It’s hard to believe that this year is almost over. There have been numerous ups and downs and I can truthfully say that it’s been one of the faster years I’ve experienced. I’ve become more comfortable with setting my own hours but also realized that there’s a lot of room for improvement when it comes to work life balance. This year my birthday came up so much quick than I anticipated and while I did reflect a bit on what I wanted to do and what I accomplished this year. I will say that fitness and health have played a major role in my daily life in a way that I never expected. Going to the gym every day, watching what I eat, going to the sauna and trying to better manage stress has made a difference. People talk about the importance of consistency but it’s different when you see the results in your own life after making a choice and then accompanying it with an effort. Being able to tolerate over 30 minutes of the Stairmaster when previously I was dying at the 10 minute mark has been a source of motivation and a reminder that I can do hard things. Finishing a doctoral program that took 6 years to complete is not the same as obtaining and maintaining a 60+ lb weight loss. They both require discipline but a different type. All that to say, this year has been tough, it’s been good, it’s been sad, it’s been soul-sucking but it’s been worth it. I’m looking forward to bigger and better things and also scheduling a few more days to sleep in.
I remember reading somewhere that men are like waffles because they can easily compartmentalize while women are similar to spaghetti because everything is connected in some way. Once again I’ve relocated and along with the change in location has come a renewed commitment to be more healthier after I was challenged to make better choices. There’s this story in the Bible about a guy that had a skin disease and he was told to wash in a muddy river 7 times. The guy almost turned around and went home because he was expecting to be told to do something big and the remedy was just too simple. However, his maid convinced him to do it and it worked. In a world of fad diets, special equipment, and fancy fitness plans that consume your life, there still isn’t a substitute for eating healthy and exercising regularly. It’s a solution that seems too simple to a lot of people so they spend money (sometime unnecessarily) in the hope that it will take the place of hard work and discipline. I’ve learned more about discipline in these last few weeks than I have in a long while. It’s the same kind of internal motivation that I had to use in order to finally finish my dissertation and it’s really uncomfortable. However, it’s the only way to get the results that I want. It’s not something that I can delegate or outsource to anyone else. Like most decisions to make some significant changes, the question is, “How bad do you want it?” I’ve always admired people who genuinely enjoy working out but as I’ve been more consistent I can see how it can become a habit–regardless of the degree of “like.” I’m looking forward to seeing how this turns out despite the fact that it’s still uncomfortable. But anything worth doing is worth doing well and I’ve never been one to back down from a challenge.
Recently there was a video making its rounds on social media that showed a father and son. The father starts off very calm explaining that his son had been acting up in school and that he felt some punishment was necessary while also teaching his son to defend himself. Then the video starts and I have to admit that I fast forwarded to the end as soon as I saw how bloody it was because (at times) I’m a sensitive soul and I always hate seeing people get hurt. The video showed the father boxing with his son. I use “boxing” loosely because it looked like someone of superior height, weight, and experience beating up on someone. The father didn’t hold back and landed multiple punches to his son’s face. The end of the video showed the father questioning the son while the son was obviously still bleeding pretty badly asking him if he would act up again in school. I ran across a follow up article on the video today and you can read it here . Basically, the father was arrested and the son was removed from the home as a result of the video. Let me say first and foremost that what the father did is pretty much the definition of physical abuse if you want to get technical. When a child discloses something like that to me I’m mandated to report it because of my profession and license–whether I agree with it or not. I’ve reported child abuse on multiple occasions as it’s been a regular part of the jobs that I’ve had. In no way am I endorsing the father’s method of parenting but I have also witnessed the opposite where parents stay up all night in shifts because they are terrified that their child will kill them in the middle of the night. I can assure you that being scared of your child and what they are capable of is terrifying. Neither option is ideal by any means. However, in addition to beating up his son who was clearly unable to defend himself, the father took it a step further and posted it on social media so the whole world could see (literally). He mentioned the son’s classmates and teachers as well in the video. That’s pretty humiliating and public shaming as a form of discipline is a horrible decision. But we also have to be honest. A startling number of kids these days do not have any respect for authority figures of any sort. There are too many horrible situations where there has been a conflict that involved an authority figure (law enforcement officer) that turned deadly for no reason at all. Also, by the same token there are also situations where someone was compliant and still ended up “mysteriously” dead. I guess my point is that you can’t really win these days. I think that the father had good intentions. He was trying to teach his (almost) adult son about making better choices and respecting authority and he ended up in jail himself with his child being removed from his care. I don’t have a solution to the problem but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t involve posting a video of a child being hit in the head until he’s bleeding profusely. There has to be another way.
