Why Bother to be Altered by Love?

Why Bother to be Altered by Love?

While attending a workshop last week, I was gone from home and on my own. It is not unusual for me to leave my husband for a few days. I’ve done it in the past for other reasons, but I have to say that I am always delighted to come back home again to my spouse. Though I know how to be alone, because of him, I am a better woman. 

Transformed by Love

I was not one hundred percent certain I wanted to be a married woman. As a matter of fact, the doubts in my head were so loud that it was difficult for me to believe the first marriage proposal from my husband. He didn’t really want to marry me, I reasoned. A few months later he proposed  a second time and I remained skeptical. I imagined marriage as having a heavy ball and chain attached to my ankle. But one of the virtues I’ve always admired in my husband is his patience and gentle persistence. A few more months went by before he asked me again and that time, I accepted. Since he never gave up asking me to marry him, I concluded that he really must love me. I was right. 

When I married, I was not looking to fall in love with anyone. I was not hoping for a knight in shining armor to sweep me off my feet. Back then, I was still under the impression that trusting anyone, especially a man, would squash my true identity. I told myself that it was far better for me to remain single and independent than to lose who I thought I was. I’m so glad that it has proven to be pure hogwash. Marriage, by far, has been the biggest and the best transformation in my life. 

I’ve gone from immaturity to maturity, from unselfishness to selflessness. And yes, I’ve become more dependent than independent, something I was afraid would happen. But, dependence is not an awful thing especially because in our marriage, it is mutual. 

Decision making is made a little easier when done together. Building a house, or buying a house, or leaving one career for another, we decide together.  

Yes, coming back home again from my being on my own was not only a delight, it was a relief. I am not alone taking on the world and all it throws my way. Nope, I’ve got someone beside me who helps me, someone who knows my foibles and who loves me because of them, not in spite of them. 

A good story has the element of transformation. We don’t always know what will change us the most, but if we are not changed for the better by something or someone, then we aren’t really living a good story. 

Why bother to be altered? In every well written narrative, the protagonist always begins as an undeveloped individual. They need to be transformed by someone or something so that by the end of their story, they’ve morphed into something greater, something better. Allowing ourselves to be altered by love, allows us to become better characters by the end of our stories. 

Why Bother to KISS?

Why Bother to KISS?

Are there a lot more social and emotional issues in our world today than at any other time? Are more people distracted this day in age than say just two years ago? Are we faced with more conundrums, perplexities, diversions, disorder and discord than “back in the day”? A befuddlement, quandary or paradox may not necessarily be the problem with our lives, rather what we chose to do with them when they arise may be the knotty point.

Let’s KISS

The acronym, KISS, equates to “keep it simple stupid”. For personal purposes, I’m going to eliminate discussing the word stupid while writing about this abbreviation because I want to keep things even more simple than the original acronym.  

First off, I always like to know where a particular principle first came into being. What was its original purpose? One source claims that KISS was first designed by the U.S. Navy in 1960. The hypothesis was that most systems work best if they are kept basic rather than complicated. Explicitness should be the rule not the exception. 

Many businesses use KISS in their trade, but I use it for everyday living. First of all, I like to DWIC, do what I can. For instance, I just completed a three day hands-on workshop about the wood industry. I visited experimental forests, logging operations, forest nurseries, lumber and pulp mills. I was required to be ready to roll out for a day in the woods by 7:30 a.m. This  put a crimp in my normal morning routine. I couldn’t go for a swim, ride my bike or go to a yoga class, but I could go for a run. Though my schedule was tight, I did not get entangled by my tight schedule. Instead, I kept things simple by doing what I could.

Secondly, DNPYD, do not prescript your day. In other words, much of my day during this workshop involved traveling with other people in vans. Some mornings I imagined who I might sit next to or who to avoid sitting next to. I’d also predict the conversations we might have. But then the unknown would pop up. For instance, one morning I rode with a lumber mill owner in his plush truck with two other workshop attendees. We peppered this business owner with all manner of questions about his job and the industry. I could not have predicted this rich opportunity, I could only step into it. Therefore, DNPYD. 

Finally, LIRN, let information rise naturally. Many of my cohorts from this workshop felt overwhelmed by all the information we heard and experienced. “How am I going to remember all of this?” one of the attendees asked yesterday. Well, we won’t. We will only remember the parts that made the most sense to us. All the cohorts in this workshop had one thing in common, education.  Whether a high school science teacher or primary teacher responsible to teach all subjects, our brains could only hold onto the applicable information.

So, why bother to KISS? Though keeping things simple may not be easy, KISS is worth the effort. It lightens the load in life, LTLIL, making it all the much clearer. 

