When You Can't Shake It, Replace It


The other morning I woke up with a song stuck in my head. (To make sure it doesn't get stuck in your head, I won't tell you what it was. You have enough things going on.)

I don't easily get rid of a song in my head, apparently. It lingered, playing on endless loop in my mind as I got ready for work. The only way to stop the cycle was turning the radio on while driving to work. I couldn't seem to shake the song on my own, but I could replace it.

This seems like good life advice. When you can't shake it, replace it.

I'm trying this premise to help me with what I eat and drink. For example, when I struggle to shake a Dr Pepper craving, instead of relying on willpower, tenuous as it sometimes is, I try to replace it with a large glass of water.

I find this premise good for my thought life, too. When I'm worried about a bad outcome, I replace worry with prayer. When I'm discouraged, I try to replace those downward meditations by remembering something I'm grateful for.

It's not avoidance. It's strategic. Just like I can't hold two songs in my head at the same time, I can't simultaneously drink Dr Pepper when I'm drinking water. I can't simultaneously dwell on something negative when I'm focused on something positive.

Think about how lifeguards call out walk! when someone runs on the pool deck. They're not calling out, "Don't run!" They don't even mention the undesirable behavior. Instead, they simply call out the good behavior they want to see: walk!

That song stuck in my head? I didn't get rid of it by willpower. It left my thoughts because it was replaced.

When you can't shake something bad, don't just try to muscle through it. Instead, replace it with something good.


In All Things, At All Times, Having All That You Need

A few weeks ago, the university where I teach issued a small standard pay increase for employees. Understandably, any increase is better than the pay freezes we've experienced in years past where our salaries remained entirely stagnant, but it doesn't come remotely close to matching the current high rate of inflation. It also doesn't account for merit. Individuals who did their jobs fabulously and individuals who cut corners received the exact same increase.

Generally, I don't dwell on my salary. I'm fortunate; our needs as a family are met. But on occasion (most notably in late summer or early fall when raise information is distributed), I think more about what I earn. Many new college grads start their careers earning salaries that match (or are higher) than what I make after 22 years of teaching. I ask myself: Is this just the reality of having a career in the liberal arts? Is it the universal plight for non-tenure-line teaching professors?

Then my wondering gets more personal: With over two decades of experience, several teaching awards, and stellar evaluations semester after semester, don't I deserve more?

My focus goes downhill. Instead of being immensely grateful for all the good things (including the basic fact that I'm fortunate to have an education and a job), I feel frustrated. Instead of focusing on how I enjoy my career, love my students, and find my department to be supportive and collegial, if I dwell on salary alone, I feel shortchanged.

I mean, I mostly feel valued. I really do. Just not with with financial compensation, and that's obviously important. So all that leads me to this:

Last weekend as I was putzing in my garage to work on a project, contemplating the meager salary increase without any real appreciation, I realized that I would need a miter saw to cut trim for the project. I Googled "miter saws" to check prices at Lowes and Home Depot. Then, I opened Facebook where I'm part of a Buy Nothing group and immediately noticed that the top post was offering a free miter saw.

The exact minute I realized I needed to use a miter saw -- which happened to be the exact minute I was descending into a mental grumble session about my salary -- was also the exact minute that a random local stranger was offering a free miter saw to anyone who needed it.

Once again, in the strangest of ways, I am reminded of God's incredible, uncanny provision.

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

2 Corinthians 9:8


Got Tons of Cherry Tomatoes? Easy Ways to Enjoy.

I'm unsure how much longer this bounty will last, but we're having a wonderful final crop of cherry tomatoes. There's something wholesome and satisfying about going to my backyard and picking my lunch.

In case you have an ample late-summer harvest, too, here are two ridiculously easy ways to enjoy:

1) Caprese Salad: slice cherry tomatoes in half, then top with fresh basil, fresh mozzarella, and a balsamic vinegar glaze.

2) Light Tomato Salad:
slice cherry tomatoes in half. Season with salt and pepper, then drizzle with olive oil. Let marinate for 10-15 minutes before enjoying.

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