The Journey to Becoming a Better Version of Oneself

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It’s Okay to Laugh

The other day I made the morning drive to go swimming. It rained the whole way into town. Once I parked car, the rain poured down even harder. In order for this whole “swim before work” thing to be effective, I have to bring my dress clothes and shower items with me. So walking into the gym, I am usually laden with a stuffed gym bag and dress clothes on a hanger.

Again on this particular morning it was raining very hard. In an attempt to use good planning, I whipped out my phone, opened up a web browser and checked the weather app. I thought “ if there is going to be a break in the storm, I can SIT HERE and wait a couple of minutes.” Good planning right? Oh no, my concern wasn’t about the stuff I was carrying, I didn’t want to get MY HAIR WET…..before I went swimming.


Yes you read that correctly. I didn’t want to get my hair wet before I went swimming. And here’s the thing, that made perfect sense to me as I sat there checking the weather app. Then after about five seconds (which feels like an hour at 5:30 am), I realized how absurd that plan was and then cracked up laughing. I laughed all the way into the gym, carrying my heavy gym bag, hanger full of dress clothes, all while juggling an umbrella. Yea, that was hiding under my gym bag…on the back seat.

I’ll pause the story here until you stop laughing….

While I was swimming, I thought about that silly moment of reasoning. It really did make perfect sense. Most of the time when I am out in a hard rain, I try to avoid getting soaked. I’m sure that lots of people feel the same way. Then I found myself thinking about other times when I made a “plan” only to realize later that it was a bonehead idea. If I’m being honest, that happens to me a lot.

After a few laps (remember I am a SLOW swimmer), I concluded that Tinkering With Success is a process and not all of my plans are going to be winners. Some of them are going to be real stinkers. Part of living a full life is being able to laugh at oneself when you find that a plan is flawed, foolhardy or just plain funny. Every day brings moments of struggle. Heck, sometimes the entire day is a struggle.

So when you get the urge, laugh. Laugh loud and long. Enjoy it! Even if it happens when you’re sitting alone in a parking lot at 5:30 in the morning.


Make a Memory

Recently a family member sent me a link to a video that she found on Facebook. I put the link at the bottom of the post so you can see it too.  The gist of the video is that a woman wanted to swim with her children, but self-talk prevented her from swimming and from making memories.  I could really relate to the video. The post is from a woman’s perspective, however the message is appropriate for both men and women.

There have been so many times that I have talked myself out of doing something cool until something else happens first.  “I will take a ride on a zip line when I lose weight.  I’ll read that book when the semester ends.  I’ll visit family when I get my tax return.”

I bet as you were reading my thoughts you were thinking of your own examples. Why do we do this to ourselves??? Why are we waiting to be a different person, for work to lighten up, for circumstances to change before we do something that we want to do?

Now I know that life responsibilities do take the driver’s seat.  Imagine this phone call, “Hey boss, I won’t be into work today because I feel like taking a ride on a zip line.”  Yea, not good. I have to handle my adult responsibilities so I can pay my rent, buy food and have health insurance. Being a grown up means that we do the right things for ourselves, our family, our employer, our government.  But does that mean we can’t also do the things we want to do?

Self-talk can be empowering or limiting, it just depends on the conversations that you permit into your thoughts. For me, the empowering conversations are about family and work.  The limiting conversations are often about weight and money.  I am so thankful that thought bubbles only occur in cartoons.  If the people around me could see what I am thinking and how often my thoughts change, they might think “that woman is a bit odd”.  My thoughts change so quickly that the popping of the thought bubbles mimic the sounds make by a child playing with bubble wrap.

The other day I was swimming (yep still on my back) and my thoughts turned to negative self-talk.  I was criticizing my slow speed, poor form and how terrible I look in a swimsuit. As soon as I realized what was going on, I immediately began to focus on my breathing.  In. Out. In. Out. In. Out. What happened next was pretty amazing.  The thoughts were gone and I was happy to be swimming.

The list of things that I will do when I am rich, famous, thin, talented grows daily.  After watching the Facebook video, I have decided to begin checking items off that list. And I’m promising myself that when presented with opportunities, I will say yes more often.

Since that day in the pool, I have used the breathing technique whenever I needed to clear my thoughts. It has been really helpful. Now I know this is not a new idea. People have been doing this for years. But it is new to ME.  As I continue Tinkering With Success, this breathing strategy is becoming the newest skill in my toolkit.

