Posted in hope, mental health, mindset, thoughtfulness

“I like you, just the way you are.”

I saw this a couple of months ago and saved it. I knew I wanted to share it—or the gist of it—at some point, but I wasn’t sure how. Finally, I just decided to quote it and cite it and let you just read the original.

A good portion of my pro-bono work is defending abused children. It’s a cause close to my heart. In the course of my work I met a man who was an adult survivor. You wouldn’t have known it looking at him. He was this gigantic Polynesian guy. Wild curly hair. I think of him every time I see Khal Drogo on GoT. He was counseling some of the little kids, and doing a fantastic job of it.

I visited his home to get his opinion on something and I noticed a little toy on his desk. It was Trolley. Naturally curious, I asked him about it. This is what he told me:

“The most dangerous time for me was in the afternoon when my mother got tired and irritable. Like clockwork. Now, she liked to beat me in discreet places so my father wouldn’t see the bruises. That particular day she went for the legs. Not uncommon for her. I was knocked down and couldn’t get back up. Also not uncommon. She gave me one last kick, the one I had come to learn meant ‘I’m done now’. Then she left me there upstairs, face in the carpet, alone. I tried to get up, but couldn’t. So I dragged myself, arm over arm, to the television, climbed up the tv cabinet and turned on the TV.

“And there was Mr. Rogers. It was the end of the show and he was having a quiet, calm conversation with those hundreds of kids. In that moment, he seemed to look me in the eye when he said ‘And I like you just for being you’. In that moment, it was like he was reaching across time and space to say these words to me when I needed them most.

“It was like the hand of God, if you’re into that kind of thing. It hit me in the soul. I was a miserable little kid. I was sure I was a horrible person. I was sure I deserved every last moment of abuse, every blow, every bad name. I was sure I earned it, sure I didn’t deserve better. I *knew* all of these things … until that moment. If this man, who I hadn’t even met, liked me just for being me, then I couldn’t be all bad. Then maybe someone could love me, even if it wasn’t my mom.

“It gave me hope. If that nice man liked me, then I wasn’t a monster. I was worth fighting for. From that day on, his words were like a secret fortress in my heart. No matter how broken I was, no matter how much it hurt or what was done to me, I could remember his words, get back on my feet, and go on for another day.

“That’s why I keep Trolley there. To remind me that, no matter how terrible things look, someone who had never met me liked me just for being me, and that makes even the worst day worth it to me. I know how stupid it sounds, but Mr. Rogers saved my life.”

The next time I saw him, he was talking to one of my little clients. When they were done with their session, he helped her out of her chair, took both of her hands, looked her in the eyes and said: “And remember, I like you just for being you.”

That, to me, is Mr. Rogers’ most powerful legacy. All of the little lives he changed and made better with simple and sincere words of love and kindness.

But I have to say—the more I learn about Fred Rogers, the more impressed I am. Maybe over the summer, I’ll revisit some old episodes…

 

 

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Posted in mental health, mindset, physical health, thoughtfulness

Relaxing vs. wasting time

I’ve had so many conversations with people that follow this general path:

“I was laying on the couch and reading but couldn’t help but think about all the other things I had to do and how I was wasting time.”

We can’t “be productive” all the time.

In muscle strength building, the time spent strength training causes lots of micro-damages to the muscles. We get stronger when we rest; the muscles have time to repair the damages which makes them stronger. Over time, the muscles adapt to the increased demand: increased strength.

Our daily lives cause lots of micro-damages to our spirit (or soul, psyche, self, or whatever you want to call it). We need rest to be able to recover, just like our muscles.

It’s not wasting time. Preparing healthy food, getting enough sleep, exercising are all not wasting time (though they definitely use time); relaxing isn’t wasting time, either.

For me, the difference seems to be intent.

If I’m fooling around online, reading articles, watching videos, playing games because I’m procrastinating, I don’t feel rested when it’s done—I feel stressed, kind of ashamed, and somewhat drained because I have all this stuff to do and I’m wasting—or wasted—time.

On the other hand, if I decide that today I’m going to spend an hour just reading articles and watching videos or playing games, I feel OK about it.

As a small tangent, I feel the best when my down time isn’t on a screen. I think that’s because I have spent so much procrastination time doing these things that there’s a subconscious connection between emotional fatigue and non-productive work on screens.

So. Schedule yourself some down time to spend in a way that helps you relax and recharge. I would love for this time to happen daily, but given life as it is, that’s just not feasible for many of us.

