A few months ago, I was given a thank you note from the parent of one of the boys my son had at his sleepover party. She thanked me for having him over. He had a great time. I admit this sheepishly, because I had not sent a thank you note for the gift he gave my son! (And, sadly, I still have not.)
Some people are ninja note writers. These people might start writing the thank you notes at the event they are thanking them for attending. They can barely fit everything they want to say on the perfect little card they chose. And that perfect card always arrives in your mailbox (not your inbox) at just the right time. I don't hate them. I envy them.
Ninja note-writers are mostly my parents' age (baby boomers), but there are quite a number who are my age. (Guilt, guilt.)
I am not a ninja note writer.
I'm a professional writer, doggone it! That means, I apparently can use language well enough that people pay money to read what I wrote. And I am also a writer who has been twiddling her thumbs for months between book releases. I've bought special note cards. There is no shortage of stamps in the house. And heaven knows there is quite an assortment of pens around here.
It's not due to lack of training. I come from a family of note-writers, and my grandma was a ninja note-writer. If you did not send a thank you note after she sent you a gift, you heard about it! (It usually came in the polite jab, "I wasn't sure if you got your gift or not," but sometimes, in later years, progressed to the more blunt, "So, I guess no one sends thank you notes anymore.") I'm not sure if my mother learned it from her mother or not, but she too meticulously follows the guidelines of note-writing. (Her forte, however, is making the beautiful cards herself. So she has a special interest.)
What, then, is my problem?
I think it might be one of these.
1. I don't want it to look like a form letter.
We are told to thank the person for the gift and say how you will use it. That's TWO sentences! It does not take up a whole card, no matter how small the card is. You know when you've received a card with two sentences that it was either sent to you by a child with a mother hovering over his shoulder or an adult who stared at the blank card for an hour with an imaginary mother hovering over her shoulder.
2. Expectations are high.
Thanks, ninja note-writers. Since your card brought me to tears, I may never be able to face myself in a mirror again after writing anything less. Did I mention I'm a writer? People know this.
3. I forget!
Lame excuse, I know, but when something is not a habit, it tends to fall by the wayside. I am convinced I will not write a note unless I set my calendar alarm for a specific time.
4. People tell me not to worry about it.
And I believe them. Does this sound familiar to you, "Oh, dear, you have so much on your plate, with your new <insert here: husband, job, baby, house… whatever was the reason for the gift!> Don't you even think about taking time for me." I always tend to think people mean this. Perhaps some do.
5. Time Limits
By the time I have gotten around to putting the gift where it belongs, sometimes two weeks may have passed. Sometimes more. At any rate, they say that late gratitude is better than no gratitude, but it still seems a little embarrassing to thank someone so far in the future that they don't even remember what they did.
6. Where will this madness end???
But here it is. I am afraid of the avalanche. First, you thank people for gifts. Then, you thank people for cards. Then, for visits. Then, for what they mean to you. That would be just about everyone I know! (That's a lot of cards.)
Is that a bad thing? Some people really treasure written gratitude. I'm not one of them, but it shouldn't stop me from sending it to someone who might be. Really, we all like to know that someone, at some point in their day, thought about us in a positive way.
Notice I didn't put lack of time as one of my excuses. I really can't say that's it. If I were to just commit 15 minutes each day - I'm sure I could easily find 15 minutes - I could knock out 300 or so in a year (with a little grace).
Maybe I'll give that a shot. Once I'm done sitting here on the computer, maybe I'll actually close it up and look for a pen. Time to go set that calendar alarm!
Before I finish that statement, put this picture in your mind. Imagine a clock with a pendulum. On the furthermost righthand side of the pendulum is extreme comfort. On the leftmost side, you have extreme discomfort.
In a normal life, your pendulum should swing back and forth. Hopefully, it won't reach either extreme.
Too often, we stand in the middle, trying to keep the pendulum from ever going to the left. We keep trying to push our comfort level to the right.
But do you see how that feels unnatural and unbalanced? The pendulum needs to swing both ways. When it does, it will cross the mid-point (of normalcy) twice as often as it reaches either end. And that's okay.
But why do we want to experience discomfort?
One word… Appreciation.
One problem I see with so many kids these days is discontentment. With my own children, I try to reason, "But at least it's not as bad as… (insert worse circumstance)." They don't get it because they haven't been there. That's not unusual. Remember when we were kids, we were supposed to eat all of our food because the kids in Ethiopia (or China, or India, whichever it was in your decade) didn't have as much. Did you really feel for those kids? Or did you just eat because your parents told you to?
I have not been to a third world country myself, but I have spoken to many missionaries who have. The things they appreciated when they came home were amazing. Beds, carpet, toilet paper, and of course, food and water. I really don't think you can truly appreciate these things until you have been without them. Until your pendulum has swung and you have become uncomfortable.
Why wouldn't you want it to reach the extreme of comfort?
Well, I suppose there's nothing wrong with this, per se. However, I would think it's nicer to always have something to look forward to or to strive for. If you reach the point of absolute comfort - and that that was the best it could ever be - wouldn't it be a little sad when you were done? Knowing there was nothing more after that? (It could be just me on that one.)
What's the problem with being comfortable all the time, of not experiencing discomfort?
You've seen the kids who always get what they want. And if you haven't, look no further than Veruca Salt from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (by Roald Dahl). That stereotype has become far too common. Now imagine these Verucas as grown ups, not understanding why they haven't gotten their way. Grown-ups are more powerful than children and with more resources. Tell a child, "no," and at least there's hope to be obeyed, even if there is punishment involved. Tell an adult, "no," and there may be a lawsuit.
How it applies in exercise
Exercise has to hurt. The entire premise of it is to break down muscles in order to build them back up to be stronger. You aren't going to be able to meet your fitness goals if you aren't experiencing discomfort. You've heard of "the burn," right? That's not in your head.
It's gotta hurt somewhat. You've gotta not want to do it for it to work. If you are comfortable in exercise, your muscles are not breaking down. If they are not breaking down, you are not burning calories to build them back up. No matter what it says on the treadmill display.
*Remember - there is a difference between discomfort and pain. If you have pain, your pendulum is broken and you need to get your clock fixed.
How It Applies In Life
Just like with my exercise example, seeing how uncomfortable you can be, can make any amount of comfort look good. When I have not exercised, a shower is just another chore. But after a long, tiring run? I could stay in the shower for an hour, praising God for how the warm water helps to soothe my tired body. (Or, in the summer, how the cold water refreshed my overheated body.) Do you want your life to be full of boring showers?
Work a job with an hour-long commute. Every 10-minute commute after that will be a dream come true. Go a week without your TV. You will find PBS fascinating afterward. Skip a few desserts (gasp!) Jell-O will make you happy at your next meal.
Live a few days without your family. You will forget any annoying habit they ever had.
So, the end of my thought, "The best way to be comfortable is… to learn to be uncomfortable too." Appreciation is the key to contentment.
Passion Under Grace,