Monthly Archives: April 2015

The Rain of Regret

The rumble  of remembering

What I have reviewed

And revisited
Reframed
Revealed
Redeemed
How it has resembled
Reality
Yet has refused
To recalibrate
The rain of regret
Falls relentlessly.
Should I don rain boots?
A slicker macintosh?
An umbrella?
The reign of regret
falls Steadily
Until it stops.
Retail therapy
Repentance
Relaxation
Refreshments
Reduce, reuse, recycle
Into each life
A little rain must fall
Let the rain of regret
transform
into the reign of love.

Teaching to the Test – Bonus Post!

I do enjoy volunteering at Kepler’s school. I usually spend about an hour a week going back and forth between a couple of pretty boring reading activities with the kids. As I wrote the other day, I tend toward literal thinking, so I have been following the instructions to a “T” on these boring activities, but today I decided it was time for a change.

One reason was because I was just tired of these two activities being the sum total of my interaction with the students. The other reason was because I had to got to stand in the classroom and wait for one of the kids I was going to call out to do the boring thing with me.

While in the classroom, the teacher (who I love dearly) was going over their upcoming math test. On fractions, they had to explain their reasoning on question 5: “Is Nick correct that these are thirds, or is Bella correct that they are not?” The teacher told them the exact words to write.

“These are thirds because they are all the same size.” She stated that three times and showed them the lines on which to write that answer.

Yes, I KNOW there aren’t enough hours in the day to allow the kids to work it out for themselves, but it sure made me glad I homeschooled the years I did, so I could ask open-ended questions to get my kids to think, instead of having to tell them the exact words to write and where to write them.

I’m going to let the other parents follow the instructions to a “T” for these two activities. I’ll follow them to an R or maybe a Y, and bring in some interesting questions that will allow these precious children to think about the possibilities, not just the right answer.

You might be thinking that I’m not actually being a very good volunteer if I don’t follow the teacher’s instructions carefully. I don’t know. Are you? I actually think I am being the best possible volunteer I can be by using my brain to think about how to accomplish the goals of these activities and still engage the children while I am there.

A funny thing is that Kepler has never been on the list for these activities the entire year. It wasn’t until last week that I finally thought to adapt the activity and include him as well. Today, the teacher suggested I have him go first before he had to leave for his speech therapy. Boy, it takes me awhile to get out of the literal mindset sometimes. But when I do, good things happen.

Next step is to figure out what I might change here at home to shift Kepler from spending most of his time on the iPad to spending more time with me, giving him the time and space to ask what a question mark is (like he did today at school). I know I can do it. I’m off to shop for curriculum now.

Q is for Quicksticks

Quicksticks.

Not the product you can buy in a two-pack to pick a padlock.

Not even these horrid things to stick in a tree trunk to make short work of climbing it.

Nope. It’s the word I found on phrontistery.com which means to do something without delay.

Let’s get out the door — quicksticks!! It happily reminds me of the often whimsical words the Aussies use for things, and if you know anything about me at all, you know I love Australia and her people, places and slang.

My A to Z blogging theme this month is acceptance. I’ve come to accept that doing something quicksticks is just the best way to go. Do it now. Get ‘er done. Just do it. Nothing like having the inner suggestion and acting on it right now.

Like John Lennon said: life is what happens while you’re making other plans. Do it now, without delay, quicksticks.

Seymour: An Introduction

I had the privilege and pleasure and joy of watching this film today.

Seymour Bernstein was a concert pianist until age 50, when he quit performing to become a piano teacher. Ethan Hawke (Boyhood, Before Midnight, Before Sunset, Before Sunrise) directed the documentary after a chance meeting with Mr. Bernstein at a dinner party in Manhattan.

Somehow I felt like I knew that this film was going to be something special, and indeed it was. I cannot think of any other film in recent or distant memory where my tears were in response to the exquisite beauty of the music.

At one point in the film, he quoted Robert Schumann. I wanted to include the quote here, but was not able to memorize it and unable to find it. Next time I watch the film, I will take special note of that quote and share it. For now, just listen to this:

P is for Pain. Or maybe Perfect, What’s Next. Or both. Yes, both.

