Learning to be independent is like learning to play a musical instrument. It doesn’t matter how old you are or how many sheets of music you read, or how many times you look at the instrument, you have to practice. As scary as it may be, we must evaluate the risk and then allow whomever it is the opportunity to do things on their own. As time passes and they have proven to be able to handle that level of responsibility we raise the bar. Within a short period of time you look up and they have gone from playing snippets of the simplest of songs with your guidance, to playing full length songs alone. What I think we must all remind ourselves is that this kind of progress only comes as a result of practice and taking calculated risk. I stress the word "calculated" because allowing someone to take on too much responsibility before they are ready to handle it, can also have an adverse effect. I look at it as age appropriate responsibility, similar to age appropriate behavior. However it’s important to understand that age refers more to one's responsibility age, than one's physical one.
Driving is a good example. Although I am sure that there are many 12 year olds that are tall enough and physically capable to drive a car, we wouldn’t allow them to because it would be putting them in a position to fail - potentially hurting them from the natural process into healthy independence. Similarly, there are 16 year olds that although of legal age, are still not ready either and must be carefully guided and allowed more time to mature. That being said there are also 15 yr olds that the moment they sit being the wheel of a car are capable of the responsibility of driving the car as best as one can understand that responsibility. It’s a careful balance to decide who, where and when but if we don’t have the opportunity to practice we will never learn. If we reflect on our own lives and what we have learned, it was only by taking chances and practicing, that we improved and grew as individuals to become strong, confident and independent .
Sometimes we fall into a bit of a funk and it can seem impossible to get out of it. About a month ago I had something happen where I suddenly found myself in one of these funks. My positive attitude had changed to a more negative one and everything that had seemed so clear to me, had been lost in a fog of resentment, anger and a feeling of desperation. This hadn’t been the first time this had happened to me, yet I could not remember what it was that had lifted this cloud so many times before. Needless to say, I could not write a Dailydumbbell to save my life and the thought of writing one, made me feel like a hypocrite. What had changed? Why had my thoughts gone from being so focused and happy, to so scattered and negative? About a week ago the answer came to me like it had so many times before. The answer was simple, I was focusing on myself. Somewhere in the previous month my mind had shifted from thinking of others, to thinking about myself. The more it fed my ego the more my mood and attitude shifted. I found myself saying things like, “when do I get to have fun” why don’t I get that, when do I get a break,” etc…. I think about it now and it sounds ridiculous but those were the thoughts that governed me. As my mind dwelled on these things, I built a perfect case as to why I should be disgusted with my life and everyone around me. Of course this may sound extreme but when I fall into a funk, I am just as passionate about it, as I am anything else. Slowly and almost secretly, I was forced to do things for others while putting my thoughts aside. As a result, I had brief moments of fulfillment and happiness that although I didn’t realize, were a result of focusing on and helping others. As I mentioned before this was not the first time that life had taught me this lesson and I am sure it will not be the last. Although I was seeing some light, I still was not out of the woods. I like to keep my writings short but since this is the first in while and because I think it is such an important subject, I want to share with you a story about what finally brought me out of my funk and allowed me to begin writing again.
The story of two champions:
While finding my way out of the “Funk” I was in, my sister Mary invited me to watch her son Stevie run in a cross country meet this past weekend. I agreed to go and give him my support. I woke up early Saturday morning and drove to Belen to find Mary with four of her children, patiently waiting for their brother to run the race. Once the race began, I noticed the level of excitement in all of their faces as he ran down the field in front of them. All of us were lost in our excitement for him. During the middle of the race I ran to a spot where I knew he would be coming by and cheered him on. I raced back to the stands only to find Mary and the kids in the same spot with the same look of anticipation on their faces and joy in their eyes. As the runners entered the field to run the last hundred yards, everyone was screaming in an effort to support their child and we were no different. Stevie beat his best time by running a 7:30 minute mile. As I sat there reflecting on what had just happened I realized that while focusing on others and their happiness I had brought myself happiness. I thought about how hard Stevie had to push himself even when every bone in his body was surely telling him to stop. I wondered how it was possible that I had forgotten what had previously brought me to such a high level of fulfillment. I compared my life to Stevie’s run and was disappointed in myself for quitting. Suddenly, Stevie came running up to everyone and was swarmed by a proud family of Lee’s. Although exhausted, his pride gave strength to his smile and he proudly talked about his race. I congratulated him and then Mary and the kids said goodbye as she headed off for the days adventures. As I sat there in silence pondering on the shift that had just occurred, I was reminded that there was still one more race I had come to see. A very good friend of mine had a daughter that would be running in about an hour. I took the time to think about and remind myself that my fulfillment comes from giving and helping others. This day had made me realize that for the last month, I had been a prisoner of my own selfish thoughts. Within what seemed like minutes, the last race was about to begin. I looked out on the field scanning all the girls to see if I could find Sofi Miguez. There were lots of girls but I was focusing on a petite girl with a white uniform. Within seconds I found her. She had a certain presence out there that most of the others did not have. It was a mix of confidence, strength, determination but most of all focus. Her body language as she ran up and down the field warming up, radiated with it. I had heard some good things and knew she was a great runner but could have never imagined what I was about to witness. In the first hundred yards she pulled away from the pack and got a comfortable lead of about 20yds. I watched her run effortlessly out of site and would patiently wait to catch glimpses of her as she ran the course. The first time she came back into full site, I watched to see if she would still be in front and she was. As she came around the corner she maintained her original stride and look of determination. She never looked back but only forward to her goal. If she would have looked back, she would have found that her lead had increased to 30yds. This was a two mile race so she went around one more time and I anxiously waited for her return. Within a few minutes I saw the golf cart enter the field and right behind it was Sofi. She came around the far end of the track with a Secretariat type pace and lead. I was inspired by her strength and focus and that she continued to push herself, knowing that she could slow the pace and still win easily. After she crossed the finish line, I sat and reflected on what I had been taught by two little champions. It isn’t about winning a race but more about beating your personal best. It’s about taking what God has giving you and doing the best you can with it. I was forced to admit that no matter your age, size or list of excuses, you can do anything you put your mind to and should. But the most important thing I learned that day was that in an attempt to do for others, I did the most for myself. Thank you Stevie and Sofi, for a great race, a great day and for fixing my Funk.