That said, if you take 15 of the minutes you spend on email and social media to power down, suddenly, there’s time on more days than we thought.

My main go-tos are reading, coloring, playing ukulele, and drawing or doing calligraphy (which I just started and am subsequently still really bad at). With the hammock back in action, just laying in it for a while sometimes hits the spot. Occasionally, a massage is in order.

How do you relax? Are you able to set aside the to-do lists for a while?

 

 

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Posted in differences, know better do better, mindset, thoughtfulness, vulnerability

If it ain’t broke…

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Who defines “broke”?

So much of what has been going on socio-politically here for decades (centuries?) really boils down to this question, I think.

People yearning for “the good old days” were, as far as they were concerned, part of a system that was working just fine. Ain’t broke, don’t fix it. (These are the “I don’t have a problem so no one does” people.)

Everyone else was not.

(I would argue, though, that even if it’s working (whatever “it” is), that maybe re-evaluating and looking to improve is often worth the time. Not in the way that we see so often, where we shake things up just to shake them, but in a way that is thoughtful and methodical.)

And so we try to fix it, with constant resistance from people for whom it wasn’t broken to begin with. (Or from people who have been convinced that it’s not broken. Or from people who don’t know that everyone isn’t in their same situation. The “I didn’t know my family was weird until I was 24” kind of scenario.)

A bit of self-reflection I heard, paraphrased:

I did a thing with positive intent to a person who is different from me. The person I did it to received it negatively because of how people like her are seen and treated. At first, I argued that that’s not what happened here, because that wasn’t my intent. But when I stopped caring only about defending myself and looked at it from her perspective, I realized that she was right and I was wrong, and I felt terrible. So we talked a little and I apologized, and I was grateful that she accepted the apology.

I think it’s the “feeling terrible” part that people in general look to avoid—of course!—but you can’t learn and grow without making mistakes, seeing the mistakes, and correcting the mistakes—even if the only opportunity for correction is moving forward.

 

 

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Posted in education, meandering, thoughtfulness, vulnerability

Self assessment

In my elementary band classes, I’ve spent a fair amount of energy this year on a few non-musical topics: grit (a focus of my whole team), self-awareness, and emotional safety.

Grit is a topic for another day.

Self-awareness is necessary for any of this to be useful. You can’t change a thought or behavior that you’re not able to notice. Applies to learning any skill or changing any behavior.

Emotional safety is not given as much time or emphasis as it deserves, in any realm.

We can’t learn to play instruments in an environment that is emotionally unsafe. While some of that is my responsibility, the kids have responsibility to each other to make the space safe.

(This is also true for math, reading, writing, any art, sciences, sports, families, and on and on and on….)

We don’t have to be each other’s friends. But we have to work together while we’re here in this room. Every single person here needs to be able to try to play something and mess it up without fear of ridicule.

That necessity increases by orders of magnitude when we’re composing. (Creative pursuits are scary!)

At the end of every class, my students have a short self-assessment to do. Two of the questions they need to reflect on are: “Were you kind to everyone in the room today?” and “Were you helpful to your group?” (They give themselves a simple yes or no. Kinda, maybe, sort of are all “no.”)

Don’t talk to me about how anyone else acted. How did you act? If there is a situation that needs my attention, please tell me about it, but not in the context of self-reflection.

Just like adults, some of the students are really hard on themselves, some of them are accurate, and some of them are really easy on themselves.

Where do you fall?

 

 

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Posted in differences, know better do better, mindset, thoughtfulness, vulnerability

Do you hope others learn from your mistakes?

There seem to be three ways of looking at the plight of other people in relation to one’s self.

1: I don’t want anyone to suffer like I did. This person wants to mentor/coach people through it, or try to fix the problem entirely to decrease the number of people who go through the same experience. “It wasn’t good, and let’s see if we can reduce or eliminate it.”

2: I suffered; why shouldn’t they? This person wants the score to be even and resents people who avoided pain that they endure(d). “It wasn’t good, and haha now it’s your turn.”

3: I’m not suffering so no one else is. This person doesn’t understand that other people have different experiences and that their own experience isn’t able to be generalized to the population at large. “It’s all good.”

I see a lot of all three.

Less of the second and third would be ideal, but that requires a level of empathy that a lot of people don’t seem to have lately. (Maybe they never did and lately it’s simply more apparent.)

You don’t have to treat others the way you were treated.

Empathy and vulnerability are not weaknesses.

The proverbial rising tide raises all boats.

Love and kindness are not a zero sum game.

Hurt people hurt people. Help others. Let the tide rise.

 

 

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