Friday, September 26, 2014

On Eve & An Apple ... aka Danger Will Robinson Is Resistance Futile?

From a very young age, we learn about it. We hear about it and read about the characters. I can assert confidently that knowledge about this tale is not limited to those of us brought up in a church-going home. We know all about it. The story. The consequences.

The Apple ...

Ah ... you know what I'm talking about, don't you?

We recognize an Apple by its sheen and the lushness of the typically red coloration. We feel its smoothness and note how easily it fits into the palm of our hand. We learn it is a fruit and that for all intents and purposes it displays the characteristics of something that is good for us.

But no matter its appearance or the good press the Apple receives as the "perfect fruit," its archetypal back-story originated as something forbidden ... something bad for us.

Yet even from the very beginning, we craved it anyway.

"When I was a child, I spoke as a child.  I understood as a child. I thought as a child. But when I became a man -- in other words, when I grew up -- I put away childish ways. Then we see through a glass darkly, now face to face."

Those are Paul's words from I Corinthians, with a little clarifying commentary from me. But, I ponder on those nights when I'm unable to fall asleep if that is an entirely accurate statement. Do we really put away "childish ways" and longings? I pour out thoughts into my journal and take long walks or drives in evaluation of that concept.  I examine that idea a lot.

As children we learn acceptable and non-acceptable choices and behaviors from our parents and caregivers. We learn what pleases others and the results of a bad choice. We are told Yes and No and Do This and Don't Do That because it will hurt you or because it's not good for you so often we can't help but identify the elements that offer accolades and the actions that cause dismay, disappointment and punishment. I'm pretty sure one of the first words we hear repeatedly is "No." There are many variations to these guidelines and they play like audiotapes in our minds.

Don't eat that. Don't do that. Don't try that. Don't touch that. Don't ... don't ... don't. And if perchance we DO ... well, there are consequences.

If we study the archetypal and biblical story of Adam, Eve, the Apple and that Snake, we see this performance played out in the earliest chapters of the Bible. You can have ANYTHING in the Garden. Just don't eat the Apple. Don't touch the Apple. Don't look at the Apple. In other words, stay the heck away from the Apple.

So, what happens? Ya'll know this. Eve eats the Apple. Humanity falls from grace and stumbles about from that moment on ...struggling with No and Don't and Danger, Will Robinson. (Okay, maybe only my generation struggles with the final one.) But the result is the same. We were offered Free Will but told the rules by our Father. What did we do? We ignored the rules, indulged our craving, ate the forbidden fruit and messed everything up.

If I could have Coffee with God, I might just ask him why he put that stupid apple tree there in the first place. I mean, he's God. He didn't have to put that tree there with its shiny red fruit dancing before Eve's eyes and making her long for it or wonder about it or notice it at all. He could have masked it or made it ugly or hidden it from view. But the fact remained ... he put it there. Eve noticed it despite the warning and the NO associated with it. The very first Temptation occurred. And guess what? Eve failed.

Maybe Eve and I should meet and have a chat ...

Eve, made in the very image of God and perfect in every way, failed the test. Eve saw that glistening fruit and went for it, despite God the Father and Creator of the Universe walking by her side and saying NO!

So, the cycle continues. We tell our kids the rules ... don't do it, we tell them. Big stuff, little stuff. Doesn't matter. But they fall for the Apple too and mess up as well.

It can be a simple thing. Don't eat the cookies or chips because "They aren't healthy," "They may taste good but have no nutrients," "They are bad for you." Oreos and Cape Cod kettle chips still disappear before the much healthier carrots and celery.

Maybe it's bigger ... We tell our kids not to play their music so loud since they might damage their hearing. We tell them not to text and drive or check their phone in the car or play with the radio because they could get in an accident. We tell them to turn off the TV and study or they might fail the test. In good faith, we knowing grown-ups tell them the "don'ts" with the related consequences. But we aren't fools. We've played the game. We know that inevitably and despite our loving intentions some of those "don'ts" are gonna be ignored. 

It's not just kids, though. We know the rules. We know the don'ts and their consequences too. We are told by our doctors about the issues of too much caffeine or super sized extra-value meals, let alone the evil french fry which has nothing healthy about it. But there is something about that french fry ... salt glistening and the lush red ketchup by its side that we cannot and do not wish to resist. We want it. We order it. We eat it. We enjoy it... until the next morning when we pay for it. Ah, but that's another blog...

Anyway ... what do we do? That juicy Apple is out there ... beckoning and luring us with a siren's song. We know it's bad for us. Originally, in the Garden, we were told it would kill us. From the actions that followed, we know it will bring us down. We know ... but what do we do with that knowledge? Will we reach out? Will we pull it down from the dangling limb? Will we take a bite?

