How Do You Deal With Change?

If you’re a product of the great American school system, at some point in your academic career,  you most likely read the F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel The Great Gatsby  or maybe watched movie or maybe skimmed the Cliffsnotes or maybe slipped the smart kid a 5 spot to give you a quick summary before class.

gatsbyIn case you don’t remember, the novel centers on the idyllic Jay Gatsby as he tries to recreate the past, while failing to acknowledge the realities of the present.

What makes Jay Gatsby such an enduring, relatable character is that we often share the same foolishness and fears as the King of West Egg Long Island. Gatsby was afraid of change. He tragically attempted to stop the gallops of time and in doing so sacrificed his coolness, his self-control, and in short (spoiler alert!) ends up dead in swimming pool.

Dealing with change is not easy.  But change, has been the one constant in our lives that we have always relied on.

When I was first diagnosed with cerebellar degeneration, I was most frightened by the mental and physical changes that I would endure.  I was scared of giving up a life that I had become so comfortable with.

My diagnosis has taught me that when it comes to change we are often our own worst enemy. We lose sleep, gain weight, gnaw our nails down to bone worrying over the prospect of change. And as Fitzgerald eloquently penned in the novel’s final line, “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

rowBut our fear of change dilutes one of life’s great truths–that change is the catalyst for growth.

Yes, we are creatures of habit but we’ve been dealing with change our whole lives. With each passing day we evolve (or devolve) into a slightly different person. Some days are marked by titanic changes. Other changes are small. But the fact is everyday we change. And I would wager you that 5 spot (if you still have it, if you hadn’t already paid the smart kid for that summary) that you– for better or worse– are not the same person you were this time last year, last month, yesterday.

If you’re resistant to change,  I challenge you to rethink your attitude toward change. I did. My illness is the soul reason why this website exists.

“Behave like the person you want to become.”-  Amy Moran 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do

If you recognize change as the catalyst for growth– you will grow. Change, in both large and small quantities,  will teach you more about yourself then complacency ever will.

Jay Gatsby’s tragic flaw is that he never accepts the fleeting nature of time. Don’t be like Gatsby. Let change be a vehicle for growth. Railing against change will demoralize you, will extinguish your spirit.

However, if you choose not to accept change, I suggest staying away from swimming pools.

Be well,

Jay

If you enjoyed this post, please share it with your circle of humans and help continue to spread the good word of WoFo .

Also checkout my article, “How Sarcoidosis Inspires Me to Be Creative Everyday”. An article that was originally published on themighty.com.

 

 

How Sarcoidosis Inspires Me to Be Creative Everyday

This article originally appeared on themighty.com.

After I was diagnosed with sarcoidosis I spent weeks circling the drain of self-pity.

I was convinced my problems were worse then anyone else’s. I blamed myself. I cursed God. When my wife tried to talk to me I was tight-lipped and curt. I was angry and afraid and spiteful.

Why was this happening to me? I believed I was too young, too important, too full of promise to be stricken with such a nasty, mysterious disease.

As a child I dreamed of becoming a writer. Sitting on the edge of my bed I would scratch down stories in marble notebook.  Stories about a superhero chicken, a baseball playing iguana and 15 year aerospace prodigy name Gunnar and his dog Comet chosen to lead a select group of teenage astronauts in a shuttle mission to Mars.

But then I grew up. I got my first job flipping hamburgers, bought a car,  tried to meet girls and stopped writing.

I went to college, became a teacher, meet a girl, got married, fathered three children, got sick and in one of the most important decisions of my life– started writing again.

“Creativity is a great motivator because it makes people interest in what they  are doing. Creativity gives hope that there can be a worthwhile idea. Creativity gives the possibility  of some sort of achievement to everyone. Creativity  makes life more fun and interesting.”- Edward de Bono

Sarcoid inspires me to write everyday. Though I can not predict the  course of my disease  I am responsible for every word I write. Words that when they are fastened and forged together, energize me with power and strength to fight my fickle disease.

