Articles by Jim Gainan

As published in the Billings Gazette

Growing Up: Balance is necessary for healthy living

JIM GAINAN Growing Up | Posted: Sunday, January 23, 2011 12:00 am

Last year for this week's column I reflected on the word imbalance. The word is defined as loss of equilibrium attributable to an unstable situation in which some forces outweigh others. The experience isn't so neatly defined. I can't think of a scenario where imbalance, particularly in the long term, leads to a positive outcome. This truth is something that is paramount for healthy living and so very easy to forget.

In fact, I'm starting to realize that when my life becomes out of balance I go into an 'autopilot' sort of mode. When in that state, my responses to stress, the items I allow to bother me, and the choices I make, whether a meal or a paint color, aren't going to be as good as they could be. During this time the things in my life that should be the very least on my list of importance rise to the top and the experience is just pretty crummy.

When I recognize the imbalance, like right now, for instance, I start to feel better, mostly because it gives me an opportunity to change something. The tunnel seems shorter and I begin to realize that spring is coming, the smell of a barbecue grill warming up is just around the corner and the small annoyances of today can just be that. I guess the key to it all is realizing that the imbalance is there and do something about it immediately. Don't wait for it to pass, because it won't. Don't wait for someone else to fix it, because they can't.

So, now what? For me it was sitting at this computer and reading my column from last year about my son Landon and his friend Emily's 'situation' at preschool and reflecting on what that column and how that situation has unfolded for me.

Just to refresh your memory, last year at this time, my then 3 1/2- year-old son experienced imbalance in his life. The night started out like every other. Dinner followed by an exhausting wrestling match. I noticed that he seemed “off,” but had no idea the important lesson he was about to teach me. You see, as the evening slowed down, darkness fell and quiet-time before bed loomed, I found a broken little boy standing at the side of my chair. My inquiry about what was wrong was met quickly with, “Emily doesn't like me!” His sad expression and a tear in his eye let me know that this was very real. Inside I thought to myself, “What! How could anyone do this to my child?” But, I didn't let that show.

A simple question revealed a big lesson. I said, “Landon, why do you feel this way?” He answered, “It makes my head hurt”. I said, “Your heart hurts?” “No”, he said confidently, “My feelings are making my head hurt.”

Thousands of pages of every self help and parenting book swirled through my head before I asked what happened. He explained that Emily, his friend in pre-kindergarten had told him she didn't want to be friends anymore. When I asked why, he answered, “Today, I told her I didn't want to be friends and she told me that she didn't want to be friends with me then either!” “Is that true? Do you really not want to be friends with her?”, I asked. He said, “No, I do, I don't know why I said that.”

I suggested that we give Emily a call on the phone and that he apologize right away for saying he didn't want to be her friend. He agreed but said, “What if she says she still doesn't want to be my friend?” When I called Emily's mom, I explained “this may sound strange but, can Landon talk with Emily?”

Intrigued she said, “Sure. Why?” After a quick synopsis she hurried out of a church function to a quiet place where she could give the phone to Emily. With both of us on speaker phone she said “Emily, Landon wants to talk to you!”

You could have heard a pin drop when he muttered in boyish fashion, “Sorry”. And I probed, “For what?” and he said “For saying I don't want to be your friend because I really do.” As only an angel could do she said, “I'm sorry too. I want to be your friend.” To that he said “OK. Bye”, jumped off the chair he was standing on, and headed for the fridge.

He was lighter immediately and the dinner he just kind of pushed around on his plate was now interesting to him as he realized that he was now hungry. So, with a big smile, he opened the fridge grabbed a clementine, yogurt and a juice box and headed for our bed for his nightly dose of “Curious George”.

I watched him in awe as I realized that, I too, get hungry when I get my life back in balance; what a relief it is to admit and correct mistakes rather than carry them around. Vitamin 'F'orgiveness saved the day and made my son's head stop hurting.

Since then, Angie and I have become great friends with Emily's parents. Getting to know them has been a great blessing in our lives. So tonight, reflection on my son's rebalance of his life a year ago helped me rebalance mine. In fact remembering all of that makes me feel so good I might take some flowers home tonight.

JAMES M. GAINAN is President of Gainan's Flowers and Garden Center p. 406-245-6434 e.