So what are you talking yourself out of?  When do you need to breathe? Making memories doesn’t always have to be time consuming and expensive. Take a look at your own list, then plan to make a few memories.



It’s Just a Matter of Perspective

Recently I was driving on a four-lane road from Lexington towards Elizabethtown in KY.  At 70 mph the scenery flies by, but one thing caught my attention and made me pause for thought.  Alongside the road was this sign:

Hill Sign

It is an ordinary sign, one you may have seen in your travels.  As any good driver might do, I read the sign and looked ahead for the hill.

Now before I tell “the rest of the story” (a nod to Paul Harvey), I must remind you that I grew up in the Finger Lakes region of New York State.  We have a lot of good sized hills.  Taking your driver’s test meant having to stop while driving up a hill, sit for a few seconds, then resume driving without rolling backwards. On a good weather day, that was an issue.  I took my road test during an ice storm.  I passed my drivers test, but that HILL was a challenge.

So as I am driving through that beautiful part of Kentucky, I saw the sign that indicated HILL, I looked at the road ahead and found………..…a straight, flat road. OK, to be fair, it had a slight incline, but from the perspective of this native New Yorker, it was not a HILL.

As the drive continued I reflected on the sign and my perspective regarding what is and isn’t a HILL. As a matter of fact, I have thought about that sign and my perspective ever since that day.

For those of you new to this blog, read the earlier posts and this part of the story will make more sense.  Yesterday I went swimming. Again the pool was a bit crowded, but I got in the water and negotiated for a swim lane. Who knew that the skills I learned in Kindergarten would come in handy as a grown up woman in a swimming pool?  I began swimming on my back (yep, still can’t freestyle) and focused on my arm movements, breathing, not drowning and trying to swim in a straight line.  I really was sober, but I couldn’t swim in a straight line no matter how hard I tried.  I kept talking to myself saying “don’t drunk swim”, “follow the lines on the ceiling”.

After about 15 minutes, a lane opened up by the long edge of the pool.  I moved over and resumed swimming. I could follow the pool wall and swim in a straight line. I began thinking “ I’ve got this”, “I’m doing awesome”.  I began to hear noises,  my perspective shifted and noticed the two pool walkers a few lanes over. They were chatting and walking at a pretty good pace.  I resumed focusing on my swim technique…stroke, breathe, don’t drown.  Again I noticed the pool walkers and realized that they were lapping me.  For every one length of the pool I swam, they walked 1.5 laps. What the heck???  I was swimming for goodness sake.  I am a swimmer, yet I am being lapped by walkers!

The HILL came back to mind.  The pool walkers saw a slight incline, yet I felt like I was swimming up a HILL.  That’s when I reflected that most of life really is a matter of perspective.  A HILL to one person may be a slight incline to another.  As I finished out my swim, I decided that I need to become more aware of the perspectives of others as I continue Tinkering With Success.  And I need to be kind as others are considering their own HILL.


Breathing is Important

Hi there, dear reader.  I have good news to share.  I went swimming and survived. I don’t use the word survived lightly.  I mean it seriously.  I have such a fear of water that I worry about not being able to save myself if I panic.  Oh I know that I could just tread water, but the truth is I can’t. So let’s start at the beginning.

My Mom faithfully enrolled me in swim lessons at the local state park pool when I was around age six and then again the following summer. Each time the teacher finally just stared at my Mom with this knowing look and said, “yep she really can’t swim.” I remember Mom saying “well thanks for trying.”

I grew up in a community that has a beautiful lake and many country properties had a pond.  So water has been a part of my life from the very beginning.  As a pre-teen and later as a teenager, there were many times when I was sitting on the outside looking in as my friends would be swimming.  And there were times when swimming looked really fun, but drowning while naked didn’t make good sense to me…however I did think twice about joining them on a couple of occasions.

About 50 years later (hey, quit doing the math in your head) I decided to take swim lessons again.  The University where I worked offered lessons taught by the college swimmers. I bought my swimsuit, goggles and swim cap.  One Saturday morning, I happily headed out the door for my first lesson.  I was finally going to learn to swim.

