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Archive for the ‘Self Improvement’ Category

Who’s the Fairest of Them All?

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

Could you go an entire year without looking in a mirror?  Would you want to?  And further still, do you think it would benefit you in any way to do so?

I ask this question because UCLA grad student Kjerstin Gruys is going to do just that.  One year without looking at her own reflection even once.  (Not even on her wedding day.)  The Stylelist.com article on the topic comments that, “Feeling the already constant pressure to look perfect intensified by wedding planning, Gruys’ self-described “struggle with poor body image” made her wonder if a year without mirrors could lead to greater self-acceptance and appreciation for her body.”

Coming on the heels of my recent post about the benefits of vanity, I wonder how this topic will sit with you.  I posited in my earlier post that there are benefits to having a modicum of vanity; that having an interest in our appearance can (when applied in moderation) help drive us to make healthy decisions.  It was a position that was roundly shot down by many of my commenters.  So let’s consider a different perspective.  The premise is this: we are too focused on our looks.  We worry too much about how we appear to other people, and that obsession, for some people, devolves into full-throttle psychological disorders.  By wholly eliminating our access to our own visage, we will minimize our concern with appearances and realize the greater significance of other aspects of our lives.

I don’t altogether disagree with that position.  I am sure that there are better things for me to worry about throughout the day than whether or not the bottom eyeliner on my left eye has smudged yet or not.  (It smudges every day, but only the left eye.  So strange!)  If such trivialities were removed from my life for an entire year, I can see how I might become less concerned with appearances overall.

What I think will actually be more interesting, though, is for Gruys to note and document what changes she observes in other people’s behavior toward her during this year.  She still intends to wear makeup and has learned to apply it by feel.  Presumably she will still wear matching clothes and style her hair as well.  But with less attention paid to all of these endeavors, will she find that she is taken less seriously?  Will people in public treat her differently?  Will she find that, on the whole, all the time she previously spend focusing on her appearance was wasted?

On another note, I’m a little confused about the sheer mechanics of this exercise.  Within the confines of your own home it would be easy enough to remove or avoid  mirrors.  But what about in public?  Every ladies’ restroom I’ve ever entered has a mirror hanging over the sink.  How will she wash her hands without, even if inadvertently, catching a glimpse of herself?  What about seeing your own reflection in the window of your car as you unlock it?  What do you say to your stylist after having your haircut?  “Thanks, but I can’t tell you whether or not I’m happy with what you just did”?  The practical application of this experiment seems a bit unrealistic to me.

And this brings up the most important point.  This experiment is just that, an experiment.  It is a gimmick to test a hypothesis (and to score a book deal).  For those purposes I can understand going to some length to contrive a life without mirrors.  But if life without mirrors isn’t reality, wouldn’t the more worthwhile exercise be to consider these same questions of vanity and obsession within the natural environment of our lives?  I’m sure the point here is to take the idea to its logical extreme in order to test a theory.  I doubt that Gruys will end the year with a decision to swear of mirrors for good.  But I think the lasting value of her experiment will be to determine how she allows the personal or societal pressure to focus on her looks to influence the way she lives her life.  I hope I am reminded of her story when the book (to be cleverly titled “Mirror, Mirror, Off the Wall”) comes out, as I will be curious to her perspective in hindsight.

The Mother of Invention

Monday, August 15th, 2011

Apparently I should challenge myself more often.

I enjoy cooking and I like to think I do a pretty good job of it.  I make dinner from scratch nearly every weeknight (although pregnancy has seen me slack off a bit more than usual) and I’ve developed some decent culinary skills in the past 10 years.  However, I’ve come to realize that I’m in a bit of a rut, and that rut has been enabled by weekly grocery trips.

Last week the Family P skipped town for a few days.  We’d been planning to escape the heat and enjoy a change of scenery.  So our usual Sunday grocery trip was significantly curtailed and only included a few basics that we needed to get us through Wednesday.  I took it upon myself to create dinners for Monday and Tuesday nights from things we already had on hand.

