Quarterbacks with poise!

by Annette Bridges. ©2010. All rights reserved.

I love football season even though my team isn’t winning. There are many life lessons that can be learned from watching this game.

One example was illustrated to me yesterday by an opposing team’s quarterback.

Imagine a quarterback who gets a bad snap. In fact, imagine a football rolling by this quarterback’s feet instead of landing in his hands. Then imagine how this quarterback responded in that moment.

Did he start yelling at his center for his obvious mistake?

Did he throw his hands up in the air and stomp off to the sideline in frustration and despair?

Did he scramble frantically for the football only to knock it further away from him?

Or did he calmly stop the rolling ball, pick it up and make a great play — a play that resulted in a touchdown for his team moments later?

You guessed it. Unfortunately for my team, the quarterback demonstrated great poise!

I couldn’t help but be impressed by his poise under extreme pressure. Even in the midst of what could have been a catastrophic mistake for his team — on the ten yard line no less — his poise is what enabled him to make the best out of a bad situation.

I couldn’t help but recall many times when a mistake made by someone else was costly to me. And I recalled how easy it was to point fingers and blame them as the excuse for my problem.

I also recalled other times when I gave up in my own exasperation. This is even easier to do when there is someone else to point to as the cause for your troubles.

And furthermore, I could also recall times of over-anxiousness and hysteria when I tried in vain to figure out a solution. These were times when I aimlessly did everything possible but the right thing.

Of course, no problems were solved in these times!

Oh the power that is discovered when we are poised to discover it!

Maintaining our poise is about maintaining our balance, confidence, composure. Our steadiness, stability, self-assurance, grace and polish keeps us ready to respond to whatever the hour demands of us.

It is our poise that enables us to problem-solve and to problem-solve quickly if needed. Our coolness and composure is what helps us know what to do and when and how to do it.

We can’t be poised and panic at the same time! And I can speak from experience that panic — also known as irrational behavior — generally makes it impossible to see beyond the end of your nose! In fact, panic tends to blur vision, stupefy reason and confound judgment.

And no good quarterback can make game-saving plays if he is unable to think clearly — if he is astonished or shocked by mistakes, dumbfounded, baffled, stumped or perplexed by the inadequacies of his teammates or calls by referees or even his coaches.

Nope, a good quarterback is able to make the best out of every play even if it means running the ball himself to get the first down. And a good quarterback never lets one bad play or a series of bad plays lower his expectations or dampen his determination to win the game. Even if the scoreboard says his team is losing, a good quarterback maintains his poise and does whatever it takes to win the game. He never gives up or throws passes frantically down the field hoping that one of his teammates will catch the ball.

A poised quarterback will make the best out of each play. And when one play doesn’t do the job, then he knows the next play can. And no matter how many games his team loses, a poised quarterback is certain the next game can be won.

Yes, I think much can be learned from watching football. I just hope my team’s quarterback is poised to win the next game. And I hope to be equally ready for any challenges and difficulties I have to face in my life. A quarterback has taught me that with poise, any problem can be overcome, endured and surpassed.


Ever wake up laughing?

by Annette Bridges. ©2010. All rights reserved.

What a way to start the day!

I was dreaming one of the most absurd dreams I’ve ever dreamed. Suddenly, I began snickering. Then, I began giggling at the fact that I was snickering — in my sleep.

My giggles were soon followed by my husband’s chuckles. And when he finally asked me what was so funny, my giggles turned into belly laughs. My husband and I hee-hawed until the bed shook with our amusement.

I was reminded of the famous phrase, “Laugh and the world laughs with you.” My husband certainly could not help but laugh with me even though he had no idea why I was laughing.

Interestingly enough, I couldn’t stop smiling throughout my day. Every so often, I would recall my laughter-filled morning and I’d start laughing again. I must say that it was one of the most pleasant and delightful days I’ve had in a long time. I found humor in everything.

I don’t think anything feels better than a good burst of laughter.

It occurs to me now that perhaps this is a good way to approach many things in life.

I’ve read about the health benefits of humor and laughter. Besides the list of physical benefits frequently given, studies have concluded that the ability to find humor in our life experiences — even in extremes — can help us look at our problems in a fresh way. Plus, seeing the humor in some of our most difficult scenarios can help to normalize our experience, particularly by keeping things from appearing too overwhelming.

Think about some of the everyday life situations often portrayed in comedy sitcoms. It’s usually when everything goes wrong time and again when we laugh the most. Are we able to laugh at ourselves on those days when everything seems to go wrong? Maybe we should.

It could be that our ability to find the humor in our lives is a powerful aid to finding solutions, making progress, and ultimately overcoming whatever it is that would bring us down or hold us back.

At the very least, we might be happier and more energized as we go about our day.

I had a childhood friend who never failed to see the humor in everything. In fact, my mom sometimes denied my requests to have this friend sleep over because she laughed so much. My mom said she could hear us laughing all night and consequently didn’t get much sleep.