Why Bother to Learn Something New?

Why Bother to Learn Something New?

One of the best perks about being a public school teacher is that I have to keep learning. In order to renew my teaching certificate every five years, I have to prove that I’ve taken at least six continuing education credits. This is not too hard to do. Every spring, I get offers via my school email account, for exceptionally wonderful classes that offer credits. And since there is such a wide variety to choose from, I can be very picky about what I sign up for.

Fun in the Woods

This year, I told myself that if there was a course that offered hands-on learning outside rather than inside, that was close to home, with all expenses paid, I would sign up. Lo and behold, such an opportunity presented itself. Now, for the next three days, I am in the woods so to speak, learning about sustainable forestry from foresters, loggers, mill owners, managers of nurseries as well as from national forest employees. Each of these men and women have one thing in common: they share a passion for the health of the millions of acres of woods they manage. 

Presently, I am immersed into a new culture of people and for me, this is the best way for me to learn. But, I am not alone. There are twenty or so other teachers who have also signed up to learn about sustainable forestry. 

While in the woods, we follow the leader. Yesterday, it was a university teacher whose classroom is the woods. He wore a hard hat, a vest with lots of pockets and tools that dangle down from loops on his pants. He pointed out the different species of trees and told us how old they were just by looking at them. I was jealous of his knowledge, but grateful he was so willing to talk about all he knew. He welcomed us to ask questions and never once said, “Now that was a dumb question!”

Learning something new always puts us in a vulnerable spot. We have to put on the mindset of a novice. Though I already know a few things about trees, I don’t know trees like these people, the experts. So, I acquiesce to the fact that I don’t know everything, and open myself up to learn a little something from those who do know.  

When I go back into my classroom this fall, I will take this new knowledge I’ve learned about trees and sustainable forestry and share it with my students. Though I’m sure they already know a little something about trees, they too will have to acquiesce themselves to opening up, to feeling vulnerable and a little awkward. But I will honestly be able to say, “I know how you feel.” 

Why bother to keep on learning? Some of us know some things some of the time, but none of us know everything all of the time. Knowing this about ourselves only opens us to learning something new. 

Why Bother With a Different POV?

Why Bother With a Different POV?

My point of view shifted yesterday. I am a landlocked individual, meaning, I run, hike and bike along the pathways and trails that follow our massive lake. I experience the beauty of the water from the land. But, all that changed yesterday when my husband and I launched our new pair of kayaks.

    A New View

Though Lake Pend Oreille is in our backyard, so to speak, we’ve never owned any watercraft for ourselves. We’ve played on the water in borrowed canoes, kayaks, and sea-doos. We’ve ridden on pontoons and motor boats and sailed with friends. But at the end of the day, we go home without the water toy.

For years, we’ve kicked around the idea of owning a pair of kayaks. First, my husband considered buying kits and building them in our garage as a winter project. But our garage is not heated and turning it into a warm place for him to work required too many expensive alterations to the building.  

Something else involved in making a purchase such as a pair of kayaks entailed agreeing on a style and a price. I leaned toward the more expensive and sleek models whereas my husband, the practical one of the two of us, considered the logistics. “We can’t transport a 17’ kayak on top of either of our vehicles,” he told me. Yes, someone had to consider how we’d transport these crafts once we actually owned them.

We often shopped online on Sunday afternoons for our elusive kayaks, but agreed we both preferred to see and touch our merchandise before buying it. So, last spring, we ventured out to explore our options in some of our favorite retail stores that cater to the outdoor adventurous. The inventory was so very limited everywhere that we went back home disheartened and without making any purchases.

But, we did not give up on our desire to own a pair of kayaks. Once again, this spring we discussed our budget, along with the size, and the style of kayaks. When I pointed out a pair at a local retail store my husband smiled at me. “I think I suggested these a few years ago and you wanted something different.” 

“Oh well, I am entitled to change my point of view about things aren’t I?” 

And so I did. I changed my point of view in more ways than one. 

We purchased the kayaks and launched them yesterday, the first hot summer day. Because I’d altered my point of view about the kind of kayaks I wanted, my point of view went from landlocked to a water level view. 

Why bother with a different POV? When we change our point of view, everything changes. 

 

Why Bother Practicing Hospitality?

Why Bother Practicing Hospitality? 

The other evening, I hosted a small gathering of friends and family in honor of my husband’s birthday. And though our house is small, our yard is spacious and with the fine summer weather we naturally gravitated to the outdoors. 