I’ve given myself this challenge before and it doesn’t always pan out so deliciously.  I’ve ended up eating cottage cheese, baked beans, and leftover biscuits.  Blech.  But last week I guess I was inspired.  On Monday night we had a pasta dish with broccoli, chicken and a white wine and mascarpone sauce.  On Tuesday we had BLTs on challah with homemade fried okra.  Both meals were both wonderful, and wonderful departures from our typical go-to menu rotation.

Wednesday evening as we left town I got to thinking about my culinary adventures from the prior nights.  They didn’t require any more time or skill than dishes I normally make.  They didn’t require that much more creativity.  But there was something about them – something about the challenge at hand – that made them more fun, both to prepare and to eat.

I’m not usually one for extrapolating broad meaning out of specific situations, but this one got me thinking about other ruts in my life.  I wonder if there are other aspects of my daily routine that I would find more rewarding if I broke out of my normal patterns.  What if I hopped on a rowing machine at the gym instead of the elliptical?  What if I took the back roads to work instead of the highways?  What if I turned on some music when I got home in the evenings?  Some of these changes might not delight me as my menu shake-up did, but others might.

The old maxim goes that necessity is the mother of invention.  Last week I experienced that very phenomenon.  However, I am very blessed and rarely find myself needing anything I don’t already have.  It isn’t often that I’m called up to invent.  But my kitchen adventures last week made me realize that perhaps I should force myself to invent more often.

Vain Motivation

Friday, August 5th, 2011

I understand that as a general rule vanity is a bad thing.  It leads to shallowness and superficiality.  It begs us to care more about appearances than substance, both in ourselves and in other people.  However, I would wager that we all have at least a streak of it.

If you had a cup of coffee with my mother and asked her about me as a little girl I would put money on the likelihood of her telling you the story of my purple jumper.  It was corduroy and bright grape in color.  Apparently I was a big fan of it because when I stood in front of a full length mirror the words that spilled forth from my mouth were an unabashed,  “I so pretty!”  (This was evidently before I got the hang of verbs.)  I cannot tell you how many times that moment has been quoted.  And while I have gotten much more discrete in expressing my vanities over time, I still have the same penchant today for looking in the mirror and being happy with what I see.  I think we all do.

It is a commonly held belief that when we look good we feel good.  I’m no psychologist, but the annecdotal evidence of my own life tells me this premise is true.  When the haircut is new, and the makeup is fresh, and the shoes are just right, and the scales tell us what we want to hear we pretty much feel like we can conquer the world.  Or at least that particular day.

None of this has anything to do with the quality of our character or the state of our general health.  Yet I still say it matters.  And that is why I was a bit dismayed to read Ramona Braganza’s article on The Huffington Post telling me that I shouldn’t aim for a “Hollywood body.”  She writes:

What I can tell you, though, is that the key to successful weight-loss and toning is choosing the right motivation. When [celebrities] train they not only do it for their images and their careers, they do it for a greater motivation: They do it for themselves. [Jessica Alba] trains for her health knowing osteoporosis runs in her family. Halle [Berry] trains to keep her diabetes under control. … The right motivation is health-driven — not image-driven.

I understand Braganza’s premise.  For starters, most of us will never look like Halle Berry or Jessica Alba (or Matt Damon or Ryan Reynolds, if you’re a man).  So making a spcific person’s figure your end goal is almost guaranteed to end in disappointment.  Also, we have to want better bodies for ourselves.  We should want them so that we can chase our kids around, or enjoy puttering around our gardens, or carry our grandkids up a flight of stairs.  Of course we should want those things most.  But I’m here to cast a second vote in favor of old-fashioned vanity.

If looking at a picture of a perfectly toned celebrity helps me get myself to the gym after a long day at work, what’s the harm in that?  If the satisfaction of getting back into my pre-pregnancy wardrobe will help me make healthy choices when I sit down to a meal, why is that a problem?  If I floss my teeth each night, remove every speck of makeup before bed, exfoliate once a week, exercise regularly, monitor my diet, drink eight glasses of water a day, and sleep eight hours a night just for the satisfaction of looking into the mirror and seeing white teeth, glowing skin, toned muscles, and a well-rested face why can’t that be good enough?

