Posted in about me, connections, mental health, socializing

Socializing while busy

If you read Monday’s post on time organization, you know I feel busy too much of the time.

This is a sentiment shared by nearly everyone in my social circles.

(If you don’t, please go to Monday’s post, read it, and tell us your secrets in the comments.)

A while back, before Christmas, I had plans one weekend. I was getting together with one friend on Friday evening and another on Sunday afternoon.

It’s hard to schedule time to see people, and my socializing is often limited to people whose kids play well with mine. This isn’t all bad—I’ve met a lot of great people through school and play dates—and not all of the local people I’d like to see face-to-face fit this mold.

Anyway. I was excited to make plans with both of these people. (Sans children!) And then that weekend came and, as usual, I was tired and felt overwhelmed by All The Things and dragged my butt to my first date … and it was lovely. We had a great time, and I left feeling energized. My cup was fuller than it had been before we started.

Exact same story repeated on Sunday.

In either case, I would have felt some disappointment if they’d canceled but also relief. One less thing to do. Time to get done some of the other things.

Ultimately, it was good to squeeze in the time together. It gave us some face-to-face connection—something in ever-shorter supply.

If we hadn’t gotten together, I would have spent the time doing mundane things off the to-do list, and while there’s value in getting those done, they wouldn’t have fed my soul the way a couple of hours with a good friend does.

I guess what I’m saying is, even if you’re busy, make some time. Have dinner or coffee or take a walk or make some art or something with a friend or two. Your lives will be richer for it.

Posted in know better do better, mental health, mindset, podcasts, socializing

Podcast quote: negative people

I started listening to the Work Life podcast, by Adam Grant. I love it! Super-interesting.

Since they’re relatively close to the beginning of the podcast, I started at the beginning.

Season 1, Episode 3 was “The Problem with All Stars,” and while it was interesting to listen to, the piece that was most striking to me was not about the main topic at all.

From the transcript:

“Emotional contagion is something that I became interested in many, many years ago when I was working with a colleague, ‘Meg’ as a pseudonym, and I wasn’t even reporting to her, she was just working in my environment. I knew she was negative but I didn’t think much of it. And then one week Meg went on vacation. And it was amazing. Like suddenly the team, me, everybody — our shoulders lowered, we were more relaxed and happy. And then she came back and everything went back to the way it was and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, how amazing that this person, who I didn’t even report to could have such a tremendous influence on not only my mood, but the mood of everybody else.”

This isn’t surprising, but it brought to mind a lot of scenarios from the past few years. Times when I’ve been frustrated to be consistently in the presence of constant negativity. Times when I’m sure I was the one bringing the group dynamic down. Scenarios from longer ago, also from both sides of the fence. Which brings me to…

The concept applies to family dynamics, of course. When one person in the house is always (or even just often) miserable or angry or high-strung, it takes a toll on everyone in the house. And because this typically develops over time, it follows the boiling-a-frog fable. (In that case, the person who points it out is more likely to be ostracized than the person causing the problem … but that’s a tangent I’m not going to ride out today.)

And socializing.

Really, it applies to anywhere with people you’re in proximity to. At the grocery store and someone ahead of you is chewing out the cashier? Changes your environment. Someone unpleasant on the train? Next table over at dinner is full of crankiness or anger or vitriol? These change your experience, even if they’re not chronic, like a coworker or housemate would be.

Obviously we don’t have control over all of these situations, but it’s worth the time and effort to see where we can eliminate or reduce contact with negative people … and also to be introspective enough to know when it is us. (Not self-deprecating and assuming it’s always us … introspective and having a solid guess as to when it’s us.)

Posted in differences, education, know better do better, mental health, parenting

The Kid’s advantages

Three things that came together recently:

1- The Kid had a sleepover the other night. Big fun!

They played with LEGO, jumped on the trampoline, drank hot chocolate, read about sharks, played in the yard, and might have even slept in there somewhere.

At breakfast, I was making pancakes, and they had made up and were singing to each other a song asking how many pancakes they could eat.

This led to a conversation (between them) about really big numbers. Sextillion. Googol. Googolplex.

They’re in second grade.

2- While going through Facebook memories, I found one from several years ago where I was showing gratitude for having the education and the means to know how important preschool is and to send him to a good one. (No rigor or that bullshit. But that’s for another day.)

3- I read a piece that another mom wrote, talking about how her 8-year-old daughter often asked to bake or cook, and the answer was often no, because it was going to make a mess or it wasn’t safe or any one of the myriad of reasons tired parents say no.

And then the mom went to see what the girl was doing instead, and she was watching an episode of Chopped, Jr.—same idea as the regular version, but with kids. Apparently some of them quite young.

The mom had an epiphany that the girl can’t do those things because she, the mom, had been saying no and not giving her the opportunity. She changed that and while the kitchen was often messy, her young daughter learned to cook really well in a fairly short time.

How does that all come together?

The Kid has such an advantage over so many other kids. Because his parents aren’t stressed about basic necessities. Because he’s been read to his whole life. Because when he asks questions—regardless the topic—he gets answers. Because we’ve been able to say yes to most of the things he’s been interested in. Because we have enough self-awareness to let him pursue his interests instead of pushing him to pursue our interests (whether current or from our youth).

And you know what? I want that playing field to be more level. Not just among disadvantaged groups, necessarily. But I want kids—all the damn kids—to be given the opportunity to learn and imagine and become, not just because they go to school and get what they get at school. I want home to be a place of nurturing, of growth, of learning, of exploring, of safety. So kids can feel confident and stable and loved. Which will allow them to be kinder to others. Which would lead to a whole ton of adults who were emotionally secure and aware of their strengths and weaknesses.

Nothing but good can come of that.

Posted in differences, know better do better, mental health, mindset, podcasts, socializing

Perhaps a bronze lining would be better

I recently discovered a new podcast: The Happiness Lab. It’s fairly new—there are only eight episodes so far—and I learned about it through a plug on Revisionist History.

This coincided perfectly with a personal goal of adjusting my mindset in certain areas so I can be happier.

Episode 3: A Silver Lining.

They talked about how of the three medalists on the podium at the Olympics, the silver medalist is typically the least happy, sometimes not happy at all. And how this lasts well beyond the end of the winner’s national anthem.

They talked about making less money but double the people around you, versus making twice as much money but half the people around you … and how when asked which they’d prefer, people responded overall in a roughly 50/50 split.

The whole episode was fascinating to listen to. And had some moments of familiarity.

Whether you compare yourself physically, financially, socially, emotionally, or some other way, we all do it sometimes. The more we do, the less happy we are, because Top Dog is a difficult status to achieve and harder to maintain.

Where are you only happy if you’re better than the people around you? And where are you happy regardless of the state of the people around you?

Posted in know better do better, mental health, mindset, parenting, tips

Be careful!

There is no shortage of parenting advice out there. Its quality varies, and its application varies.

I’ve also figured out that many of the pieces that are excellent are applicable to all humans, not just little ones.

Avoid saying “be careful.”

Why?

It’s useless.

Give specifics. What do you actually want them to watch out for?

For example: be careful crossing the street.

Instead: Cross the street at the corner. Remember to look both ways before you cross, wait for cars to go before you go, and walk.

Yeah, that’s a lot of directions. If they don’t have those in place already, maybe they’re not ready to take that one on alone.

Much of the time, when we tell someone to be careful, it’s not because we think they need the reminder but because we’re trying to do something with our own anxiety about their safety.

So instead of telling them to be careful, tell yourself to be calm, give useful directions if needed, and on we go.