Eve's choice forced her to leave The Garden. I find myself wondering how she felt about Apples after all the drama of the "incident." Did she resent them? Forsake them? Did thinking them make her feel ill? Or did she learn something from her taste test and expulsion? Did she overcome the aversion and develop some deeper personal understanding while prepping Apple Pie, Apple Streudel, Applesauce etc out there in the wild, wild world for Adam and the kids?

We tell our kids Don't. We hope they are listening. But we know instances exist where they will Do what we told them not to. In the same way, as we hear those warnings and Do. Oh, not all the time. And it isn't necessarily a giant rule-breakage. Most of us don't commit felonies or heinous acts of evil. But we do check our email or texts on our phones as we sit at a stoplight. We do drink a beer or two and eventually drive home. We do make that indulgent purchase that perhaps strains our bank accounts more than it should. We do lie at times. We do gossip and say not-nice-words or things. We do stuff ... we taste the Apple.

We are human ... fundamentally good, I believe, but far from perfect. If the very first created human couldn't drum up some resistence to a piece of fruit when she had a plethora of free stuff all around her, how can I? How can we?

The infamous Borg from Star Trek phrased it beautifully as they navigated the cosmos and added human beings to their Collective. Choice didn't exist. Escape was impossible. The reality was: "Resistance is Futile. You will be assimilated." Brilliant assessment. True? False?

So you will inevitably crave the Apple ... its shiny color will beckon to you. And you will long for the French Fry. It's perfect golden color with a seductive taste that dissolves delectably on your tongue and creates a feeling of absolute bliss as though all is right with the world.

And then, you'll get kicked out of the Garden for your momentary indulgence. 

Maybe our kids will listen. Maybe they are stronger than we are. Maybe they won't text and drive or drink too much at a college party and throw up all night. Maybe they won't do all those crazy things we did because we told them not to. 

Maybe we can learn not to like Apples. Maybe by reminding ourselves of the consequences that come along with this seemingly innocuous and pleasing perfect fruit we can learn to resist its siren song. Deny ourselves. 

Move away from the Apple. Walk in the light.

But ... will we ever stop wanting it?
                                                                                                                    -- Jenni

Thursday, September 18, 2014

How Many Reps Left?

Do you exercise? It's been a part of my life for so long I don't know how NOT to exercise. I'm one of those sick people who misses it when I don't get that workout in. What about you? What's your workout of choice? Do you have one? Do you want one? Exercise connects my mind, spirit and body like nothing else and gives me clarity.

I enjoy exercise. Think I've mentioned that before. It's not a tag-line or something I say and don't do. No, I've honestly been following some sort of work out regime since the Jane Fonda aerobics routine came out circa ... well awhile ago.  

If I think back about it ... It began when my aunt gave me a couple workout outfits and legwarmers (yes, I was a FlashDance girl!)  and I began taking aerobics while my father played racketball. It continued throughout high school and into college, where I actually taught aerobics in one of Albion's gathering spaces, and was enhanced as I neared 29 and a friend told me how things started shifting. Well, damned if I was going to "shift." So I set out to find a way to keep all aspects of me in the places I wanted them to be. 

Vanity, thy name is Jenni.

I've explored quite a few exercise programs and discovered that I don't actually need to go to a gym to stay fit. With my TV, an extensive collection of DVDs and an on-line membership via my Computer, along with some hand-held weights, I was all set. I hear it said the hardest thing to do for home workouts is press "play." But that was never a problem for me. I had a goal to stay in shape. I liked how I looked and felt after working out. That was enough of an incentive for me. 

For many years, I did various routines using The Firm Workout. Then there was the Jillian Michaels craze (a little intense even for me). And now I've discovered the merits of a blend of Barre3 and Yoga at The Yoga Shelter, along with some interval programs, working out 5-6 days every week.

Not everyone enjoys exercise. But the Dopamine rush I feel after a yoga practice, a swim, a Barre3 routine or even a brisk walk tells me that I'm doing something good for my mind and body.

But there is another aspect that I believe we can all relate to -- a common denominator we can all appreciate when it comes to exercise. This morning, as I did my routine, I was doing a certain number of repetitions. That's how you tone muscle and get rid of fat, right? Through repetitions of a specific movement. That's how you make the body better ... repeat a specific behavior and get the results you want. That's the formula.

So there I am in full workout mode and feeling the burn. Whether you are in a class or working out on your own -- and no matter the rush you receive by working out -- there is something you look forward to: The End.  The question in your mind at various moments during an exercise regime becomes:  How many more reps? How much longer? When will this discomfort end? 30 reps? 2 miles? 20 more minutes? How long must I endure? How long do I hold this pose? How long till I can move?