I would guess that a fair few people will choose “pain” for their A to Z blog challenge p word. I’m using it because it’s one of those times when the phrase “Perfect, What’s Next.” is just the perfect thing to say.

As I write about acceptance this month, I have noticed that often the times I am being asked to be accepting of something is when I experience some sort of pain. The pain that comes from tons of different challenges opportunities.

If, at the point of pain, I accept the situation as being perfect, and simply move on toward what’s next, I free my creativity to kick into gear.

I can’t find an important paper? “Perfect, what’s next” allows me to expend little to no energy fussing about fact of the lostness of the paper, and instead focus on what I’m going to do about it.

I’m running late for an appointment? “Perfect, what’s next” keeps me in the present, remembering to drive safely, and figure out instead what to do about being late. Call someone? Relax? Cry? A and B, but not C?

Someone misunderstands me? “Perfect, what’s next?” allows me to accept the fact of being misunderstood and then think creatively about how to try again to communicate what I am saying.

It’s a simple, but pretty brilliant phrase that I find to be quite the powerful little pattern interrupt. My favorite iteration of it in the movies was Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack) in “Say Anything.” His philosophy: Acknowledge, and move on. (I looked for a clip on YouTube, but one was not readily apparent. To that, I say “Perfect, What’s Next?”) Well, you could just watch the film.

Ownership

What I first learned was that I was a steward. A steward of the money God had entrusted to me, a steward of the things and time and body that all belonged to God.

The concept was illustrated by the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30. I’m so sorry that anyone would ever have to grow up being taught the things I was taught in the churches I was in as a young child. If you don’t know the parable, some guys were entrusted with some things and they were supposed to invest them. Two of the guys did. One did not, and he was cast into outer darkness by a very angry master (representing God, presumably). You may have a different story about that parable. All I can do is tell you what I learned as a child.

So, yeah, I was taught that I was simply a steward, that everything I had and was belonged to God, not to me. Eventually, that story no longer worked for me.

I still believe I am a steward of the earth, in the sense that all of us are. We do not own the earth. It is something to be respected and cared for. The difference in how I see things now is that I get to take responsibility for my own decisions and reactions, the story I tell and my choices. I own them by taking responsibility for them.

I accept this responsibility. As a matter of fact, I embrace it. I am able to see myself as able to find solutions, ask good questions, explore different possibilities, apply creative thinking, and learn from it all without thinking that there’s some type of puppet master up there pulling strings to “test” me or “teach” me things. Life gives me lots and lots of opportunities to learn. I call it the School of Life. Life is my teacher and I get many lessons presented to me to either learn, or try again to learn.

When Kepler (age 9, born with Down syndrome) was born, we heard a lot of “God talk.” “God only gives special children to special parents.” “God will never take you somewhere where he cannot sustain you.” “God has a plan for you by giving you this child at this time in your life.” What finally ended up making sense to me is that Kepler is a gift, just as our other four children are a gift, but his particular makeup has taught me more than I would have ever expected.

Some might want to attribute those lessons to God. I know that it’s been through a lot of hard work and surrendering to what is. I simply choose to own my choices, decisions, reactions, and growth.

N is for NOT Taken Down by Depression (BONUS POST!)

****ing depression.

It nags at me. Gnaws at me. Nips at my heels. It’s a rock in my shoe. Fingernails on the chalkboard of my soul. An Excedrin-sized headache. Depression is a backpack full of rocks that I do not wish to wear.

My posts this month are about acceptance. So I suppose there is something to be said for being accepting of the lessons I have the opportunity to learn through dealing with depression. But, depression is not my friend, and I hesitate to allow it to have more than the slightest attention as the thoughts that go along with depression pull me down, down, down.

Until I have a solution to the challenge of depression, I intend to stand against allowing it to overtake me more than it already does for short, although always way too long, periods of time.

Considering my posts so far this month, I acknowledge and accept that I am probably all wrong, mostly mistaken and somewhat short-sighted when it comes to how I think about depression. Which is to say, there are no doubt new and improved ways to think about this experience. I acknowledge and accept that the compassion I have developed as a result of having children is the exact kind of compassion I want to extend toward myself always, especially when depression is getting me down.