And my mom was right about one thing. My friend laughed all the time and she made me laugh, too. She taught me lessons about finding humor in things that I’ve never forgotten.

I can honestly say she was the happiest person I’ve ever known. I wanted to be like her and I still do.

I think the ability to laugh at ourselves keeps us from taking ourselves too seriously and helps keep our egos in check. Perhaps if more politicians could laugh more at themselves, they would be able to get along better and make more beneficial decisions for the rest of us.

There have been many times when I’ve gotten angry at my husband. After my outburst — when we’ve stood there looking at each other in a stand-off of wills — we’ve often begun laughing. I sincerely think one of the times people look the most ridiculous is when they are angry.

The wonder and power of those moments, when anger was followed by laughter, is that whatever it was that prompted the anger in the first place, became a smaller issue than it at first seemed. And my husband and I could then make any adjustments actually needed that we both felt were fair and reasonable.

I can definitely say that waking up laughing is a better way to start the day than getting up on the wrong side of the bed. And even when I don’t wake up laughing, I plan to do my best to find the humor in everything each day. I just have a feeling that this approach will keep problems solvable and life happier and more satisfying.

Don’t waste your energy

by Annette Bridges. ©2010. All rights reserved.

I’ve spent hours, days and sometimes years consumed by worries, fears, anger, sadness, disappointment and depression. But lately, I’ve become determined not to waste my energy on things that I personally can’t change or do anything about.

Have I become apathetic? I don’t think so. At least, I don’t think so in the way I generally define apathy.

I wouldn’t say I’m indifferent or uninterested in politics, for example, or without concern about decisions made by our leaders. But, I see no value or point in spending endless hours discussing or fretting about these decisions. Does this mean I won’t exercise the powers that I do have, such as informing my leaders of any concerns or casting my vote? Of course not! I will do what I can do.

And this idea of “doing what I can do” applies to other areas of my life as well. It defines how I want to spend my time, energy and money.

Many people are probably familiar with what is known as the “Serenity Prayer.” One abbreviated version is: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

Honestly, this is a prayer I’ve not always been comfortable with. I think it’s because I don’t like the idea of there being anything that can’t be changed, and I thought this prayer was suggesting just that.

But it occurs to me that I’ve been leaving out an important word — “I.” The stark reality of this hit me. I — me, myself and I — can’t change everything that may need to be changed. It’s either not my job, or to be realistic, I can’t alone do everything that needs to be done. My conclusion from this realization is that most things in life require a community to accomplish all that needs to be achieved. What a relief this has become for me!

Perhaps even Jesus had an understanding that doing what he could do might also mean that there were times when he couldn’t do everything possible. He once said, “No prophet is accepted in his own country.” (Luke 4:24) And it was recorded that, “He didn’t do many miracles there because of their hostile indifference.” (Matthew 13:58)

I’ve always imagined Jesus as someone who used his energy efficiently and effectively. I don’t think he wasted energy being disappointed, frustrated or depressed that he wasn’t welcomed and accepted in his hometown in the way he was in many others.

I’ve read that the “Serenity Prayer” is a model for humility. And there are many folks who would concur that a good dose of humility is essential in good decision-making.

I can’t help but think that the asking for serenity has something — or maybe everything — to do with humility. Perhaps it’s serenity that would keep us from wasting our energy in futile ways and ultimately would result in our beneficial actions and wise decisions.

Webster defines serenity as “a disposition free from stress or emotion.” And I’ve come across many appealing synonyms that I long to imbibe and practice: tranquility, repose, calm, composure, equanimity, steadiness of mind, absence of mental anxiety, and lack of emotional agitation.

Then it’s the antonyms for “serenity” that I consider as that which leads to wasted energy: pandemonium, tumult, turmoil, unrest, uproar, agitation, anxiety, disruption, disturbance, excitement, uptightness, being flustered or perturbed.

Yes, I think Jesus went about his great mission being unaffected by disturbances around him. He remained calm, unruffled, untroubled in every situation that confronted him. This allowed him to maintain his clarity, composure and focus on his mission. And he accomplished much good.

In exploring definitions for serenity and serene, I came across a couple of phrases that continue to intrigue me: “without losing self-possession” and “serenely self-possessed.”

Might this “self” be the character Jesus so aptly illustrated by his life example? And might this “self” entail what it takes to solve difficult problems with appropriate and fair means? Something to ponder more about!

All I know is that I want to go about my own life as serenely as possible. And I am finding that to the degree I’m successful, I am making better energy choices, wasting energy less, conserving energy when needed and utilizing my energy in more creative and productive ways.

Enjoy what you have

by Annette Bridges. ©2010. All rights reserved.

“You can’t take it with you!” This fact is often given as reason for enjoying what you have whether that is money or possessions. It’s also all the more reason to make the most of life’s moments and time spent with those important to you.

My inspiration for this column came after a conversation with my husband about money. We have different philosophies. Mine focuses on the joy of spending money.

Mind you, I don’t think I’m frivolous with my spending. But I suspect my husband would disagree — at least some of the time. And perhaps I’m biased in my opinion.

