How does one begin to create a more fun, adventurous, and happy life? The first, and by far most important step, is to just decide. Really. It’s easy to get caught living a life that’s expected. We do the things that people like us are “supposed” to do, and avoid the things that people aren’t “supposed” to do. Making a decision to ignore those “supposed to’s” and “shoulds” is a ginormous one.
An Adultitis Fighter is someone who rallies against rules that don’t exist and engages in ruthless, senseless acts of silliness that undermine Adultitis and its unadventurous version of adulthood. Once a month, we shine a light upon the most remarkable among us, holding them up as a dazzling example of what we should strive for in this epic battle against a formidable enemy.
Cheri Neal is an inspiring example of someone who has decided to not worry so much about what people like her are “supposed” to do. For example, a lot of elected officials take themselves way too seriously. You wouldn’t expect one to have a treehouse in his or her yard. Cheri does. Yep, this township supervisor from Illinois holds occasional staff meetings up there, and has even been known to camp out in it overnight.
Cheri drives a fun car that she loves, parks it in a garage that features purple interior walls, and raises monarch butterflies, releasing them all at once at the end of the season. (Not quite the profile of your average politician!)
Another thing we love about Cheri is how she approached a fairly recent realization that she loves spending time with horses. Most adults would take the approach that she’d either have to buy a horse or launch into some sort of career with horses, eventually deeming it too unrealistic and leaving it at that. But Cheri took a different tack. She asked around, found someone nearby who owns horses, and volunteered to help care for them. The horse owner was taken aback, as most requests like those come from children and teenagers. She persisted, and now she gets to spend time every day with horses.
It’s easy to live a paint-by-numbers life, following rules and modeling your days the same way everyone else does. Cheri Neal is a reminder that you can embrace life as a choose-your-own-adventure.
If you want to.
In recognition of their efforts, Adultitis Fighters of the Month receive a special mini-canvas hand-painted by Jason, along with a certificate of honor, a sweet patch, and other Adultitis-Fighting tools. We asked Cheri some questions about how she fights the Big A and what advice she has for others…
What are some of your favorite ways to fight Adultitis?
• Collecting Monarch caterpillars and caring for them until they become butterflies.
• Carrying colored pencils in my purse at all times and using them to take notes in meetings.
• Doing my work in my treehouse.
• Borrowing friends’ kids to hang out with.
• Growing fun flowers like Zinnias and writing a book on growing Zinnias and your zest for life!
• Pit crewing at hot air balloon festivals.
• Taking care of 7 horses every morning.
• Hanging out with the Queen Bees of Zion Red Hat Society, especially Ruby Faye Smith, my 93 (almost) yodeler.
Who or what has been the greatest influence in your own fight against Adultitis?
My children (Billy and Britney Ditzig) and my mother, Pat Neal, and Ruby Faye Smith, my 93 (almost – in September so she claims it now) year old friend, Red Hatter and resident Yodeler. Ruby is the first one on the dance floor, yodels for checkout girls at the grocery store and is quick with a smile and a compliment. All of them remind me what really matters and make me laugh on a regular basis, at myself and life.
What is something you loved doing as a child that you still do in some form today?
Service. I was born with that as my purpose. I LOVE being of service to others. It makes me feel really good inside. When I was little I would run errands for seniors who lived on my street, bringing the paper or a gallon of milk and helping them eat their cookies. Today I am a full-time elected public servant, coach and public speaker because I love service.
Okay, that and singing loud in the car, laying in the grass during a summer rain storm, and blowing bubbles.
What is your strategy for dealing with people who are obviously infected with Adultitis?
To first picture a blue bubble around me to protect me from getting infected myself, and then listen, validate and help them find a funner, more loving way to look at the situation, and then offer a hug. It almost always helps!
What advice do you have for someone who is feeling overwhelmed by Adultitis?
Stop it! Run away! Quit! And then ask yourself these questions: What do you want? What do you have right now? What baby steps can you take to get there? When you focus on what brings you the most joy and move towards that, everything changes! If you aren’t sure how to do that, start by reading my book, Seeds of Joy, Growing Zinnias and Your Zest for Life!
Anything else you’d like to share?
I was once asked by someone if I was terminal. When I questioned why he asked that, he said that l live as if I was. I smiled and reminded him that we all are, and none of us knows how long we have, so live! I don’t keep a bucket list, I just do the things that bring me joy. I met an angel in Madison, Wisconsin who helped me create this mantra: “Today, no matter what I am doing, no matter who I’m doing it with, and no matter where I am going, it is my primary intent to please myself, because it brings me joy, putting me in alignment with my Spirit and THAT is the greatest gift I can give the world.” One person’s joy is another person’s nightmare, so don’t ask advice, just ask yourself! My career choices of coaching, public speaking and serving as Zion Township Supervisor certainly aren’t 100% fun, but they bring me immense joy. My friends think it’s crazy. I think it’s Crazy Good.
Congrats to Cheri Neal, April 2017 Adultitis Fighter of the Month. Thank you for making the world more awesome!