Posted in about me, hope, mindset, thoughtfulness

My word

My school district does something at the beginning of each year for staff, to try to give us a common inspirational thing that in theory would carry through the year but rarely lives for more than a week or two.

This year, we were each to engrave a word on a “my intention” bracelet.

It was supposed to be our focus word for the year; we each chose our own.

This is the kind of thing that I get stuck on.

I needed to choose the perfect word. And while I had lots of ideas about what that word might be, perfection is found in a feeling—it’s not cognitive so much.

With many things to work on both at home and at work (I am a constant work in progress), I had many possibilities.

Flow. Trust. Yet.

Focus. Risk. Innovating.

Enough. Believe. Breathe. Margins.

Nurture. Connect. Nourish. Cultivate.

All fit, but none were quite perfect.

And then I read this blog post. And I loved it. And immediately I knew that my focus word is shamash—the candle in a menorah that lights the other candles.

A shamash is not part of my religion. Not part of my culture. Not part of my world in any direct way, really. And yet, it resonated.

I don’t know if I’ve heard the word before. I learned a fair amount about Judaism in and after college when I dated a few guys who were Jewish. I’ve been friends with Carla (the author of the linked post) for a while, and this post was not written this year.

It’s likely that I read it when she first published it and it just didn’t stick. This time? Resonance. Ah-ha! The feeling that I have found the perfect word to remind me what path I want to be on.

Works for me with students, with colleagues, with friends, with family, with strangers.

That said…

There’s a lot of life going on over here. My mental energy is sometimes depleted and often low. I haven’t spent a lot of energy on this yet. Working on it a little. Will continue to work on it. Will continue to figure out what I want it to look like. Hoping that with the seed planted, once the stuff that’s going on now passes, it will have space to grow and bloom.

Shamash. Be the candle that lights others.

Posted in about me, hope, vulnerability

I’ve always hated Christmas, but…

…I’ve wanted to love it.

It just sucked.

My mom’s love language must be gifts (based on things more than just Christmas). There were always piles of stuff for my brother, sister, and I to open, each in a different color paper.

My earliest Christmas memory, I was 7 or 8. We had ripped through our piles of stuff, and my brother, four years younger, had a meltdown because there was a particular toy he had wanted and didn’t get.

I have no idea what the toy was. I have no idea what he did get. I have no idea what I got.

But I remember being agitated that he had gotten all of these toys—presumably many of which he wanted—and he wasn’t happy.

(At this point in my life, I realize that he was three or four years old…but Child Heat didn’t give him that pass.)

As I grew up, I was religious and hated that the religious significance was drastically overshadowed by materialism—both in the culture at large and in our house.

(Don’t read too much piety into that. I always had a Christmas list and didn’t ever say I wanted nothing.)

When, during college, I became very much not religious, I still hated the materialism.

(I believe that much of the distaste came from other gift-related issues with my mom that were just overbearingly present at Christmas. Another story for another day.)

I don’t remember a time when I felt like I was part of my family of origin, or a time when I wasn’t ostracized. So holidays that are “for family” were torturous.

Years passed, The Tall Daddy and I got married, and I was so excited to have Christmas with his family. They were kind and loving to me—so unfamiliar and welcome—and finally (FINALLY!) I would have a holiday that’s about family with family.

Turns out, they didn’t do much for Christmas. Siblings lived in different states and some of them might get together at some point during that week off, but most stayed home with their kids.

It’s not that those years were bad so much as anticlimactic. (Also, The Tall Daddy and I gigged on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, so there’s that.)

The Christmas after that marriage ended, I had the flu.

The year after that, The Kid and I went to New Jersey. He was four. While we had dinner with a friend and her family, we spent Christmas Day in a hotel room, doing our own thing, just a few miles from my parents’ house.

It was so healing.

The next two Christmases were spent in Florida with The Climbing Daddy’s family, and while the second was not as bad as the first, those are not holidays I care to revisit.

This year … we’re at home. It’s just us. We’re settled into our house. (Last year, we moved right before heading to Florida.)