If you are struggling with a chronic illness I challenge you to return to your childhood, to become a creator again. Creating is a profoundly constructive way to distance yourself from your pain, to remind you that you are stronger than you think you are.

Paint, draw, sculpt, build a bird house, make Christmas ornaments, restore an old car, get crazy with a crock pot. Create whatever makes your soul sing.

Despite popular belief, creating is not about money or fame. It never has been. It’s about totally losing yourself in a process until your self-pity is silenced, your spirit is renewed, and you’re afforded needed relief from the pains of living.

 

7 Important Things All Thirtysomethings Should Remember

A few nights ago Cindy and I hosted a BBQ at the house with some family and friends to celebrate our youngest son, Dylan’s 3rd birthday.

Under the quiet of the back porch, my friend Kara and I exchanged parental war stories highlighting the calamities of raising young children as we watched our respective children screech and scurry across the yard like crackhead squirrels.

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We discussed that how right now, with all our children under 10 years old, we experience little down time.

How someone always needs you. How pooping is no longer a private event. How some nights you’re too tired to shovel food into your own face. And how vacations are no longer relaxing, soul-rejuvenating revivals yet they’re more like soul-sucking vacuums that leave you more exhausted and frazzled then before you even made the hotel reservations, packed up your toiletries and delayed the mail.

It was a nice adult conversation but without warning (and yet right on cue!) our nice adult conversation was halted by the sharp cries of our needy squirrels.

“I’m thirsty!” “I’m hungry!” “I have to go potty!” “He called me smelly pants!”

Before Kara was dragged away by one of her squirrels, and as I attend to one of mine, she drew deep breath and offered me this reassurance, ” It will get better when we’re 40.”

When I’m 40 Dylan will be 7. I can only hope he will be wiping his own butt and sleeping throughout the night by then. I’m hoping the neediness will lessen however, when I’m 40 my daughter Haley will be on the fickle doorstep of her teen years and I’ll be faced with a whole new bushel of prickly problems.

But today I’m 36.  And in the first 6 years of my thirties I learned some things. Seven things that I’d like to share and that people of all generations can appreciate.

1.Have fun

At 30 there is a mounting pressure to be more adult-like, more mature. However thirtysomethings still need to imagine, play, laugh and unleash their inner child every so often.

2. Don’t take your children for granted

This is a big one for me. Its easy to get annoyed with your children when they’re in these early, dependent years. But they’re only young once and I know there will be a day in the future I will long for the needy crackhead squirrel stage again.

3. Meet new people

It’s easy when your 30s to just stick to your old circle of friends. But by meeting new people you learn new things about yourself as well as  expanding your network. New friends may help you land a new job or open a new financial venture or hell, maybe they know a squirrel whisperer to tame those kids of yours.

4. Fill your life with content

It’s important now to start expanding your mind. Read books, travel, go to concerts, learn and experience new things. 30 is a time where we should begin to build on our intellectual foundation so when we do hit 40 we finally sound smart.

5. Pursue passions

Join an auto club, an archery club, a beer club. Do a Tough Mudder. Take guitar lessons. Roller skate in the park. Become a karaoke bar superstar.  Find what you love, something that lightens your soul and eases the burden of living and do it. And forget about money and fame– just do it for you.

6. Learn from your mistakes

If you’re like me, our 20’s were marked with questionable decisions and questionable clothing. 30 is the time to reflect on those mistakes, to learn and grow from them.

7. Make peace with the past

Let things go. Shouldering the past brings unnecessary weighted tension to the present. You should aspire to live lighter in your 30s then you did in your 20s ( and you need to… that aging metabolism is a bitch!).

Be well,

Jay

If you enjoyed this post, please share it with your circle of humans and help continue to spread the good word of WoFo .

If you have any suggestions for future posts, I’d love to hear from you, please contact me at writeonfighton@gmail.com.

