Yesterday was the Winter Solstice which means we’ve officially passed the shortest day of the year and are on the way up towards brighter, warmer weather. I needed to remind myself of this this morning when my alarm went off at 5.45am for my run. At first, I thought I could hear the rain on the roof. I lay there listening really hard and thinking… 

‘it’s too wet to run’

‘I’m not going to run if its really bucketing down’

‘Why is my bed the perfect temperature right now?!?’

I reluctantly got out of bed and peaked through the blinds. It had been raining all night and there was a light drizzle judging by the drops rippling in the puddles. I put my running gear out on the kitchen table the night before so that I have to walk past it when I go to the bathroom. This is a trick from James Clear Atomic Habits. Since my running gear was already out I thought I might as well chuck it on and then check to see how hard it was raining.

I was standing in front of the heater complaining to Matt about not wanting to go for a run whilst now wearing my running gear, looking very much like the part of a runner. The thought that tipped me over the edge was the stoic idea that the only thing we truly have control over is our character. My actions, reactions and how I treat others is what makes me, me. This morning I didn’t really have a choice because I ‘show up’ when I say I’m going to do something, I do it. This is an important part of my character, so this morning, despite my best efforts to stay in bed, I had to run.

It was still drizzling when I finally walked through the front door with my running gear on. If you wait for the rain to stop before you go outside in Ballarat, you’d never leave the house so I found myself running up the street, in the dark, in the rain. There is a benefit to running at this time, in these conditions and that’s I don’t really know how shitty the weather really is. Sitting here at work now it is so wet and grey outside that I absolutely would not go for a run, even if you paid me. The darkness this morning masked the severity of the situation. 

The discovery of ‘character’ in my summer of stoicism earlier this year has had a truly profound impact on my life. The idea that we can only control our actions, reactions and how we treat others has given me a new perspective on all of my relationships. It encourages me to step back and take a more objective view of what's happening around me and only spend my energy where it's needed. If I can’t change something then don’t waste energy on it.

I’ve even started using it with the kids. Frank got in trouble at after school care during the week for basically being a jerk. The carer who looks after him is just the most delightful person and she really likes Frank so when she delivers a bad report for behaviour you know he must’ve been a real ‘see you next Tuesday’. 

We made Frank go back the next day and apologise but he was doing it because he thought that it was going to get him out of trouble - not because he meant it. Later that night I spoke to him about ‘character’ and how we get to choose what our character is like. It's the only thing in life we get to choose. It doesn’t matter how rich, strong or powerful you are, you are responsible for creating a character that you can be proud of.

He did a lot of nodding and said ‘okay Mum’ a lot so I’m not sure if he got it or not but it made me realise how beneficial I’ve found it over the last 6 months. We’ve had a couple of rippers like the work landlords announcing they’re going to sell the factory and sending in a potential buyer on the same day. We have absolutely NO CONTROL over that situation so instead of worrying about it we just continue as normal and we’ll move if or when we have to.

When I’m faced with moments of conflict I use my character as a guide in framing my response. I don’t want to be reactive so I no longer respond immediately. I take a day or sometimes just an extra breath to calibrate my reaction. Now that I truly believe that we basically have no control over the majority of what happens to us I can be more empathic in my reaction. 

This week for example Matt has been doing some very deep thinking about some tough problems within the software for work. Matt, as much as I love him, is a jerk when he’s completely engrossed in a problem. He becomes so preoccupied in his head that responses are one worded so any chance of conversation falls flat in the middle of the room. Honestly, it's like hanging out with someone who doesn’t like you that much. 

I used to get really pissed at these phases of deep thought. They felt selfish, can’t you do both - be a caring, engaged husband and a mad genius? I think Steve Jobs would confirm that no you can’t, so I needed to reframe the situation. This is how Matt works so when he’s in the zone, I leave him alone or at least try to as much as possible. Or at best not take it so personally.

I want my character to be empathetic and appreciate that not everyone does things the same way I do, especially Matt, so instead of getting pissed, we need to figure out the best way to support each other. When the kids see us do this, I hope they understand that we have a choice on how we behave. Our actions, reactions and how we treat others, all the things we have control over, are the puzzle pieces that make you, distinctly you. 

Video of the week
Does everyone have a right to learn te reo Māori? | E01 | 2 Cents 2 Much | The Spinoff
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Bang On: #252: Indiana Jones, Microscopic Handbag, Pharrell at LV
Font of the week
Sudz: Font of the week by Manic Type

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