The Kid loves Christmas and decorations. Always has. The house isn’t totally decked out, but there are more decorations up than if I was left to my own devices. And it looks lovely. He loves Santa (though he’s always known that Santa isn’t real). And, of course, he loves getting LEGOs.

And so I am hopeful that this year, Christmas will be nice. Maybe even amazing.

I’m planning to take some of the traditions from my family of origin—little details that I loved—and hang onto them in ways that fit me now, with good friends. And leave the stuff I didn’t love. And add in other pieces that maybe someday my son will remember fondly as “something we did at Christmas when I was a kid.”

It’s been a long time comin’, but maybe this is my year.

(Also, I’m anxious that I’m putting too much into it and have a high likelihood of being let down. But I’ve pretty much always lived by the notion that the results are best when you’re all in, so………….)

Posted in ebb & flow, gifts, hope, mindset, podcasts, storytelling, thoughtfulness, vulnerability

Podcast quote: creativity (and so much more)

TED has started a new podcast series called TED Interviews, where Chris Anderson interviews people who have give TED talks about their talks, and they get more in depth.

I haven’t quite listened to all of them, but all that I’ve listened to have been captivating. (As of this writing, there are only six of them.)

I listened to an interview with Elizabeth Gilbert, mostly known for writing Eat, Pray, Love. (I haven’t read it.)

First, they got into creativity. She talked a short bit about the history of creativity (who knew there was one?!) I loved the imagery in what she had to say:

“The way I describe it is the way I’ve empirically experienced it, which is broken down in my life to this notion: that ideas are living entities. They have consciousness. They don’t have matter. They can’t be seen, they can’t be felt, they can’t be proven, but they have will. And the way I picture it—and it’s sort of whimsical but I have also literally based my life on this—is the universe is sort of swirling with these ideas that wish to be created and they’re constantly looking for human collaborators because for some reason we have this oddly sensitive consciousness that can hear them and find them. And so the way I picture it is they sort of just roam around being like, ‘Are you my mother? Are you my mother? Are you my mother?’ And every single human who is struck by inspiration describes the experience exactly the same way … there’s this distraction where the idea sort of consumes you and in that consuming which can take months, weeks, years, the idea is interviewing you and asking you, ‘Do you wanna do this thing with me or not?’ And that’s the most important conversation that I think human beings can have, is that dialogue between your willingness to cooperate and show up and make something with this idea and manifest it and the idea’s desire to be made and the question of whether you are indeed the right partner.”

Whimsical was a solid word to describe the idea, but I love the imagery. Even more, though, I love the ownership of the work, and how the idea doesn’t just come and magically happen—it’s a partnership. “Your labor is the contribution to the miracle.” (She says that later.)

She talked more about that in other places in the podcast as well.

They also talked about curiosity vs. passion, enchantment vs. empiricism, fear, memes (not the pictures on the internet), secular magic, dark night of the soul, why to do the work if it’s likely to fail, and quite a bit about grieving.

It’s an hour long, and it’s well worth your hour. I listened to it twice, in addition to the bits I listened and paused so I could transcribe.

Posted in about me, hope, meandering, mental health, mindset, vulnerability

Toxic Thanksgiving

When you are Other in your family—for whatever reason—holidays are stressful.

I always felt trapped on Thanksgiving and Christmas, because “the holidays are about family” but my family was toxic. There was nowhere else to go when I was living at home, and it took me moving across the country to be able to set a boundary after I moved out.

Thank goodness for books, right?

Our current tradition is to go to a National Park or National Monument for Thanksgiving. They’re not crowded, and all cultural Thanksgiving expectations are eliminated.

What a relief.

We have an advantage here, in that there are so many National Parks and Monuments within a few hours’ drive, so we can go for two or three days without issue. Sometimes we camp; sometimes we stay in a hotel.

Maybe you’d like to break the tradition, too, but you’re not near many parks. Or aren’t interested in them. What do you like? (I hear you, people who answered “sweatpants, book, tea, couch”!) What is relatively nearby?

If you’re in this emotionally disastrous place, if Thursday is a day you dread (or worse, the whole weekend) because of the people you feel obligated to spend it with, I’m sorry. I know your pain. Our reasons might be different, but the hurts still hurt.

