Wednesday, July 18, 2012

...cHooSe yOuR oWn aDvEntuRe...

When I was a kid, a new series of books came out called "Choose Your Own Adventure".   As you read along, you...the reader, got to choose between a couple of different options that determined what the main character did which in turn affected the story's ending.  I used to love them! I just couldn't get enough of going back and changing which path the main character took and seeing how the story and ending changed.

I thought about these series of books as I was lying in bed the other night thinking about the twists and turns my life has made.  It was as though my life was a "Choose Your Own Adventure" book.  I went back in time to the first situations that I can recall that really shaped who I am and the subsequent choices that I made.  I tried to imagine where my life would be had certain things NOT happened to me.  I fantasized about how much more confident I might have turned out to be or how much "better" things might have turned out for me.  I walked through every step and just like the books I loved as a child, the ending was always different.  Many times, the way my imagined life turned out was simpler, more successful and almost always there were less scars from hurts and disappointments.  There was always something good, but there were also always things that were missing from the end of the story.
What if I had chosen to always take care of my body and eat healthy?  What if I had never been fat...or felt bad about myself...or been ignored by people in public...or had a jerk salesman stop waiting on me because I was overweight and a thin girl walked in?  Would things have been easier?  Would I have experienced a little less pain?  The answer is yes, but there's other things I would NEVER have experienced or learned either.  I wouldn't have the same understanding and compassion that I have.  I probably would not have a desire to help others make changes.  I wouldn't have the strength that came from overcoming those hurts and the pride I feel when I look in the mirror.  I wouldn't know how hard it can be to make good choices at mealtime and how easy it can be to turn to food when I'm feeling bad.

All of our choices...all of our experiences make us who we are.  We can become better and happier than we ever thought if we are willing to stop going down the same path and decide to make different choices. We can make changes...turn the pages back...and choose a different path with a better ending.  Your life is YOUR adventure.  YOU have to choose to work hard.  YOU have to choose to make changes.  YOU have to choose to be strong.  Don't let anyone else make your decisions or choose  where your life goes.  YOU choose your own adventure!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

...strength and beauty...

The sun beat down on us unmercifully as we got out of the car to go for a 3 mile walk/run.  For a moment, I thought about pulling the plug and using the excuse that it's just too hot, but I knew that the majority of the trail I was headed for is shady.  I also knew that if I left the park and came home with the intention of doing it later...I would NEVER go back out.  I also knew that it was nothing short of a Christmas miracle that I had even gotten my running 16 yr old agree to come along, so I strapped my phone to my arm (in case one of us were to suffer heat stroke and we needed to call 911) and we headed toward the trail.  I tried to be convince her (and myself) that it wasn't completely crazy to run in the middle of the afternoon in 100 degree weather.  I said, "See!  There's other cars here!  We aren't the only crazy ones!"  Savanna smiled and said, "Mom...they are having a party where they are sitting under the shade.  We are running."  Dang it!  That didn't work.  I tried another approach.  Denial.  "Look at all this shade!  It won't be bad at all, Savy!  We got this!"  She was quiet and kind and let me be ridiculous, but she knew what I was doing.

We decided that we would walk fast in the shade and run when we hit patches where it was sunny as to avoid getting burnt.  It'll be like intervals...but more fun since it's mostly shade.  (This was my thought as I was still trying to convince myself that it was a good idea.)  Savanna agreed.  And she is not known for being naturally agreeable so I was shocked.  This child has not EVER run with me at the park since she was a toddler and did so as a passenger in the stroller I was pushing!  I was going to take every advantage of this opportunity to try and spend some "quality time" talking with her and also try and show her that working out can be fun.  Okay, so maybe choosing to do so in 100 degree weather isn't the smartest but I was going to work with what I had!
We started out walking.  I started to talk to her about some big changes going on in our family.  She opened up and was kind and honest.  I realized that maybe this was going to be more for me than her, but either way...we were talking and she was doing so willingly and to my surprise she wasn't acting disgusted.  In fact, she SEEMED to be enjoying my company.  I was impressed and touched at how she never complained.  She ran right beside me and never quit...even when I could tell she was struggling.  I would go into personal trainer mode and start saying "You got this Savy!  You're doing great!  Just a little further and we are there!"  Just when it seemed she couldn't go anymore, we would hit a long patch of shade and recover and talk some more.