When hosting an event, I keep it uncomplicated. I make a request of each guest to bring a particular dish, based on what I know about them. For instance, my daughter-in-law grows a garden, so I ask her to contribute a green salad knowing this will be a simple task for her to fulfill. My youngest son has a busy schedule and will commute the farthest in order to attend the party. So, I ask him to bring a bag of chips, something cheap and easy to purchase. 

As everyone arrives, they find their favorite niche. Some guests like to sit out in the sun, while others prefer the shade. The grandkids know exactly where the toys are and pull them out of the garage while their parents plunk down next to a favorite uncle. I move around the small clusters of people making sure everyone has what they need; a beverage, an ashtray, or less volume on the music. 

An Attitude of Hospitality

Being hospitable is not difficult for me. I rather enjoy the company of people who say, “yes” to an invitation.  But, I find that being hospitable is not limited to planning, organizing and managing a party. Rather, it also includes the practice of being receptive, welcoming and kind to others, even when we don’t see eye-to-eye on everything.  

All the people who came to the birthday party are familiar and friendly to me and to each other. Each life has intersected and connected in some way. And though we all know one another, we are not all the same. Each is unique. There are some who have a quirky personality, and some who talk a lot and others who laugh loudly. There are those who are so quiet I forget they even came. Then there are those who are passionate about politics and enjoy a good debate and some who simply bow out of conversing at all and instead become a good listener. Some like to have deep philosophical conversations while others like to retell the same hunting story over and over again. 

Of the cars parked in the driveway and in the street, no two were alike, neither were the shoes on anybody’s feet. Some wore flip flops, others socks and tennis shoes. No one dressed quite the same either; shorts and t-shirt or jeans and sweaters. 

Practicing hospitality is more than hosting a gathering of people. It includes giving others the space they need, coming to know them for who they are, and paying attention to what they might need. This quality of extending warmth, kindness, and graciousness begins on our insides and extends to others on our outsides. 

Why bother practicing hospitality? This particular quality is one way to let others know that with you, they are welcomed.  

Why Bother To Notice What’s Right?

Why Bother to Notice What’s Right?

I have the tendency to see the flaws in someone before I notice the good in them. In my students, I can’t help but see their spelling errors the moment they hand in a paper. In other situations, such as swimming laps in the pool, I espy a defect in someone’s freestyle. This inclination of mine, to notice the flaw before anything else, may or may not be worth analyzing. I could just always blame it on my mother. 

But, no matter where this particular propensity of mine came from, I definitely have the ability to alter it. So, I’ve decided to do just that. Instead of naturally seeing what is wrong with a person, I want to start seeing what is right. I not only want to practice looking for the good in someone, I want to bring it to their attention as well.

More than a Compliment

Recently, I joined a group called Toastmasters. I joined for several different reasons, but one member in particular, inspired me to take the step and make the commitment to become a member after I attended only one meeting. She, unlike anyone else in the group, stands out to me because she recognizes something good about everyone. But not only does she detect a good quality, but she also has a natural way of pointing out the good that she sees in the person. But it is much more than just paying someone a compliment. 

Miss Dee’s ability to appreciate something in someone else encourages them to grow and to sit up a little taller. From a personal standpoint, she inspired me to make the commitment to join Toastmasters after only one meeting. 

I want to be more like her and here’s why. Her approach to promoting change is different from what I am used to. For instance, when I recognize an error in myself or another, it makes sense to me that the mistake should be pointed out in order to correct it. This approach, in some cases, is true. But not in all situations. From personal experience, I know what it feels like to have a personal flaw pointed out; a little shameful, and a little condemning. Comparatively, noticing what is right or good about someone, produces a whole different set of sensations. 

When Miss Dee pointed out to me  my qualities of insight and curiosity instead of my inability to think fast on my feet, I was invigorated. Public speaking, which is what Toastmasters is all about, is not one of my strengths. It is something I aspire to, which is one of the reasons I joined the group. But to be infused with what is already right and good about me will keep me refreshed as I journey toward my goal. 

Why bother to notice what is right about someone? It is worth it to notice what is good and right about someone because when we do so, we inspire them to aspire.

Why Bother to Allow Some Idioms to Die?

Why Bother To Allow Some Idioms to Die?

Idioms are expressions that have a meaning different from the literal pattern of the language. These figures of speech are peculiar to a particular people, country, class or community. For instance, the Germans add a little color to the equivalent of our idiom, “The early bird catches the worm,” by saying, “The morning hour has gold in its mouth.” 

Some idioms have been around for a very long time. For instance, “A penny for your thought,” is quite an ancient saying dating back to around the 1500s. 

It holds a special meaning for me. My grandmother often used this figure of speech as an invitation, encouraging me, the shy child, to share my thoughts with her. 

