“I’m Not Doing That”

Remember when you were a child and your parents told you to eat your spinach, pick up your clothes, clean your room and brush your teeth? We did these things without question because our parents told us to do it. Oh sure, we griped about it, but still we did it.

But as we grow older and discover what we truly do like and dislike, things change. Gone are the days when someone suggested that I combat my fear of roller coasters so that I could “just get over it.” I rode on exactly three roller coasters in my life and hated it each time. I’m not doing it again—ever.

Then there were the people in our lives who insist that we face our fears to make us stronger. If speaking in front of people scares you, there are courses you can take to overcome your trepidation. And so it goes. You can choose to face your fears and succeed, or, you can get to my age and say these magic words: “No. I’m not doing that.”

No need for excuses or explanations. Just flat-out NO. For instance, I have hated spiders all my life. They give me the willies, and just thinking about them make my skin crawl. Yet I have lived happily all these years avoiding them, and see no need whatsoever to take a course to get to like them.

Then there is the food thing. So many of us won’t try a new food because we might hate it, or it might make us sick, or we will come down with some sort of rash, and the list goes on. When I was growing up, we had very varied meals. The rule of the house was this: “Just try it. If you try it and don’t like it, you don’t have to eat it. But don’t just look at it and say no.”

If I wasn’t pushed to try artichokes, oysters on the half shell, turnips, fried clams, parsnips, knishes, peas and so on, I would have missed out on so much. The other house rule when I was a kid was if I didn’t like what was for supper, I was welcome to make myself a peanut butter sandwich. As Mom said back then, “this ain’t no bar and grill.”

I used to love to fly. When I moved to Texas, I loved flying back home to New Hampshire to visit my parents. I would fly anywhere and be perfectly happy doing it. Each time I got on a plane, I would say my usual “flying prayer” which asked God to watch over us all and the plane and get to our destinations safe and sound. Nothing bad ever happened.

And then there was 9/11. I watched in horror with the rest of the world as over three thousand innocent people in planes or in the Twin Towers or the Pentagon senselessly lost their lives. I am sure that none of them ever thought that morning that it would be the last day of their lives. All I could think of to do was to stand in line with hundreds of other shocked people to give blood.

Ever since then I haven’t been able to fly anywhere. I have read the statistics, talked with frequent flyers and pilots who all tell me that flying is still the safest method of traveling. But I fear I am done with flying for the rest of my life. And you know what? I don’t care. It’s one more thing I am saying ‘no’ to; it’s at the top of my “No, I’m not doing that” list.

Words are power, folks. When we put words out, especially powerful ones, it makes an impact. We might not see it, but it is there just the same. It is sort of like the saying that, when a butterfly on the East Coast flutters its wings, a tsunami happens on the other side of the world. True? I’m not sure.

But I am quite sure that these words resonate with many of us: “I’m not doing that.”

 

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The Marks of Our Achievements

I’ve been playing my ukulele a lot since Christmas. I was inspired to as my oldest granddaughter, Ava, got her own ukulele from Santa Claus. We had fun playing together, and I found that my love of music has resurfaced.

I now have my finger calluses back; my badges of honor and dedication. I value them because I’m back to playing my old songs and am learning new ones. It made me think of all the other calluses we pick up in life, doing the things we love.

Back when I was in school, there were no computers, cell phones, iPads, etc. Any writing was done by hand. I developed a huge “writers’ bump” on my left left middle finger from writing with a pen. Since I loved to write, I was sort of fond of that bump; it marked me as a writer.

In my 20s, I ran two miles a day, rain or shine. I kept it up until I developed shin splits. So I switched to power-walking. Then I went on to take up Tae Kwon Do, and, in my 30s I attained four ranks of black belt. I and two other women ran a class together for a few years, and it was a lot of fun.

One day in a tournament, I received a direct kick to my right knee that sent me to the hospital for arthroscopy. Years later, I needed to have it done again. And now, decades later, I have a knee replacement.

See the pattern? The things we love to do tend to leave marks on us, either physical or mental. Each hobby I took up left its unique fingerprint on me. I can’t say that I don’t appreciate them; I do. They make me remember who I was in the past, and where I am right now, and where I may be going in the future.

I can remember way back in time when my skin was smooth, all my bones and sinews were strong, my vision was perfect, my hearing was excellent and my energy was never-ending. All along my own walk of life, I have picked up bumps and bruises, calluses and rough spots, scars and wrinkles and so on.

I find them all comforting somehow—they are the road map of my life so far, which has been well-lived. Besides—what’s a few more calluses, anyway?

 

“LAURA!”

Years ago when I lived in Texas, a friend and I went to an informal concert. I wish I could remember the singer/guitarist’s name, but he was both creative and funny. He wrote and sang wonderful songs, one of which was called simply “Laura.” He sang about her experience in becoming a warrior.

Laura was a shy girl who joined the Peace Corps and was assigned to Africa. She had been very nervous about going as it was so far from home. But she bravely went and within a very short amount of time, she had fallen in love with the country and the people.

One day as she was working with some women in the field, an elephant showed up. Whether they had inadvertently invaded his space, they never knew, but he began to trumpet and then chased the women. For some reason, the elephant picked out poor Laura to chase. He chased her right up a tall tree, where she scrambled to the top branch, shaking in fear.

The elephant butted the tree, trying to shake her down, and she clung to the branch. Fortunately, he finally went away.

One of the men from the village came looking for her. He was the husband of one of the women who had been in the field, and Laura had been a guest at their hut many times. The man helped her down from the tree, asked if she was all right; she was, she had just been shaken up.

As they walked back to the village, he removed a heavy bronze bracelet embellished with small shells and silver disks from his wrist. He gave it to her saying, “You were a warrior today. You were brave, and in running to that tree, you saved the lives of all the women with you, including my wife.”

He put the bracelet on her arm; it was so large it that fit around her upper arm. As they walked toward the village, Laura began to feel just a bit proud of herself. The feeling thrilled her, and when they arrived in the village, every person there cheered for her. The man shouted to everyone, “This is our LAURA, our warrior, LAURA! She is our sister, LAURA!”

All that night long, Laura heard “LAURA!” in her head. She began to feel different; somehow stronger. As she lay on her pallet, listening to all the sounds of Africa around her, she realized that she felt proud of herself. She felt like a warrior, and for the first time in her life, she felt truly confident.

She became more outgoing, laughing when the women would call her to come join them in a dance. The men of the village affectionately called her “Little Warrior.” She threw herself into her work, and together she and the other women harvested, made meals, sang and tended the children together.

Laura began to feel sad about going home. The night before she left, the village threw a wonderful party for her, and the wife of the man who had given her the bracelet hugged her tightly, calling her Sister Forever.

When Laura finally arrived home, she was wearing the bracelet on her upper arm. She had worn it each day since the incident with the elephant, and it felt like part of her. When she got off the plane, she strode confidently forward to meet her parents. As she walked through the crowd, it parted for her.

There was something about her that made people make way. She looked like a bronze lion—deeply tanned, her long hair streaked blonde from the hot African sun, and she walked gracefully as a panther.

As her parents saw her walking toward them; so erect, so commanding, so confident, they could not believe the change in her. With each step she took, she heard “LAURA!” in her head. She briefly wondered if it was the heavy, showy bracelet on her arm that people saw, or was it her new warrior spirit? But it didn’t matter; she was LAURA!

I loved this song, not only for the wonderful music and the story within, but also the residual feeling of ‘woman as warrior.’ As we become older and more confident, we may lose superficial things like looks, skin tone, strong joints; but we gain in courage, experience, wisdom and peace. We learn how to be warriors.