Last week’s post: 5 Fantastic Ways To Be More Productive

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5 Fantastic Ways to Be More Productive

So recently I’ve been wondering… how do the giants of our world–the Mark Zuckerbergs, the Oprahs get so much done in one day?

The one thing that we all have in common with Zucks and Big O is that we’re each gifted 24 hours a day to accomplish our stuff. Yet some people, maybe a lot of people, are just more productive then us.

I hear people say all the time– “I wish I had more time” or “there is simply not enough hours in the day.”  Heck, I’m guilty of lipping those lines. But every human, no matter their bank account, gets served the same amount of hours. So even though the ultra successful can buy yachts fitted with gold toilets they can’t buy an extra hour.( And that makes smile.)

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So what makes productive people so productive? What do they do that the rest of us don’t? Is there a secret to becoming a time boss?

For the past week I went all Dora, exploring the internet for articles, interviews and insights on how to get more out of the finite hours in a day. I spent my time thinking about time.  So from this,  I boiled down my notes to 5 fantastic ways to make like Jack Bauer and get more action out of our day…

1.Acknowledge your time wasters

If you really want to get more out of your time you need to assess your day, acknowledge how you spend your time and limit your time-wasters. When it comes to time-wasters ask yourself…Why do I do this? What can I do about it? Would Zucks watch 4 hours of Impractical Jokers then take a nap?

I’ve learned that becoming conscious of how your time is spent is a crucial step in becoming more productive and getting the most out of our day.

2.Do the checklist thing

Like many, before I go grocery shopping I assemble a list. I mentally plan the most efficient route from the produce to frozen foods. My grocery shopping goal isn’t so much about saving money (I know shame, shame…) but about saving time. I want to get everything on the list in the quickest amount of time like I’m a competitor in the Grand Prix of Grocery Shopping. Having a checklist keeps me focused and on track. So when I speed down the cookie aisle pick up some E.L. Fudges and then cross E.L. Fudges from my list a little rainbow sprouts in my rapidly beating heart.

Crossing things off gives you an immediate feeling of relief. And that magical little slash can be a source of power, providing focus and motivation to accomplish the next goal– seize the Cheetos!

3.Embrace the routine

I have a love/ hate relationship with with the routine. Some days the routine seems like a mindless march. Yet, other days, when I get off the routine I often fell lost and confused.  But I’ve realized the routine gives me definition. In fact, the most successful people in the world swear by routine. These time- savages embrace the routine and even have fun with the routine by singing songs, telling jokes and playing games to help them enjoy their daily monotony.

4.Find private time

I find private time to be really important. Now, if you’re running a household and have a full-time job it can be seemingly impossible to find private time. But its not. Successful people carve out time for themselves. They get up early or stay up late. It’s that simple.

When I do get up early or stay up late, I find myself really productive in these quiet hours. It takes a little conscious effort but find an hour of private time and you’ll be surprised by what you can accomplish with 60 minutes of uninterrupted concentration

5.Get your Nancy Reagan on.

If you’re a product of the 80’s Nancy Reagan trained us to “just say no”. However, us 80’s kids are now adults. Adults who stretch themselves thin by over-committing to things out of guilt or fear. I’ve learned that productive people don’t fear saying no. Saying no makes you the captain of your life. It allows you to steer our own ship,  giving you more freedom to sail the seas of productivity.Just-Say-No

Be well,

Jay

Here are some of the articles I used to write this post…

How to Manage Your Time Efficiently

Work Smarter, Not Harder

10 Time Management Tips That Work

5 Morning Rituals of Oprah Winfrey

How Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Other Successful People Start Their Day

Last week’s post… 5 Things I Learned about My Family (and Myself) While on “Vacation”

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5 Things I Learned about My Family (and Myself) While on “Vacation”

I should have known the fates were against us when, instead of cruising west on Pennsylvania Turnpike as the fine summer sun christened the morning sky, I sat idling with a whiny two-year old Dylan on my lap in a pediatrician’s office waiting on the dreaded strep test results.