There is a big hill right in the center of this trail.  I hate/dread it EVERY SINGLE TIME I run.  It seems to go on forever!  I assured Savanna that we would only run on the parts of the hill that were sunny and we could walk in the shady parts.  She was doubtful in her abilities, but she did it.  We turned around at the ending point and started back.  I cheerfully told her that THIS time the hill would be easier because most of the sunny parts would be downhill going this direction.  I then cautioned her to pay attention because it might be easier to trip running downhill.  I said this because Savanna can be a little clumsy at times.  Actually, she has been know to randomly trip and fall many times throughout her life.  Luckily, we all laugh about it and so she smiled but then I saw some fear start to arise.  She got a crinkle between her eyebrows as she said, "Mom, I don't want to run downhill!  What if I fall?  You KNOW how much of a klutz I am!"  I reassured her and said, "Oh Savy, you'll be fine!!!  I didn't tell you that to scare you.  I told you so you would pay attention."  The look of total disbelief was all over her face when she made the next comment...a comment that both surprised and saddened me a bit.  "What if I fall and scrape up my face?  I NEEED my looks Mom!"

I laughed.  "Oh Savanna!  Quit being crazy!  You're not going to fall and what do you mean you need your looks?"  There was a part of me that thought she MUST be joking, but she was very serious.  "Mom.  (motioning to her face as we ran...downhill...without falling)  My looks DO make a difference.  Without my pretty face, things would be a lot harder.  When I was at camp a couple of weeks ago, I didn't ever have to clear my tray in the cafeteria once that week.  There were always boys offering to throw my stuff away and I never had to carry my suitcase up or down the stairs.  I'm going to NEED my looks to get by in life."
 Wow.  Many thoughts raced through my mind in the 30 second pause after that statement.  I wondered if I had created this feeling in her.  I envisioned a life of her relying on men and using her looks to "get by."  That's not the life I want for either of my daughters.  I wondered how this amazingly smart (like genius smart), talented daughter of mine could think that everything good that she has ever gotten or will get is attached to her looks.  And then I realized it.  It's just like when you have that moment of dejavu and you instantly realize that you have dreamed of being where you are before.  I was instantly aware that this was one of those rare, precious moments that parents get...moments when you get the chance to teach your child something so valuable that you would not normally be able to teach them and have it make an impact.  I knew I had to say something.  I wanted her to understand some things that could make such a huge difference in her life.  And so, this is what I said,

"Savanna.  You are beautiful.  I remember when you were a baby.  I would just look at you, even when you were asleep and marvel at what a beautiful child you are.  Now is no different.  Your beauty is striking, and being beautiful has its perks.  People may be nicer to you, boys may give you attention, and opportunities may come your way because of the way you look, but you cannot spend your life relying on your looks.  Solely relying on your looks means giving up the power to be happy...all the matter what.  It may mean that you are only happy when you are getting attention and miserable when you are not.  Relying on your looks means that the opinion of others counts more than YOUR opinion of yourself.  Looks fade and we get older.  One day you will not look like you do now and if your entire identity is wrapped up in your appearance, you will feel lost and always be looking back.  You are so smart.  I can't imagine having your intelligence, and I know you can do great things.  But more importantly, you are strong.  If something were to ever happen to your would be sad but it shouldn't be the end.  You need to be strong enough to have more substance that you can fall back on.  Looks are nice, but they should be like the icing on the cake...a bonus.  You have stayed with me in this heat and never complained until now.  You have kept going when I KNOW you wanted to stop.  I don't ever want you to forget this.  You are more than what you look like."
She smiled at me and said, "You're right."  I don't know if what I said made a difference but it certainly made me think and reflect upon my own life.  It also made me wonder how many girls out there feel the same way...and how many girls have grown up feeling that way and are now women that have let it shape their lives and effect their happiness.  Don't let appearances shape and define who you are.  You are not the car you drive.  You are not that hot body in a bikini.  You are not the pretty face that gets attention.  You are more than that.  Look within yourself and find your strength and substance, because beauty is nice but it's not the most important thing.