I’ve been on a bit of a Kate Middleton kick lately. I find myself inspired by her lean physique and classic sense of style.  I know that I will never be 5′ 10″ tall.  I will never have her thick, lustrous curls cascading down my back.  And  I will never (woe is me) have a British accent.  Nevertheless, why shouldn’t I take that inspiration and use it for my own benefit?  I know my own limitations and have no intention of making myself miserable trying to become something I can never be.  But aspiration is an incredibly powerful motivator, and I take exception to Ms. Braganza’s premise that it shouldn’t be allowed to factor into our own process of making healthy decisions.

Being the best version of myself certainly requires attention to more than just my appearance.  And we should all be wary of the day that what’s within us begins to matter less than what’s on the surface.  But staying healthy is hard work, and if a little vanity helps us over the hump, then I say bring on the full-length mirror!

Carte Blanche

Friday, June 24th, 2011

I remember the first time I heard the phrase “retail therapy.”  I was working at my first job out of college and a colleague – a few years older, very pretty, and very sophisticated (I had a bit of a girl crush on her) – mentioned that she was going shopping after work because it had been a long week and she needed some retail therapy.  “Ohhhhhh,” I thought, recognizing the sentiment, ”It has a name!”

Ever since then I’ve considered retail therapy a privileged person’s excuse for placating her materialism.  (Which certainly isn’t to say that I haven’t indulged in it myself.)  So I was surprised to learn this week that a study has proven that retail therapy is psychologically legit.  I made my way through the article waiting for the other shoe to drop.  As I neared the end I expected to read that the temporary mood boost afforded by shopping is short lived, and gives way to buyer’s remorse and feelings of guilt.  Conversely, while the article conceded that the negative moods that lead to retail therapy can spike impulsive behavior, the net effect is that ”…retail therapy has lasting positive impacts on mood. Feelings of regret and guilt are not associated with the unplanned purchases made to repair a bad mood.”

My mixed response to this news surprised me.  On one hand, I though, ”Hooray!  Affirmation!”  On the other hand I thought, “Really?  Is this how we want to encourage people to work through bum moods?”

I think my second response stems back to a particular moment of my adolescence when I experienced exactly the same feelings of guilt and remorse that the article said don’t correspond to retail therapy.  As a kid I was a huge penny pincher.  I collected my allowance for weeks and weeks in a hinged wooden piggy bank.  I remember that at one point in second grade I had accumulated $80 thanks to my miserly ways.  And while, for the most part, I enjoyed counting my pennies and congratulating my incredible fiscal restraint (yes, GAP, this is all true…), there were moments when I felt like a prisoner of my own piggy bank.  Eventually I snapped.  When I was 15 I decided to let my hair down for once and go on a bit of a shopping spree.  Wielding my Loony Toons checkbook with conviction I spent about $350 in the course of a few hours.  I experienced an incredible high in the process, but that happiness quickly gave way to the sense that I’d made a huge mistake.  Sitting in my bedroom surrounded by shopping bags I felt deflated (much like my checking account balance…).

In retrospect I think it was the extreme swing in my behavior that left me feeling like I’d gotten in over my head.  The article mentions that most people spend about $59 to perk up a bad mood, and $115 to celebrate an achievement.  And those figures are for adults, who, presumably, earn more than $15 per week doing household chores.  This context allows me to see that my $350 spending spree as a 15-year-old was far more impulsive than I realized.

As an adult I have settled into more moderate spending patterns.  Part of me is happy to learn that whatever emotional boost I get from a new blouse or trip to the cosmetics counter is psychological fact.  But I also worry that this study may lure people into the belief that they have carte blanche to solve their problems with spending.  I hear stories on the news about how many Americans have no savings accumulated, how much credit card debt we carry, and how our proclivity to spend money we don’t have has gotten us into trouble time and again.  Nevertheless, whether your splurge is a $500 handbag or a $5 cappucino, it’s still nice knowing that with some regard for our relative means, we can indulge ourselves without major regret.

