Putting Off...

There is a comedian, Tom Papa who does a regular routine on Live From Here, called "Out. In. America."  Part of his spiel is that he tells a story of meeting different individuals across the country and then poses questions,  "Have you ever....?"  which moves along the preposterous story he is telling by his replying with a deep pause and resignation,  "I have." 

In the tone of Tom Papa, "Have you ever put off doing certain projects or activities?   I can certainly say, " I have."  

Sometimes I wonder, "why?".  I know all the right techniques, thoughts and attitudes to jump on things and get things done: do the hardest thing first thing, break it down into smaller details,  reward yourself upon completion.  Try as I might,  procrastination is still my default.

Lately, I have a couple of big projects that I need to do yet I am finding that I am having difficulty either starting, or in the case of some of them, difficulty in the finishing.

Have you ever felt that way- stuck in the not-yet or frozen in the not-done?

I have.

It seems as if I am paralyzed with the not-yet.  Part of it stems from the not-knowing.  Projects that I have to do are not fully formed in my mind; I cannot see its entirety- start, middle, end. I am not quite sure how to start much less what it will look like as I go through it and finish it.   I get paralyzed with that blurry unknown.  I don't want to start lest I do something that needs redoing. 

Other times I am paralyzed with the not-done.  Part of this stems from a lack of excitement over the project.  Many times a project has been long and drawn out and I am just tired in thinking about it, much less wanting to actually work on it and complete it.  There is a loss of "newness" in the project and subsequently a contempt of the familiar.  It is only when the balance is tipped in that I am more "fed up" with something hanging on my to-do list then not, will I finally complete it. 

To get myself engaged, either with new or old projects, sometimes I just have to trick myself into doing it. 

Kind of like my approach to entering the water.  When I was a kid, I was one of the first ones in the water (whether it was the pool, sound or ocean) and one of the last ones out. As I have aged, I am ridiculous in my avoidance of getting wet.  It is not that I do not enjoy the water.  I do.  I love to swim and dive in and out of the waves.  Once in, I am fine. It is just the inertia to get into the water.  I feel quite comfortable being dry, warm and sun-kissed as I sit on the sand and don't have any desire to move. 

But there will come a moment in our beach attendance when I need to go into the water. (e.g. All the other family members are going in, I am getting way too hot on the sand, or I just need to move and get up from sitting/lying down.) I approach the waters edge, stick my toes in, look out into the dark, vast ocean and think, "Ahh, not today. I am going to sit back down."   Then I think, "Don't be ridiculous. You do not have that much time or opportunity at the beach.  Take advantage of this beautiful day.  Just go in.  Once you are in, you know you will enjoy it."  I am paralyzed in the overthinking of the dark, vast and reflective expanse of water in front of me. All sorts of silly ideas float in my head along with the Jaws soundtrack.  The water before me seems so ominous.

Yet, I know that when I exit the water, all that water between me and the land looks so inviting and warm. It is green, clear and seems so familiar.  Not at all like the dangerous seas I imagined as I first looked out in the distance. It is just my perspective.  The water hasn't changed. 

So, in order for me to first enter the water, I will walk in, turn backwards looking at the beach and the "pleasant" water in front of me,  lean back into the water and voila.  I am finally in.  Gone are the days when I would immediately run and jump in.  I have had to try another method to achieve the same thing. 

When I cannot get my act together for a project or activity, I have to trick myself into thinking that I am either in the middle of that project or almost finished with it.  If I don't worry about the start, but just go right to the middle, I can get over my paralysis of the not-yet.  Many writing experts give the suggestion of just jump right in the middle  when you feel stuck in starting a writing project.  For instance, if one is starting a novel, one might get overwhelmed to have the perfect opening line.  Sometimes it is better to begin writing a "middle" chapter and then go back.  We trick our minds so that we do not get paralyzed in perfection and in having to know how it will all work out from the get-go.  Sometimes a different approach keeps things interesting. It gives us a little mystery and unfamiliarity which helps keep things fresh. 

What about you? What are your "have you ever..." experiences?   Have you ever had to change your method or approach to looking or doing something?  What was it?  

Do you feel currently stuck in the not-yet or paralyzed by the not-done?  What can you do to freshen up your approach to it? 

Have you ever wondered why you put off a task?

 

 

 

 

Coincidence? I Think Not.

 On the news they were talking about the opiate crisis and the call from public health professionals for the government to step in and monitor/regulate the distribution of Naloxone. Naloxone (aka Narcan) is an opiate receptor antagonist- eliminates all signs of opioid intoxication and can reverse an opioid overdose.  By making it universally affordable and available, everyone will have (theoretically) access to the anti-opiate drug and we can potentially save those who might otherwise die from overdose.

They told the story of a woman who was driving and passed a group of people standing around a car on the side of the road.  She pulled over and asked if they needed any help.  A man next to her said that there was nothing she could do- the two people were dead.  Overdosed.  The woman went to assess the slumped individuals, pulled some Naloxone from her purse, squirted it up their noses and by the time the paramedics had arrived, the two individuals were stirring.  

Now the story was placed in the report to emphasis the importance and need of Naloxone to be available to all people.   I wonder what those two addicts in the story thought about this woman who just happened to be passing by, just happened to know all about drug overdose, just happened to have Naloxone in her purse and just happened to work for a non-profit devoted to distributing Naloxone to the public.  Did they think it was all a coincidence and that there are no connections?  

I hear it and think, "Thank God that woman was there at the scene. Don't they know how fortunate they are?.  Don't they know that there must be a reason they didn't die?  Don't they want to take advantage of having a second chance on life?"  All those combinations of facts should register that this was no accident: they have been rescued for a reason. 

But, things don't have to be that dramatic to understand that there are no coincidences in life.  There are times when things happen and there is no other logical explanation than "it was a God thing."  We have been witness to it over the years: a check appears in the mail just when we are low on food funds, a stranger out of nowhere helps push our stalled car out of a busy intersection, that same car doesn't stop in the middle of a barreling traffic turnpike with no pull off (we would have been crushed and killed) but limps along until we can exit, the third class mailing for a summer program which intrigues our son, which has him attend the program, then apply to the school, be accepted into the internship program, make connections, life long friends and a successful business, an out of the blue call to an almost forgotten job application which leads to a promising career at a time when the prior job is drying up.  

Whether or not you believe in God or think that there is a cosmic coincidence going on, you must admit that it is important to see things in context.  We are quick to say "I am so unlucky" and look at all the ways the universe conspires against us.  But if we were to make a tally sheet:  universe versus advantages, I think that we would find that there are just as many positives (probably more) than negatives.  It is just our human nature to notice the negative, or the lack rather than the positive. 

