At my house, we talk repeatedly about what is “expected” and what is “unexpected”.
This helps my 8-year old, who has a knack for always doing the unexpected, know what normal behavior looks like so he doesn’t embarrass us, or get in trouble, or both.
Sometimes this lingo comes back to haunt me, because during some of these learning sessions, my son in return has replied:
“So, you want me to do what everyone else does? You want me to be completely NORMAL, REALLY?”
What to say next…
I want my kid to be an original, think for himself…. but then I tell him he needs to take cues from what the group is doing and follow suit.
To be average.
To not stand out or draw attention.
To be “Normal”
Hard concept to grasp at a young age.
And actually, a tough concept to grasp at MY age.
I have been thinking about this supposedly great advice I dish out to my son every day, and have been wondering, what if I apply these terms to my world, of living a mindful, healthy life?
Actually, it makes me a little uncomfortable.
What are Normal people doing?
What is Expected?
Well, if you read the news or listen to current documentaries about our culture you’ll hear that Normal people like us:
Eat processed foods and have no idea what is in it.
Eat way too much sugar. Too few vegetables.
Work too much, mostly sitting.
Much of the time we munch and slurp our fast food in cars, on the go.
We hop from iPhone, iPad to TV, to Computer, to Kindle screens all day.
We never get up from our desks or video games to move around.
And never get exercise.
Fresh Air? What’s that?
Birds? Trees? Rivers? Haven’t seen them in ages!
But we still expect to live long, fulfilling lives, don’t we?
Because we are living a normal life, right? It’ll all work out just fine…
When I go out to eat with friends or family, or over the holidays, it’s expected to overindulge or get off routine.
It’s expected when I go out of town and get too busy, that it’s ok to get swept up in everyone else’s agenda and not have time to take a walk, or stretch or workout, or eat too much. It happens to everyone.
My mother tried this with me a few days ago, when after a long plane ride to visit her, she told me she didn’t think I had time for my workout the next day.
Really? She got the cold stare….
One of my favorite quotes, and one I say to myself relatively often for motivation (although I have no idea who first said it…..) is:
“If you want to eat like the average person, you will look like the average person”.
And I think you can probably put exercise in there too.
If we want to keep our health where it is now over time, we need to be mindful every day.
If we are off routine, or just don’t have time to make dinner or exercise, or get outside, when will we have the time?
How can we balance the good with the bad?
Or the fun with the discipline?
It’s not easy, but to be good at it, we need to take charge of our health and raise our expectations
And redefine Normal.
Because really, think about what “average” looks like in our culture today.
What works for me?
A few years ago, I learned to set health goals, along with other daily activity.
I’m an early riser, and like to wake up and think about the day over coffee, and make some decisions.
What am I going to do for exercise today? Inside or out? How long do I have?
Is it a nice day? When Brett is home from school, what will we do to get outside and add more activity and fresh air to our day?
If I know we are going to be in the car, or out all day, I pack healthy snacks; I don’t stop while I’m out.
I set coffee in a travel mug so I don’t stop to pick up a cappuccino or latte or bakery snacks instead.
I plan splurge meals in advance, so if I have a dinner with my husband planned one night, or a lunch out with a friend, I never worry about what I eat when I’m out, but I do balance out the rest of the day, and think about the next few days and make sure to make healthy choices.
I have worked on the food and exercise portion of this for awhile, so it’s habit now.
But some things are still a challenge, like too much screen time. I’m as addicted as anyone, and my son seems to have that addictive personality too.
It’s also tough to be a cheerleader to go outside and get fresh air when when it’s 10 degrees out and I don’t feel like it either.
But I’m working on it, and will get better at all of this with time because it’s important to me.
Sometimes I don’t know what to say when what I have taught my son conflicts with what the culture at large is doing. I get questions like:
“Mom, why is there even soda around if it’s so bad for us”
or “Why are there so many fast food restaurants” as we are driving through towns, “why can other people have it?”.
“And why won’t you let me play Minecraft all afternoon? I don’t want to go outside, it’s too cold, and I’m tired!”
It’s so much easier not to fight it.
But I don’t want this to be our Normal.
I don’t know the answer now.
But realize this is something I’ll need to keep defining and redefining for myself and my family, as we learn more and as our culture changes over time.
Normality frightens me. To get to the end of life and discover I’ve been average? Can’t imagine much worse. But there are acceptable bounds (for any given environment) and it’s probably best to stay within those… mostly. but strive for normal? never.
Be special! Or be awesome trying!
I struggle with this at times then at other I am like ” I am Wonder Woman I stomp to my own beat!” I agree because even in the fitness community we want to define what is normal or good and what is not…we all have to find what fits us and no you don’t have to go with the routine! Like Insanity…some folks think they have to do it exactly how Shaun-t tells them to…I say do it but do it that you can finish and complete it…Make it fit your routine!
love your Attitudes, both of you! I agree Tanya, it took me awhile to realize I didn’t have to be ‘by the book’ with anything–fitness or otherwise. I sometimes I get flack for it, for instance, moving to the country and living a pretty quiet life doesn’t always seem to sit well with some. especially family and they seem to be the most vocal ones. thanks for your comments!
Robin…I so get this!!! We have these conversations at our house with the girls all the time because we do so many things differently from the “mass” culture. It takes strength to live up to your ideals, even when you know other people roll their eyes behind your back. It is great reading your blog!
Robin, A lovely, thoughtful post. “The New Normal” is what I call my more-considered way of eating and exercising. It involves making choices, rather than mindlessly responding to “I’m hungry/bored/tired.” Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
Nicole, thank you! I completely get what you are saying. I have had friends tell me that “you shouldn’t have to think about it so much, that’s not living….”…but really, why? And who said the alternative was normal either?