Posted in differences, mindset

Introversion as a deficiency

During the course of conversation and brainstorming with my group during a training, someone mentioned that they have children whose parents put them in an ensemble (band or orchestra) to “get over their shyness.”

First of all, in a traditionally-run ensemble, there’s not a lot of verbal interaction between players, so that’s not really going to help the cause.

But more importantly, being shy is not a deficiency.

Shy people might be introverted, might be socially anxious, or both.

If a person is socially anxious, it’s a good idea to work some of that out. Most paths require us to interact with strangers fairly regularly, and being anxious about these interactions (or avoiding them altogether) makes life hard. I know about this.

Throwing someone into an uncomfortable situation—or a series of them—doesn’t make the discomfort go away, though it could help the person to gain skills to mask it. I’m pretty familiar with that, too.

But if a person isn’t anxious about interacting with people and just doesn’t care to, there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s not something to “get over.”

Band is where I have found many of my best friends through life, but I certainly didn’t learn to be social there. (And, as a teacher, the kids who aren’t social are generally easier.)

Introversion isn’t a deficiency.

Posted in know better do better, mental health, mindset, motivation, podcasts, thoughtfulness

Podcast re: addiction

There’s not a bite or a sound clip or a quote for me to pull from this podcast—there was just too much—so I’m just going to recommend listening to the whole thing.

Dax Shepard (Armchair Expert) talks with Johann Hari about his research and books exploring addiction.

Much of the information was not new to me. I already knew that the American system of shame and punishment doesn’t work (and don’t understand how that’s not obvious to everyone, honestly). I already knew other countries had put systems in place for controlled legalization and rehabilitation with stunning effects. I already knew that addicts are largely survivors of trauma and that healing the trauma is how to get rid of the addiction in those people.

I didn’t know that we knew all of that well before Nancy Reagan’s campaign.

Larger than that, I didn’t know where the War on Drugs started, despite some familiarity with jazz history. That story—fairly early in the podcast—is worth the listen, even if you don’t listen any farther. It’s horrifying.

I also found validation in some of his information. Again, not information that was new to me, but it’s always affirming to hear it from someone else.

Go listen, then come back and let’s have a conversation, shall we?

(Also, some of Dax’s arguments made me crazy, especially given some arguments he’s made on previous episodes. But that doesn’t change the fantastic content from Johann.)



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Posted in about me, know better do better, mental health, mindset, motivation


Tomorrow’s post is a recommendation for a podcast episode I’ve been listening to.

(I still have about half an hour left, and I’m not going to post about it until I’ve heard the whole thing, even though you could listen to half of what I’ve completed so far and it would be worthwhile.)

They’re talking about drug addiction, how we have the “solution” wrong, root causes, biological causes, and on and on. It’s interesting, and if Nancy Reagan was the last person you got information from about drugs, you’ll learn a lot.

I have never liked the taste of alcohol, so social drinking was never my thing. (Drinking something that tastes bad until it doesn’t taste bad any more was never a strategy that made any sense to me.)

I had straight-laced friends in high school and was either completely oblivious (which is 100% possible) or wasn’t around drugs in college (just ample liquor). The only time I recall being with someone smoking weed, I asked very hesitantly for some (because “good kid” was my badge and breaking that always involved hesitation) and was denied (because I was hesitant? saving me from myself? or saving it all for himself?).

I have often been grateful for that combination of traits, because I’m sure I’d be an alcoholic or a drug addict or both. Textbook case of addiction.

I’m super-curious about being high. But honestly, I’m afraid of liking it. Managing a food addiction is enough; I don’t need more.

(I tried getting drunk once, just to see what it was like, and didn’t enjoy it at all. I have way too much need to be in control of myself. At this point, in addition to that, loosening or removing filters would definitely not be a good thing. Especially in the contexts that friends have recommended drinking-as-survival.)

So either I’d get high and like it, which would not be good (see: addict), or I wouldn’t like it, which would scratch the itch but otherwise, meh.  (And, at this point, it’s a potential career-ender.)

So, at least for the foreseeable future, I’m out. What’s your experience?



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Posted in ebb & flow, education, know better do better, mindset, parenting

Let beginners experiment unbothered

The Climbing Daddy and I were at the climbing gym the other day, and there were some parents with a young child on the beginner wall. The kid was maybe a third of the way up the wall, and the parents were yelling all sorts of suggestions and directions up at her.