Other idioms, in my opinion, have outlived their shelf life, and should be allowed to die a natural death. 

       Please Don’t Say

Two idioms that give me the same feeling as someone scraping their fingernails down a chalkboard are; “It is what it is” and “It takes a village to raise a child.” Ugh!

First of all, “It is what it is.” Its origin was taken from an article that described the harsh reality of frontier life on the Nebraska prairie. Back in the 1800s, frontiersmen and women had backbone, grit, determination and perseverance. They did not give up, shrug their shoulders, give in or turn around and walk away from the challenges they faced. No. They toiled, labored and endured the harsh winds, the deep snow, the droughts as well as the floods. They carved out their lives and made their living regardless of the hostilities they encountered in nature. 

Today though, these words are used in politics, sports, business, the military and psychology as a verbal shrug. It speaks of loss and our inability to change anything about that loss. Talk about a fatalistic point of view by a whole bunch of educated, yet feeble people. It would be better for all if this little ditty died since it only points out a person’s weakness. 

Secondly, “It takes a village to raise a child.” These words are quoted all too often and again, in my opinion, should be allowed to die. This particular phrase came from an African proverb and was used in the context of an African village. It does not hold its true meaning here in America. 

African villages were made up of family members. A village had history, roots, stability and a respected leader. Children learned from their ancestors who taught them how life should look in their village. Relatives showed children how to maintain not only a stable and sustainable way of life, but the legends and stories that made their way of life possible.

Not so true in America today. What it takes to raise a child this day in age is similar to what it took Nebraska’s frontiers men and women to carve out a way of life amid the harsh reality of the prairie;  grit, determination, perseverance, selflessness and commitment. Those ingredients come from people with a backbone and values they’d willingly die for. 

Why bother to allow some idioms to die? Some phrases are just not worth repeating since they point to what seems to be our weak kneed, mamby pamby way of shirking our responsibilities. But, that’s just my opinion.

Why Bother With an Analogy?

Why Bother With an Analogy?

An analogy, according to The New Lexicon Webster’s Dictionary of the English Language, states that it is the relationship between two things which are similar in many, though not all respects. I am usually a black and white thinker, that is, I think in literal terms. Sometimes though, when given a little time and space, my mind surprises me, as it did the other day.

     My Life is Like a Bike Ride 

I’ve been a road bike enthusiast for a while. It all began when I participated in my first sprint triathlon. Riding a bike was not difficult. It was just one of three legs of the competition; running and swimming being the other two. In sprint triathlons, the distance for a bike ride is twelve miles. Later, when I signed up for a standard triathlon, the distance increased to twenty-five miles. Once, and only once, did I participate in a bike FONDO of 150 miles.

Though my competitive days are behind me, I still enjoy riding my bike on the open road. The other day, I chose a 28 mile moderate route with one long steep hill, a few rolling hills and some long stretches of flat open road. It was along a straight stretch while I enjoyed the beauty surrounding me, that my analogy came to mind.  

First of all, like picking a route to ride, we get to choose what we want to do with our lives. College, marriage, children and teaching were some of my choices. 

Once on our pathway, there will be challenges along the way. The route I chose to take on my bike included a very steep hill, but I have strong legs and I know how to use the gears on my bike to my advantage. I also know that once I get to the top, I can recover by coasting down.  

Whichever route we choose for our lives also includes those steep climbs that tax our endurance. But, when under stress or duress, we can always tap into our strengths and find support to help us through. 

The flat stretches along this particular route are my favorite. The scenery is spectacular. There are open and green fields dotted with black cows, an expansive sky and blue mountains off in the distance. There is also very little traffic allowing me to hear the birds and the creek that runs alongside the road.

In life there are also those times when it is less difficult and we get to delight in the sights and sounds around us. 

Ah but then there are those times when those restful circumstances are interrupted by unforeseen obstacles; the accident, the illness, the break-up. On my bike ride, it was the train. Not just one, but two trains backed up on the track blocking my progress toward home. 

Yet, even when these unplanned circumstances hinder our progress, we still have choices and I assessed mine. I could wait, but for how long? I could lift my bike over at the couplers, but since it was a double track, it might be a deadly choice not knowing when another train, going in the opposite direction would whiz by. Finally, I could turn around, retrace my route and cross safely at the other crossing. I listened to the voice of wisdom and chose to retrace my route in order to cross the tracks safely. 

Yes, my life is like a bike ride with lots of choices to make, and beautiful scenery to enjoy along the way.

Why bother with an analogy? Sometimes, when given the time and space, an analogy can be a fun and surprising way to think differently about the ordinary. 

