Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I was going to but...

In the nightstand next to my bed I have a letter from my cousin Jan. It's 3 pages front and back, hand written in her happy scrawl. She wrote it on the side of the freeway in Montana as she was traveling from one speech therapy job to another. She actually stopped to make time to write to me. I had written her because her brother Kee, also my cousin, had recently died from throat cancer. He lived in New Mexico and although they had not lived in the same home for over thirty years they were very close. Her family, my aunt, uncle, and cousins, are not religious but are very good people. They didn't talk much about how Kee's death affected them so Jan wrote about it. She is a talented writer, so good at expressing honest thought. I got to read the essay/article she wrote about dealing with his diagnosis and accepting his loss. It was very clever, going from her current point of view to reflecting on memories with Kee. I loved it. It was the only memorial we got for him because this family doesn't do funerals, only memorials, and that was held almost a year later at a family reunion and for only immediate family.

In her letter to me, Jan really opened up. She talked about why things happen and family dynamics and people and God and a whole bunch of other things. I read it over and over. She gave me much to think about. I planned on writing her back. I kept thinking of what I might say. I thought about it for more than two years, pulling it out from time to time, enjoying her words and thinking about what I would say when I finally got around to writing her back.

It's too late now. Jan died in a hiking accident on Sunday afternoon. I'm sad beyond words but as much as I feel her loss I am more upset with myself because I didn't take time to write her back. True, we have exchanged Christmas cards/letters and I have kept up on her through her parents. But I was going to write her and never did.

If I have one natural talent it is procrastination. My life is full of "I was going to but..." and then I have an excuse. I was going to visit so and so, I was going to write to so and so, I was going to take something to someone, I was going to tell someone how much they mean, I was going to write a book of advice for my adult daughters,  I was going to lose weight, I was going to exercise more regularly, I was going to finish writing my current work in progress, I could go on and on. I have plenty of 'I was going to's'.

Ironically, this is what I fasted about this past Sunday -  getting past the excuses and fears and actually getting things done. I doubt Jan's death had anything to do with that other than timing but it is certainly a big wake up call. I have such a weakness when it comes to self imposed deadlines and being determined to the end. I've done my own self analysis and recognize what contributes to this but I feel like excusing myself because of things in the past is just that - excuses.

I guess this blog, like most of my posts, is mostly a letter to myself. I have so much to learn. As much as I feel my cousin's loss, the loss is made greater by what I lost out on when she was here by not returning her letter and building a closer relationship. She was the happiest, most alive person I've ever known, making every place she entered better by her presence. And I missed out on that because I was going to write and didn't.

I hereby resolve to have more 'got it done's.'

Monday, October 11, 2010

Failure is not fatal

I had one of those 'a-ha' or 'wow' moments today. My husband and I have been participating in a fitness/weight loss challenge. We're both oversized and undertall. Anyway, it's a 12 week challenge and as part of the challenge we get to have personal training every other week.

I'm good at the aerobic stuff - I'm from the era of Jane Fonda, after all. But the strength training is a bit of a mystery to me - all those machines and what do you do with them? Our trainer, Bill, is showing us how its done. I've enjoyed it.

Until today.

This was our second session with Bill. He informed us the last two weeks were to see how consistent we'd be and get the body ready for more. Today he pushed us - and I mean push!

He showed us some of the hammer equipment [whatever that means] and during one of the repetitions where he'd kept adding weight to my machine and making me work harder he said something that caused an explosion of light bulbs to go off.

"we're trying to get you to the point of failure."


In weight lifting failure is a good thing. who knew??? Failure is the point where you have done all you can, given all you've got, and can't possibly do any more. This is why spotters are used - sometimes they help you get just one more rep. Then the next time you work out, the goal is to beat your last point of failure. wow.

I got to the point of failure today and I was really proud. It felt powerful to see what I could do that I never would have guessed I was capable of. I am already feeling it in the muscles, and I will be sore as heck tomorrow. [I might not be able to get out of bed - darnit] But it felt great. I would cheer for myself but my arms are to tired to lift.

Most of the time we associate failure with failure - rejection, loss, not taking first place. After today I will never look at failure as an end again. Failure is now the point where I've done all I can, given all I've got and don't have the strength to do more. It is the point where I'll step back, take a break, evaluate what I've done and after a bit of rest, it is the point I will try to best. It may take several tries. I might not beat failure the first time but it can and will be beat. The key is to keep trying and never quit.

There are so many ways this can be applied to life. I'll let you apply it your own way to your own situation. I know I needed the lesson because I often feel like I fall short. Now I have a new measuring stick - and failure will never be fatal again.