My perspective is that it is God orchestrated.  There are events that happen in our lives that cannot be attributed to random happenings: they are too specific and coordinated.  I truly believe that God wants the best for each one of us.  I also believe that when things work out for our benefit, it is another opportunity for God to show us how much He cares for us and for the things about which we care.  It is also an opportunity for us to trust Him with our life details. While we trust God completely with our future,  we are not just puppets in a play. We do have some choice in what we do, how we live our lives and how we engage or disengage in life responsibilities.  It is just when we start looking for God's hand in our lives, we will see how much He is involved, how much He cares for us, how much He loves us and how things are not just coincidences.  And if you think about it- if things are orchestrated and not just random, then what happens in our lives matters and is important. All events have purpose and all people and all relationships have purpose.  

If you feel that the world is against you, take this week to notice and write it all down:  negative and positive, what went "right" and what went "wrong".   What did you discover?  Are there connections among the happenings in your life?  If so, what are they?   If you start to see connection, what does that tell you about your role in it all?  How does that make you feel? 

In the immortal quotes from one of my favorite films, "The Incredibles":

"Coincidence.  I think not."

It's the Little Things...

Graduation season is upon us.  This year we will have a graduate from graduate school. Funny, the more schooling one gets, the less hoopla around the accomplishment.  I think of all the kindergarten graduates with the too cute, too big caps and gowns, too expensive "professional" photographs.  For our grad school son, he doesn't even want to attend the commencement services.  One reason- their finishing up dates don't correspond to the dates of the undergraduates and he will still be having finals, etc. during the commencement exercises.  And two (the real reason), he knows how long and drawn out these events are.  The only way he would attend is if his brother would attend in the audience.  [A typical sibling tit-for-tat: the current graduate "suffered" through his brother's college graduation while his brother could not attend the current graduate's, undergraduate service.  His brother's school was small enough to read everyone's (undergraduate, graduate and doctoral candidates) name as he/she walked across the stage but large enough for the service to take hours in a sub-zero freezing arena.]

One of the best commencement speeches I have heard was given by Admiral William McRaven, ninth commander of the Special Operations Command to the University of Texas class of 2014. He had some simple but universals truths to impart.  His big advice to the class of 2014: 

Make your bed every morning. 

It seems like a little thing.  It seems like something an adult who is tired of seeing his children's unmade beds might say but there is more to it than that.  

Making one's bed, every day gives one a sense of accomplishment.  You start off the day with something already done and it doesn't take much effort to do.  When you feel that you have accomplished something, it is easier to continue getting things done. 

It reminds me of a friend's discussion we had long ago.  She was saying that, besides the education and information that you might learn, getting a college degree is another one of those, "Yup, whatever else happens in my life, I have accomplished something."  One might never "use" the degree per se but it still impacts a person on what they do and how they feel for the rest of their lives.  In 2016 The College Board released a comprehensive report regarding the benefits of a college education.  There are more benefits than just economic gain: life satisfaction, healthier behavior, civic involvement, and voting to name a few. 

I am reminded of stories of successful individuals who go back to college and finish their degree.  Not because they need the degree for potential income, but rather for a sense of accomplishment: Steven Spielberg- Bachelor's Cal State Long Beach in 2001, Shaquille O'Neal- Bachelor's Louisville State in 2000, Oprah Winfrey- Bachelor's Tennessee State in 1987,  Mayim Bialik- Bachelor's in 2000 and PhD in 2007, James Franco- list is too long of his educational accomplishments, Natalie Portman- Bachelor's Harvard 2003. 

It reminds me too the practice of physical discipline, i.e. regular exercise tends to help one in the realm of emotional, mental or spiritual discipline.  Actually, any discipline helps in discipline in other areas.  One can make the claim that "If I can run for a couple of miles, two times a week, I can certainly accomplish my goal of completing the house project.  And if I can accomplish the goal of the house project, I can discipline myself to not eat too many desserts each week.  And if...."  The discipline trickles down to so many other things.

It all starts with making one's bed in the morning.

What about you?  What is one thing that you accomplish each day?  How does that make you feel? Do you have unfulfilled goals?  What little discipline can you do that might trickle into another little discipline? 

Below are the take-aways from Admiral McCraven's speech: 

  • Start each day with a task completed. 
  • Find someone to help you through life. 
  • Respect everyone.
  • Know that life is not fair and that you will fail often.
  • But if take you take some risks, step up when the times are toughest, face down the bullies, lift up the downtrodden and never, ever give up — if you do these things, then the next generation and the generations that follow will live in a world far better than the one we have today.

Click here to hear the entire speech. 

Cherry Blossom Memorials

Over the weekend our son invited my husband and me to visit and to bike ride into Washington DC to see the cherry blossoms.  It was a fun day.  The weather was fantastic- almost too warm too quickly - sunny, warm with a breeze. (I know, I mustn't complain after the dreary cold days that we have had.) The blossoms were full out,  leaning a little more on the other side of their peak but still full and beautiful.  

As to be expected, the tidal basin and the surrounding mall and area were mobbed.  Coming into DC through a Virginia bike trail brought us upon the FDR memorial.  I have been to many places in DC but never there.  It is across the tidal basin from the MLK memorial and the Jefferson Memorial. It was designed in the 70's but only received money from Congress to build it in 1997.  It is an open design of four "rooms"- each room depicting a term of President Roosevelt. 

According to the information about the memorial, it was built not without controversy.  The main issue was whether or not to show the President's disability (basically he was confined to a wheelchair and didn't have any use of his legs due to polio paralysis).  At the time of his presidency, it was a carefully guarded secret of his inability to walk and he was not to be photographed in any compromised state.  Doing so would show weakness on the part of the leader of the free world. 

One statue of him has him sitting in a chair with his legs covered by a cape.  Supposedly if you look at the back of the statue, the two back legs have wheels on them to depict his "wheel chair".  I guess that is one way to compromise over the "disability" controversy. 

But it makes me wonder what would've happened if his "weakness" was known during the thirties and forties.  Would people think less of him?  Would they not have voted for him?  Would other leaders not respect him? Or would he receive more support?  More votes? Certainly, his disability must have shaped him, his world view and his views of others.  We cannot separate ourselves from our experiences and situations of life.  Did it make him more compassionate and mindful of others less fortunate? Did it make him short-tempered, demanding or arrogant?  I can only think that the "weakness" helped him in ways that might not be initially obvious but subtly defining his character and his decisions. 

It was interesting to see the crowds at this memorial as well as the other parts of the National Mall. As is typical of modern society, the self-portraiture was rampant.  Almost everyone gathered at the memorial and along the tidal basin were taking selfies: pictures of a blooming branch artistically arranged behind the photo-takers head. I guess the snaps were to provide proof to Facebook, Snapchat or Instagram that 1) they were there 2) they were able to capture their visage at that moment of time. 

What about you?  What would your memorial look like?  How would you be portrayed?  Is there a "weakness" you wouldn't want mentioned?  Or, do you feel that in your weakness you have been made strong?  In addition to thinking about your memorial, what would capture your image right now?  Is it an unfinished portraiture?  A post blooming one?  A controversial one?  An image of peace and tranquility? 

