Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘christmas’

Resolution 2014: Love

Will you make any New Year’s resolutions this week? I probably will. Each year my list becomes smaller, but I am more successful in hitting the mark. Why? Probably because the list is small and therefore better thought out for one.

The other reason is “resolve”, the characteristic most necessary to achieving success in your resolutions. It’s a fancy word for commitment, or more precisely the conscious act of making and following through on that commitment. It’s infinitely easier to find  the resolve necessary to follow through on my resolutions if there are fewer of them for sure, but having taken a bit more time in coming up with them in the first place it also seems that my resolutions of late have been a bit more meaningful, too. Investing the time in the search for a meaningful resolution seems to reduce the time and effort it takes me to muster up the resolve necessary to see one through.

If you celebrate Christmas (or Hanukah for that matter) you probably did a bit of gift giving recently. Sure, some of it probably felt kinda like an obligation, but at least a bit of that gift giving was really more about the expression of love behind the gift. That’s the easy part, at least for me, expressing love. Whether on the gifting side or the giving side, once I gave myself permission to freely express love it really became pretty easy. Took a while to learn how to do it for sure, but with practice it became a natural thing, almost a default setting.  It was fun, too!

The receiving end of the gift thing is a lot of fun, too, of course. I mean–come on–who doesn’t like opening up gifts?! Lots of funny stuff around getting a gift, too. Think of all the funny “re-gifting” stories you have, or the last “White Elephant” party you attended. In the White house the philosophy of “it’s OK to say you probably won’t use that gift” became “REJECT THAT GIFT”! That got to be quite funny as we all tried to one-up each other in the outlandish ways we declined the gifts. Beth is still scarred from her first encounter, and she’s never had a single gift rejected!

Accepting a gift is really rather easy, it’s accepting the love behind the gift, accepting another’s love that’s a little more complex. Maybe you didn’t know how much they loved you. Maybe you are worried it’s conditional, the love, with strings attached. More often, though, the problem is that you aren’t really sure HOW to accept the love, or even if you are deserving of such a thing. That’s it, isn’t it? That’s really what you’re thinking. “They can’t possibly love me, love me that much. If they only knew the truth.” Or something like that.

Here’s the truth: they really DO know. And because of that they really, actually, truly DO love you. Most importantly there’s not even a little bit of a mistake here, and more than likely there’s not even the tiniest thread of a string attached. Not only are you loved, not only has someone in some way told you that, you deserve every little bit of that love. Really and truly. Resolve this year to believe that. Make your 2014 New Year’s Resolution to be openly thankful for that love, just like you are for that beautifully gift-wrapped present under the tree at Christmas, the one you would never reject.

Resolve to let yourself  be loved this year.

Happy New Year!

Musings at Christmas on Connecting

‘Tis the season. Home for the  Holidays and all that. Gatherings of all sorts, at home and away, as we make and re-make our connections in one of the best parts of the Christmas Holiday season. We send out a couple hundred Christmas cards every year, and I never tire of seeing the cards from friends and family as they pile up on our “card tree” on the counter. Those annoying notes and letters that accompany the cards? The family pictures? Love ‘em! In Gladwell’s universe my wife and I are “Super-Connectors”; this year I’ve been thinking about how we all connect in our modern world.

1) Twitter. Has there ever been a better example of the power of community interacting with the power of a technology than CrossFit HQ weblebrity  Pat Sherwood, his “Go South” adventure, and Twitter? Calamity or comedic pratfall, there to pick up the pieces were CrossFitters who have never set foot on U.S. soil, let alone Santa Cruz, all connected to Pat via Twitter. That was fun.

Twitter is “instant on/always on”. Kinda like a 140 character postcard from anywhere and everywhere, we take the pulse of our world (and others take our pulse for us). I’ve only made a couple of connections here, but I’m learning.

3) Facebook. Gotta admit, my entry into the world of FB was initially a rather cynical attempt to grow the business at my day job. That lasted precisely one day. That’s how long it took my Facebook page to be discovered by one of my CrossFit friends from the days when CrossFit.com had 1000 comments.

Boy, did THAT work out well for me!

There are all kinds of folks over there on FB who have read something of mine, or who know someone who did. I treasure each one of them. The really cool connections though, are the ones where FB has allowed us to grow what was probably just a handshake at the CrossFit Games or a quick hello at some event, and keep expanding something that would very likely be a nice little friendship if it weren’t for the hundreds of miles between us. Here’s hoping I get to shake a bunch of new hands, for real, in 2014.

