Complicating the issue (again)

In honor of last weekend’s forward leap into Daylight Savings Time, I’m resurrecting this post from May 2011. Thanks for indulging my recent need to revisit the old stuff!

Mondaine_model_30335Until very recently, my home state (Indiana) did not observe Daylight Savings Time. The magical days in the spring and fall that shift time on its axis were simply not part of my consciousness. That explains how I missed a flight in my sophomore year of college when returning from spring break. It was the day time sprang forward, and I arrived at the airport thinking the I had plenty of time, when in fact my plane had just left.

Since that time, I’ve become a much more seasoned traveler and I know that the protocol that follows missing a flight is pretty straightforward. The airline puts you on the next available flight and you go on. You might be late getting where you’re going and you might have to adjust your plans, but you adapt and keep moving.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t quite that equanimous back then. When I talked to the agent at the counter, I was rattled and she could see it. She saw me as easy prey. Suddenly, she spun my missed flight into a big deal. The process of rescheduling and rerouting me became a Herculean task, one that would have been insurmountable by a lesser gate agent. She, however, deftly jumped the hurdles caused by my ineptitude, and through her own superiority, solved my problem.

New ticket in hand and calmer, I was on to this woman in minutes. She was one of those people who makes things more complicated than they need to be–or at least seem more complicated–so she can be a hero when she facilitates resolution. She didn’t give me anything that wasn’t already mine (or my right) and didn’t add any value to the transaction, though it initially seemed as if she did. She made me think I couldn’t live without her.

We all know people like that, but I hope I’m not one of them. Why spend my limited resources and energy complicating the simple when I could use it instead to move forward? I don’t want to try to protect my job by adding false importance where it’s not appropriate; I want to add real value.

You know, a reassuring smile and a don’t-worry attitude would have added more real value, Ms. Gate Agent. It doesn’t always have to be hard.

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Your first day

wrestling meet2I called home from a business trip to check in with my kids. It was the day my son had intra-squad matches, wrestle-offs, to determine who would claim the varsity positions on his team. The conversation went like this:

Me: How’d it go?

Favorite son: Mom, you missed it. Today was the first day of my undefeated season.

Not only did I love the clever way my son had told me he had secured his varsity spot, but I REALLY loved his attitude. He wasn’t being cocky or arrogant; he was telling me that he had marked the first day of working toward his goal–and his first success in that measure.

If we don’t go in expecting to win, our chances of actually doing it plummet. We don’t often win by accident. We win when we identify a goal and work hard to get there.

Will he have an undefeated season? I can’t tell you that, but I do know this. If he loses a match, the next win that follows will be the start of his undefeated rest of the season.

Today’s your first day. Believe it.

Never give up

Many months ago, I wrote about the importance of staying engaged regardless of age, station in life, or background (Retirement is not an option). Staying engaged means staying relevant. It means being part of the world around you instead of watching it pass by. It means learning and embracing and moving forward. Age means nothing–I’ve seen young people check out and older people become masters of a new universe–but attitude means everything.

The corollary to staying engaged is never give up. I used one of my grandmothers as an example in my earlier post, so I’ll use my other grandmother in this one.

Some time in the 24 hours following my birthday visit earlier this week (see Taking time), my grandma fell and broke her hip. I’ll spare you the details, but for a 98-year-old woman, this kind of injury lends itself to a lot of speculation about the future, and the options don’t look all that good.

Unless you’re my grandma.

Faced with weeks and possibly months of painful rehab or being bed/wheelchair-ridden for the rest of her life, Grandma didn’t bat an eye. “I don’t care how long it takes,” she said emphatically. “I want to be normal again.”

In case you missed it above, Grandma is 98 years old. No one would question her if she said she didn’t want to spend a significant portion of her future learning to walk again. Her swarm of children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren–almost 40 strong–would gladly handle her logistics of movement. She has no shortage of support. Yet she has chosen to tackle a difficult project and move herself forward.

I don’t know whether she even liked the man, but clearly she has espoused Winston Churchill’s attitude of “Never give in–never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.” And let me tell you, she has a heap of both.

There are days when I want nothing more than to retreat, to curl up inside myself and withdraw from the world around me. That’s a lot harder to do with examples like my grandma. We have to stay engaged and keep on keeping on.

Oh, and did I mention that she went through the surgery awake?

It’s a GRRRRRRRREAT day for football!

Back in college, I was a football manager (yes, you read that correctly). As you would expect, we had practice every day, regardless of the weather. Unless there was more than a hint of lightning involved, you’d find us on the outdoor practice fields tucked behind the athletic center. In pretty-close-to-coastal New England, that often meant damp, chilly, increasingly dark afternoons as the season progressed through October and November.

Heedless of the weather, one of the assistant coaches–Lou–showed up in athletic shorts to every single practice. When he would arrive at the edge of the field on particularly nasty days, he would unfurl his lumbering frame into a stretch and announce to the world, It’s a GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRREAT day for football! Bundled up and chilled (and often already soaked to the bone), I’d glance at the crazy man in shorts who was eager to take on a muddy field of hulking, hyped-up college guys. Invariably I’d have to smile to myself; if he could do it, so could I.

To this day, I still think of Lou and the example he set. As a coach, he could have bundled up and retreated to the sidelines with a portable heater. Instead, he subjected himself to the same conditions as his players and worse; where they were covered with pads and pants, he endured every practice in shorts. No one could accuse him expecting more from his players than from himself.

On tough days when I have a big project looming, when I shy away from running because of the weather, or when I just don’t feel like getting out of bed, listen carefully. You might hear me murmur Lou’s favorite line before I jump in with both feet.