I would hope my "memorial" would include my weaknesses, my strengths, my authenticity and above all my humanity. 

 Scenes from the FDR Memorial...

Scenes from the FDR Memorial...

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Review

I have been reviewing and looking over my past posts with the intention of pulling together thematic ideas for a book. The thought is to try and  "work smarter" by using ideas I have already begun to explore and flesh out.  But, I have a tendency to not look back on my work.  Once created, any work is once and done.  

Through this review I am noticing duplicate themes: not only that, but also duplicate exact topics.  I am either passionate about a certain subject (which can be true) or I am a very slow learner (alas, which can also be true).  I know that what I wrote was in earnest about what I was feeling and experiencing at the time. 

By the repetition of my ramblings, it seems as if I haven't learned anything yet.  I thought that I was moving forward in my quest for becoming more of the person God has made me to be.  I thought that I had improved or completed some of my personal and professional goals.  

Apparently not. 

I am reminded of the quote by George Santayana: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." 

I am also reminded of the idea that  keeping one's eye on the past is like driving a car by looking in the rear view mirror.  It won't take too long before you hit something. (mangled version of a statement by Rick Warren)

What are we supposed to do?  Never look back?  Always look back?   Resign ourselves to circular travel? 

Once again (as I have previously written) it all comes down to balance.  Balancing the remembrance of the past with the expectation and hope for the future. Having just celebrated Easter, I am reminded of the nature of people.   Holy week is divided almost mid-week by the Last Supper which was the celebration of the Passover meal.  Every time Christians celebrate communion or eucharist or the new covenant they are also (maybe not so noticeably) remembering the old covenant of the Passover.  It is in looking forward to the unhindered relationship with God that we reflect on where we have been.  We remember our state of dis-grace so that we can appreciate and enjoy our new state of grace. 

What about you?  Have you ever looked at the things which worried you in the past?   If you would review your Christmas letters or past journals, would you find that you are writing about the same things?  Are the topics the same- year in and year out?  Do you feel that you are in a rut?  Are you stuck in doing the same ole, same ole?  Or are you the rolling stone gathering no moss as you keep moving forward? Are you the shark mentality- keep moving or you can perish? Either way, are you happy with that situation?   What can you do about it? 

I think reflection is good, both as individuals and as a society.  It keeps us accountable.  We have responsibilities for our actions and the remembrance of the past keeps us in check not to repeat detrimental action (or so we hope). 

Refection also helps to understand new situations as they arise.  Sometimes we may be in a quandary how to respond to the new predicament and we need the context of what has gone on before. We need to view the new through the lens, and possibly the actions of the old in order to accomplish our current and future goals. 

In visiting the Nantucket Whaling museum some years ago, they had a display of old fashioned hand tools that the sailers used to carve up the whale once they harpooned and killed it.  The tools were designed to get the most out of the carcass.  The docent remarked that a few months prior to our visit a beached whale had died on the shore.  They needed to clear the beach and wanted to remove sections of the whale for scientific study.  None of the modern tools could accomplish what they wanted.  They had to come to the museum and borrow some of the display tools.  It was only through using the past could the present be helped.

I think in order to keep the balance, we do need to remember the past.  To remember and learn from it. 

However we cannot be heavy laden with that side of the balance.  We need to reflect on what is on that side of the scale and move forward, learning what we should and shouldn’t do. 

One thing that was eye opening in looking over past posts was that I could see growth and stagnation.  It has helped inform my decision of my life choices for the couple of months.  I am realizing that some of the things I haven't completed yet, need to get done.  No more mucking about. 

I think that is one of the blessings in keeping a journal.  One can look back to see answered prayers, concerns, joys, cries of the heart.  The  blog has become a journal of sorts.  I notice what I have commented upon and the date and it is a good remembrance of things done.

If you don't, I would encourage you to keep a journal.  Try it.  It doesn't have to be a lengthy epistle, just lists of what you are thinking would suffice.  It would be interesting if you could keep it for at least a year so that you can go back and see what has happened in a year's time- your thoughts and reflections.  If the journal is too daunting, why not jot a view things down each day on your calendar?  Perhaps three words to describe your day?  Three things for which you are grateful?  Or have as a goal?  

If you don't journal, do you have some record, demarcation or milestones of your past?  Do you reflect on them?  If so, does that inform how you go forward? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

W@TW: Raise A Hand

I am writing this post on the morning after the March For Our Lives event.  It is one of those movements that I feel can go either way:  either it will be the turning point in this country over the gun control issue or it will be another heartfelt but ineffective attempt.  I hope and pray that it will be the former.  Listening to those who spoke and reading the various commentaries I am impressed with the young people who organized the event. Their clear headedness in speaking the truth with simplicity, in noticing both the problem and the solution reminds me of the Hans Christian Anderson's tale "Emperor's New Clothes".  It was a child who saw that the "new clothing" was no clothing at all and that the emperor was naked.  It is the young people who point out the obvious problem with guns, having firearms in schools, and trying to solve our disputes with items other than our words.  

We spent this past weekend at our son's apartment in Alexandria Virginia.  When visiting I like to look at the local paper.  There was an interesting article talking about the town's civil right's story.   During the town's segregated past, a school cook joined a federal law suit to allow her children to attend a whites-only school.  Ms. Blois Hundley a mother of eight, attended a local PTA meeting where they asked people to raise their hand to join the lawsuit.  Ms. Hundley wasn't thinking to cause any problems for herself or anyone else.  She just raised her hand wanting black children to have equal education as their white counterparts.  Because she had joined the lawsuit, her employer the school board fired her from her job even though her performance there was exemplary.  She needed the money to support her children, but she didn't waver in her decision and was instrumental in changing the education system for Alexandria.  

After her firing, the owner of a local newspaper, a Mr. Philip Stern, knocked on her door to cover the story.  Not only was the gentleman a business man but he was also a noted philanthropist. He was outraged by her unfair treatment and so hired her as the personal cook for his family where she worked for over thirty years.  According to Ms. Hundley's daughter, their family was often included in activities with the employer's family.  She remembers being taken out with the other children to go ice-skating.  When the proprietor refused the young girl's admittance due to the color of her skin, Mr. Stern turned and said if she couldn't come in, then no one in his family would go in either. 

What I love about Ms. Hundley's story is how a simple act of raising one's hand, changed the course of public and private history.  The town finally did what was right by all its inhabitants.  Both families- the Sterns and the Hundleys were changed in how they view each other and the world around them. 

It is like the simple act of the teenagers who are speaking up against gun violence.  There is no complex agenda, no placating different sides of the issue, no wringing of hands over ineffectiveness- just simply, calmly, speaking the truth about what one is noticing.

Just like Ms. Blois Hundley.   She raised her hand in recognition that things were not right and that they could be better.