Why Bother Not Being an Impostor?

Why Bother Not Being an Impostor?

Years ago there was a game show on television called, To Tell the Truth. The object of the game was to stump four celebrity panelists. There were three contestants, one who was the “real” central character known for some notable experience, while the other two were impostors. The better the con artists played the part of the “real” character, the more money they earned. The  contestant who succeeded in fooling the panelists received $250 for each panelist they fooled. In the end, it paid to be a bamboozler. 

Will the “real” _________please stand up?

Being honest with others and ourselves begins with taking a look at what we believe about being honest. First of all, is it a quality that I admire in others? Is it worth my time and effort to nurture this virtue in myself? What will I gain or lose if I practice the true to life person that I am?  

Sometimes, when we observe what something is not and contrast it with what it is, then we gain a better perspective of its true meaning. For instance, being ourselves is not about attacking others with our opinions. Neither is it about getting everything “off of our chest”. Our true identity is not toxic or harmful to others. Granted, some may not like us for who we are, but it’s not because we are the type of person who upon waking up each morning wonders how best to offend someone. 

It is best to remember that our true identity is coupled with our values, and not so much by our preferences. What we are partial to comes, goes and expands with experience. As an illustration, spinach was introduced to me as a canned vegetable. When my mother served it, it appeared as a green slime on my dinner plate. “No thank you, I do not like spinach,” I decided at the age of five or six.

Much later in life though, I discovered fresh spinach. Now, I enjoy it. My preference for this vegetable was altered because I had a better experience with it. 

Not so much with our values. These are more deeply seated in our hearts and our guts. These ideals, standards or morals may be so deep within us that we discover that they are buried under the debris of falsehoods; those ideas we adopt in order to simply be accepted by others. 

Finally, similar to thinking before we speak or counting to ten when angry, real people know how to pause, and check in with themselves while they consider their words and actions before going live or public with their truthfulness. Does what I have to say, or do my actions matter so much that others need to know and see this about me? 

One of the incentives that moved me from being a bamboozler to practicing being myself was the amount of energy it took for me to be someone other than I was. Somewhere along the line I had an epiphany: why push myself into being someone other than who I am? Why not stop and shed the falsehoods? The questions I asked myself put me on a track of truthfulness where I’ve found my own comfortable and somewhat private stride to life.  

Why bother not being an impostor? Only on a game show does it pay to be an impostor. 

Why Bother Learning from Rejection?

Why Bother Learning From Rejection?

We’ve all felt the sting of not being accepted. But, knowing that everyone has felt rejection does not diminish the personal pain we feel when we are avoided, ignored or disregarded.  Rejection is a hard teacher and no one is exempt from feeling it.  But, if we want, we can choose to learn something from it instead of just being hurt by it. We only have to ask, “What exactly does rejection have to teach me? What can I learn from something that feels so unbearable, so disconcerting and uncomfortable? 

          Positive Possibilities? 

It is a little ironic that rejection is a human experience that excludes no one. The rich as well as the poor, the old as well as the young, men as well as women are all included when it comes to experiencing rejection. 

Though rejection is felt by everyone, it is felt in varying degrees and ways. Some circumstances are more painful than others. Being the last to be chosen as a member for a team, may not feel as severe as never getting an invitation to the party that everyone else is going to.  Some of us can easily brush off the fact that we got the interview, but not the job. While at other times, divorce or estrangement from family can be excruciatingly unbearable. 

When rejected, there are some possibilities to consider. First of all, I like to remember that most of the time, I don’t have to take it personally. In other words, when I’ve been rejected by an employer for a job, or a publishing company for an article that I’ve written, a good thing for me to say is, “It wasn’t a good fit.” In other words, my personality or my writing style simply did not match with that particular culture of that particular business and that is okay.

Secondly, when rejection strikes a sensitive chord, such as an estrangement with a close family member or friend, I can allow myself to grieve the impermanent loss. Unlike death, rejection has no final ending. People can and do change. As long as there is life, there is also hope that differences can be resolved and relationships can be restored. 

Finally, rejection is sometimes necessary. For instance, when we become physically ill, our body’s response is to reject the foreign matter and fight against it. This builds up our immune system, making it stronger and enabling us to resist something that could take us out. Expanding on this idea, when we are rejected, it is an opportunity for us to build up emotional resilience. We learn how to keep going in spite of setbacks. Resilience is not something we can learn without some setbacks, including rejection.

Why bother to learn from rejection? As long as we have life and breath we will feel the discomfort of rejection. Instead of disregarding, dismissing or ignoring it, accepting it opens us to greater possibilities.