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Don’t Psych Yourself Out!

The Mountain

Sometimes we focus on the mountain. We become fixated on the seemingly insurmountable obstacle we would never even dream of overcoming. Ironically, it’s the self-defeating language we speak to our inner selves that leads to poor imagination. We predetermine we are not able to do, to conquer, to overcome what is before us then we lay down and play dead… or put our heads in the dirt… or crawl into caves for extended hibernations.

Alternatively, we can choose to simply look at the mountain for what it is: something that has multiple sides and levels. There is always a way up, over, around, under and through it. Be assured, getting to the other side is achievable. Remembering this simple truth about every impossible situation will shift perspective and focus immeasurably. The mountain may not become a molehill, but it will become manageable. It can then be approached as a challenge or trial in need of an action plan.

Mind Shift

When we no longer view our obstacles as insurmountable they stop being the opposition of our life, the limits of creative thought, the borders of vision and the anchors of our energy.

How we react to external problems reflect our internal conflicts. The human condition seems to be a lifelong process of constantly striving to get to the other side of fear, and therefore to the other side ourselves. First, we have to see that it’s possible to do so.

The Process of Change

A few days ago, I resuscitated my bike; it had been sitting on flats in the garage for over a year. One of the things that attracted me to the Sonoran Desert was the thought of cycling with my camera throughout the year. Unfortunately, when I got here, everything about riding in the desert seemed like a death wish. Long expanses of curving road. Impatient drivers. Wild animals. Cactus needles. Dehydration. Sun-burn. Unending upward mountain climbs.

The fear snuck up on me.

I had been riding around New York City and parts of New Jersey since 2011. I had done cycling events – The Five Boro Ride several times, a couple of half centuries, and countless other organized and solo rides. Yet, I when I got to a wide open road in the desert, I believed the limits of my sight. New York City didn’t have mountains! Where’s the shade? Where can I rest? What if I run out of water? What if I get hit and no one sees me in a ditch?

The obstacles I created impaired my ability to actually do one of the things I enjoy most and something I’ve wanted all my life to do around the world. During the two years I’ve had my bike in Arizona, I’ve gotten on it no more than two or three times.

Getting to the Other Side

All this to say, the other day I went out on my bike for the first time in a long while. For two days prior, I had walked a nearly three-mile route. The same route I had tried to ride last year and ended up feeling as if I had outdone myself with. It completely took my breath away, or more aptly, it was so hard to breathe that I turned around and went home. One and half miles did me in. And kept me off my bike for a year. I could have pushed through. I could have tried again that next day. I did neither. I limited myself and refused to even try again.

This time, I did push through. This time I huffed and puffed up this incline and whoo-hooooed all the way down! The downhill return was mind-blowingly-smooth and I basically coasted back to my subdivision gate. The below video was made during this ride. In it I talk about how the payoff is worth the effort.

Remember Who You Are

When I got home, I reviewed my ride stats on my phone and saw old ride stats that sort of blew my mind.

This three-mile roundtrip in my neighborhood had an elevation gain of 269 feet. Isolated, that sounds like a lot. The 269-foot climb must be what took my breath away, or so I thought. But my old stats show rides around Manhattan with 100 to 600 feet of elevation gain. One Staten Island event had a route elevation gain of 3203 feet. Since the highest point I reached was 396 feet above sea level (practically the tallest peak on the island), I believe the gain indicates the combination of hills I went up that day.

While writing this piece, I’ve finally realized I never accounted for the need to acclimate to a higher overall elevation. New York City is 33 feet above sea level. My home address in Marana, Arizona is at 2425 feet above sea level. My lungs are working harder here due to altitude and thinner arid air.

Sometimes we have to give ourselves a break and consider the practical elements of our environment and what adjustments we need to make to adapt better.

I had long proven to myself I’m capable of overcoming physical obstacles. Yet when my new environment proved more of a challenge than I expected, I gave up. I didn’t examine why it was more challenging or how I could adapt to the environmental changes. Focusing on the mountain ranges surrounding me defeated me. I psyched myself out.

Now that I’ve reminded myself that I did more in New York than I’ve even attempted in Arizona, I’m gonna retrieve that fearless, can-do attitude and go ride these desert roads!

Be blessed. Don’t psych yourself out. Keep moving. Keep moving. Keep moving! Amen!

Related posts:

I used to be an athlete.

Bike the Boros: Staten Island

Morning Stretch and Praise Break

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ACAD – Accepted: Genesis 33

Jacob and Esau Meet

Now Jacob looked up and saw Esau coming, and four hundred men with him. So he divided the children among Leah and Rachel and the two maids. He put the maids with their children in front, then Leah with her children, and Rachel and Joseph last of all. He himself went on ahead of them, bowing himself to the ground seven times, until he came near his brother.