4) Email. About 2 years ago I was invited to join this incredible email thread comprised of men like me who had spent some time at a particular tiny college in New England. The tactic used by the guy who launched the thread some 10+ years ago was quite simple: wish one of the guys a Happy Birthday and tell a story about his days in college or shortly thereafter.

Sometimes even tell a true story!

I’d call it a low-rent Facebook for old guys but for two important points: there are no pictures (I have no idea what 95% of the guys look like now), and it is quite private (we all know how that privacy thing is working over in Zuckerburgville, eh?). Not a lot of places for any of us to work through stuff with people who get you at whatever stage of life you might be in at the moment.

I’m connected there.

5) Hugs. ‘Tis the Christmas season in the Christian world. If ever there’s a time we seek to connect this is it. Planes, trains, and automobiles–or if you are Pat Sherwood a motorcycle–we move Heaven and Earth to get ourselves together. Not Facebook or Twitter or Email together, either. Nope, real live, honest to goodness, reach out and touch connecting.

I like to think of it as “hugging distance”.

On Christmas Day I will be in an airport, alone, heading to my ancestral home. Back to the primordial bed. I will leave my little, growing family in order to be with my parents in time for Christmas dinner. My siblings and I have hosted our folks in turn, each of us having the privilege of their presence every 4 years. Now unable to travel, in order for my Mom and Dad to connect, we four must go to them.

If you are very observant you might have noticed a couple of connections missing from my list above. Postal service and phone calls are how the extended Clan White has always communicated. Once upon a time Gram sent each of us a postcard every day. That’s every single day. Four of us. We called and talked on the phone, all of us. We still call and we still talk (you young’uns might have a fleeting knowledge of what that green “call” button on your texting instrument is there for) even though Gram and Gramp don’t really do the cell phone thing.  But the postcards have stopped.

Aged and bent, very nearly (but not yet quite) broken, my parents’ lives have shrunken to the point where nearly all that is left is that most intimate of connections, the one that can only be made by walking through the front door.

This is not one of those wistful “oh I wish” or “oh if only I had” posts. Our lives proceed as they will. As they have. As Rafiki would say “it doesn’t matter, it’s in the past.”  We connect and we disconnect. Sometimes quite deliberately, on purpose, and sometimes quite simply by accident. At any one time, though, we are connected to some someones, and our connections might still include a Mom and a Dad. Anyone who’s been here awhile and read any of my nonsense might remember my post around this time last year; it seemed quite unlikely that I would have another year with my Dad.  I travel on Christmas this year with one part sorrow at the leaving, and two parts surprise and joy at the destination. Against all odds I still have that front door to open, with TWO parents on the other side waiting.

One more time, to my great surprise and delight, “[W]e’re gonna get together then, Dad. We’re gonna have a good time, then.”

Merry Christmas.

 

CrossFit and Recovery.

You can’t do a search for “CrossFit” without wading through countless articles about CrossFit “injuries” and whether CrossFit is safe, or how to do CrossFit safely. Heck, half of my “Zite” CrossFit section is polluted with that genre. The CrossFit community itself is awash in comments and stories of folks who are over-worked. Rashes of niddling little injuries pile one upon another until the recipe brews up not a finely tuned soufflé but rather something more like the cheesy crust rimming the pan that contains the remnants of over-baked mac n’cheese.

How can this possibly be? We watch our Games athletes in this run-up season to our Games, parse their programs and compare their 3-a-days to our 3-a-weeks, and yet it is we who fall apart, not them. We marvel at the Princes and Princesses of our kingdom like the wondrous Christmas above, see them parachute into view leaving behind shock and awe, only to find ourselves reading about this or that danger or catastrophe or calamity from an “over-trained” CrossFitter. How come?

It’s simple, really, and that’s probably why it’s so hard. The sensational stories about danger? Meh, nothing more than tabloid folderal, no more common in reality than teenage vampires in bikinis on page 3 of some magazine at CVS. Oh sure, they both exist, but the noise made about their existence is laughably out of proportion to their true numbers.

No, the real reason we as a group struggle with this is that we forget a couple of really fundamental things about CrossFit, the fitness and health program. The WODs here on CrossFit.com are openly described as created to challenge the fittest athletes on earth. Period. Sorry, but that’s not you, and that’s not me. If we do these as Rx’d and as scheduled the vast majority of us will have a “wheels come off” experience, either a little at a time or in one spectacular crash.

