Monthly Archives: October 2012

Doing Hard Things (Tip #5)

As an introvert, new situations are sometimes difficult for me. I don’t enjoy small talk, and I’m happy to stay in my cozy, normal box. Sometimes, however, meeting new people is necessary. Sticking your hand out and saying, “Hello,” can be a difficult thing in itself, but meeting new people is a good way to persevere through other hard things.

For example, someone did a pretty good job of cracking my heart during college. The fact that this person and I lived in the same apartment building magnified the negative situation. This building was so well made that, without even trying, I knew when he came and went. When he slammed his door, my apartment shuddered. I could look out my window and watch him drive downtown. I knew for sanity’s sake I had to spend more time away from my apartment which meant widening my circle of friends. I had to meet new people.

Thus began my Operation Chatty Cathy. I forced myself to greet people at the bus stop, in the checkout line at the book store, between classes. Here’s the epiphany that knocked me in the head: people were just waiting—and usually seemed grateful—for someone to speak to them. No one ignored me or insulted me—fears that had kept me silent before. I got out of the apartment, met lots of interesting people, and made some new friends, too.

God made us to be social creatures, and friends are referenced many times in the Bible. My children have been away to camps, started summer jobs, and survived living away from home. Our advice is always, “stick out your hand and say, ‘Hello.’” Friends can lighten the load of a challenge, can brighten a sad patch, and help move the focus from self to others—always a good thing.

How has a friend of yours helped carry your load?

Doing Hard Things (Tips #2, #3, and #4)

This week I’m combining three short but important tips: eat, exercise, and give yourself rewards.

Eating nutritiously is important always but especially during stressful times. Don’t skip breakfast, but if the thought of eating scrambled eggs isn’t pleasant, think outside the breakfast box. Try a granola bar and milk, a peanut butter cracker, or even an apple. Give your body some fuel to start the day. When I’m tired of oatmeal or cold cereal, I spread a little peanut butter on wheat toast and sprinkle on some blueberries. Delicious.

Don’t forget to exercise. For my athletic children, exercising may mean going for a three-mile run. For me, it probably means riding my bike for ten or fifteen minutes or at least walking to the mail box. The point is—get up and get your blood flowing.

Finally, when you’re in the middle of doing something difficult, and you’ve completed a short-term goal—maybe you’ve just sewn in a zipper and both sides of the garment match, or you’ve conquered your last calculus problem, or you’ve finished writing a paragraph, treat yourself to a reward.

I’m not talking about buying an expensive gift. The treat could be as simple as making a phone call to a faraway friend or watching a TV program or reading a chapter in a novel. For several years during my children’s naptime, I’d indulge in an ice cream cone. The creamy goodness soothed any nerves that might have splintered during a stressful morning and fortified me for the remainder of the afternoon until my husband arrived home from work.

What hard thing are you working on now? What’s your treat?

Doing Hard Things (Tip #1)

I mentioned in the last post that we’re doing hard things at our house this year, so I’ve made a list of tips that might help in these difficult endeavors. The first tip comes from Anna’s advice to Hattie about how to survive her first semester at college—take one day at a time. Don’t think about the four years ahead of you. Don’t think about the whole fifteen weeks before Christmas break. Think about getting through the present. If one day is too long and hard to think about, concentrate on surviving for the next ten minutes. Ten minutes can sometimes feel like an eternity, but it’s doable.

We can apply this wisdom to any task. For example, don’t think about the whole Thanksgiving dinner; focus on one dish. Don’t think about the three point one miles of a 5k; concentrate on one step at a time. Don’t think about the whole manuscript; write one paragraph or the next sentence.

Broken down into parts or steps, any undertaking, no matter how daunting, becomes manageable.

Anna’s advice reminds me of the old joke about eating an elephant. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

I hope the elephant in your house is tender and tasty.

Doing Hard Things

We’re doing hard things at our house this fall.

Kevin is trying to finance the fourth segment of his development project. Asking people for money is never a popular undertaking. Lately, it seems impossible.

After many, many years in the same position, my employment post is being phased out because of downsizing. I have about eight and a half months left on my contract of a hands-on, every day, full-time mom. When our sons graduate from high school next June, I’ll need a new focus. I’ve been dipping my fingertips into a new, scary pond for a year or so in preparation of that time. I’m laying the foundation now so that I’ll be ready for new beginnings next summer.

My oldest daughter is a senior in college and is preparing for her senior fashion show next April. Along with doing the work for her regular classes, she has to create—from the idea, to the pattern, to the garment—fifteen original outfits. The stress is already racing her heart.

My second daughter is learning to acclimate to a new environment. After a gap year in which she interned with a youth ministry in Texas, she’s now a college freshman. New faces, new expectations, new requirements, new challenges clamor to steal her joy.

Our twin sons are applying for colleges. They have their hearts set on attending either Westpoint or the Naval Academy. The application process alone is a tremendous mountain with several essays for each academy, interviews, physical tests, and maintaining great grades and participating in sports as well as community activities. Their days are long, beginning at six or six thirty and ending maybe by ten at night.

We’ve had many conversations about completing the task at hand and overcoming stress. Over the next few posts, I’ll share some tips we’re using at our house. I hope they help you, too.