a quality of life that I have been fortunate to have. In my giving I was rewarded.

Selfless giving on the other hand is something very different. In selfless giving, there is no reward and no expectation of anything in return. There are no pats on the back or exchange of benefit. Is done simply as a gesture of good will, caring, and love by the giver. My daughter- my middle baby hat recently modeled selfless giving to me.

Baby Hat B is about to enter her junior year in high school. (If you've had a daughter, you know that this is the time of their teenage years that appearance becomes important and part of their identity. )She had been growing her hair for almost two years. It was a long and lovely set of locks. Even though she had put so much effort into growing it, she made a sacrifice for the benefit of others through it. She went online and researched how to donate to Locks of Love , an organization that supports cancer patients through providing hair to replace what they have lost as a result of treatment. She went to the salon along with her information and had her hair put in two ponytails. After a few cuts, the stylist had two bunches of my beautiful B's hair bundled and ready to be sent to look beautiful on someone who had lost their hair to the ravages of cancer.

Her choice was a selfless act of giving with no expectation of reward or gain. Although she knows the recipient will be thankful, she will never see the person who benefits from her hair and get a "thank you" in person. When she got home after her hair cut, she simply posted on her Facebook status "Got my hair cut", not even mentioning her donation nor wanting recognition for it(although I admit, I was so proud of her that I posted it on my status.) Her actions were done out of goodwill, and care for others.

It is funny that in my Fortyness, after all my years of "giving", I strive to be a better giver. Although I will always continue to be for and give of myself for my family, I want to be the person that isn't made smaller and lessened by the "sacrifices" , and expecting some sort of gain for it. I want to be like my daughter - the person that gives selflessly with no expectation of accolades.

Although our forties are a time when we think we should reap the rewards of what we have given to life so far, it is also a time of life that we should realize how much more life we have, and how much more we have to give; to give without expectation of return. It is a time to not focus on what we can gain by our actions, but by how we can impact by them. In Fortyness, it is the time give not because we are obligated, but because we can and should - a time to be intentionally selfless.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Fortyness - Life is Like a Box of Choco....No, a Hunk of Swiss...

If you were in any way conscious between the 1990's and now, you probably associate this "box" line with a popular movie and the surprises you get inside delicious pieces of chocolate candy and from life.

I have another theory.....

Life is like a Hunk of Cheese.

Yes, cheese....Swiss cheese....

You may or may not be a swiss cheese fan, but one thing for sure you probably know what a piece of swiss cheese looks like. It is generally light in color with well formed holes in it. If you go into an artisan cheese shop you will see huge wheels of the flavorful substance sitting proudly on the top of displays with the iconic wedge cut out of it.

But when you look at it, it is the holes that stand out. It looks almost as if something is missing. The focus is placed on what is lacking, on the empty spaces, and on the incompleteness of the cheese. What the cheese HAS is forgotten.

The holes got in the cheese through a process. After the cheesemaker has taken careful steps to prepare the cheese, it is left for ripening. In this time the different milk sugars, acids, and proteins that make up cheese base begin to separate, transform and undergo chemical changes. It is a long and seemingly tumultuous time for the young wheel. As these changes occur the holes start to form. When the cheese wheel has undergone all of the trials and tribulation of the aging process, it reaches maturity. What is left is a hunk of smelly, yet carefully crafted cheese with well defined and large holes. In the world of cheese, these holes are called eyes.

This is sort of like life. In fortyness we have reached the maturity stage. We have gone through the process of having different people, experiences, ideas, world views and personal traits mixed together as our life base. They have mixed and ripened for the last 40 years and as a result, we have undergone changes. In that time, there were some holes starting to take hold. Some of the holes were a result of bad relationships, illness, or loss. Other holes were from the everyday tasks that wear us down and tire us out. Whatever the cause, as the tumult and trial of incorporating all of our past experience occurred, the holes became well defined, empty spaces in our selves. By the time we have ripened, what we often see is what is NOT there - what we are lacking.

But, remember, in cheesology, those holes are called eyes. The holes we see in ourselves can be eyes as well. It seems that if there were never any difficulty or loss in life that things would be great. If there were no challenges, life would be smooth an easy. Just what we want....right? But what if life had been smooth and mellow, like a nice brie? When an issue came along we would not be able to stand up and conquer it (remember, brie is a soft cheese that gets all melty in the heat.....). To withstand the holes, we must be strong and stand firm. The holes do become a permanent part of us; a part of our structure. But they also can become the eyes through which we can look at life with wisdom and experience. They can help us see the beauty of what we do have if we so choose to look through them, not at them. The holes have strengthened us and allow us to stand up and conquer the heat of life. Have you ever tried to melt a piece of Swiss?

One final thought....

If you are a brie fan, please don't take offense. But, it is a very boring cheese with not lot of texture. When you slice into it it is homogeneous and plain. On the other hand, when you slice into a wheel of Swiss, there are a multitude of designs and patterns inside. It is fragrant and interesting with no two slices looking or being exactly the same. Embrace your holes, look through them and not at them, and you will see the reward of what time, ripening and maturity has left you with.... your beautiful hunk of cheese.

* Image by thenoodleator via Flickr

Friday, July 2, 2010

Fortyness...The Long Run at 9000 Feet

I am a runner.

I run several times a week. And although I am not a marathon runner (I have run 1/2 marathons) the distance I can run is respectable. I am not the fastest, but again, my endurance is nothing to laugh at.

I run in the Sonoran Desert. It is sometimes extremely hot. Predawn runs can be as hot as 90 degrees at the onset. It can also get pretty cold. Early morning runs can be in the 20's in the winter time. But, regardless of the weather outside, I am very consistent in my dedication to pounding the pavement. Understanding my conditioning and the conditions that I run in most of the year, it always astonishes me how a change in scenery can change the effort needed to complete my runs.

In the summer time, I head northwest of my desert home and spend some time on the western coast of our great country. My stay there includes a beautiful and relaxing trip the Sierra Nevada Mountains for a week of family and fun...and of course some running. Some hard running. Some very hard running. It's not that I am changing my mileage. In fact I run fewer. It is not that the weather is any different - it is really much more pleasant.

It's the air. The oxygen more specifically.

My desert home is at about 1000 ft elevation. My mountain runs are at 9000 ft. The air is pretty thin. I have to put out twice the effort for the same benefits. I have to adjust my pace, adjust my breathing, adjust my steps. If I don't, I'll probably end up flat faced on the side of the road feeling like my lungs have collapsed. The trick to finishing my runs is knowing what I have to accomplish but adjusting my stride, strategy and energy outlay, and adjusting the expectations that I can have the performance at 9000 ft that I do at 1000 ft.

Fortyness is a time of changing elevations. We run along fine at an elevation one moment, and in the blink of an eye, life has tossed us into another. You probably know these moments..... finances are moving along nicely and then a huge bill for a repair or a loss of a job happens..... you are feeling really good about how you have parented your kids then a kid "crisis" happens...... your relationships have seemed content and comfortable then are suddenly in upheaval. All of these things are like being dropped at a high altitude at a full run.

Adjustments in strategy and energy outlay become a normal part of life as we seem to have half the gain at twice the cost. To make it through, we must adjust our stride, making some steps smaller and some larger. We may need to reassess the rout or make a detour on the course, understanding that our performance may not be as stellar in these times. We need to be aware that the amount of oxygen dwindles in some moments of fortyness, and do what we need to do to keep our lungs full so we can continue on. Most importantly, we must keep our eyes on our end goals. The route is rarely easy. but if we stay dedicated to the journey, we can successfully finish these long runs at 9000 ft.