Again, why? Well, because of the other CrossFit fundamental that we all too frequently forget: OUR CrossFit is a training program to allow us to be fitter, healthier, and therefore better at LIFE. Christmas, Jason, Rich, Julie et al are our equivalents of Andy Murray (now playing in the Wimbledon Finals) or Danica Patrick (driving a car and turning left this afternoon): they are paid in part to excel at CrossFit. Each day is carefully planned and includes a healthy dose of rest and recovery.

Ah, there it is. Rest and recovery. Not only that but carefully planned rest and recovery. You talk to your Coach about loads and time domains but when’s the last time you sat down and talked with your trainer about your schedule? Have you EVER discussed recovery? Whether you work out in a Box or on your own, do you have an injury prevention plan? Think about it. If we are doing Crossfit in order to be better at something…anything…whenever we have some sort of Crossfit malady that decreases our functionality we’ve achieved the exact opposite of our goals. Maybe we can’t go to work. Even worse, maybe we can’t go to the Box. CrossFit is FUN and the gym is FUN; not being able to go to the gym stinks.

Here’s my bid: pushing ourselves to our limit 3 days on/1 day off is part of who we are, and we should continue to do just that. Go ahead and take a full dose of the CrossFit prescription. Be inspired by Christmas and her peers and occasionally give in to the temptation to do something extraordinary like “CrossFit for Hope” as Rx’d. Or really crazy, like “Eva”!

At the same time follow their example and consciously build recovery into your own CrossFit program. Can’t fit 10 hours of sleep into your 24 hour day like Jason? No time or money for a couple of massages and the chiropractor every week? Me either. My day job really messes up my CrossFit, ya know? I can’t remember the last time I took a nap. So go hard when you workout, but schedule in breaks. Make them mandatory. Allow those little aches and pains that prove that you are, indeed, working hard to heal before they become an unstoppable cascade of real injury. (Do a search on the Message Board for “Larry Lindenman” and “rest”, “scheduled rest”, or “de-load”). Accept that you may need to make tiny compromises in order to prevent injuries. For example, if you can’t afford to have your hands rip from pull-ups, do whatever it takes to prevent them regardless of the sniping you may encounter here or elsewhere about gloves, wraps, or tape.

There are three fundamental aspects of CrossFit: business, sport, and fitness. The few and fortunate among us who participate at the highest levels of the first two often have the luxury of fewer non-CF priorities and can apply laser-like focus on training, including recovery. You and I, on the other hand, must remember that CrossFit is a tool, the best tool, that we use to make ourselves better. Like all powerful tools it must be accorded respect.

We must plan our recovery lest we recover from our wreck.

 

Ritual

It’s the end of November. In the United States we are just finishing the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, the purest of our national holidays in all respects. We are entering what is euphemistically known as the “Holiday Season”, a time once used to commemorate the intersection of family and faith, now b@stardized into a commercial org@$mic frenzy. Hidden in there, somewhere, alive against all odds, lie the rituals that bind us together, bind us to some version of our past.

Rituals are different from habits. Habits are trainable, repeatable, common activities we engage consistently in the hopes of some equally consistent, common outcome. They are largely personal and exist in a tiny personal domain. No, rituals are a shared endeavor, and choice is not always a part of the program.

We call these rituals by many names; in the extended White family they are traditions. We are a family that craves such things. Do it once it’s a precedent. Do it next year and it’s a tradition. Do it yet again and however it went is now inviolate ritual. Is this good?

Some rituals are gentle, almost whimsical. They tickle us and we smile little smiles as they come and go. Others are grand, some so outsized that “grandiose” is the only apt descriptor. There is weight to these, demands that must be met, plans that must be made. Some of this weight is real, usually born of history that stretches generations into the past. Some are even pleasant.

The power of ritual to teach and to bind is part of why they persist. The power of a ritual to resist a changing world, whether macro or micro, speaks to the inherent and personal resonance of that ritual. The more internal the effect, the greater the power.The longer lived the ritual, the more resistant it is to a changing world.

Church. The family meal. Travel. Gifting. All of the trappings that surround each. Why do we do what we do, especially at this time of year? Do our rituals remind us of a history that is warm, a legacy that bears propagating? Do they teach a next generation in a way that leads us to look forward with eager anticipation? Even painful rituals such as Yom Kippur end with optimism.

Do they rather simply reinforce some something that should have faded away, been allowed to die? Something that stands in the way of a better today or tomorrow, yesterday as the anchor that drags against full sails and a bright horizon? These we should have the courage to leave behind.

‘Tis the season in which most of us face the longest-lived, most deeply entrenched rituals in our lives. Most of them are likely that way because they bind us to a warm past, teach us, re-fuel and inspire us. Whether writ large or small, these are what we should return to as we face the bombardment of a world a’changing.