Friday, May 27, 2011

* Shake It Off and Step Up *

Expectations, dreams, hopes, plans, goals...
...words that can change quickly into...

Disappointment, failure, setback, defeat, letdown...
Do you ever feel like life has decided to throw you a curve ball when you were expecting a homerun?

I do!

This week (month!) has been the perfect example. Oh no, I feel a vent coming on! The crowning jewel was today when my son who has maintained a 4.0 GPA for the past three (plus) years got his first A- in his college credit math class. Trust me, to maintain a 4.0 for that long is NO easy feat! He is one smart kid and has done this while playing three very time consuming sports all three years which means he sometimes leaves at 5:30 a.m. and gets home at 6:30 p.m. Even 11:00 p.m. on some game days. It has amazed me he was able to do it this long. Of course, I am his mother and I would think he is amazing no matter what. ☺

At the end of every trimester we hold our breath hoping we won't see that A-, but today unfortunately we did. The hardest part for me is the fact that I didn't even worry once this entire tri, because he had a 100% in that class this whole time. 100% in assignments AND tests! Little did I know (because he didn't mention it!) that the final he took today counted for 30% of his grade! He studied hard, but I guess just not hard enough. He missed the A grade by the skin of his teeth! He needed 150 on the test but got 137. A 2% deficit in his overall grade. That is hard to swallow. It would have been easier if he had missed it by 50! And the sad fact is, he deserved the A-. The teacher said he hates this part of the class because this happens to so many of his students and there is always an abundance of tears every time. Yeah, probably from the parents!

At our school it is a big deal because if you maintain a 4.0 for your four high school years, you are automatically a valedictorian. So we usually end up with 12 or 13 of those. I am not sure I agree with that system, but that IS how it works. I do agree it is nice they honor all those students who have worked so hard to achieve that instead of just one. I think the more positive accolades they can give these youth the better. Heaven knows, they need it! All of my boys have set that as a goal. My oldest fell short because of one measly A- as well, which was given to him by a teacher that was later fired because he wasn't really a teacher. But that's another post that I will kindly not write. My middle son was able to achieve it. And I thought this one nearly had it in the bag with only his senior year left. However, the whole valedictorian thing really wasn't the motivation for him. It was more for the Academic All-State in sports. It is much easier to get a football scholarship if you are named Academic All-State and so that was the main goal. There is still a small chance he can be named that, but probably not without a 4.0. He has been getting tons of requests from colleges all over the nation to apply to their football program because of his grades and his athletic accomplishments this year. Now he will have a 3.9 GPA and that isn't quite as impressive, all because of a few stupid math problems! I can't even explain how disappointed I am. I think I am much more so than he is!

I know, I know, this is NOT a matter of life and death. It is not the end of the world. That was last week remember? ☺ BUT, it is still hard to just accept and move on. It's hard to let go of it and just be at peace when it was SO stinkin' close! I felt the same way about my half marathon last week! So CLOSE to achieving my new PR goal, yet not quite there because of of my dang knee! So frustrating! If interested, you can read more about that here.

One of my sons that is in Hawaii this summer selling Home Security for his first time, is working his little tail off and not seeing a lot of success. He is disappointed and so I am. Especially since my other son that is over there, IS seeing a lot of success. Of course there is a bright side to that one...because after all he is in Hawaii! There have been many other things this past month that have been very discouraging and disappointing that I won't bore you with. But it's like a little child who so excitedly receives a very bright balloon, but let's it slip away unexpectedly and cries for it to come back but is told it's impossible to ever retrieve it, all the while watching it through tear filled eyes ever so slowly float up into the sky as it gets smaller and smaller, until it's no longer visible. Sometimes our dreams and expectations float away the same way. And no matter how let down or disappointed we are, it is impossible to get them back. It is out of our control.

I have learned from experience that when I stop and realize some things are simply out of my control, then I have a much easier time letting go and moving on. If I don't let go, but hold on dwelling on the injustice of it all, the more bitter I get.

When things happen that really hurt, yet are out of my control, I am learning that I need to take responsibility for my feelings. Even though sometimes things in our lives seem unfair or it may even be another person's fault, we are still responsible for our own feelings. In other words... events, problems, or other people do not "cause" our feelings. We choose them. We can choose to be happy and move on or we can choose to stay disappointed and be stuck forever, and become a helpless victim.

I can CHOOSE how I feel about things. Isn't that such an amazing gift? I really can decide how I will be affected by all the little and BIG disappointments in life. If I choose to to let them go and learn from them... to remind myself that "after all I AM in Hawaii", then it makes it so much easier to cope with those hard things. Even though I may not actually BE in Hawaii, I am after all ALIVE and able to experience all the things life has to offer, good OR bad! And that is a gift and blessing in itself! And as I choose those feelings, I am able to learn to just walk away from disappointment. And even though it is still very difficult to do, it is possible.

