The best I am going to be ... TODAY!

Happy New Year!  I am coining this year my PRIME year because:

1) I turn 47 (a prime number for all my mathy peeps) and

2) I'm gonna be ME (see it... priME ;). 

As a woman, moving into my upper 40s, it is easy to self-criticize and long for the days (and body) of my younger years.  But, this, being my Prime year, I'm going to accept:

  • The setbacks of physical injuries and use the time to reflect, be patient and love myself as is.
  • The daily struggles of balancing life; be ok in the unbalance for a short time and then, regain my center.
  • Loving myself first and foremost so that I walk through the world with compassion for self and others.

Today, is the best I'm going to be... TODAY.  Tomorrow is a new day and when I enter that day, I will look forward to accepting the beauty and adventure it will provide; and it will be my best.

"We are not perfect human beings, nor do we have to pretend to be, but it is necessary for us to be the BEST version of ourselves we can be.  ~ Satsuki Shibuya"

Voice

It’s been a long week for half of the country.  I believe there is an obvious uncertainty in our future because the president-elect has no political history to inform my confidence in him as a leader and feel secure in his ability to lead.  Perhaps, others find security in the uncertainty because it is different from the political leadership and discourse of the last decade.  Either way, the current focus of our political climate is feelings, beliefs and concerns based on the verbal communication and business history of the president-elect.  These artifacts are the only pieces of information we have to engage in discourse, therefore, these items are the ones being discussed and voiced.  I have struggled to articulate my sadness and grief with this election.  How do I voice my opinions and concerns while continuing to love ALL other human beings? How do I use my voice to bolster our nation rather than tear down individuals?  How do I continue to communicate love and empathy and commune with others when my spirit and country are torn apart?

Personally, I have spent most of the week numb… from shock to anger, from sorrow to sadness, from grief to resignation.  I have read articles, viewed memes, discussed opinions and listened to snippets of shows, newscasts and people’s rants.  The most powerful, positive piece I recently heard was from Trevor Noah on the Daily Show.  He stated that the people in Middle America have now shared their voice.  What did they say?  They want change.  Trevor noted that in small rural towns, the option to protest and march with friends and family on the streets is not necessarily the most viable option.  Smaller, rural communities face different issues and have different vocal outlets than urban and suburban voters.  So, I believe, rural communities raised their voice through the national election to say they are unhappy with what is happening in their community and nation.  They used the national election as a platform to voice their opinion, and, thus, they were heard.  Whether I agree or disagree with the outcome of the election, I am proud that the people in rural America found and used their voice to engage in a national discourse. 

They were heard. 

Now…

Urban and rural voters:  How do we work together to create one united voice that promotes humanity and builds community in our homes and across the nation?

As an educator and mother, I believe the only way to make real change is through education.  Our educational system HAS TO include the history of all our citizens.  I know OUR country’s history started thousands of years ago, not hundreds.  I know that women and minorities had to fight for the right to vote AFTER white men created the voting system and AFTER white men colonized America.  I know that I can only experience an –ISM (racism, sexism, heterosexism, etc.) if I am in the minority.  Therefore, everyone has biases.  Biases are based on life experiences, the community in which we were raised and familial traditions. THESE experiences inform beliefs.  As an able-bodied, white female, I know I am privileged.  I know I can’t name it all the time, but I try.  I know my movement through the world is extremely different than by brothers and sisters of color, different sexual orientations and physical able-ness.  ALL experiences are true and valid.  The question is how we use these experiences to inform our personal decisions and opinions. 

So…

How do I build upon my life experiences to broaden my understanding of others, specifically those who are different from myself? 

I know LEARNING is at the core.   I want to help move the discourse of our country from ‘political correctness’ to the idea of ‘social responsibility.’   I know that positive, diverse and inclusive education NEEDS to happen so that our national discourse is based in love.   The truth is that humans seek to understand, and, education provides understanding.  Let's work together to understand one another; to find our strength and security in our unity.  We are one because we are humans.  Let's not forget our humanity.

“If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.” ~ Fred DeVito

Be Curious and...