I find it interesting that when I recall the many years of my childhood when money was scarce, my memories are not filled with worries or lack but with joy in everything that we had.

I remember many, many happy shopping excursions with my mom! The amount of money that was in the bank was never a focus of concern. That is, until I got married and had more money in the bank than I ever had growing up.

Whether we had one gift or dozens under our Christmas tree each year, the joy was not diminished or increased by the number. No matter how many new school outfits were purchased, my joy was the same. And along with all the joy, was gratitude for everything!

I always had a job during my high school years. And regardless of how much money I had to spend, I only remember the fun in Christmas shopping for my family. I have always found joy in how much I had, and I loved spending my money.

My mom has been the queen of making a little go a long way. She utilized lay-a-way plans when stores offered that service. She saved one month for purchases she wanted to make the next. When it came to clothes, she also mastered the skill of bargain shopping and mix-n-matching. And she has always had fabulous credit. But regardless of which method of spending money she practiced, there was an appreciation — and joy — for everything she was able to buy.

Money has never been the source of worry for her. If there was a need or a desire, she found a way — eventually — to fulfill it. So I grew up never worrying much about money.

I guess that’s why I could head off to college without knowledge of how the tuition was going to be paid that first year, or even the years that followed. I never doubted there would be a way to pay my expenses — whether it would come from my mom saving money, or from me working, or from a grant or loan, money was never the source of my worries.

There comes a time after years of saving money, when we need to start enjoying the fruits of our labor. And now that my husband and I are well into our 50’s, I say there’s no better time than the present to begin doing just that!

Perhaps it was my mom’s perspective on being thankful for everything that provided the key to our enjoyment of what we had.

So maybe with a grateful heart, we will not only enjoy what we have, we will have what we need. Or we’ll be so happy with what we have, that we’ll believe we have what we need. I think it worked that way for me and my mom.

These days I say instead of worrying about what you don’t have, why not enjoy what you do! That’s my philosophy!

Can you read my mind?

by Annette Bridges. ©2010. All rights reserved.

What woman hasn’t wished her husband or boyfriend could read her mind? Perhaps we’ve thought, “Just once, could he know what I’m feeling or what I need without me explaining it to him or writing him a book?”

Sorry to tell you this, my women friends, but not even Superman could read minds, much to Lois Lane’s dismay.

I spent years in anguish and agony over my husband’s inability to understand what I was thinking. The thought never occurred to me that I couldn’t read his thoughts so why did I ever imagine — or hope — he could read mine?

I knew a couple who were married for almost seventy years. The wife wrote her husband weekly letters explaining to him — in infinite detail — her feelings, frustrations and longings. I used to think it was a funny thing to do. But it seemed to work well for them. I don’t know if he ever wrote her letters.

I must admit that many years of my marriage went by before my communication skills with my husband began to improve. Why was it so hard to talk with him about my innermost feelings?

I remember many days I spent crying that he didn’t understand me. And he didn’t. But how could he have without me making an effort to help him?

Perhaps the place to get to in a marriage is the desire to understand your husband as much as you want him to understand you. I think this is the essence of the “Golden Rule.” The idea of treating others the way you would like them to treat you.

Webster defines communication as “a process by which information is exchanged between individuals.”

“Exchanged” is the key word in this definition to me, as it suggests two parties exchanging — communicating — with each other.

Another definition of communication is “the exchange of thoughts, messages or information by speech, signals, writing or behavior.” From my experience, speech and writing have been more effective at getting my point across than signals or behavior.

Every time I’ve tried the “silent treatment” when I’m upset about something and go to bed in that mode, my husband just thinks I’m sleepy and he goes on to sleep while I lay there half the night stewing. When I wake him — eventually — he is totally clueless that anything is wrong.

I’ve almost always found that signals can get crossed, which then results in a mutual misunderstanding, or in other words, a failure to communicate.

Using words to effectively impart information could be considered an “art” — as another definition of communication suggested.

There seems to be an art in how we say what we want to say. Specifically, implementing the proper use of tone and emphasis as well as body language when speaking, are significant factors in getting our meaning across correctly. Without the correct usage, however, the “recipient” in the exchange could become defensive or get hurt feelings as well as totally misunderstand the meaning the “sender” intended.

I have definitely NOT mastered the art of communicating with my husband. And if there are wives out there who feel they have, I would sure love to hear from you. Tips and advice would be most welcomed!

Of course, it could be that women really are from Venus and men from Mars, so we’re destined to never completely understand each other. But perhaps recognizing that men and women have different needs and communicate in different ways is a good way to begin.

It’s probably important, too, to realize that words can have different meanings to men and women.

I heard a comedian explain this once. He gave the word — communication — as an example. He said women define communication as “the open sharing of thoughts and feelings with one’s partner” while men define it as “leaving a note before taking a fishing trip with the boys.”

Alas, without the ability to read each other’s minds, men and women may never be able to completely understand each other, but we can remember that we never will without trying. And that takes some form of communication!