Growing up, music was a big part of my life. Both of my grandfather’s appreciated good music and played it quite often whenever my family and I visited. One grandfather had a radio in every room playing a different radio station at all times. It was chaotic but still provided music to fill any resemblance of silence. There are a few members of my family who are quite musical and my grandfather decided that I should have the benefit of music as well. So I started piano lessons at age 5. I took to it like a fish to water. I had a great teacher named Aimee who let me teach myself and just have pointers. I don’t remember how she did it but she taught me to read music in a way that made it easy to learn. In fact, to this day I don’t remember not being able to read music because I was so young when I started. I remember getting my first music book and playing on the black notes before graduation to the white keys. I was so eager to learn that I learned all the music in the book within a week of getting the book. I practiced all the time and really enjoyed it. Abruptly after my lesson my wonderful teacher started to cry and told me that she was moving away. I was devastated. She referred me to another piano teacher who she promised would help me to develop my natural talent. The next teacher I had was a taskmaster. She had a ruler she would use to hit my knuckles when I hit a wrong note. She emphasized technique and memorization. I slowly felt my affection for the instrument fading away as it got swallowed by hours of practicing songs I didn’t like and keeping my nails short. The funny thing is that I actually started to improve. Eventually I changed teachers and started to get even better. I practiced a lot and was faithful in my hand exercises that were designed to make my fingers more nimble. I was being trained to be a classical pianist but my parents religious convictions about certain things prevented me from being in competitions. Needless to say, I knew I was good at playing but I never knew exactly where I was compared to others my age. My parents aspirations for my playing seemed to not go much higher than accompanying a church congregation. However I continued taking piano lessons–even when my favorite teacher died of cancer. All that being said, I had about 16 years of piano lessons. The longest hobby I’ve had to date. Playing an instrument taught me about discipline and sticking with something. I can still read music and I have a deep appreciation and respect for musicians and for music that actually has musical value. While I know that all kids aren’t musically gifted, I think that creative outlets are very important. Children who are perpetually bored tend to find non-productive ways to spend their time that sometimes become criminal in nature. That’s why I think it’s important to support the arts and expose children to somethingthat is new to them.
I was a really interesting child growing up. My parents emphasized the importance of independence and doing things for yourself. However, they were by every definition pretty strict. I wasn’t allowed to wear colored nail police (only clear) and a host of other guidelines that were specific to our household I didn’t necessarily agree with. As a result, I learned ways around the rules that I decided were pointless. I decided from an early age that my parents were amateurs so I wouldn’t be too hard on them when they messed up the whole parenting thing. They were inexperienced so I would cut them some slack and not expect perfection because I knew they were trying even if their methods were highly flawed. With this perspective I proceeded to find ways to bend the rules. It was then that I had a childhood epiphany. While bending the rules or breaking them without getting caught required stealth, strategy and good timing, I had to make the decision before I broke the rules that I was willing to deal with the consequences of my actions. So it immediately became a toss up. Was the reward of breaking the rule bigger than that of the corresponding consequence? While this was a lesson I learned as a child, it also has larger ramifications. As adults, we are not usually subject to the discipline of parents but we can experience discipline from our jobs, from school, or other entities. Even as adults, it’s easy to make a decision without counting the cost. This can be especially true in situations where you have to make big decisions about careers, relationships, and goals. Sometimes you have to make a decision without having as much information as you’d like. However with the making of the decision you automatically assume all the risks and benefits that come along with making that particular decision. You are the one who deals with the consequences. You can’t pawn it off on others. But on the other hand, you are also the one who can benefit from your choices as well. You just have to make the right ones and then let the chips fall where they may.
We all have dealt with discipline at some point in our lives. Whether it was an authority figure establishing boundaries or finishing a an assignment that was due the next day, discipline was involved. When children are born we task the parents with providing the discipline needed in order to ensure that they are well-behaved. We expect parents to enforce boundaries so we aren’t inconvenienced by the child throwing a tantrum in the grocery store. As we grow older it is expected that we live with a level of discipline that fits within societal norms. We get up everyday and go to school or work like clockwork. We systematically save in order to put a decent down payment on a house so that we can get a lower rate. This is pretty standard discipline. However, there’s the daily discipline that goes beyond daily norms. It’s the kind of discipline that many people never bother to attain because it requires a certain mindset where your wants take a backseat to your larger goals. This means that sometimes you have to do what’s best for you despite the fact that it goes against what you want. You have to tell yourself “it’s for your own good” and make hard decisions instead of those that are emotionally based. You make hard choices about relationships that are going nowhere. You leave the familiar in order to make room for something else. You recognize opportunities and take them. You don’t let distractions take you away from what you know needs to happen and what you ned to make happen. This is the mark of a mature adult. The ability to plan long term and consistently work toward something with a single minded purpose instead of settling for short term items and smaller wants means that you’ve grown to be more disciplined. That’s a good thing.