My Number 2 son was 14 years old when he experienced an epic growth spurt. In just a few months, he shot up more than 8 inches, and almost overnight, he was well over 6 feet tall.
He found it difficult to get used to his new size. He spilled things, knocked chairs over, fell through stationary objects and caused furniture to crash to the floor, often in surrounding homes.
Naturally, I offered support and encouragement. “Will you watch what you’re doing?” I’d helpfully scream.
He spilled, I yelled. One day he suddenly turned on me and demanded. “How can you keep yelling at me? Can’t you see that my arms don’t even end in the same place they did yesterday?”
I feel the same way about these second 50 years of life. It’s like a protracted adolescence. No part of my body ends where it used to or does what it used to do. There is no owner’s manual, and everybody else says they know what will be best for me far better than I do.
At tai chi this morning, our instructor, Tai Chi Steve (I suspect that’s not his real name), had the temerity to command us to raise our knees to the level of our hips. Think now. What are the chances? Most of us don’t even have our original hips and knees. Some students could actually do it. I may never forgive them.
For some reason, my children seem to think this is a good time to bring up stories from their past that can’t be substantiated. For instance, there’s a rumor around that I used to keep a big wooden spoon hanging in the kitchen to smack kids who misbehaved, gently and lovingly of course.
A perfect example of imperfect memory — theirs, not mine. That spoon was strictly for stirring spaghetti sauce. Mostly.
Somehow, when the kids were younger, it was easier to feel in control. The other day at the Y, I saw a mother lead her two small children — about 3 and 5 — into an unoccupied handball court. She shut the door and sat down happily outside with a book while the children ran, yelled and literally bounced off walls. She could see them. They really couldn’t get hurt, and better yet, they couldn’t get out.
I don’t think you can reserve the court for that purpose, but for about 10 minutes, that mom looked very happy. Finding our bliss is up to us.
International speaker and humorist Patt Schwab says a lasting feeling of joy can start with a simple smile. Schwab notes that an important step is reaching out to others.
“Make a promise to yourself to make five people smile today,” she says, “because when they smile, you’ll smile.”
If five smiles are too many to try for, start with three. If you’re just too shy to reach out to someone else, make yourself smile five times in the day. Start by smiling at yourself in the mirror. Do it first thing in the morning before you dress and you’ll probably laugh out loud.
Schwab creates her own brand of joy and bemusement by carrying a regiment of rubber chickens around with her. They range from miniature key-ring size to full size — undressed for success — creatures. Why rubber chickens? She swears they are the antidote for any “fowl mood.”
It’s hard to assess what is so endearing about rubber chickens, but Schwab regularly shares her fowl humor with international audiences who love her and clamor to take a chicken home. ( fundamentallyspeaking.com)
Number 2 son eventually stopped growing. He folded his tall frame happily into a Navy jet and flew off for 20 years or so. His elder brother looked after him thoughtfully and remarked, “You know, Mom, if you had hit him over the head with that wooden spoon as often as you did me, he’d be a lot shorter and a lot nicer.”
See, there’s another gross exaggeration. Would I hit them with the same spoon I stirred dinner with? That would not be sanitary. Besides, height is in the genes.
But it does make me smile to remember. Now, I only need four more smiles for today.