But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept. When Esau looked up and saw the women and children, he said, “Who are these with you?” Jacob said, “The children whom God has graciously given your servant.” Then the maids drew near, they and their children, and bowed down; Leah likewise and her children drew near and bowed down; and finally Joseph and Rachel drew near, and they bowed down. Esau said, “What do you mean by all this company that I met?” Jacob answered, “To find favor with my lord.” But Esau said, “I have enough, my brother; keep what you have for yourself.” Jacob said, “No, please; if I find favor with you, then accept my present from my hand; for truly to see your face is like seeing the face of God—since you have received me with such favor. Please accept my gift that is brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me, and because I have everything I want.” So he urged him, and he took it.

Then Esau said, “Let us journey on our way, and I will go alongside you.” But Jacob said to him, “My lord knows that the children are frail and that the flocks and herds, which are nursing, are a care to me; and if they are overdriven for one day, all the flocks will die. Let my lord pass on ahead of his servant, and I will lead on slowly, according to the pace of the cattle that are before me and according to the pace of the children, until I come to my lord in Seir.”

So Esau said, “Let me leave with you some of the people who are with me.” But he said, “Why should my lord be so kind to me?” So Esau returned that day on his way to Seir. But Jacob journeyed to Succoth,[a] and built himself a house, and made booths for his cattle; therefore the place is called Succoth.

Jacob Reaches Shechem

Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, on his way from Paddan-aram; and he camped before the city. And from the sons of Hamor, Shechem’s father, he bought for one hundred pieces of money[b] the plot of land on which he had pitched his tent. There he erected an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel.[c]


Genesis 33:17 That is Booths
Genesis 33:19 Heb one hundred qesitah
Genesis 33:20 That is God, the God of Israel

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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What are you teaching your children?

Graphic provided by
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But you should continue following the teachings you learned. You know they are true, because you trust those who taught you. Since you were a child you have known the Holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise. And that wisdom leads to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for showing people what is wrong in their lives, for correcting faults, and for teaching how to live right. Using the Scriptures, the person who serves God will be capable, having all that is needed to do every good work.  ~ 2 Timothy 3:14-17

The one collective comment I’ve heard about me and my siblings about us as children throughout life is “You were well-behaved children.” Some would comment on how clean my mother kept us and how well-spoken we were. Growing up, I used to take slight offense at these comments. To me, the admiration, awe and surprise implied the speaker expected something different from us and a lot less from my Mom. Seeing as how our lifestyle was the only reality I knew, I couldn’t understand why people were so impressed that my Mom had clean, well-spoken and well-behaved children.

Of course, as I grew older, I was able to recognize why folks were impressed with my mother’s mothering prowess. She had dropped out of eighth-grade to have me and she was the daughter of a sixth-grade dropout who worked the Mississippi cotton fields who became a young mother a couple of years later. People don’t expect much from poor, under-educated teen moms. But Mom didn’t raise us with any concerns of our financial and social disadvantages. We were aware our resources were limited and we were aware we were sometimes dependent on the kindness of others for bare necessities. The primary lesson Mom hammered home was respect for other people. She taught us this by constantly telling us to do to/for others as we would have them do to/for us. That was paramount. She kept us aware of our treatment of other people.

I think in retrospect, that respect is what struck people the most. We respected people’s space. We respected people’s possessions. We respected people opinions. Most of all we respected people’s homes. When we went visiting, we sat down where we were told to sit down and didn’t move until we were told to move. That may sound foreign to folks today, but adults knew how to tell children to go to another room to play or to go outside and play. And when we were let loose to play, we played hard. But when there was no place to play, we sat down obediently and respectfully and waited for the visit to end.

Yesterday, I hosted a woman and her two young daughters in my home for the third time. I came away from the experience as drained as I had come away the two previous times. She is a woman who intentionally became a single mom in her late twenties. Her fears of life and her distrust of people have her teaching her daughters the absolute worst about human nature. However, she sells the fear and death she feeds them as love. She has told them their fathers are dead and she is the only person in the world who loves them and who is there for them. Truth is she wanted children; she didn’t want a man or a husband because she has known only abuse at the hands of men – beginning with her father.  Perhaps more damaging, she constantly tells them that they are better than she is, smarter than she is, more than she is. The result? Financially and socially disadvantaged children who are disobedient, dismissive, rude, ungrateful, and unappreciative. Why highlight financially and socially disadvantaged? Because these children will be largely dependent on the goodwill of and good intentions of people they encounter through their growing years to improve themselves in life.