In my post The Discipline of Determination, I am reminded that it is not the fact of having depression and working on it, but being aware of what the experience is doing to me, to my character. I suspect the piece of Enlightenment that is relevant here is to begin to intentionally listen to my own intuition about depression and my experience of it. For Feast or Famine, I daresay it’s time to embrace both the ups and downs of depression and allow the natural ebb and flow to be part of the experience of having it, and hopefully overcoming it.

Along the same lines as I wrote in Giving Advice, it’s time to get quiet and look inside to see what I might be thinking about being depressed, and allow me to give myself some advice about next steps. In Humanism, I ask the question of what might be possible if I am willing to see the good in others. Is there an application for me regarding depression, I wonder.

Thinking about Randolph Junuh from The Legend of Bagger Vance, how might the burden of depression be part of me stepping into what I am here to do?

As I walked this morning, I noticed an Annie Lennox song running through my brain. Aha, I said, take note and see how this relates to what I am thinking about here. Sometimes it’s a whole lot more important to live with the questions for awhile than to rush toward an answer. At least for now, I accept this part of my life and I look forward to seeing what comes of these juicy musings.

“Dark Road”

It’s a dark road
And a dark way that leads to my house
And the word says
You’re never gonna find me there oh no
I’ve got an open door
It didn’t get there by itself
It didn’t get there by itself

There’s a feelin
But you’re not feelin’ it at all
There’s a meaning
But you’re not listening any more
I look at that open road
I’m gonna walk there by myself

And if you catch me
I might try to run away
You know I can’t be here too long
And if you let me
I might try to make you stay
Seems you never realise a good thing
Till it’s gone..
Maybe im still searchin
But I dont know what it means
All the fires of destruction are still
Burnin’ in my dreams
There’s no water that can wash away
This longin’ to come clean
Hey yea yea….

I cant find the joy within my soul
It’s just sadness takin hold
I wanna come in from the cold
And make myself renewed again
It takes strength to live this way
The same old madness every day
I wanna kick these blues away
I wanna learn to live again…

It’s a dark road
And a dark way that leads to my house
And the word says
You’re never gonna find me there oh no
I’ve got an open door
It didn’t get there by itself
It didn’t get there by itself

N is for Narrative – The Stories that we Tell

Stories speak to me.

When I watched Before Midnight (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) with Greg last spring, I knew exactly what they meant about how relationships change with the addition of children, aging, and the general difficulties of life.

When I watched The Big Chill years ago, I knew exactly what they meant by each of us needing and finding hope in something.

When I read David Foster Wallace, I am touched in the deepest part of me by his descriptions of depression, watching Roger Federer, being with people, the pain and banality of the extremes of rote work.

Each of us tells a story about our lives, carrying this unwritten autobiography in our hearts and mind, often unaware of the overarching themes we are living out.

Author Jim Loehr has written a book called, The Power of Story: Change Your Story, Change Your Destiny. This book is on my to-read list, but the title is enough for this post, as it explains my beliefs about the story we tell ourselves about our lives.

What I have come to accept about my story is that I get to tell it however I would like to tell it. Take for instance the fact of the story that I broke my leg when I was two years old. That is indisputable, although you would be hard-pressed to find any hospital records from that long-ago time. I was on the neighbor’s slide, climbing up and sliding down again and again. That slide was missing a step, so you had to step up really big to the next step. When my father came home from work and came around the side of the house to the backyard where we all were, I saw him and was so excited he was home. I forgot at that moment that I needed to step up really big, so I stepped into thin air, fell, and ended up with a broken bone.

So far, those are all facts. But it’s what I tell about that story that has such an important impact on my understanding of who I am. What if I conclude that I am clumsy or dumb because I missed that step? What if I conclude that my father intentionally distracted me? What if my story is that I loved my father so much that I was beside myself with joy when he got home? What if I decide that I should never have been on that slide anyway at such a young age?

Add those little interpretive details to story after story after story and eventually we have a big repository of stories that confirm our beliefs about ourselves.

I can’t possibly overemphasize how much there is that we do not know. And because we do not know, we make decisions based on trust. I remember, like it was yesterday, the sight of my dad appearing in the back yard at the end of his work day, and I can remember my excitement at seeing him! Dad was home! My fun dad was home and I knew I’d be laughing and giggling and playing with him that evening.

