The past 2 weeks have shown me how important it is to maintain a big-picture view of life, in relation to goals. There are so many opportunities that can present themselves, and whether you accept or reject the challenge shapes not only the kind of life you live, but the kind of legacy you'll leave behind.
My great-aunt died this past weekend. I think of my memories with her in the mornings of my early childhood. We'd come down from our 3rd floor apartment above the family's 1st floor heating oil office in Roxbury, Massachusetts. She would be on the phones and doing the billing on a typewriter and I would come and sit on her desk, age 2, 3, 4... She said she could often hear me coming because I'd sing all the way down the stairs. (As a singer, I found it especially sweet of her to relate this anecdote to me.) The sun'll come out, tomorrow, still a favorite song.
Later, when we didn't live above the oil office anymore, my grandfather still picked me up after school one day a week. We'd get a snack at the Ho Jo off the highway, and then go back to the office, where I was always glad to see Auntie, and Auntie always seemed glad to see me! Maya Angelou says that children's opinion of themselves is shaped by the look you have on your face when you greet them. Auntie always had a warm, welcoming face, and gave big hugs into her ample bosom! Throughout her life, she really was a gentle woman (so, the singing of that hymn made us all cry in church). She was also tough when she needed to be, like in the office, standing up to a bunch of grouchy men stained with oil. Auntie was caring, kind, and a sweetheart. Her life touched many lives. She will be missed by my whole family.
At her funeral mass, I learned that for as long as she was physically able, she cooked for other people in her apartment building who were not able, creating her own little meals-on-wheels program. That struck me, because toward the end of her life, she had unbelievable swelling in her legs and had a very hard time getting around. I know there must have been a time when she pushed through the pain in order to do what she loved: cooking, and helping her friends and neighbors through her cooking-kindness. As the priest said, "this is the way that she imitated Christ."
Thoughts about mortality in the wake of a death...
Who you are today will be who you are tomorrow, and so on and so on, until your last day of life. No metamorphosis will turn you into some old person version of yourself. Day after day, you will continue to look out at the world through your eyes (which will have seen many decades go by if you're lucky). This concept brings up a lot of thoughts and emotions for me. In relation to Total Body Happiness, it reinforces these main objectives.
It is important to:
- Be happy. Your happiness radiates unto those around you, and this is no small thing. You have the power to positively impact the lives of those around you, either lessening or increasing their burden and stress. Who do you want to be? What affect do you have on others?
- Be healthy. Just as you don't suddenly turn into "an old person" one day in your mental and emotional outlook, so too does your body age gradually, day by day. You have the power to maintain your core strength and go into each year of your life with as much vitality as possible. This will affect how you age over time. I look at my aunt, who suffered immobility in her later years. She was a big lady for a lot of her life (although she still lived to be 86!). Keeping the body strong and agile today impacts tomorrow and tomorrow. Do squats while you can. Someday, your years of squats will help you get in and out of a chair.
- Share your life with other people. On a path to self improvement, it can seem easier to be more solitary than social. From a mental health perspective, it's more difficult to multiply other people's issues and agendas to your own. From a physical health perspective, social activities can also present challenges: "I can't go out tonight because I have to do my workout," or, "Beer and pub food aren't on my diet." Nurturing and expanding your relationships with others can require active cultivation of your psychological and emotional flexibility. It's a challenge, it requires practice, and it's worth doing because in the end, all we really have are the lives we've touched and the impact we've had on the people and the world around us. As for the beer and pub food, that's where it's important to strike a balance, and set your goals high. If you're on point with your exercise and nutrition on the large majority of days, you'll have plenty of room for french fries with friends occasionally.
Between work, family, and all things life, I've had some ups and downs with my completing daily goals in the past week and a half. I'm repeating week 4 on my workout calendar. As my mom reminded me yesterday, just having a goal means you're still doing better than you would be if you didn't. There have been times when I had no goal, and months upon months have passed without a real workout. When I aim to nail a workout every day, I tend to at least go for a walk on days that I don't work out, or I fit in some other kind of exercise. Last week, my boyfriend and I took 2 ballroom dancing lessons, and that was pretty awesome.
I've also noticed that life really does not get in the way as much when I achieve my goal to get up early and work out in the morning. The only obstacle I face in the morning is getting out of bed early enough, which is undeniably hard for me, especially if I've had less than 8 hours sleep. But lots of things can arise in the course of a day to prevent me from being able to work out after work. So, I still see become a morning person as a totally worthy goal toward my total body happiness. It's not always convenient or comfortable, but I believe it will improve my life, so I'm going to keep trying.
See the big picture. Extend some patience, forgiveness, and kindness to yourself and those around you. Don't let any slip-ups lead you to believe that your goal is no longer worthy or possible. It's never too late. Just keep trying.
Can I become a morning person by my 30th? Less than 2 months to go! The challenge is on. :)