Exercise time parallels life. There are movements ... and moments ... where everything is smooth. You feel good and you're enjoying that Yoga pose. Or you're in rhythm on a run. Whatever it is ... it's flowing smoothly. You are lost in the breath or the stride.

But, as the repetitions continue and the tension in your muscles grows, you begin to long for an end. A resolution. A dopamine pay-off when you can stop and celebrate completion and results. In yoga, there are poses you like and poses you struggle with. For me, I LOVE Triangle pose or any twisting pose. Balancing poses like Majorette and Airplane challenge but entice me too. But send me to Chair Pose or Yoga Curtsy and my muscles start to shake like crazy. Ask me to hold too long in Reverse Half Moon and I am a quaking mess.

But I know as I hold those poses or as I do those repetitions that I don't have to hold on or repeat forever. There is an end in sight. I really appreciate the instructor giving me that countdown ... even if I know I have 30 more reps and that's a lot, I also know there is an end in sight. That things will get better ... that I will move differently ... that I won't struggle forever.

In Yoga, no matter how challenged you feel in a particular pose, you KNOW that it will eventually change and end. That you will move into something different, perhaps easier or more personally satisfying. Same for other forms of exercise. Runners know that route has a cool down point where they slow down and stop. Swimmers know their distance or number of laps required. If you do aerobics or Barre3 or lift-weights, you know how long the workout will be and the number of reps.

But when life gets uncertain and dark clouds come your way, you don't know how long it will last. When rejection and disappointment cast shadows on your path and leave you feeling lonely and alone, you don't know if anyone or anything will come along to brighten the broken cobblestones before you. When friends disappear or changes take place or sickness hits, you don't know when the prognosis will improve.

All you have is the hope that eventually, you will change your pose. That eventually an instructor will help you discover that you can push through, no matter how many reps you have left. And you hope for the hint of something new to come. If you've been working out for awhile, perhaps you have some stamina to call upon. Some hidden strength to cling to in those moments when your body is shaking and requesting help from someplace deeper inside you. You just have to trust yourself and know that you can and will find it.

You can ask the Universe ... how many reps are left? But don't expect an answer. Just know it will be Enough to get your mind or your body or your soul or your heart -- or perhaps all of the above -- to a new place. It's all part of the process of Self-Surrender, a kind of significant sacrifice or behavior modification that eventually leads to transformation of the personality ... of the spirit ... of the mind ... of the body ... of the heart.

"How many reps left?" I ask panting and sweating and struggling. 

"When does it get easier?" I wonder as I shake during that difficult pose.

"When will I catch a break and win the day?" I wonder after the audition or the interview or the meeting.

"When will I understand?" I wonder after that phone call.

The Universe is silent. All I can do is keep moving and trust in the process. In life, we don't know how many repetitions remain. But we do know that eventually and just like in yoga ... in its time ... the pose will change. 
                                                                                                                 -- Jenni

Sunday, September 14, 2014

What is Your Tolerance for Pain?

I have a blister on my ankle.

Ever happen to you? The not so fun result of New shoes or just a result of wearing work shoes after a week of flip flops and walking barefoot on the beach? Whatever the case, you have a blister.

What do you do? Bandaid? Neosporin? Select a pair of shoes that is slightly larger or more comfortable? Flip flops for a while? Avoid shoes all together?

What do I do, you ask? I push through. I put my selected pair of shoes on and embrace the discomfort. I keep going. Foolish? Perhaps.  Not sure if that helps heal the blister any faster but I refuse to let the pain stop me.

Not the first time, I will admit. Last winter, I went skating at the Downtown Detroit Campus Martius skating rink. I was flying around the ice when I felt it ... the blister on my ankle. At that moment, I was faced with two options: Stop and nurse the ankle or keep going, enjoy the moment and inevitably nurse a slightly larger blister later.  Wonder which option I took? Well, at the end of the day, the blister was enormous (not kidding) and had bled through to stain the wool sock to which it was stuck. Serious OUCH! BUT, I had an amazing afternoon skating around that circle. And I never stopped smiling.

In high school, I played on the golf team. During my senior year at one of our biggest meets, I was playing really well. I knew my score would make or break our Team Score. I was the last one to come in. It was up to me. But standing on the tee of the 17th hole, I felt the blister on my index finger. It had been a long day. At that moment, this dull ache threatened my entire round. I was one point ahead of my competitor with two holes to go. Now was not the time to allow any weakness to show.

What did I do, you ask? Curious aren't you? Well, I did the only thing I knew to do. I hunkered down, hit an amazing tee shot and a brilliant chip up the hill to the green. It was on a slope so I didn't see exactly where it landed but I knew I made the green. As I walked up to seek out my ball, I noticed that my golf glove had been shredded. I am absolutely serious. It was hanging on my left hand by the snap only. Walking onto the green, I looked around for my ball.  It was a fabulous chip ... and I KNEW the ball was securely on the green. 