There is an old saying, "Curiosity killed the cat."  The interpretation of this quote from Google is:

Proverb: being inquisitive about other people's affairs may get you into trouble

I am a huge proponent of curiosity, inquisitiveness, question asking and thought provoking.  As an educator and mother, I know that the timing of these questions or thoughts are sometimes lost on teens and not always appropriate.  But, I do prefer curiosity over compliance.  I appreciate random thoughts and prefer that over mundane repetition.  And, I often relate the thinking of teenagers to the squirrel-chasing of dogs.  If a teen and I are engaged in a conversation or I am giving instructions to a class and, randomly, "Can I get a hedgehog?" or "Why are you so tall?"  are shouted out. 'SQUIRREL!' is my usual response.  It helps me remember to be kind, find humor in the situation and/or respond with love, not irritation or impatience. 

I sometimes label myself a social scientist because I LOVE to watch the interactions between people, especially youth and adults.  I am floored by the consideration and thoughtfulness of our youth, but, sometimes, equally shocked by adults and their responses (I include myself here).  How often do adults consider the feelings of teens?  How quick do adults label teenagers as rude or inconsiderate?  How fast do school personnel determine that a student is disrespectful because of tone or body language? How do adult responses affect relationships with teens?  How do adults consistently respond to teens with love and patience?

Teens are smart, sensitive human beings.  They want love and kindness as much as the rest of us.  Our society, through media and cinema, tend to describe teens as angry, conflicted and rebellious young adults that don't care about themselves or others.  But maybe they are angry because no one listens to what they say.  They are conflicted because no one will answer their questions honestly.   They are rebellious because they want to try it a different way.  They are curious.  Success or failure, they just want to know. 

As an adult, working with or raising teenagers, one has to be careful when defining a youth as "rude", "disrespectful", "loud", or "disruptive" because these characteristics can also be interpreted as "assertive", "passionate" or "inquisitive."  Why are negative-associated words used instead of positive ones?  Humans like to categorize.  We gather information that supports or denies the truthfulness of one's opinion. This process can create a stereotype: develop an opinion based on a few experiences, make a conclusion and perpetuate the conclusion (assumption through word and deed.  By only focusing on a few characteristics, we build a single story and miss the whole person.  Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie states, “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”  She talks about rewriting the narrative, the stories we tell, to include more than one "thing." 

How do we see ourselves and each other, including teenagers, as three-dimensional human beings?

“If you don't understand, ask questions. If you're uncomfortable about asking questions, say you are uncomfortable about asking questions and then ask anyway. It's easy to tell when a question is coming from a good place. Then listen some more. Sometimes people just want to feel heard. Here's to possibilities of friendship and connection and understanding.” ~ Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

 

 

Lessons from Lena

As I noted in an earlier blog, I adopted a dog.  Unfortunately, our time together was short and she returned to her foster family last week.  I am sad and heart-broken, but I wanted to share the lessons she taught me:

Lesson 1: "Two high energy beings create one loud and crazy relationship."  People say that you want to find a ying to your yang, an opposite for stability, a person with characteristics different from, but complimentary to your own.  As an intense extrovert, being with a calm introvert can bring balance to situations and, possibly, relationships for me.  However, put two highly active extroverts together and it has the potential to explode.  For example, I have had this affect on children.  I enjoy their company, so I play HARD with them.  Then, they behave wildly, scream loudly, move constantly and, perhaps, emote irrationally.  And that was a child!  What that looks like with a 40 lb. dog is: jumping (to give hugs and kisses), barking and jaw snapping (to say, Hey! Look at me!  Me! ME!!), running (picture indoor shuttle races on a area rug) and digging (cuz it's fun! Duh!).  As an active person, mother and educator, I decided I could take on this challenge and train a dog.  I walked, ran and biked with her, (sometimes, multiple times a day!).  I used verbal commands and hand gestures to mentally challenge and train her.  When she was very excited, I took time and energy to calm her.  But she, like I am, was non-stop.  Our energies fed off each other and stressed both of us out.  She returned to her foster family, found calm and quiet and is awaiting a home that will love her for HER.