When opportunities arise like that, do we over think our reaction or do we just go with the flow? Are we willing to live with consequences of our decisions? Do we/ should we think too much about it?  

Are we willing to do the simple thing in order to do the right thing?  Are we willing to raise our hands? 

 

Living with Spaciousness

On Sunday's "On Being" radio program, I heard an interview with the poet Naomi Shihab Nye.  At one point she spoke about living with spaciousness- giving yourself time to exist in this world. 

I loved the image and the permission:  to have the opportunity to create space in all that we do, to allow ourselves room to breathe- physically, emotionally, spiritually.  

Spaciousness.  To me it connotes wide expanses and openness.  I think the idea of vastness is part of our psyche or at least the American psyche.  We think of the wide open plains, the expanse of oceans or great lakes or the scale of our sky scrapers.  I think it also connotes possibility like a large blank canvas. 

I think the poet's words spoke to me because at this juncture in our lives, we are in the middle of redoing our basement.  For anyone who has ever been in the middle of a home project you know all about disruption, feeling claustrophobic with clutter and chaos that these projects create. At present all the items in our basement are currently housed in our first and second floor rooms.  I am certainly not feeling any spaciousness in our home lately.  

So, I find it incredibly appealing to think of the idea of creating and living with spaciousness both in the external, our residence and in the internal of our lifestyle choices.  I definitely see the advantage in the external.  I cannot wait to get my household back in order, straightened and de-cluttered. To have room to move around, to set out new projects, and to not be burdened by confining spaces is my wish. 

I am equally wishful for a lifestyle that gives me room to move around, to engage in new projects or ideas and to not be burdened by confining habits.  As an example of living with spaciousness the poet suggested the simple practice of arriving to an appointment a couple minutes early.  It will give you some time to settle before you move from one task to another.  You have time to observe your surroundings, take a breath and create a buffer between events.

In some ways I liken it creating petite sabbaths- time when my norm is paused for a brief time and I can reflect.  Generally I find my norm is hustling from one activity into another. When I give myself these petite pauses, I create time to be:  time to take a  deep breath, say a prayer, speak to a stranger, notice my surroundings. 

Building in time for pausing will mean that something in my schedule will have to be eliminated. It makes me vulnerable and open to the possibility that I may not accomplish that which I want or at least in my time frame.  It has taken me a long time to realize that true Sabbath keeping is not accomplishing seven days of work in six days.  It is not rushing around for those six days so that when you rest on the seventh, you are "caught" up.   

True Sabbath keeping is allowing time for God, for accomplishing things not in our normal routine and giving that time over to God for whatever He desires for us. It is knowing that while we might not have everything done in those six days, we give over that seventh day to Him regardless.  

I think living with spaciousness is Sabbath keeping on a smaller scale.  We are pausing in our lives, creating margin so that before we run into our house after work, we have time to listen to the neighbor talk about his kids, or plan to take a full lunch break in order to hear the co-worker's anxiety over her mother-in-law's health, or pause before running on the trail and sit and ponder the surrounding beauty of nature.  

Just like I need space and order in my physical living space, I need margin in my emotional and spiritual life.  I need to guard that I am not jam-packed, minute by minute in my schedule. I need to leave open space for the possibilities of whatever might occur. I need to offer back my schedule and its margins to God as gratitude for what the margins create in my life: an order, a spaciousness, an opportunity, a blessing of enjoyment of all aspects of life.  

What about you?  Do you live with spaciousness?  In your physical world?  Your emotional or spiritual world? Do you have margins in your life?  Time that isn't taken with activities?  Time to just be? What would that look like for you?  Can you create petite Sabbaths in your day?  Your week? 

Inspiring Words

Have you ever had a book really resonate with you?  Did the characters speak to your soul?  Could you identify with them?  Did they inspire you to live differently?

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I heard a story last week of a woman who was inspired to live her dreams- all because of an eighty-year old book character.  In the book, "The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax", the main character is in existential despair and so she decides to embark on a career that she always wanted to do- work for the CIA.  A fun and entertaining story, Mrs. Pollifax meets ageism head on and inspires one to follow one' s dreams and to make a difference at whatever stage of life.  I remember reading the book years ago and enjoying it.  However, I was surprised when I heard a woman say that book inspired her to go to medical school when she was in her late thirties/forties and raising two children.  She says that she carried that book with her all the time to inspire and encourage her. (Click here to read the Aha Moment.)

Wow.  The power of the written word.

A movie version of the beloved classic, "A Wrinkle in Time", opened in theaters on Friday. I remember reading that book as a child and loving it.  As an adult I discovered Madeleine L'Engle's other work. (Click here to see all the titles.)  In fact, she is one author who inspires me.  (My pen name is an homage to her.  Her pen name was her first and middle name as is mine.)  I am looking forward to seeing this new version.  From what I have seen of the trailers it seems that while some things may have been changed, the essence of the story has remained.

I think one of the reasons books are so powerful is that words convey truth. They inspire and plant ideas and new ways of looking at our life.  When we seen how characters respond to various situations, we can determine if that is how we want to live our life.  Madeleine L'Engle talks about truth in story. She says that while not all (of the) story is true, there is a truth in the story.   I think that is the reason we connect with certain stories; its truth speaks to a truth within us. 

What about you?  What books inspire you?  What types of characters?  What books were meaningful to you as a child?  Does it still resonate with you? Have you had a book speak to you at a certain point in your life and then years later wondered what it was all about? 

 

The Skin We are In

The other day I heard a story on the radio that has really struck me.  It was a story about skin bleaching.  Apparently it is a common practice for certain darker skinned people groups to apply toxic substances to their skins in the hopes to make their complexion lighter.  I was stunned.  When I hear skin bleaching it brings to mind the tabloid rumors of Michael Jackson.  Skin bleaching is a billion dollar industry crossing the globe and is not just reserved for eccentric mega stars. 

As I was mulling this over, my husband and I happened to walk our dogs past the neighborhood tanning salon. The parking lot was packed. "Ah, the signs of spring (or for those who are going south- spring break)", I said to my husband.   Pity the poor person who turns up on the beach with winter white legs.  I am glaringly aware of my two slug legs every Wednesday when I play indoor tennis. Apparently I haven't gotten the memo: the use of tanning creams and lotions.   Even if I wasn't planning on using the cancer beds of the local salon, I can still "color" my legs with the helps of creams and lotions. 

Hmm.  Creams to get lighter and creams to get darker.  Sounds like an Alice in Wonderland predicament. Or, the upper/downer scenarios of a by-gone era.  Why are we not content with the skin we are in? 

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I remember reading Henry Louis Gates, Jr's memoir, "Colored People".  In it, he explains how one side of the family was lighter skinned than the other. Those on the light skinned side had a tendency to "lord" it over the others at family gatherings or simple decisions: they were the ones who "knew best".   However,  when the "black is beautiful" movement gained speed in the 1960's, those fairer skinned family members lost their clout. 