I encourage you to examine your obligation and to see if maybe there’s somewhere else for you to go, ideally with someone who is safe. (If not this year, since that’s in two days, perhaps next year?)

If that’s just not possible (and there are a million legit reasons why it might not be—don’t flog yourself), build in some self-care. Take something with you to do. Make sure you have clothes to be able to go for a walk or a run (depending on what you prefer). Maybe plan something with nearby friends for some time in the day when family obligations are lower (in the evening, for example, if you have an afternoon meal). Sometimes just bringing unfamiliar people into the mix puts the bad people on good behavior, which at least will buy you a respite.

You are loved. You are worth it.

 

Posted in books, hope, mental health, mindset, parenting, vulnerability

Book quote: family and belonging

I listened to Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown. (OK, I listened to part of it. But audiobooks and I have a complicated relationship, and I didn’t finish it before it was due back at the library.)

Given my unpleasant relationship with my family of origin, this quote spoke to me. There is something comforting about the end…but I’ll talk about it after you read it.

Also, given that I’m transcribing from an audiobook, I can’t guarantee that the punctuation is as you’d see it in the book.

“Even in the context of suffering … Not belonging in our families is still one of the most dangerous hurts. That’s because it has the power to break out heart, our spirit, and our sense of self-worth… And when those things break, there are only three outcomes …

“One, you live in constant pain and seek relief by numbing it and/or inflicting pain on others.

“Two, you deny your pain and your denial ensures you pass it on to those around you and down to your children.

“Or number three, you find the courage to own the pain and develop a level of empathy and compassion for yourself and for others that allows you to spot hurt in the world in a very unique way.”

That bit at the end—spotting hurt in the world in a very unique way—is like a consolation prize. “You didn’t have what you needed when you needed it, and sometimes you still don’t. People who haven’t experienced it don’t understand it and often, you’re blamed for what was inflicted on you. But you get to have the capacity to help others the way you wished you had been helped.”

Better than passing it on. And hopefully, helping someone else not to pass it on.

Posted in cancer, hope

Cancer and my grandchildren

I hope that one day, I can tell my grandkids about what I went through for treatment for lymphoma, and they can look at me wide-eyed, staring in disbelief at how archaic the treatments were.

In the mean time, for the too many people I know (and countless more I don’t know) who are fighting this disease: be strong when you can, cry when you need to, ask for help (there are so many people who want to help—you are not a burden), tell people what you need (everyone’s experience is different), and good luck.

And for the people who haven’t had a turn yet: we know a lot of the things that are risk factors. Use the research! Change a habit or two or five and reduce your risk!

Posted in about me, hope, mindset, vulnerability

Go make a ruckus

As I’ve mentioned a couple of times, I’ve been reading and listening to a fair amount of Seth Godin lately.

He ends his podcasts with “Go make a ruckus.” In other words, take what you have to offer, and offer it.

Another piece of that, though, is that work that isn’t good won’t spread. (Lots of angles on the word “good,” but I don’t want to get stuck on that here.)

If what you write resonates with people, it will spread.

I am not a marketer, in many respects. (We’re all marketers in some ways. Another post for another day.) A handful of years ago, my business failed. Not because I didn’t have value to offer—I’m an excellent teacher, speaker, coach, mentor—but because I didn’t have the know-how (or the courage, if I’m being totally honest) to put myself out there.

I’m not totally sure where “out there” is.

I’ve always been an introvert. I’m perfectly content to stay home. (My husband is the driving force on adventures and travel.) I’ve never been into almost anything in pop culture. (I came of age in the 80s without ever having big hair or stonewashed jeans … though I did have lots of neon and a pair of parachute pants.) So looking for places that people go or talking about things people talk about is foreign to me. Still.

So this is my thing: I don’t know how to discern between “it’s stagnant because it’s not that good” and “it’s stagnant because these things take time” or “it’s stagnant because it hasn’t ‘resonated with the cool kids’ yet.”

My request of you: if you’re enjoying what you’re reading, share it with someone else who might enjoy it. I can be added to an RSS feed. I can be followed on Facebook. You can get on my mailing list if you’re not already (one email per week, with links from that week—no spam—this is my hobby, not my livelihood).