Just as I was. My brother was. My sister was. People wanted to teach us, show us things and share opportunities with us. All the way up to the job I started four years ago that I was wholly under-experienced for. My manager said in the interview, that she can teach anyone what they need to know to work for her, however she couldn’t teach chemistry. What she called chemistry was my ability to speak with her and explore similarities in our backgrounds and personalities where there would appear to be none from the outside, because she was decidedly financially and socially advantaged. Essentially, the way I comport myself and the way I’ve embraced opportunities offered to me over the years are the elements that stood out to her.

Before the woman and her children left my home yesterday, I admonished the oldest girl for her rudeness as a guest in my home and I advised the mother (out of earshot of the girls) that she needed to work on teaching her children appreciation and gratitude. She assured me she was teaching them and that they had said “thank you”. I told her that their “thank yous” are meaningless when their treatment is so dismissive and entitled. Then I told her so many words, “I don’t deal with unappreciative and ungrateful children in my own family, I’m not obligated to deal with yours. If this is how they act when you’re around, how do you imagine they act or receive from others when you’re not around? At school, when people are trying to give them something or help them with something?”

She looked taken aback and I, quite honestly, was irritated that I felt the need to say such to someone I had invited into my home. I am a very laid back hostess, mi casa es su casa, help yourself to whatever you need. So for guests to make me feel as if the hospitality I am offering isn’t worth their respect, well that takes quite some doing.

I called a long-standing friend afterwards to vent and her summary was, “Wow, if someone told me they didn’t like my kids, I would have a lot to think about. But it’s all her fault, whatever she’s doing….”

I started to defend the mother, but truly, what is her defense? Low education? Low income? No family support? Limited economic choices? I’m a product of all that and so are many people I know. None of those situations can prevent a parent from teaching their children to respect their parents, respect others and respect themselves.

As I thought over the afternoon, I realized it wasn’t the children I took issue with as much as the mother, even though I was trying to exonerate her from her children’s behavior. Her children are the way they are because 1) she taught them, 2) she encourages them in the way she taught them, 3) she doesn’t correct them. What she teaches them are lies about themselves, their situation and the world. At one point during the visit, I told her that life was not as bad as she was painting it for her daughters. She was teaching them how to fear everything and distrust everyone – even me as they were sitting/jumping around as guests in my home, enjoying/abusing my comforts and eating/wasting from my supply – all of which are acknowledged and appreciated blessings from my Father God. She’s also teaching them to worry, mostly about things they have no control over.

What a horrible outlook to have on life, every day, everywhere you go – fear, distrust and worry. Being spiritually disadvantaged is no way to live at all.

“My child, don’t think the Lord’s discipline is worth nothing, and don’t stop trying when he corrects you.
The Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as his child.” ~ Proverbs 3:11–12

So hold on through your sufferings, because they are like a father’s discipline. God is treating you as children. All children are disciplined by their fathers. If you are never disciplined (and every child must be disciplined), you are not true children. We have all had fathers here on earth who disciplined us, and we respected them. So it is even more important that we accept discipline from the Father of our spirits so we will have life. ~ Hebrews 12:5-9

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Pride Fail

Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.  ~ John 15:20

I would like to humbly say that I am a humble person, but chances are that statement would have more of a prideful boast to it than a humble acceptance.

I don’t think I’m the most proud person I’ve encountered on earth, but apparently some overbearing arrogance stubbornly clings to my character. I’ve noticed recently that my pride is strongest when I’m hurt the most. It’s something about the need to project an air of confidence when I feel the most fragile. Something about the need to assert my importance and value when I feel the most worthless and disposable to others. I’ve been on a tear lately and I’ve tried to give myself time to calm down and re-focus. Something I’ve learned is that my perspective of myself doesn’t change as long as I’m in my own head, in my own space and in my own world. It just took a not-so-subtle set-down from my boss to kick me out of my mental Queendom of Shawnda Land. I needed that.

Insecurity. That’s what I’m wallowing in. A whole bunch of insecurity and uncertainty about my life. And that changed me into a person whom I really don’t know or like. Apparently, others don’t like her either.

The Pride-Full Shawnda was also the Shawnda who was hurt beyond her ability to articulate her pain. Pride came along to bolster her up. To puff her up. To give her a sense of being and substance. Pride told her she was important to herself even if others did not esteem her at all. Pride made her think that the more she esteemed herself, the more others would also. But Pride failed.

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand.Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?  On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone— while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?  ~ Job 38:4-7

Two drops of water reflecting their own universe.

It certainly wasn’t me. I hadn’t been there. Nothing can make you feel as insignificant as contemplating the incomprehensible vastness of God’s creative glory. Yet this same glory is also the one thing that makes you feel the most significant when you see yourself as part of His vast creation. In all His incomprehensible glory, God saw fit to create me and you. He created us with such infinite detail that we can’t begin to know anything about ourselves until we begin to know something about Him, our Lord and Creator.

Pride indeed failed to puff me up, but God never fails to fill me with His presence again and again.