Cindy was at home with Haley and Chase. Cindy and Haley were diagnosed with strep the day before. Chase was a week removed from strep, a week of a amoxicillin and he was bursting with pre-trip excitement and asking Cindy every three seconds, “When are we leaving?”

With a sympathetic smile the young doctor confirms Dylan’s strep. She advises us to take it easy and rest for the next couple of days. I tell her were leaving for a family trip to Hershey Park in a few hours.

Young doctor: “Make sure you pack medicine.”

Me: “Anything else?”

YD: “Good luck?”

During my second trip, in as many days, to everyone’s favorite corner pharmacy Wal-greens I stock up on more Motrin, Air-borne, Purrell, cough drops , NyQuil and pickup Dylan’s prescription.

So three hours after our scheduled departure time– the Amoxicillin Express,  the Streptococcal Caravan packed with suitcases and coolers and runny noses and swollen glands finally infects the westbound gravel of PA Turnpike initiating our first family vacation of the summer.

The town, the park, the Hersey Lodge (where we stayed) are all fantastic facilities. There is a ton of stuff for kids and adults to see and do. I would highly recommend a family trip to Hershey for everyone.  Yet I would not recommend strep throat to anyone.

In reflection, our little family trip was fun. There were a lot of nice moments–like watching the kids make their own candy bars at Hershey’s Chocolate World or seeing them dance with an excitable Kit-Kat bar or when I found a restaurant that served Guinness.

FullSizeRender(10)But I won’t lie– in those 72 hours there was some serious stress. We were at the mercy of a bacterial infection. At times it was like being trapped in one of Dante’s levels of hell–you know the one where you pay hundreds of dollars to aimlessly maze your way through a chocolatey labyrinth of whiny, sick kids and dancing candy bars.

And yet I’ve come to learn that trips like these are great teachers. So here are 5 things I learned about my family (and myself) on our family Hershey trip…

1. My kids clearly don’t care about the starving kids in Africa.

Growing up whenever I refused to eat the last of my green beans some adult would level their eyes at me and explain how there are starving kids in Africa who would murder their mother for my green beans. This “starving African kids ” story guilt me into eating many-a-bean in my youth. Sure my kids are cute and polite to strangers but they are heartless little food monsters. They are constantly hungry yet rarely finish a meal.  So as they nibbled on a $5 Hershey Park hot dog that they begged for, I told them about the starving African kids hoping to guilt feed them. They were unfazed by my narrative, by the starving African kids. And almost in unison announced they were full and done eating as $4.50 of a hotdog lie limp in their cold little hands.

2. My family is a bunch of snorers.

5 people. 1 room.  2 beds. 3 people in one bed with strep throat all breathing in and out their mouths. I might as well have shared room with two gas powered generators and a disgruntled goat. (At less the goat would have finished his hot dog).

3. I like a schedule.

Maybe I’m getting old but I’m not great on vacation. I’ve grown to like a routine. When I’m not in a routine I feel off, a bit cranky ( Maybe I’m the disgruntled goat?) I like my bed and my coffee maker. I like making my own breakfast. I like checking email and watching the 4 o’clock news. I really like my reading and writing time. I don’t necessarily like being at the mercy of a menu, a shuttle bus or a dancing candy bar.

4. The Armstrong’s need to work on patience.

The 8, 6, and 2 year old have miles to go. Apparently so do the 37 and 36 year olds.

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“I’m hot and tired and sick and I don’t know what I want but I’m going to scream bloody hell for it.”