To me, it all seems so silly.  Skin color and its ramifications can change so quickly.  When I was working on an oncology floor I still remember one patient- a beautiful, fair-skinned, "Irish lass".  Over the course of months with chemotherapy, radiation, bone marrow transplantation, anti-rejection medication, and a myriad of other treatments, her liver started failing.  She became more than a little jaundiced.  Her entire body turned dark-khaki green to blackish.  She no longer looked fair skinned as her ancestors.   Any one meeting her in that current state would think that she was from a different ethnic group.  Yet she was the same person, with the same DNA and the same thoughts and feelings. 

It makes me wonder, why and when did lighter skin became the social norm of betterment?  It has been noted by sociologists that the cooler climates produced people with lighter skin tones and lighter eyes.  Conversely the hotter climates caused the skin to produce more melanin and pigmentation as protection from sun damage.   When I think of the places where mankind originated, they were hotter and sunnier. The skin tone was darker to protect it in that environment.  It was in those places that civilization was born and grew.  It was there that ideas sprung up and societies thrived. 

It just amazes me when any people group think that the look of another people group is more appealing.  By whose standards?  Is it aesthetics or something else? Where did these lighter skin folks come from and who, the heck did they think they were?  Are these the "barbarians" that overthrew Roman civilization?  Were they as sophisticated as their darker skin cousins? 

Is it a hang over from colonization?  In the case of colonization, it amazes me that one people group can come in to another's country and start telling them what to do or not to do.  It is the utmost rude guest. Yet even before the period of colonization and imperialism, there were arguments between northern (generally lighter skinned) and southern (generally darker skinned) groups in many countries.  Is skin color just an easy way to keep track of who is part of our clan and who isn't?  Skin color is a large visible description, one that can be seen from a distance.  It is an easy marker.  In the old days it was easy to group people by that glance of physical features as the genetic mixing of people groups hadn't occurred too much.

Is it a question of socioeconomics? Tanning or having the sun darken one's skin was all about economics especially among the agricultural societies. To have a tan would mean that you worked outside and not a person of leisure, i.e. wealthy.  A tan would denote that you were a common laborer. 

Yet as modern people, aren't we doing the same thing?  We are allowing a quick judgment, "you are or are not part of my tribe" by the glance at one another.  We do it with physical features:  skin color, aging- color of hair or lines on face, weight, height.  We do it with consumable goods:  cars, jewelry, handbags, shoes, clothing, houses.   We do it with accomplishments: education, neighborhoods, type of jobs.  People can make quick assessments without any thought of truly getting to know one another. 

What about you?  Have you ever thought about the skin you are in? Do you want to change it? What are the social implications of lighter or darker skin? Does it matter? Do you make judgements based on what you see? 

In all honesty, I do like a little color to my skin.  I like the feel of the warmth of the sun on my skin and even with the best sunblock, I still get tan. For me it is a natural consequence of being outside.  But the whole idea of tanning and skin color does remind me to keep an open mind in meeting people.  Someone's skin color might be the biggest thing I see about a person but it is not the only thing.  It is just the tip of the iceberg on that person's personality and soul.  When I connect to someone beyond the superficial of skin color, I am letting go my own superficiality of my skin tone.  I don't need to look lighter or darker to be connected. The person in me can feel comfortable to connect with the person in you. 

I am reminded of the old children's Sunday school song, "Red and yellow, black or white.  They are precious in His sight.  Jesus loves the little children of the world."  The descriptions may sound politically incorrect but if we can remember that all people and all people's coloring are precious to God, maybe we would be more content with our own skin.

 

W@TW: Hope Blooms

We have had a span of cloudy, rainy and generally grey days this last week. While the weather may suit my mood it certainly does nothing for helping me improve it.

 Greening just beginning...

Greening just beginning...

But "physician heal thyself".  I took my own advice: get moving, get out in nature and witness something beyond myself.  I took a run and on my returning into the house I glanced at our front garden.  We have a little garden along the front sidewalk that contains hydrangeas and roses. I peeked at the hydrangeas and some green shoots were emerging!  Every year I am amazed at the reemergence of life on dormant branches.  Life and growth never ceases to amaze me.

On a recent dog walk, I found a broken off brown and gnarly branch in the middle of the sidewalk.  It contained a fair amount of buds and I wondered if I could force them open (like you can do with pussy willow and forsythia) so I cut the branches up into a "bouquet".  This morning I noticed the flowers were beginning to emerge! The thought that this found broken and discarded branch could produce something beautiful inspires me.  It reminds me that things I think are broken may be potential for something else that has yet to be pursued.  The "broken" item might just need a different environment to thrive. 

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What these early signs of spring remind me is that:

  1. Life goes on regardless of how we feel.
  2. There is potential even in those things that seem broken and used up.
  3. There is hope in this world.
  4. God loves to show us little things to remind us that He cares about all things in our lives- big and small. 
  5. Bleakness doesn't have to be a constant companion.
  6. When feeling blue, try and observe one thing in nature.

What about you?  What gives you hope?  What have you witnessed lately in the natural world around you?  Have you ever tried forcing the blooms of pussy willow or forsythia?  Is there a situation in your life that seems broken?  Is it only dormant or static and needs a different environment? 

I believe God gave us the natural world for many reasons.  One being that it is a visual reminder of His provision and goodness and care.  

Good Grief

For those who follow this blog, you may know that I have had a time these last couple of years with the sudden death of my mother, care of my dad and then the brief, yet emotional drain of seeing my dad go from seemingly functioning, to a fall, then hospice and then his death on January 6th.  I still feel that I am in that in-between time and land: where I cannot go back and cannot go forward. It is difficult for me to concentrate, sleep and generally function.   I know that it is the physical process of grief and yet it is frustrating nonetheless. Part of me wants the pain of grieving to be over and another part of me wants to wallow in it.

I went to see the bereavement counselor supplied by the hospice.  She was very helpful.  I look at the scenario leading up to my dad's death and I see the many blessings of God's hand: while it seemed like the days went on forever while we waited in the hospital for a clear diagnosis of what was going on and then the days spent in the hospice, yet from the time he went to the ER until his death was just three weeks.  Not too long when others spend years with chronic and declining illnesses. Because we had dad tested over the past summer and had a grasp of his capabilities and decline, we were able to present an accurate picture to the doctors and the hospice so that dad received the best care. I am so grateful that his decline and end did not happen when I was incapacitated with my own surgery recovery. 

While dad was in hospice he was able to see and spend some time with all of his children. My one sister was there when he took his final breath. His "financial" affairs were all in order.  He was ready to see my mom. He and I were ready to part- no regrets with either party.   I feel very fortunate to have spent much time with my parents.  The last couple of years were transactional- they needed help and care from me, just like when I was little and needed help and care from them.  But the subsequent years in-between were great.  My parents and I and then later, my husband and sons enjoyed spending time together, enjoying The Cape, going on trips, visiting extended family, visiting museums, playing games, sharing hobbies together. 