Lesson 2: "If you love me, set me free."  When do you know enough is enough?  How do you respond when you have reached your limit?  How do you lovingly support the decision to leave or end a relationship?  We all have experiences with bad relationships.  We work hard to 'change,' 'be better,' and/or 'try something new.'  But, maybe, it's just done.  Maybe it is over.  But how do you determine that while experiencing high emotions and responding to life's challenges?  How do you navigate life without a partner?  How do you support the partner that makes the call?  In the short amount of time I had Lena, I loved her hard.  I enjoyed walks, runs, bike rides and training.  But the cost was high.  She did not want to be confined during the day and she was vocal about it.  And in the end, it reminded me of leaving my childhood home and my marriage.  I knew I had to let her find a family that could provide for her what she needed.  And as much as I miss her, she is now free to find HER home and happiness.

Lesson 3: "I will spend crazy amounts of money on a dog, but not myself."  I decided to get a dog for the companionship that she would provide.  I am returning to a more active lifestyle (coming off an injury) and I wanted a dog to motivate me to walk, run and bike.  I also thought she would be a good addition to the business by providing empathy support for clients.  Lastly, with starting a business, I assumed I would travel less and be home more, and I wanted a dog to be with me full-time.  However, with dogs, come expenses and time commitments.  As with having children, you know logically, before the births, it will be difficult, but when you live it, you understand it COMPLETELY.  I began to determine ways I would spend money on Lena: training, toys, treats, doggie daycare.  I was spending all my time trouble-shooting ways to engage her and exhaust her.  I was willing to spend thousands of dollars and multiple hours to love and entertain Lena. However, once I made the tough decision to return her to her foster family, I began to reflect:  Do I spend the same amount of time and energy to love myself?  It turns out that I go above and beyond for others, but refuse to do it for myself.  So, thank you, Lena, for the time you gave me to be with you.  Thank you for reminding me that I am worth the time and money as well.  I love you and look forward to meeting your forever family.

"Love isn't something you find. Love is something that finds you." ~ Loretta Young

Patience and Perserverence

I lifted a barbell today. 

Why is that worth noting?  I was a cross-fitter for 6 years and a roller derby girl for three of those years as well.  Last June, I had to give up both activities because I could not sit down.  My divorce was finalized and I think my body said, “enough is enough.”  Physically, I could only walk; no running, biking, kayaking, paddle boarding, etc., which was very different from past summers where I spent as much time outside and/or on the water and using my bike for transportation.  On top of that, I was in pain, so reading a book or watching TV was impossible as well because I couldn’t sit down!!!  With my new job, the commute was thirty minutes each way.  Several times, I almost got out of the car on the highway to stand up and to stop the pain.  My life was consumed by this injury.

Now, I have no idea how I injured myself, but with the stress of divorce, moving and changing jobs, on top of extreme weight lifting in cross fit and severe falls in roller derby… (I think the truth lies within).  But, walking saved me.  I was able to walk, so I did. I walked and walked (very slow at first) and listened to podcasts and music. At the end of last summer, it was finally determined that I had a moderate herniated disc, L5/S1, for my fellow back injury conspirators.  After months of x-rays and MRIs and thousands of dollars, I tried a variety of therapies as I stopped all activities, but, eventually, it was simply time and self-love that helped me recover. 

I had to wear a back brace for a while, which allowed my midlife waistband to expand (nothing like being newly single and watching parts of your body grow in ways that are foreign to you…but I digress…).  I am finally able to move in ways that I find fulfilling.  This summer, one year later, I was able to bike, paddleboard, kayak and eventually run.  I tried rowing in June but that hurt so I stopped (continuing the self-love!)  With patience and perseverance, I finally joined a gym this week.  During my first workout, though I modified most of it (because...self-love!!!) I was able to lift a barbell…over my head…four rounds of eight.  I am sore today, but stretching and listening to my body.  But I did it…fourteen months later…I am so proud of myself.

“Try this.  Begin this week not thinking about all the things you have to get done, but about all the things you want to feel, the moments you want to experience and the truths you want to learn. From now, treat yourself like you are not a doing machine, that your well-being and peace is most important, because it is.” ~S.C. Lourie