Last month, I introduced my 7 year-old daughter to World Market stores where she spent an hour in wonder looking at treasures from ‘all over the world.’ While her younger sister wanted to spend her money in the exotic food aisles, she ooh-ed and ahh-ed over the trinkets made in China and Thailand. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that most of the trinkets sold in stores here are made in China and Thailand. Nonetheless, we made off with our $14 of loot from money she had earned.
Growing up with three older brothers, I had to figure out how to hold my own be it on the family basketball court or at the dinner table. Boys can make a game out of just about anything…like flicking Planters cheeseballs down the dinner table into my open mouth waiting at the end of the table. I heard things like, “Open wider, Kim,” and “Move to the left!” It’s all fun and games until your younger sister vomits cheeseballs…when the parish priest is over. So, forgive me that I relish in quotes like this one from Mia Hamm. As I got older, I ditched the cheeseballs and found my own trash-talking voice.
“The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times… The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”
~ Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
As a former athlete with a Masters degree in Sport Psychology, I’ve studied the concept of Flow. Athletes talk about being “on a roll” or “in the zone.” Sports Psychologists refer to Flow as a state of optimal experience in which athletes are completely absorbed in an activity with intense focus and creative engagement where they feel strong, alert, in effortless control, unselfconscious, and at the peak of their abilities. It’s not about thinking, “How can I execute this pass?” It’s not really about thinking at all.
I experienced this state of Flow a handful of times and studied it in collegiate athletes. I found the work of psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihaly, to be fascinating – how to experience peak performance and optimal experience, not only in sports but in life. Fast forward 12 years beyond that M.S. in Sport Psychology and I find myself in the throes of quite another experience… juggling a newborn baby, a toddler-age business, and two school-age children. It can only be described as a state of being in which I feel…tired, dazed, putting forth complete effort, and feeling out of control – basically the opposite of Flow. I am in the Un-Flow.
But as Csikszentmihalyi promises, the best moments occur when we’re stretched to our limits. We see images of victory in our newsfeed and forget about the countless failures that occurred along the way. We watch 90 minutes of one soccer game and don’t consider the numerous hours of training that preceded it. We see trophies and medals and ignore the bruises and scars. If you’re anything like me, you may be waiting for your day to “arrive” – when you get that promotion, lose that baby weight and get in shape, find your perfect mate – and then, it’ll all be perfect, right? It’s not by mistake that Csikszentmihalyi talks about the best moments NOT as you cashing your big paycheck, showing off a skinny waistline, or standing at the altar. It’s the moments. Getting there.
You. Have. Arrived. Now, put down the cheeseballs and order some world-class dinners.
I’m an inspiration junkie. I collect stories like most women collect shoes. Some are printed out and hang on the wall above my computer, others are filed away in a box, and most reside somewhere in that invisible file cabinet in my brain. Brian has a framed rendering of Robert E Lee, captioned, “The Loneliness of Command.” Sometimes, being a business owner or parent can feel lonely. It’s these stories that keep me company.
Take Sister Madonna Buder, the world record holding “Iron Nun,” who has completed over 350 triathlons, including 45 Iron Man distances…at age 84. Just to be clear, that’s a 2.4 mile swim, followed by 112 mile bike race, and finally a 26.2 mile run. A marathon is its own accomplishment, but GOOD LORD (really), this is impressive.
I feel like some nights I log 26 miles in my living room walking my baby around to get her settled, but then again I haven’t already completed a swim and bike race…in a spandex one-piece.
And then, there’s Noah Galloway, the Army Sergeant who lost an arm and a leg in combat on his second tour of duty in 2005. I saw him on this past season of Dancing with the Stars and cried every time he danced, seemingly unlimited in his capabilities. He’s a personal trainer who competes in Tough Mudder and Spartan events, with a mantra of “No Excuses.” When I’m feeling a dead end in my business, I think about how an able-bodied person would scale a wall in one of these events, let alone someone without a left arm or leg.
One of my new favorites is Kansas City’s own, Derek Mitchell. Weighing over 600 lbs and diagnosed with a non-cancerous tumor on his pituitary gland some 5 years ago, Mitchell decided to make a positive change to his health with a personal goal this year to complete a 5k race each month. Keeping to his word, he is inspiring others all over the country who have been flying him around to various cities to complete his 5k-a-month commitment. Mitchell has signed up to run the Honolulu Marathon this December and break the Guinness Book of World Records as the heaviest man to complete a marathon. Click here to help fund his efforts!
I’ve never met these 3, and I’m pretty sure they haven’t met each other. If they ever walked into a bar together, I’d be following. We’d all like to be in better shape, get off the “hamster wheel,” and regain control. But we also want to live our lives, and it’s easy to get caught up. We swear that tomorrow, we’ll be “good” and that the next diet will be “the one.” I get it. I’ve been there too. Reading these stories can have the effect of making you feel bad about your situation, like, “Man, look what they’re doing! I’m young, able-bodied, and am holding onto that baby weight…from 5 years ago, and I still can’t get my act together!” We all love an underdog and the triumph of victory is what we see on TV or in the papers. Meanwhile, all of them started out just like you. One step. One choice. One click. Insert end of your story here…
This past week, she expressed to us her desires to be an only child – that sometimes Isabelle (our oldest) gets her way, sometimes we get our way, but mostly, the baby gets her way. In an effort to give her special time, Brian and I lay in bed with her snuggling one night. And then, he did it… “We love you very much, Isabelle.” REALLY, DAD?!?! Timing is everything. This couldn’t have been a worse time to say the wrong name in bed. (I’ll start saving now for her therapy bill.)
In honor of all middle children, we offer you a recipe for a Grilled Margherita Sandwich. To you, who are sandwiched between the overachieving older sibling and younger spoiled one, we raise our forks to you. Cheers to my middle siblings – Brian and Tim – for any and all resentments and added therapy caused when I joined the family. To the oldest and youngest, mark your calendars…August 12 is National Middle Sibling Day. (It’ll probably be forgotten like those middle child baby books, but I thought it was worth mentioning…)
Grilled Margherita Sandwich
Makes: 2 sandwiches
- 4 (1/2-inch) slices crusty Italian bread
- 1 large garlic clove, quartered
- 4 to 6 thin slices whole-milk mozzarella cheese (about 3 oz.)
- 1 large plum tomato, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic-pepper seasoning
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Rub both sides of each bread slice with garlic. Place 2 slices on work surface; top each with one-fourth of the cheese and half of the tomato and basil. Sprinkle each with 1/8 teaspoon of the seasoning; top with remaining cheese and bread slices.
Brush tops of sandwiches with some of the oil; sprinkle with some of the seasoning. Heat 1 teaspoon of the oil in large skillet over medium heat until hot. Place sandwiches, brushed-sides down, in skillet; cover and cook 4 to 5 minutes or until golden brown and cheese on bottom of sandwich begins to melt.
Reduce heat to medium-low. Brush tops of sandwiches with remaining oil; sprinkle with remaining seasoning. Turn; cover and cook 2 to 4 minutes or until golden brown and cheese is melted.