For awhile in my life, my story was that it’s dangerous to be excited to see someone! (Children are really great at perceiving, but really not great at interpreting.) Little me knew I had experienced some intense pain almost instantly after some intense joy, and concluded that loving someone means I’m going to get hurt really badly.

How has that interpretation influenced me over the course of my life? And how does a new interpretation of that experience change how I see myself and my experience of life in the world?

What about you? What stories are you telling about your life that you would like to revise?

 

 

 

M is for Maintenance

 

Maintenance

 

My A to Z blog post theme this year is Acceptance. I am exploring topics which I have come to accept over the course of my life. Thus far, I have written about being wrong, compassion and children, determination, enlightenment, feast or famine, giving advice, humanism, intuition, karma, and literal thinking.

I’ve just finished reading a book called Romancing Opiates, by Theodore Dalrymple. In part, his book is about problems of addiction that arise because

“… [users] do not have actions toward which they might actually work in a constructive fashion, but daydreams, in which everything is solved at once in a magical way, daydreams from which the emergence into reality is always painful.”

The vast majority of humans have mundane tasks of a maintenance nature, toward which we “might actually work in a constructive fashion.” Think of laundry, paperwork, parenting, cleaning, vehicles, taxes. We wash and dry and fold the same clothes, week in and week out. Some of us probably have servants to do the laundry for us, but I do not.

I spent a fair bit of time telling the story that I’m just not good at maintenance, to explain why the clothes tend to wait a skosh longer than they otherwise might to get washed, dried, folded, and put away.

Tony Robbins taught me that there are six basic human needs:

The Six Human Needs

1. Certainty: assurance you can avoid pain and gain pleasure

2. Uncertainty/Variety: the need for the unknown, change, new stimuli

3. Significance: feeling unique, important, special or needed

4. Connection/Love: a strong feeling of closeness or union with someone or something

5. Growth: an expansion of capacity, capability or understanding

6. Contribution: a sense of service and focus on helping, giving to and supporting others

For a long time, I overemphasized my need for variety and allowed myself to abandon tasks and projects that required a great deal of maintenance. Finally, I accepted that taking care of myself and my things in a routine, sometimes mundane, manner is part of life, and can be just as satisfying as anything else, depending on my attitude. As a matter of fact, accepting and even embracing maintenance leads to quiet satisfaction in a job well done. 

The Buddha Doodles illustration at the top is by the wonderful artist Molly Hahn. Molly creates a beautiful, life-affirming gift every day with her doodles.  

Literal Thinking and Lateral Thinking

Early in April, I posted a poem about how I welcome being wrong and mistaken after starting out thinking I had to be and always was right.

I don’t know if it’s just a brain-wiring thing or a temperament or a habit, but I tend to think VERY literally, taking things at face value. I have to work pretty hard to remember that taking things too literally is one of the ways I end up misunderstanding someone.

Just as I have realized my strong tendency toward literal thinking, I have also begun to learn to practice lateral thinking. Wikipedia tells me . . .

Lateral thinking is solving problems through an indirect and creative approach, using reasoning that is not immediately obvious and involving ideas that may not be obtainable by using only traditional step-by-step logic.

Seems like Albert Einstein was onto this idea way before Mr. Edward deBono coined the term lateral thinking, when he said, ‘We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

Just today, I had a disappointing experience of literal thinking going awry. Someone I love is headed to jail tomorrow for a five-day stay. I had googled “how to prepare for jail.” One site said inmates are not permitted to take books into the jail, as they can be a place to hide drugs, but that books can be shipped from Amazon. With that, I spent quite a bit of time looking for books that he might like, and then I reserved like 87 books at the library, toted them home, and he went through them and chose five that I was going to buy and ship to the jail. Once I had them in my Amazon cart, I decided to double check the website for the rules and regs. Well. This particular jail does not allow books to be sent to inmates.

Coming to accept my natural way of thinking as being quite literal has allowed me to move beyond it into new methods of solving problems, asking questions, finding solutions, and communicating. That is, as long as I catch the fact of the literal thinking in time! I don’t criticize myself anymore for this; I just understand it’s the way my brain works. And if there’s one thing I’m all about, it’s being creative in my life.

Are you more of a literal thinker or a lateral thinker? Or something else?