I turned to The Climbing Daddy and said, “More parents on the slow curve of learning how to be quiet and just let them climb.”

It’s true. You see someone—not just a child—on the wall and looking stuck and you want to yell up at them where the holds are or how to make the next move. But if you think of it from the climber’s perspective…

Let’s assume they actually are a little stuck (and aren’t just slow or resting). They’re already a bit frazzled from getting stuck. If they’re new to climbing, there’s a solid element of fear involved in there (or they likely wouldn’t be stuck because they’d just grab and go). And maybe some self-consciousness because people are watching. (I don’t usually have this, but every now and then, it’s really bad.) And then someone starts yelling stuff up at them. Maybe two someones. Which maybe adds a component of trying to please (shout out to the people-pleasers!). There’s a lot of input to a brain that’s already overloading. It’s overwhelming.

So what I do my best to do (though I’m still not perfect at it) is to tell the climber (whether it’s The Kid or anyone new I’m climbing with) that I’m happy to help, but I’m going to let them ask. I’ll talk through that move, and then let them climb unbothered unless/until they ask again.

It’s hard sometimes.

The Climbing Daddy was on the wall, and there was a great foot hold that he was missing and could have used; he was struggling a little. But he was also still working and was focused. I didn’t say anything; it would have broken his concentration. If he’d been in a different mental space, I would have pointed it out. But we’ve been climbing together enough for me to be able to tell those things by just watching.

Sometimes, “stuck” and “thinking” look alike.

The thing is, this is true for people learning pretty much anything. Give them enough information to get started, and let them try it. See how it feels. Experiment. Get stuck. Get unstuck. Figure stuff out.

I have been teaching beginners for decades. It took a while before I learned that sometimes, they need to make mistakes without me immediately jumping in and correcting.

The Climbing Daddy and I took some dance lessons, and one of his frustrations was the teacher trying to help after every pass, when he wanted to just try it a couple of times, see if he could make it work, and then get correction.

It’s a normal teacher thing to do. (I’ve had explicit training at work on ways to avoid it.) But it’s often not helpful.

I’ve started giving time in my classes to let kids practice on their own. 30 seconds here, a minute there. I’ve found it to be more productive than working together as a group the whole time.

When working one-on-one with a student, I’ve taken to asking, “Do you want me to stay with you while you practice this, or do you want to try it on your own and show me in a minute or two what you can do?” I’ve never had a student ask me to stay, but I’ve had many students come back a minute later with a skill they’ve figured out, or questions about the skill they couldn’t nail yet. Either way, they’re deeper into the process, and they’re learning to self-assess.

My job is to make you not need me any more.

This applies to parenting. To kids learning how to do chores. To kids learning to dress themselves. To kids helping with food preparation. Yes, they’re slower. No, the end result isn’t as good, usually. But they need time and space to try it and to practice. (And for the end result to be “good enough,” relative to developmental stages.)

The absolute best way I’ve found to stay empathetic to people learning a new skill is to be a beginner at something. Added bonus if it’s an activity that you struggle with, that doesn’t come easy.

Because learning to play an instrument is so physical and requires so much coordination (before we even complicate it further with reading music), my empathy is found in floundering through physical skills. Being a novice at Sudoku or something mental wouldn’t draw parallels as strong. (But if you’re trying to teach someone an academic or intellectual skill, then learning a new physical skill might not be as useful as an empathy tool.)

Let beginners flounder. Make yourself available to help. Jump in sometimes. There is so much learning in the struggle. The sense of achievement is stronger after slogging through the struggle. Finding the balance between letting them struggle and giving the answer is tricky, but it’s our responsibility as teachers and as parents to look for the balance. We’re the ones in the lead.


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Posted in gardening, hope, meandering

New year’s should be in spring

We put in some fruit trees about a month ago. They were mostly bare at the time but are starting to flower, grow leaves, grow branches.

The growth is wonderful!

So much joy in the greens and pinks!

So much hope for fresh fruit straight from the back yard!

(So many exclamation points!)

It seems to me that spring, the season of new beginnings, should be when the new year begins, when we decide to renew ourselves.

If you skip all that BS in January, maybe consider it now. Beginning with a resolution to get outside more. (Pending weather in your area.) It’s invigorating and wonderful!