I walked around a few moments before discovering the ball was already in the hole. I had chipped it perfectly. Down in Two! Birdie for Jenni! I removed the glove with a smile. My score ended up winning us that competition. And I still have the shredded glove.

Some might say I have a high tolerance for pain.  I just see it differently. I have a high intolerance for pain. A high intolerance for anything that could potentially limit me or stop me or try to hold me back from finding the best in me or the best of any possible moment. I won't be limited or stopped by a little pain when something glorious is on the line. So when I have a blister on my ankle, I push through. I wear the shoes anyway. I show up and face the difficult moments with grace. I don't hide from them. I don't cower when the challenges or blisters arise.

What about you? What do you do when you have a blister? When the difficult moment arises and you are face to face with one of them? Do you avoid the challenge? Do you address it? I'm not here to judge or tell you what to do. Only you know your truth. Only you know the stakes and how important "the shoes" are to you.

But for me, I'm gonna wear the shoes. I'm gonna finish the round. I'm gonna look the most difficult moments of my life in the eyes and smile. I may fall down. I may not win the day. I may lose the race or the role or the whole game. But I will not let a little blister or a little fear or a little self-doubt beat me.

Will you? Or will you fight through the pain and find your own victory?

Your call. But if  you happen to find me at Campus Martius this winter wearing those horrible heavy rented ice skates, I will probably have a blister. And I will still be skating.
                                                                                                     -- Jenni

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Fall, Footprints and Change ...

Today my fall planner pages arrived in the mail. Though some of you are happily and completely electronic with your calendar apps and programs, I rely on the crisp feel of paper to note my activities, to-do lists, projects, goals and contacts. Each fall, since the closure of Somerset's Franklin Covey Store, I go on-line and order a set, selecting the pattern and design that reflects my current personality. And when that package arrives, I pull out the ruler, colored pens, and last year's notes and begin to apply birthdays and already scheduled events to the pages.

I like to plan, yes. And I like to plan in the Fall because to me it reflects a new beginning.

Some people set resolutions in January. Me, I set goals in the Fall. I begin at the end of that last vacation day when school resumes. And I renew my intentions, goals and hopes for the year.

Life is full of the unexpected. Losses. Changes. Achievements. Surprises -- good and bad -- occur everyday. Just when we feel on top of everything, we slide to the bottom and wonder what happened to send us there.

In no way can my Planner pages predict or prepare me for those unexpected moments of sadness or despair. Nor can they prepare me for the unanticipated joys that may greet me around the corner. But one thing I've learned, with a Blue Uniball pen, a super sharp #2 pencil, and my planner pages, I am better prepared to greet and manage those things that fly in my general direction.

Fall, more than any other time of the year, reflects change ... Not for the worse, not for the better. No, just ... differences. The leaves transform to lovely shades of amber, red and purple and begin their eventual dance to crisp piles on the ground. These "dead leaves" provide hours of enjoyment for young children to rake and jump into. Don't know about you, but my kids love that as much as I do ... er, did.  

The dead things bring laughter and the dark brown trees stretch empty arms to an azure-grey sky, awaiting sleep and eventual rebirth. Awaiting change.

Many fear change and dread the end of Summer and arrival of Fall. I'll admit, that change doesn't always thrill me. That though I truly revel in and enjoy spontaneity, I also like to settle in to the comfort the special people in my life and favorite activities give me. When changes occur and someone or something is lost, I'm unsettled. And sad. A little lost too.

But as Flavia said, "Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Others stay, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same." But nowhere does it indicate those special people stay forever ... And, nowhere does it say that they don't ever come back when they venture into new directions. Life is unpredictable. Don't put a stop-sign on your path and declare an ending. Life ebbs and flows richly. What comes next is anyone's guess. Be open, if you can. 

Change. It's scary. It's like standing before a door and not knowing if opening it is the best idea. Change in its very nature cannot be predicted or outplanned.

It's like Fall ... colors will transform, leaves will tumble, trees will go dormant and cold weather and snow will come next. You can dread it or enjoy the moments as you mark the days on your planner. Spring returns eventually and then Summer graces us with flora, fauna and sunshine.

But for now, Fall. Change. And, perhaps, Hope that the people and things that so lovingly touch -- or touched -- our lives always know they will be remembered, treasured, and welcomed back when the wind changes. Just because they are out of sight, does not mean they will ever be out of mind. Their fingerprints remain on our very soul. 

Yes, I think about all that as I look at my lovely new Flavia planner pages. No flashing curser for me. No app or program as I look ahead to what comes next. But as I set goals and hopes for the year ahead, I honor myself and ready myself for whatever comes my way next ... planned or unplanned ....
                                                                                                                           -- Jenni