Epilogue – My ill-advised shopping spree did help me stumble into my favorite retail therapy trick.  When I’m in the mood to shop, but don’t actually need anything, I go about it as I usually would, perusing clothing racks, trying things on etc.  Once I’ve settled on the collection of things I want to buy I take them to the counter and ask the salesperson to put them on hold for me.  If I really want them, I’ll continue thinking about them for a couple of days and be willing to go back for a planned purchase.  But nine times out of 10 I don’t.  I’ve sated my impulse desire to shop without actually spending anything.

Wherein I Accept My Own Limitations

Friday, May 27th, 2011

I think I started down this path a couple of weeks ago when I opted to read Prep instead of continuing to stall out in my attempts at Anna Karenina.  What I wasn’t ready to tell you then was that my failure with Tolstoy had much to do with being pregnant, and with the fact that lately if I get into bed at 9:30 my typical half hour of reading is always trumped by the opportunity for more sleep.  Nevertheless, I made the decision (for which I continue to be glad as I am now devouring Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto) to accept the fact that, despite my best intentions, I had bitten off more than I could chew.  It seems I have arrived at such a crossroads again.

A couple of months ago I told you about my upcoming cupcake battle with GAP’s family.  When I wrote that post I was eager for Cupcake Wars.  My competitive spirit had been stirred.  I made the first of what I thought would be many batches of trial cupcakes in pursuit of my best contender.  But shortly thereafter that plan was derailed (also by pregnancy).  The first trimester sends my regular sweet tooth into hiding and has me craving salty, savory foods.  The mere thought of multiple batches of cupcakes (and worse yet, frosting – blech!) was enough to make my stomach turn.  As it turned out, my first trial batch was also my last.

I changed tack and decided to submit my entry into the savory cupcake category – I was charmed by thoughts of tiny chicken pot pies and potato gratins tucked into cupcake wrappers.  I would conquer the cupcake battle yet!

As it turns out, that plan has fallen by the wayside as well.  The reason?  IEP.

Early this month I spent six days on the West coast with my sister and her new baby.  It was, as always, difficult being away from my adorable and increasingly hilarious son, but it was an important trip, and one which I wouldn’t trade.  Then, for the first half of this week I was in San Diego for work.  This weekend we will be busy with GAP’s family.  And early next month I will be away for several days again.  This meant that upon arriving home Wednesday night I had two evenings with IEP before the craziness of weekend family plans and additional travel began whittle away at my time with him.

I could have spent those two evenings crafting tiny pot pies (which, for the record, would have been delicious and prize worthy), but making such creations would also have made me, well, miserable.  I would have been guilt-ridden by my divided attention, and would not have enjoyed what should have been a fun culinary project due to the acute pains of being spread too thin.

I don’t like saying “I can’t.”  It doesn’t roll off my tongue easily.  And if we want to get technical about things I could have gotten it all done.  I could have stayed up late, sacrificed sleep, ignored the sage suggestions of my husband to let something slide, and managed to squeeze a few batches of savory cupcakes into two evenings packed with laundry, dog walking, packing, and limited toddler snuggling.  But here’s what’s great about being 33 instead of 23: I don’t want to.

Aging certainly has its drawbacks.  My body doesn’t look like it did 10 years ago.  I have plucked at least half a dozen grey hairs from my head in the past month.  And 11:00 at night feels awfully late these days.  But today I have confidence that was totally out of reach in my twenties.  I have nothing to prove – especially to GAP’s family who has known and loved me for nearly a dozen years now.  I can bow out of Cupcake Wars without a dent to my pride.  I can easily explain that things have been crazy lately and I felt it was more important to spend my free time working puzzles with my son than tweaking recipes in the kitchen.  I can fawn over everyone else’s delicious confections without thoughts of inadequacy swirling in my head.

