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A Lesson About Running

I miss running. I used to do it every day. But this whole full-time job thing has gotten in the way of my ability to get out and GO. A friend of mine told me she has been running lately and it’s helped her mentally and physically. She’s been challenged at work, and in her personal relationship. Disappointments in both places made it hard to get through the day.

As she described her daily runs, she said she would picture “running away” from the relationship gone wrong and the job issues. That visual kept her motivated to keep going and going. Her recent run had her keeping up with her coach, and she felt victorious.

I was proud of my friend. Her renewed focus was motivating her to do great things.

But then I started to wonder about the symbolism of her running away from the problems. Wouldn’t running TO something be more powerful?

I told her to visualize herself running towards an incredible new future. Whatever she wanted that to look like, I said she should put that into her mind’s eye and get  excited about the possibilities. Whether it’s a new job, a new relationship, or just a new lease on life, everyone deserves to be appreciated and energized. Why not face something with a renewed clarity rather than turn away in anger and run for the hills?

I’ve seemed to notice in my life that whenever I run from something, it has a way of showing back up in a different costume. 

I think I’ll be making time for a long overdue run tomorrow…

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VIDEO: Restoring My Faith in Romance

Today would have been my 14th wedding anniversary.  I started the day quite bitter, but watching this video has restored my faith in romance!

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A letter from a reader about meditation:

I recently got an email from a reader named Abigail who wanted some advice on how to meditate.

“I hate meditation,” she wrote. “It’s so damn boring I want to shoot somebody. I get so distracted with every noise. Then I start daydreaming about everything you can imagine. Yesterday I tried to meditate, and all I managed to meditate was my shopping list. At least it was productive, right?”

Dear Abigail:

We aren’t all hard wired the same, so who’s to say that meditation has to come from being silent and sitting in a chair? I interviewed a healer recently who meditates to Michael Jackson. I meditate when I run. Another friend of mine needs to listen to Bach to get centered. So rather than getting some idea in your head that you have to sit still, breath, and calm your mind, do what makes you feel centered and calm. Maybe one day sitting on a mountain top will do the trick, but for me, I’m still going to blast Dee-Lite in my ipod and run along the lake.

We are all unique beings and therefore, should be celebrated for that uniqueness.

Find your own method, and let me know what you come up with. I look forward to hearing about your success, dammit!

Xoxo

Jen

 

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Oh Shit ! A Skunk !

I was walking my dog late last night when I heard something rustle in the bushes. At first, I wasn’t scared at all, until I saw the white stripe on top of the black body..

Oh shit! A skunk!

I flashed back to the last time I had to deal with the stench of skunk spray. It was 13 years ago and I was at my Dad’s house for a dinner party. His cocker-spaniel Burt had gotten out of the yard, only to return with a sheepish grin and terrible stench.

“Get some tomato juice!” Someone suggested.

We didn’t have tomato juice – just spicy bloody Mary mix. So we dragged Burt into the bathtub, dumped a couple of bottles of Mrs. T’s spiciest, and Burt’s scent was back to normal eventually. (Although we were picking out pepper flakes in his fur for weeks.)

So here I was back in present time with my dog Max hoping to god he didn’t suffer the same fate. (Not only was my kitchen void of any tomato juice, but I’d killed the Bloody Mary mix a couple of weeks ago.)

I once heard that skunks really don’t like to spray you. This is just what happens when THEY get scared. Whether or not it’s true, my dog didn’t seem alarmed at all. The skunk stopped as my dog continued to sniff the bushes. They were now about 5 feet from each other, and I slowly pulled Max’s leash closer to my side without making any sudden movements. We started walking again as the skunk followed. He stayed closer to the houses while we remained on the sidewalk, but he was practically matching Max’s stride.

Oh my God. Oh my God… Don’t panic. Everything’s fine.

As I got a good look at him, he was actually sort of cute. He waddled a little bit as he walked, which made him more endearing. I could just picture the skunk talking to me if he were a character in a Pixar movie.

“I’m so misunderstood, Jen. I just don’t have any REAL friends…”

Sigh.

After walking a block (but it felt more like five miles) I thought about the symbolism of this “skunk” stroll. What if we chose this kind of tolerance and calm for everything that scared the shit out of us? Whether it’s a boss or a Newt Gingrich fan, shouldn’t we just be able to walk side-by-side without spraying each other? Can’t we share the street and maybe even find something we like about that scary thing that’s making our heart race with anxiety?

Can’t we?

I made it home, and the skunk watched as I walked up the stairs to my front door. My dog lifted his leg for the 500th time on a different bush before following behind me and retiring for the night.

Tonight I’ll take my dog out again. I’m not saying I’m looking forward to seeing that skunk, but I do know that if we happened to be  taking an evening walk at the same time, there’s a great possibility we will both come out of it OK.

Because it’s possible that even those things we assume will do the most damage could turn out to be totally harmless when approached with a calm, neutral attitude.

Calm and neutral.

I did it once. Not sure I can make a habit out of this, though…

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My Homeless Man Encounter

A recent encounter with a homeless person left me scratching my head. I was walking out of a bakery and had three muffins in my bag.

“Spare change?” He asked.

“No, but how about a blueberry muffin?” I said.

“I don’t need no god damned muffins!” He yelled.

Huh?

I was so pissed I wanted to throw that big ass blueberry muffin at his head, but I kept on walking.

When I got to work, I wrote about the ecounter on Facebook and said “When life gives you muffins, shouldn’t you take the damn muffins?”

A flood of comments and notes followed, ranging from people agreeing with me to others defending the homeless man.

“He is probably mentally ill,” said one.

“All they want is drug money,” said another.

So that night I was driving home from Chicago Live and I saw a man, who seemed to be homeless, wobbling across the street. He was so wasted he almost toppled onto several cars. His arms were stretched high and he was talking to the sky.

Immediately, I tried to put myself in his shoes.

If l I had no house, my clothes were soiled with my own bodily fluids, I was unemployed and life sucked in general, I can guarantee I’d do anything and everything I could to get my hands on something that would make the pain go away.

And that sure as hell wouldn’t be a fucking muffin. Let alone a muffin filled with berries that contain actual anti-oxidants.

I would want the hardest, quickest thing on the market that I could afford. And I’d swear at anyone who tried to get in my way.

Now many might sit there and judge that wobbling man. I probably would have too in the past. I have no idea what got him where he is or isn’t. Only he knows.

But watching him in action as he smiled at the thought that he was flying, I chose not to judge. I chose to have compassion.  And I also chose not to be pissed the next time a homeless guy doesn’t want my free pastry. If you give with conditions, you aren’t really giving at all. You’re judging.

The only true gift is when you give without the need for approval, a thank you, or a favor.

I think I’m going to give that a try one of these days.

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Chicago Tribune: Can Debt be Good for You?

This week in my Chicago Tribune column:

Can debt be good for you? http://shar.es/qT42c