In return, I’ll do my best to add value to your life, to make worthwhile the time you spend here reading.

Posted in hope, meandering, mindset

Education is important

Without getting into debate (right now) about what should be taught or how it should be taught (I have a lot of opinions on those pieces), EDUCATION IS IMPORTANT.

We have taken education for granted. For so long, people have just gone to school. It doesn’t directly cost anything. We complain about this teacher or that policy or the start time or the PTO, but the school, the system, an education is taken for granted.

(I recognize my privilege in saying all of this. There are many people who are not that old who have seen much strife in the school system…and it’s still there, in slightly less brazen ways…but that’s another post for another day.)

I live in a state where education is being severely manipulated for monetary and political gain. (One politician just made $12M on his charter schools. See “Eddie Farnsworth” for more information.)

All of the local-to-me school bonds and overrides failed yesterday except one. A slew of anti-education people were elected or re-elected. Despite a statewide 6-day teacher walkout last spring. Despite tons of grassroots work to help people understand the severity of the problem here and now.

Old people whose kids have already gone through the system are notorious for voting against school budgets (where I’m originally from) and against bonds and overrides (where I’m currently living) because they’re “not using it” any more.

But we all* benefit from an educated populace. The rising tide lifts all boats.

*Except the people who are monetarily and politically gaining from uneducated people who can be easily swayed. But that has an upper limit, and I suspect that pretty soon, we’re going to smash our heads on that ceiling, and it’s not going to be good. For any of us.

Support your local public schools. Ask your teacher friends who the best candidates are for the school board. Learn about the legislation that is helping and hurting. Find out how the budget works, and what money is getting spent on. Help education reform. Help legislators use current research to make decisions on standards and best practice.

Our country depends on it.

Posted in hope, mindset, motivation

A post every day?

Seth Godin had a blog post yesterday, talking about daily blogging.

I thought…

I might be able to write daily.

And I suppose if I’m not concerned with what anyone thinks, I could publish daily.

I definitely have enough thoughts to fill a little bit of space daily. Or to average out to daily.

It might help me to continue to let go of perfectionism. (I’m getting better!)

I enjoy writing and I’m not great at prioritizing it. Maybe this will help me prioritize it.

So, my friends, I’m going to try it.

Pictures are a struggle. So some will have pictures and some won’t, and I’m not going to worry about it.

If you have any questions you want answered, ask ’em! (I’m not necessarily going to answer them, but I’ll entertain all of them.)

Posted in from the book, gardening, hope, marriage, meandering

Hope

I’m writing a book. This is a little piece of it, written about six months ago. I expect that I’ll share a few more bits of it, and also that some things I write for the blog will end up in the book. Editing is likely.

I was recently struck by the abundance of hope in my life.

A couple of weeks ago, I built garden beds and planted a garden.

I don’t know a lot about gardening, but I’ve been able to grow a fair amount of produce in the past. The whole process of gardening, right up until you taste what you’ve grown, is a continuous act of hope.

Actually, I might argue that eating truly fresh produce isn’t the end point but merely resets the cycle to the beginning.

In a few weeks, I’m getting married, an act of hope unto itself.

But this is my second marriage. Wrapped up in all of the same hopes as the first one are the hopes that it will be better, that I will be able to implement lessons I’ve learned, that I’m not ignoring red flags.

We bought a house. Are the neighbors friendly? Is the location good long-term? Will it age well? I hope so.

People need hope to live well, even if it’s not something we actively label. (I don’t really think about it most of the time with regards to gardening, for example, but it’s definitely there!)

As a person who has battled depression off and on, hopelessness is heavy. Even a little bit, any slice of light through the darkness, is life-changing.

My senior year of high school, I took World History. I remember two things from it, and only one is academic.

NO HOPE

People change when they are without hope—sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. I’ve seen it in my own life. I’ve seen it in others. I was shown examples over and over through history. I see it in our current events.

The other thing I remember? Being on the high speed line (a local train) on a field trip—no idea to where—and Jeff asking Mr. Burke if we could leave our lunches on the bus.

Where do you have hope in your life? Are there places you’ve given up? For better or for worse?