And let me tell you what – it feels good.

It’s hard admitting what I can’t do.  It’s hard accepting that I have limitations.  But I know from experience that it’s even harder to live a life under the delusion that I don’t.  I’m disappointed to withdraw from a fun family competition.  I’m disappointed that I won’t be able to tell white lies about secret ingredients and playfully trash talk with my sisters-in-law.  But 10-ish years of adulthood and two-and-a-half years of motherhood give a girl perspective.  And what a relief that is.

The Ripple Effect

Friday, April 29th, 2011

Pay it Forward was a simply horrible movie.  So I sort of cringe to broach this topic because discussions of this nature always remind me of that movie and, well, make me cringe.  Nevertheless I came across this piece on The Huffington Post last night and it caught my attention.

Author David Nichtern points out that one of the hallmark tenets if Buddhism is the belief in the ripple effect.  That is, that there is a relationship between cause and effect, and that we can exert our influence over the happenings in our lives by taking actions that bring about certain reactions.  He comments:

If we manifest grasping, aggression and ignorance in the smallest details of our interaction with others, these energies gather power and strength like an avalanche. If we lace our smallest exchanges with awareness, courtesy, consideration and compassion, we can create a ripple effect with a different outcome.

Nichtern goes on to point out that adding such awareness and compassion to our interactions with others are really just the basic elements of common courtesy.  And I think that common courtesy is far too often overlooked.  Call me old fashioned (and in some ways I am), but it seems to me sometimes that the world has gotten big enough that we believe we can afford to abandon common courtesy.  If we step on someone’s toes today we may not ever see that person again, so why not just look out for ourselves?  Perhaps we can get away with this approach for a while, but I don’t think it sounds like a very satisfying way to live.

So, in the interest of keeping this post brief, I will part with this thought: do something courteous today.  Do something nice for someone who didn’t ask for it.  It doesn’t have to be anonymous.  It doesn’t have to be significant.  Hold a door.  Offer someone change for the vending machine.  Let the person in a hurry take the taxi you just hailed.  Or whatever other opportunity avails itself to you.  I highly doubt you’ll regret it.  And it might just circle back to you.

Tina Fey’s Rules for Life

Friday, April 15th, 2011

I’ve been on a bit of a Tina Fey kick this week.  It started on Monday with Curtis Sittenfield’s essay about Fey in the New York Times.  Then on Tuesday I recorded and watched her appearance on Oprah.  And on Wednesday, by pure chance, I happened to catch her being interviewed on NPR’s Fresh Air while I was out running errands at lunch.  It was this last encounter that I found most interesting.

Terry Gross is a fantastic interviewer.  While the gravitas of her delivery can sometimes be a bit self-important, she has the amazing ability to render any subject fascinating.  She delves into aspects of her guests’ lives and work that are often overlooked in other media outlets.  And I always appreciate the depth and nuance of the responses she elicits.  Tina Fey was no exception.

Ms. Fey talked about many of the expected aspects of her rise to fame:  The supportive parents, the make-ends-meet job at the YWCA, the first meeting with Lorne Michaels, her first experiences in front of the SNL cameras, and so on.  But it was her commentary on the rules of improvisational comedy that struck me most. 

As Terry Gross probed about her time in The Second City comedy troupe in Chicago Fey talked about her appreciation for the structure that exists in a scenario that seems (at least to the outsider) to be pure chaos.  In particular she mentioned two rules that resonated with me.

Rule Number 1 – Make declarative statements.  In improv scenes you are supposed to say something.  Don’t ask a question.  Don’t make a statement with the intonation of a question.  Say something – anything – for the other person to respond to. 

Fey talked about how this is most often a challenge for women.  Many women get into that moment on stage and their fear of saying the wrong thing corners them into wishy-washy, question-based dialog that immediately puts the onus on the other person to come up with something real to say.  I know that here in the blogging world we tend to be fans of questions.  We love to ask questions that don’t really have answers.  We love to explore shades of grey and levels of nuance.  These are all good things.  But I think we are also inclined to use our affection for questions as an excuse for not saying anything definitive.