5. My wife is the Clark W. Griswold of the family.

Like the patriarch of the Griswold family, Cindy just wants her family to have the greatest family vacation in the history of family vacations. Bless her little heart. After a second sleepless night and a throat festering with strep she pulled her hair back and announced, “We all better get dressed, we all better brush our teeth and we all better have fun today because we are not leaving Hershey until we have fun!! Does everybody understand?” For the first time in two days there was silence.And I could tell by tension in her eyes and the gargle in her voice she meant it

You know — in spite of the strep, the crankiness and lack of sleep. In spite of the anticipation not aligning with reality. We made the best of a tough situation. I guess that’s what being a family is all about.

Be well,

Jay

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In case you missed it… Checkout last week’s Fast Five… 5 Great Pat Summit Quotes (and a hearty screw you to Alzheimer’s Disease.)

Also checkout my return to the Set Lusting Bruce podcast with Jesse James. Jesse and I discuss how certain Springsteen songs have a seemingly magical ability to capture the pulse and psyche of a geographical region.

Friday’s Fast Five… 5 Great Pat Summitt Quotes ( and a hearty screw you to Alzheimer’s Disease)

This Alzhiemer’s Disease is a real bastard.  A real heartless bastard.

He is currently toying with one of my favorite sports writers–  legendary Philadelphia Inquirer writer Bill Lyon.

If I was chiseling my private Mount Rushmore of literary influences Bill Lyon’s face would share ears with Tim O’Brien, Cormac McCarthy. JD Salinger would be the fourth, on the end of the mountain, looking slightly annoyed– because he’s JD Salinger.

Bill Lyon’s literary voice is one I’ve long admired and (like all writers secretly do with their literary heroes) try to emulate.  When I was in high school, unsure what I wanted to make of this thing called adulthood, I read an article written by Bill describing how his wife Ethel was battling cancer. And because she was battling cancer so was he.

I cut the article from the paper and pinned it to a bedroom cork board. I was an unsure of a lot of things (and still am) but I was ( and still am) certain I wanted to reach people through the written word like Bill has done for over 30 years.

But now, this 76 year old writer is doing what Philadelphians do best– he being defiant. He’s throwing a middle finger to this heartless disease. He’s bravely chronicling his battle in weekly articles entitled My Alzheimer’s Fight.

Articles that I highly recommend. Articles that I hope you might pin on your bedroom cork board.

My beef with Alzhiemer’s began some ten years ago when he went to work on my grandfather. A lifelong Philadelphia cop. On my Mount Rushmore of greatest influences on my life– my grandfather would be carved along side the busts of my parents and my wife.

alzheimersEver the opportunist, ever the showoff, the bastard takes the best of us. This week Alzhiemer’s took legendary, tough-as-nails coach Pat Summitt. A coach who is undoubtedly on the Mount Rushmore of greatest coaches of all time. Male or female.

Coach Summitt, like a lot of great coaches, was a writer. She penned three books. Her latest Sum It Up bravely details her battles with the bastard.

Understand–I’ve got about as much medical credibility as Neil Patrick Harris, so take this for what it’s worth– but maybe our best defense against this incurable disease is writing.

Writing– because when the bastard comes knocking (often at too early an hour) armed with crow bars and goes to work on our memory we’ve already galvanized our thoughts and stories and philosophies in permanence so they can hang on a cork board and continue to inspire like they did when they were first conjured.

wf3Alzheimer’s is daring you not to write.

So this week, to defy Alzheimer’s, to honor Coach Summitt, here are 5 of her best quotes…

1. It is what it is. But, it will be what you make it.

2. No one feels strong when she examines her own weakness. But in facing weakness, you learn how much there is in you, and you find real strength.

3.Admit to and make yourself accountable for mistakes. How can you improve if you’re never wrong?

4. A guy raised his hand and asked if I had any advice when it came to coaching women. I remember leveling him with a death ray stare and saying, “Don’t worrying about coaching women…just go home and coach basketball.”

5.God doesn’t take things away to be cruel. He takes things away to make room for other things. He takes things away to lighten us. He takes things away so we can fly.

Be well (except for you Alzheimer’s),

Jay

 

 

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