I entered the natatorium (your SAT word of the day) through the women’s locker room and stopped dead in my tracks.  Sitting in the bleachers were 40 children, average age of 6, and their mothers and fathers. Yep, I wanted to disappear.  Immediately.  But I was there in my new swimsuit, cap carrying my goggles so I quickly found a seat.  I stared at the floor until I heard my name called and sheepishly waddled to the edge of the pool.  I did that same routine for four Saturdays and I learned how to swim…on my back.  When it came to the freestyle swim, my 20-year-old instructor looked me in the eye and said “Yea, you can’t swim.  It’s going to take more lessons.”

Here I am, two years later, signing up for yet another gym membership just so I can learn to swim.  When I did the membership paperwork, I asked about swim lessons.  Why yes they offer them…for children. I guess once you pass the age of eight, society (or the fitness industry) has decided that people are too old to learn, so sit on the sidelines.  Not one to be easily deterred, I asked if they ever offered private lessons.  Lo and behold they do, 10 lessons for $240. I’m not saying no to the private route, but I’ll try FREE YouTube swim lessons first.

Today I arrived at the gym 45 minutes later than my first visit and was happy to find the Cocoon pool only had a three people in it, one-man swimming laps while another man and woman walked laps talking at the top of their lungs.  Again, not the serene swimming environment that I was hoping for, but there was plenty of room for me to swim.  I waddled over to get my trusty kickboard, left my towel and flip flops on the bench and waddled even faster over to the edge of the pool.  Screeeeeech.  I stand on the deck of the pool thinking, God please let me get in this water without falling. Clutching my kickboard, I descend the four steps, slowly, carefully, all the while trying to look self-assured (read cool). Once in the water, my trusty kickboard and I “swam” laps. For 30 minutes.  I even did a couple laps on my back sans kickboard. It was glorious.

While in the pool I found myself critiquing each lap.  “You’re going so slow. You can’t swim in a straight line. Hey I don’t think you’re supposed to see your entire foot in the air when swimming on your back, but those red toes look awesome.”  I finally said out loud, today is not about going fast or looking perfect.  Today is about learning technique, breathing and of course, not drowning.

So what did I learn.  Breathing is really important. The more air I took into my lungs, the easier it was to float.  When I focused on my breathing, all was quiet.  My crazy inner dialog turned off.  I couldn’t hear the loud talkers. My fear of drowning lessened.  The next time I am afraid of (fill in the blank), I will just breathe.  Tinkering With Success is a journey to be a little better than I was yesterday.  Today I learned to breathe better.  And I didn’t drown.


All it Takes is Planning and Initiative

The journey toward success takes planning and initiative. Hmm, I just came up with that thought, it sounds good, so let’s go with it.  My latest goal is to learn how to swim. I don’t own a pool, hence I joined a local gym.

Today was my first day to go to the pool. With planning and initiative in mind, the previous evening I filled my gym bag, assembled my work clothes and packed my lunch.  I woke up at 4:45 am, put on my swimsuit covered with sweatpants and a t-shirt and headed out the door.  The 20-minute drive to the gym was pleasant.

Once in the women’s locker room, I looked at the size of the locker and compared it to all of the stuff I crammed in my gym bag.  After a quick review of my high school geometry, I figured out the only way that large round bag was going to fit into the small rectangle was to stuff it in there.  Made a note to self, bring less stuff tomorrow.

As I was resolving the locker issue, I heard A LOT of noise coming from the pool area.  It was 5:20 in the morning, who makes noise at that hour.  Still dressed in my sweats, I walked over to the pool access door, opened it slowly and peeked out.  What to my wondering eyes did appear, but eight heavyset white men bobbing in the pool.  They were chatting like a group of school girls, but more importantly, they took up the entire pool.  Now you might be thinking, “how do eight men take up a whole pool?” They were walking in the pool, each man taking up space in the swimming lanes. Did I mention chatting loudly? Laughing too.