Even with all the good memories I find I am still grieving.  Grieving is not bad.  It is part of life and death. It is a process we all must go through. Grief can be for a number of reasons, not just for the present death of a loved one.  Perhaps it is the regret of the past- a poor choice and its consequences.  Or it can be grief for the future- a loss of a dream or expectation.  I think there are positive attributes with grief, once the shock of loss is worn off and the day to day existence commences.  Good grief brings about a clarity of purpose, of reevaluation of life's plans and of one's mortality.  Grieving the past may be the only way to put it in its place- the past.  Grieving the future may help narrow the purpose and plans of one's life.

With all my muddling and aimlessly wondering around the house, I have had time to ruminate on all that has happened in my and my parents' lives. I find that my grief comes at a time when I am also grieving unmet expectations of extended family and of my own future and career.  I know that my grieving goes back before the death of both parents, it extends to my parent's decline and my increased roll of caregiver.  I also recognize that I gave so much of my time and emotional energy to extended family that I am reevaluating where I spend my time now. I feel that I spent so much lost time and emotional energy over senseless things and situations over which I had no control.  

It is if a fog is starting to lift.  No more are all objects shrouded in heaviness and angst. I am beginning to distinguish shapes.  I still have a long way to go but I feel a peace on the scene that is unfolding.

What about you?  How is your experience with grief?  Grieving a person?  A situation?  A lost dream?  A future?  A past?  What has helped you muddle through?  Have you felt at peace?  Has it lasted? 


Things you may experience when you are grieving:  (resource page from Gilchrist Hospice)

Physical:

  • hyperactive or under active
  • feelings of unreality, e.g. detached from body
  • physical distress- chest pains, abdominal pains, headaches, nausea
  • fatigue
  • appetite change
  • weight change
  • sleep difficulties (getting to sleep, staying asleep, waking up)
  • restlessness
  • crying and sighing
  • feelings of emptiness or a physical void
  • shortness of breath
  • tightness or lump in throat

Emotional:

  • shock/numbness
  • anxiety
  • fear
  • sadness/sorrow
  • anger
  • irritability
  • guilt
  • relief
  • loneliness
  • longing
  • meaninglessness
  • apaty
  • vulnerability
  • abandonment

Social:

  • overly sensitive
  • dependent
  • withdrawn
  • avoidant of others
  • lack of initiative
  • lack of interest

Behavioral:

  • forgetfulness
  • difficulty concentrating/focusing
  • slowed thinking
  • wandering aimlessly
  • dreaming of the deceased, or sensing his/her presence
  • searching for the deceased
  • needing to retell the story of person's death
  • avoiding talking about loss for others' comfort

 

W@TW*: Channeling Picasso

I am fortunate to live in a city that has free art museums. On Sunday, my husband and I went to one of them for about an hour.  The beauty of the museum being free is that you can visit frequently for a shorter amount of time.   In the past, I would want to get my monies worth, stay for hours and "Od'd" on the art work.

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Yesterday we participated in a short tour of the collection given by a volunteer.  Because we were near on the calendar to St. Valentine's Day, the theme of the tour was love.  We only looked at four exhibits, each representing love in a different way.  The last stop on the tour was a painting by Pablo Picasso: his 1922 "Mere et enfant" or "Mother and Child".  According to the docent, Picasso painted this after his cubism period, after his marriage, after fathering a child and after he had spent some time in Rome studying the masters.  It was the return to a period of realism for him. 

What is interesting is that the oil painting seems just like a sketch with watercolor highlights. The oil is so soft and light. He uses an economy of line but conveys a realistic portrait nonetheless.  For such a giant in ushering us into the modern art era, Picasso demonstrates that he is his own man; he has his own way of going forward in art.  He uses as inspiration his life circumstances or things around him and he incorporates it into his artwork.  He doesn't get buttonholed into being a certain type of artist who paints a certain type of style.  He is always growing, changing,  and moving forward. He does so by allowing his ideas to expand and following where they lead. 

As www.biography.com notes: 

"Pablo Picasso remains renowned for endlessly reinventing himself, switching between styles so radically different that his life's work seems to be the product of five or six great artists rather than just one. Of his penchant for style diversity, Picasso insisted that his varied work was not indicative of radical shifts throughout his career, but, rather, of his dedication to objectively evaluating for each piece the form and technique best suited to achieve his desired effect. "Whenever I wanted to say something, I said it the way I believed I should," he explained. "Different themes inevitably require different methods of expression. This does not imply either evolution or progress; it is a matter of following the idea one wants to express and the way in which one wants to express it."

It inspires me to keep going forward in whatever the endeavor- to observe the world around me and to incorporate what I see and say it "the way I believed I should".  Picasso reminds me to be confident and take chances. 

What about you?  Do you feel that you have grown and changed in your life?  Personally?  Professionally? 

* W@TW= Wednesdays at the Well. Of course this week it is F@TW because I had difficulty this week getting this post out.  More on that later.  But for some reason writing F@TW seems like an expletive or some type of tweet.

W@TW: Groundhog Day. Every. Day.

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This year it seemed as if every where I turned, the 1993 movie Groundhog Day was being shown. Have you ever felt like Bill Murray's character in the movie?  Try as he might, the character cannot get out of the time loop- the rut of living in the same day with the same encounters, the same problems and the same solutions. At first he thinks that this is a great idea, because he realizes that he doesn't live with any consequences to his actions: tomorrow will be the same and life doesn't move forward. Eventually he realizes that this is insanity and not healthy.

The movie has humorous moments as well as raises some existential questions. It is considered a contemporary classic.  Surely we can enjoy watching it because the daily repeat is happening to someone else. After all, we don't live in a groundhog day world, or do we? 

Sometimes I wonder if I do, especially when it comes to my reactions to situations.  Many times I find myself behaving in the same way, each time, even when I am trying hard not too and trying to break myself of a life-long pattern.   It is if I am on the same emotionally reactive loop.  If someone comments to me about this, I will always react with that. And it is not a healthy reaction.

Or, I find I make the same life-style choices.  Each week I might plan to do something different from my normal pattern, e.g. eat better, drink less, exercise more.  I might hope to change a lifestyle pattern that I feel is not helpful nor healthy.  Yet once again, I fall into the time loop of the same pattern of behavior. 

In the movie, it is finally through self-awareness and love that begins the change in Bill Murray's character's life.  

I think there is more to this groundhog lifestyle than that.  I also think that more of us suffer a groundhog lifestyle than we care to admit.  How many of us try all sorts of self-help:  podcasts, books, counselors, hypnotists, coaches, therapists, classes?  According to one source I read, in 2008 the self-help industry was over a billion dollar industry. If self-help truly worked, as humankind we should have discovered the solution by now. Certainly pouring money into the problem doesn't necessarily help.   I think that the problem in self-help is the self.