Rule Number 2 – Enter when you’re needed.  Apparently it’s a bit of a chore to teach new improv students the appropriate moment to enter a scene.  Is it when you come up with something funny to say?  No.  Is it when the scene is getting funny and you want to be a part of it?  No.  Is it when you have an idea for a new character in the scene?  No.  You enter the scene when you’re needed.  You enter when you feel it start to lull and when you can tell that the actors on stage need the injection of a new character to maintain their momentum. 

Applying this rule to my life feels like taking a breath of fresh air.  I am not always needed.  Quite often the people around me are doing just fine on their own.  It is okay for me to sit back until I am actually needed.  I don’t always have to be the first person to jump up.  I don’t have to participate in everything.  I can sit backstage, watch the scene unfold, and enjoy myself.  I only need to enter the scene when I’m needed. 

Figuring out exactly how and where to apply these sketch comedy rules to my life is going to take some thought.  But they seem like the kind of rules that ought to be applied more broadly.

On Roast Chicken and Moral Failings

Monday, March 28th, 2011

Around this time last year I was wrapping up a month-long vegetarian experiment.  Its purpose was not only to challenge my dietary boundaries, but to learn about the nature of our food supply, so I augmented my vegetarian practices with some educational reading.  By the end of the month I had determined that I would reintroduce meat into my diet, but that I would be more selective about the sources of the meat.  And for a long time I lived up to that commitment.  But I’m here to confess to you today that lately I have backslid.

See that roast chicken?  The one right up there?  It looks delicious, doesn’t it?  Well, I can assure you it was.  That very chicken was served for supper in our house last night.  I served it with orzo pasta and roasted vegetables.  Yum yum.  However, in spite of its deliciousness, I have some major ambivalence about it.

You see, that chicken – the delicious one up there – represents a moral failing on my part.  When I purchased that chicken I stood in the butcher section of my grocery store and looked at it.  Then I looked at the free range, organic, air chilled one next to it.  The second one truly did look better.  Then I looked at the price tags.  My chicken (about 4.6 pounds, for those who keep track of such things) cost $3.23.  The guilt-free bird (of comparable size)?  It was a little more than $16.  Sixteen dollars!  For one chicken!  I just couldn’t do it.  So I picked up the cheaper chicken (or, the “chipper chicken” for those who have watched Father of the Bride too many times), and slinked away.

People like Michael Pollan would tell me that a chicken should cost about $16; that factory farming has artificially created an economy that allows me to purchase a chicken for $3.23; and that while I may not be paying for my chicken at the cash register I am paying for it in other ways (such as filth in our food system, environmental damage, and the moral degradation that results from supporting shameful animal husbandry practices).  And they would be right.

So why, then, do I find it so hard to pay what Pollan types would argue is a fair price for a chicken?  And why am I still worrying about it days later?  And why am I fessing up here in this blog post?

I guess I’m here writing these words because I feel like it’s the honest thing to do.  This?  Having integrity about the source of the food we eat?  It’s hard.  Factory-farmed food is easy.  It’s cheap.  And it’s highly convenient.  I’ve read books and newspaper columns and magazine articles and blog posts about our food system.  Most of it sickens me.  And yet, in spite of all my knowledge, when faced with two chickens and a $13 price difference, I made a choice I’m not proud of.

During my vegetarian experiment last March I never did watch Food, Inc.  I think my conscience could use a jump start in this department, so I’m vowing here to watch it soon.  In the meantime, I’m hoping that by coming clean in this post I’ll be able to shame myself into being more conscientious in my shopping habits.

I’m not perfect.  And while I’ve never claimed to be, there for a while I had some pride about my dietary morality.  So I’m here confessing my shortcomings, and hoping that a dose of humility will serve its purpose.