I did what every self-respecting, adult, overweight woman would do, I quietly closed the pool access door and went to sit on a locker room bench.  For the next two minutes I sat there thinking “You can DO this, no, no I can’t.  But yes, you can, no I really can’t.  You are a strong confident woman, you’ve got this. Yea, not today I don’t.” For two minutes, I wrestled with how to proceed, I really wanted to swim, but this is not how I envisioned my morning swim.  I imagined using a kick board for a quiet, peaceful swim with a couple others who might nod and offer a knowing “bless her heart” smile.  I did not imagine the pool scene from the movie, Cocoon

Finally, I made the decision that I was not going to swim today.  With planning and initiative in mind, I was determined that this trip to the gym (at 5:00 am) would not be a waste.  Instead I would use this morning to figure out how to shower and get ready for work at the gym. I gathered my supplies and entered the shower stall.

I organized the bottles and placed them in the shower caddy, turned on the water and waited for it to warm up.  And I waited… and waited. About a minute into waiting for the water to warm up, I was thinking that I could just take a cold shower.  I had done it before, so it wouldn’t hurt me to do that.  At about the two-minute mark, I began to assess the life choices that brought me to the gym at 5:20 am.  I even pondered if there was enough time to put my sweats back on and drive home for a nice warm shower in my clean bathroom. Just as I was ready to quit this whole adventure, the warm water arrived and my day began to look up.

I completed my shower, got ready for work and, exactly 50 minutes after arriving, I was ready to go to work.

Feeling a bit discouraged and frustrated that I couldn’t find the courage to get in the pool, I went to the pool observation area in the gym to scope out the situation.  What did I see? Two women quietly swimming.  I turned to the woman who was working at the juice stand and explained my morning. She was kind and told me that at 5:00 am the pool was usually very busy.  She went on to explain that the same group of men had been meeting at that time for several years and they had a formed a bond.  This was as much a social activity as exercise for them.  She suggested that I try coming at 6:00 am when the pool would be less crowded.

As I drove to work, I tried to make meaning out of this adventure.  What I learned was that success takes more than planning and initiative. I used both skills, but not in the proper order. I could have inquired about pool usage patterns in advance.  Perhaps taking time to look at the size of the lockers to determine how much stuff they would hold.  And last but not least, I learned to turn on shower as soon as I arrive, so the water would be warm when I needed it.

Tonight I will add forethought to my skills of planning and initiative.  Tomorrow, I WILL go swimming with a kick board. Stay tuned. I plan to learn how to swim by watching YouTube videos.  OK, quit giving me that “bless your heart” smile.  I’m Tinkering With Success.




And So It Begins

I have always wanted to be a writer.  I think about writing, yet rarely write for fun.  I write quite often for work, but I have found that writing doesn’t come easy to me. First drafts would cause an English teacher to shake his or her head…and then maybe reach for a stiff drink.  With some editing the sentences get stronger and the message becomes more clear.  I struggle with grammar and proper sentence structure. Since the Internet enables people to be anonymous critics, I have been very hesitant to post what I write.

A friend and former colleague began writing a blog that I love to read.  I wait for the next installment and happily follow her journey.  I don’t read her blog to find what is wrong with it. As a matter of fact, critiquing what she has written has never even crossed my mind.

On a recent trip to Chicago, I was read her latest blog and I thought “I wonder if I could write a blog and if I did, would people read it?” I actually fell asleep while pondering that question.  When I woke the following morning, I decided that I would begin to write a blog.  Yea! The decision was made.  I Googled how to start writing a blog and learned that it would need a name and some sort direction.  Screech!!!!  Wait, what?  Oh boy, I finally come up with the courage to write stuff that people might read and now it needs a name and a purpose.  Press pause on that idea.

That night, after a long day of meetings, I returned to the blog idea and began thinking about what to call it.  I reviewed my likes and things that I am good at.   After about 10 minutes I had it.  I like to figure out how to get better at stuff.  Yep I said it, stuff.  I always look for a way to improve different aspects of my life.  Food, diet, laundry, cleaning, organizing, teaching and yes, even writing.  I work at something for a while and then move on to a new topic, eventually circling back to a previous interest. I’m a bit like the dog in the movie, Up.  Squirrel!  I’m easily distracted, yet every day I work to be more successful than I was the previous day.

Which brings me back to this writing thing.  I want to be a writer.  I want to become a better writer.  The only way to improve is to write often.  So here I am writing my first installment in my blog called “Tinkering With Success”.  I will use this forum to share my journey toward becoming the best version of myself and hopefully along the way you will find a tip or two that can help you too.

Thanks for reading and for being patient as I work toward becoming a better writer.

Becky Tinker (BLT)

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