While self-help items are not necessarily bad resources, we cannot put our faith in those resources alone. I believe that those resources need to be used in tandem with the ultimate One in self awareness;  asking God to transform us by the renewing of our minds.  It is only the Creator who knows us and who knows how He created us to be. He knows what will work and not work for our individual lifestyle.  Only He can help us in stopping something harmful or embracing something worthwhile in our lives.

There is no magic bullet.  I have found the best way to stop the time loop is through prayer and learning more about God through His word the Bible.  I am a disciplined person and I think I have some willpower, but some things in my life willpower alone cannot help.  I need some spiritual guidance and intervention to stop the knee-jerk reactions I have in certain situations.  Sometimes it is in recalling a scripture that guides to a different reaction.  Other times it is the act of prayer that guides my speech.  

What about you?  Do you feel like you are living a groundhog lifestyle?  Do you end up on the treadmill or time loop of life? Have you ever been able to change it?  How?  What works for you?  

Ground hog day is also a day of prediction for the future.  I know that if I transform my mind, I will get out of that time loop pattern of behavior and have a different future.  

W@TW: Deep Thinking

When I was little my grandmother made a comment that has stuck, "My, you are a deep thinker."  At the time I cannot remember what was the discussion and I am sure that it was not that philosophical.  Probably had more verbiage than content.  I think it was her polite way to say that I was talky.

I don't know if I am truly a deep thinker but I am a ruminator. I'll go over things in my head, trying to consider all facets of a problem or discussion.  So, I listened with interest to a report on the radio about a study of deep thinking;  the "challenge of cultivating deep attention and what we gain by immersing ourselves in meaningful work. "  The reporter interviewed Cal Newport a professor of computer science at Georgetown University who has written a book, "Deep Work: Rules For Focused Success In A Distracted World."

This is more than just looking at one page of writing at a time.  It is a thought process of intentionally not engaging in multiple things at once.  To be intentional requires a solitude and removal of oneself from the distractions of this world. The author of the studies give Mark Twain, JK Rowling, Carl Jung as examples of people who removed themselves from society for set periods of time in order to concentrate on things that needed concentration.  I think of Virginia Wolff's advice of a room of one's own, EB White and his spartan cabin furnished with just a chair, table and typewriter, or Thoreau and his Walden Pond. 

Profession Newport describes how we try to trick ourselves into thinking we are single-tasking yet we find ourselves pulled back into multi tasking through the way we plan our days.  As he states, we fool ourselves by saying: 

"{They say} I'm just working on one thing at a time. What they're still doing is every five or 10 minutes, a just-check. Let me just do a just-check to my inbox. Let me just do a just-check to my phone real quick and then back to my work. And it feels like single-tasking. It feels like you're predominantly working on one thing. But even those very brief checks, that switch your context even briefly, can have this massive negative impact on your cognitive performance. It's the switch itself that hurts, not how long you actually switch. So I actually think even very conscientious knowledge workers, who think they're pretty good at focusing on one thing at a time, are actually still working far from the sort of high-performance, deep work ideal.

It calls into question not so much time wasted, but what type of productivity have I lost. It does make me wonder how much could've I achieved if I were a little more singleminded-ness in purpose.  It is tricky.  Part of my work and I suspect is also true for many of you who read this, is spent online reading and doing research.  In doing so, it is very easy to get distracted, to go down the rabbit holes all with the justification of "looking things up."  Or if you have a job that is responding to customers, via emails or phone calls, these are not distractions but the work itself. 

The researcher has these ways to think deeper by cordoning off his life:

  • He doesn't have a social media account. He knows that once he gets started with this type of distraction he will never stop.
  • He is very organized with his time. He works set hours of the day and plans his day like a chess player moving the pieces around. He doesn't let his mood dictate how his day unfolds. 
  • He is okay with disappointing people and at times annoying them.  He doesn't answer emails very quickly or at all sometimes. 

I don't know if I am quite ready to embrace that type of lifestyle but I think I can do better in the less distracted, intentional periods of work in my life.  I like his attitude of not letting his mood dictate how his day unfolds.  He follows his set schedule regardless of how he feels.  I also like that he has changed the expectation of what others expect of him.  I feel ready to do that. 

What about you?  Are you in a position of doing deep work?  Do you want to?  What would that look like for you?  Do you feel that you are multi-tasking?  Are you accomplishing much?  How do you handle your emails and the blips and dings from smart phones and computers?   Are you a deep thinker? 

Click here to read an interesting article.

W@TW: Perspectives

In starting this post, I realized that I have written about perspective a bunch of times.  I also realized that I need to hear it one more time.  Perhaps you do too?  It is always interesting that if I look and am observant, God puts in my path examples of what I am currently experiencing and new ways to view my life.

On a recent dog walk, I strolled* through the campus of a local university.   The students had not yet returned from break and it was interesting to see the changes of new buildings and walkways on campus.  There also appeared new outside art installations.  I came across the following: 

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Viewing the installation from the side, it looked like random white blocks on sticks.  But standing in front of the artwork, you could see the name of the school spelled out.  I had to take a picture of it as the reminder for me at that moment was just as revealing as the blocks aligning into something recognizable. 

Lately, I feel that I am viewing life as random white blocks on sticks: nothing seems to make sense, nothing is ordered and nothing is clear. It feels like I have been sucked into a vortex that doesn't allow me to see anything but the swirling chaos around me.  I know that what I see is not the entire truth and the reality of my life.  It just is hard to step out of that sucking tunnel. 

But, step out I must.  I know that I must make the effort to move my location and change my perspective. If not,  I will become washed out, useless and bitter about my situation.  "How come my white blocks don't spell anything?"  I'll be stuck in my disjointed views and never see the way life can actually be. 

I need to keep perspective by looking at the situation and my life in a different way: 

  • Perhaps I need to remove myself from where I am standing?  Literally.   I need to get out and take a walk or visit a new location.  
  • I might need to remove myself from a relationship or activity that holds me to a certain perspective. It might be a position that is expected from all the parties involved, or it is a position that has become comfortable and therefore provides no challenges and produces inertia.   
  • Or I need to help someone else see his/her white blocks aligned. Through that process, I might see a connection to my own situation and thereby help me to get my own blocks aligned.

What about you?  Do you ever feel that you are stuck at looking at your life from one direction?  How do you get out of that rut?  Do you think you even need to get out of a rut?  Is there anything wrong with ruts or one perspective? 

Yesterday afternoon, I got out from my normal routine.  I had a leisurely lunch with a friend who provided me with a new perspective on my situation. What was new and refreshing about this get together, was that neither one of us was rushed to a next thing.  We were able to dive a little deeper with our discussions and let the conversation twist and turn through a wide variety of topics.  I came home refreshed, encouraged and renewed.  She helped me align those random blocks into seeing some words. 