Best Case Scenario

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

On Saturday night I teased my hair up into a high bun and twisted a silver ribbon around it.  I put on a grey jersey dress, grey patent stilettos, and some uncharacteristically funky silver jewelry.  My pink lips were the sole pop of color in a tone-on-tone ensemble.  We were headed to a wedding.

The wedding was lovely.  It was a perfect reflection of the bride and groom, and it brought together friends from all corners of their lives.  GAP and I had a good time sipping our drinks and chatting with old college friends.  And throughout the evening the dance floor was full, as the newlyweds are music lovers and put a great amount of effort into finding a great band.

It was a winning night all around, but the highlight for me was a six-year-old girl.

Once the bride-and-groom and parent dances wrapped up she took to the dance floor with her dad – he in a dark suit with a sunny yellow tie, and she in a pleated white chiffon dress with black sash and black cardigan.  He twirled her under his arm.  He held her wrists and spun her as her feet dangled beneath her.  I smiled at them and then turned back to my conversation.

At first it looked like any wedding dance floor where the child pulls the parent to the floor and the parent obliges until the song is over, and then returns to the table to reclaim a cocktail and an adult conversation.  But this was not that.  Four songs, five songs, six songs later – they were still at it.  The father’s shirt had come untucked and his temples shone with sweat.  His performance was not obligatory.  They bounced and boogied.  They did the twist, the mashed potato, and every other move in the book.  They were tireless.  It wasn’t until the dance floor had been open for more than an hour that they took a short break.  Moments later they returned to the floor, the dad without his jacket and the girl without her shoes.  The twirling and spinning resumed.

Then, as the father picked his girl up her pretty party dress shifted and that was when I saw them.  Underneath her dress she wore a pair of white bike shorts.  I beamed.

She knew.  She knew that she planned to spend the entire reception on the dance floor.  She knew that her father would swing her around.  She knew that she would twirl, and that her skirt might fly up.  Or at the very least she hoped for these things.  And so she came prepared.

Four days later I’m still thinking about her night on the dance floor.  I’m thinking about her frame of mind.  So often we prepare for the worst case scenario – the seatbelt, the bike helmet, the rainy day savings, the life insurance policy.  But how often do we set out to do something with a best case scenario in mind?  How often do make our plans expecting the best?  How often to we go to a wedding with bike shorts on under our dress?

I can’t speak for you, but I know that my own answer is “not often enough.”

To some extent we have to plan for the worst.  We have to know that when plans go awry we will withstand the challenge.  And I would argue that safety nets of this nature actually allow us to enjoy the here and now a bit more since we can relax knowing that a contingency plan is in place.  Nevertheless, I think most of us could stand to imagine the best case scenario a bit more often.

I may never actually wear bike shorts to a wedding, but I think the analogy could serve me well.

Pausing to Reconsider

Friday, February 11th, 2011

Last night as I put the finishing touches on my Friday post, GAP and I got to talking about it.  As I told him of my topic and my perspective on it he furrowed his brow.  He didn’t like where I was going.  I’ve written many posts that GAP disagrees with, and I’m fine with that.  I don’t write with or for his approval.  But while I don’t care if our opinions on a topic differ, I care greatly what he thinks of my writing.

Last night, while he did disagree with my perspective, his larger objection was with my approach.  He felt that I was parroting a refrain that has been exhausted in the national media, without taking the time to consider it critically or to look at the other side.  He was right.  His criticism stung then (it still does) but I have a greater appreciation for it this morning.

So I come to you today with half a post, but not half a point.  We should all exercise careful judgment when choosing the people whom we allow to assert their influence over our beliefs and actions.  But once we’ve made those choices we should hear what our counterparts have to say, even when we don’t like it.  My conversation last night was certainly one of those times.

My original post will be published at some point, once I’ve researched it further, based it in fact rather than anecdote, and broadened my perspective to represent other views.  In the meantime I am thankful that GAP (a bit like Mrs. Elliott) reminded me that I am capable of more.  It seems that these are lessons we must learn more than once in our lives.