Thomas Carlyle, the famous 19th century Scottish historian, proved that.

After working on his multi-volume set of books on "The French Revolution" for SIX years, Carlyle completed the manuscript and took volume one to his friend John Stuart Mill, asking him to read it.

According to the story, five days later, Mill's maid accidentally threw the manuscript into the fire. In deep agony, Mill went to Carlyle's house to inform him that his work had been destroyed.

Carlyle did not flinch. With a smile, he said, "That's all right, Mill. These things happen. It is a part of life. I will start over. I can remember most of it, I am sure. Don't worry. It's all here in my mind. Go, my friend! Do not feel bad."

Carlyle stood by the window watching Mill leave. Carlyle then turned to his wife and said, "I did not want him to see how crushed I am by this misfortune." And with a heavy sigh, he added, "Well the manuscript is gone, so I had better start writing again."

And write again he did. Carlyle finally completed the work, which ranks as one of the great classics of all time. He had learned to walk away from his disappointment.

After all, what could Carlyle have done about his no longer existent burnt manuscript?


Nothing would have resurrected the manuscript. Nothing could make it reappear. All Carlyle could do was to get bitter or get started. And what can we do about anything once it is over? Usually nothing. We can try to correct it if it is possible, or we can walk away from it if it isn't. Those are our only two choices. And we all know what the better choice is.

One of my favorite parables is told of a farmer who owned an old mule. The mule fell into the farmer's well. The farmer heard the mule 'braying' - or - whatever mules do when they fall into wells. After carefully assessing the situation, the farmer sympathized with the mule, but decided that neither the mule nor the well was worth the trouble of saving. Instead, he called his neighbors together and told them what had happened and enlisted them to help haul dirt to bury the old mule in the well and put him out of his misery.

Initially, the old mule was hysterical! But as the farmer and his neighbors continued shoveling and the dirt hit his back, a thought struck him. It suddenly dawned on him that every time a shovel load of dirt landed on his back, he should shake it off and step up! This he did, shovel full after shovel full.

"Shake it off and step up...shake it off and step up...shake it off and step up!", he repeated to encourage himself. No matter how painful the blows, or distressing the situation seemed, the old mule just kept right on shaking it off and stepping up!

It wasn't long before the old mule, battered and exhausted, stepped happily over that well wall into freedom! What seemed like it would bury him, actually blessed him, all because of the manner in which he handled his adversity. And so it is with us. If we face our problems and respond to them positively, and refuse to give in to disappointment, setbacks, and the adversities that come along to bury us, we will find they usually have within them the potential to bless us in ways we never could have dreamed. We just need to remember to "SHAKE IT OFF AND STEP UP" out of the wells in which we find ourselves.

We can choose.

If you concentrate on finding whatever is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul. - Rabbi Harold Kushner

After Disappointment images

A six-time winner of the Hawaii Ironman Triathalon said, "It is not the distance that overwhelms people who race Hawaii's Ironman. It's the relentless wind that blows across the lava fields. You're on one of the highest ridges, you see miles of repetitive road, and you realize it's extremely hot and you're going straight into a 30-mile-an-hour crosswind. I've found that those who dwell on these conditions tend to fold. I always train for adversity I consider adversity an asset, something to turn to my advantage. One of life's most important lessons is learning to put your losses in perspective and to savor your triumphs by riding on euphoria's wave. Have high goals and expectations; regard defeat as stages on the road to success by remembering the little victories that have gotten you where you are."

I love this triathlete's attitude. Of course, once again, he is in Hawaii! ☺ As I write this, I realize it's much easier said than done. Especially on the mainland. hee-hee But if we are able to consider adversity an asset, a gift even, then we will be able to keep those disappointments (that will inevitably continue to come) in perspective, while we keep climbing up that pile of dirt shaking it off and stepping up.

We can choose to let go of our losses. We can bury them. We can walk away from them while we shake it off and step up. And most importantly, we can still feel empowered to shoot for the moon and set high goals because we know even if we fall short, we will still land among the stars. My son's 3.9 GPA may be a little short of the moon, but it is still quite an accomplishment that has landed him right there among the stars.

Consciously making the choice to walk away and let go of disappointment is not gonna be easy! But, it is our choice. And for that, I am grateful! After all, we are in Hawaii!At least in our head!


Audrey said...

Jodi, your insights are amazing! Thank you so much for posting this - I needed it today!

deb said...

Great post!!!!
I really needed to shake off a bunch of things and step up!
Thanks for the inspiration!

Anonymous said...

I have no idea how to do this, but I'll try.
Loved the post. I have felt the same way lately and have wanted to throw in the towel a few times. It's hard to let go. Thanks for the reminder how important it is to focus on the good. Hawaii or not....haha



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