When you look at your life, do you see white blocks on sticks or do you see a word? 

*(Lately our two have been awful in the lack-of-wanting-to-walk department.  Must be because it is cold.  They absolutely loath their jackets and many times our walks become more of a "drag" than a walk.) 

W@TW: Yes, And...

 

The other week I attended a lecture that featured an improvisation group.  I had never been to an improv show and it was fascinating to see them work.  While the two actors did some "sets", the lecture was more of a tutorial about the philosophy of improv and how many of its facets can be applied to every day life. 

Watching the actors work was amazing.  Someone would suggest a phrase or idea and the actors would take that suggestion or phrase and run with it, bouncing ideas and dialogue off of each other.  In addition to demonstrating some of the techniques, the actors wanted us, the audience, to participate in the improv process. 

We were grouped into twos or threes. Our first task was to have a dialogue where one person would start the conversation with a negative.  We were given a scenario, e.g. planning a child's birthday party.  To whatever someone said, the next person would continue the conversation by starting her statement with, "No...."   Next we were to start the scenario with the same premise (planning a child's birthday party) but this time our subsequent statements would begin with an affirmation followed by a conjunction. For instance the dialogue would start with the same premise but the additional dialogue needed to start with the expression, "Yes, but....".  Our final task was to use the same premise but with subsequent statements beginning  with "Yes, and...."  

Of course, you can just imagine.  By saying "Yes, and..." one opens up the discussion to all sorts of wild possibilities. What the improv troop noted was that sometimes in negotiating or working with others, by saying "Yes, and..." the end result might be the same as a discussion with "Yes, but..." The difference is that the "yes, and..." opens up the discussion to possibilities, while the "Yes, but..." or the "no"closes and shuts down creative expression. 

Having recently experienced a group dynamic of the "No" and "Yes, but..." to various decisions,  I can see how draining and exhausting that type of response creates. There becomes a negative and oppressive atmosphere that stifles any desire for creativity.  It just seems as if our natural tendency is to say "No" or "Yes, but" (which really is another way to say no).   

I wonder if there needs to be mutual consent or at least some kind of understanding to use the "Yes, and" language.   In my recent group, knowing the individuals with whom I was conversing, if I said, "Yes, and..." there probably would not be a recognition of trying to creatively build something.  A "Yes, and..." would be viewed as an admission that whatever that person suggested is correct and there is no further exploration.  I guess in a group setting I will have to be careful in my use of "Yes, and..."

But for the times when I am just deciding or contemplating things on my own, I think I would like to explore the "Yes, and..." mindset.  What would it look like if I said, "Yes, and..." to a writing project, to a request or to a personal suggestion?

What about you?  Do you naturally respond with a "No" or a "Yes, but..." when asked for a decision?  What would your personal life look like if you said, "Yes, and..."  What about your professional life?  How about how you live your life?  

Click here to read how "Yes, and..." works in drama.

W@TW: The Acorn and The Tree

The other month as I was speaking to one of our sons I was reminded that the acorn doesn't fall too far from the tree.  Our son was talking about all the various work he had to accomplish and how he was going to do so.  But in the midst of his lists he mentioned a task that needed to be done that he hadn't accomplished yet. 

He had to make some grown-up phone calls to settle a missing rent check.  From the questions he was asking, it was obvious that he would do anything else, email, send a text or even write a letter, but not pick up the phone and talk.  He just doesn't like communicating over the phone.

I totally get it.  For me, talking over the phone is one of those least liked things especially when it is for a routine "administrative" type of discussion. The problem becomes the more one doesn't have to do it, the more difficult it becomes.

Touche.  

I was reminded of how I will avoid doing something I don't like to do.  I will do ANYTHING else.  

In the case of my son, as I heard his excuses I thought to myself, "just do it. and get it over with",  But then I realized that many times when I am faced with something I don't like to do, I cannot  "just do it"  and don't do it.   And when I delay and it is after the fact,  I kick myself for not doing the task at hand when it was time to do so.  The task has now become even more difficult.  For instance, I may have not told someone something that is important and now it is a big problem of communication- feelings get hurt, important items misplaced or an opportunity is lost.   All because I couldn't "just do it and get it over with". 

Recently I was reading again about how to approach your day when you have difficult tasks: Of course the first thing is that you should prioritize- what is the most important thing to do today in a descending order from most to least importance.  And then they suggest that you "eat that frog"- do the most difficult thing or the item that you don't want to do, first.  

For me, doing things that I don't like to do I am reminded not of the frog but of the acorn and the tree.  That which I see my son struggle is exactly my own. My son reminds me to "just do it and get it over with." 

What about you?   Do you struggle with completing tasks?  Why or why not?  Have you ever noticed traits in family members that you also exhibit?  Do you have recommendations or advice to give them on how to handle such traits?  Do you follow your own advice? 

W@TW: Caregiver's Survival Guide

Well it has been three weeks since my last post.  So much has happened that in some ways it seems like a lifetime and in other ways, I cannot believe that Christmas and the New Year's has come and gone.

On Thursday December 14th I received a phone call that my father had fallen and was being taken to a local emergency room.  That one call has set in motion a chain of events that has culminated with me sitting in my dad's hospice room writing this post.  It has been quite a journey and one that is not even remotely over. 

And so, I thought I would start a list of lessons learned (or in the process of learning) as I continue on the caregiver's journey:

  • There are many ways to accomplish the same thing.  As my husband reminded me, I don't even wash the dishes the same way he does.  I might not agree with the methods of some of the people taking care of my dad but I need to remember that the we are all in agreement of the end result (like clean dishes). 
  • Stay healthy:  Make sure you eat properly, get some form of exercise (even if it is pacing the hallways), and get some sleep.  Number #1 thing to remember but is so hard to do especially when you are living in the crisis mode of day to day and not knowing what changes could happen.  The thing is, if you do not deliberately take care of yourself, crisis mode living can become your default even when things aren't that bad.
  • Guard your tongue.  If you don't stay healthy, you will end up saying things you regret or at least you will be more likely to do so.
  • One person's sense of urgency doesn't have to be yours. Even in a crisis mode, there can be a sense of calm and deliberate action.  Just like bullet #1 don't let someone else's sense of urgency suck you into a path that doesn't feel right to you.
  • Family members will surprise you. I have had family members who have risen to the occasion and totally surprised my expectation. 
  • Give yourself permission to know that you have done the best that you could.  On this journey you will (no doubt about it)  make loads of mistakes.  You might've responded in a way that you now regret, said something hurtful or experience a feeling or emotion that surprises you.  It is okay.
  • Give your loved ones the same permission to know that they have done the best they could.

What about you?  Have you ever been on the caregiver's journey?  How did it go?  What lessons did you learn?  Or are still learning?