Mayhem Monday: Just Be You!

The Occasion

Recently my daughter was inducted into the National Honor Society, a prestigious organization, in existence since 1921, that recognizes the achievements of young people who have excelled in scholarship, service, leadership, and character. It was a very big deal that she was chosen. She worked hard to submit the requisite materials and, in general, she has worked hard over the years to be the type of individual worthy of this honor.

However, my daughter is my husband’s child, which means that she is also known for her wise cracks and silliness in spite of her serious aspirations.

So, on the night of the induction, as all of the distinguished youth in their crisp uniforms marched dutifully to the stage to receive their certificates and officially enter the esteemed ranks, the moderator provided the audience with some background on each of them–their grade level, their career goals, what school they planned to attend and their favorite quote. These gave a snapshot of each student and an impression of the type of person each is and will become.

As the names were called parents and guests smiled politely as one student after another filed past until finally it was my daughter’s turn. Of course, I knew what her grade level, career and school was going to be, but I wondered about her inspirational quote. Some of the other kids had given some impressive ones. Then came the moderator’s voice “and her favorite quote is “just do you boo!

Suddenly, the polite smiles cracked into thunderous laughter. So much for the seriousness of the occasion.

For all her intelligence and academic ability, at the end of the day my daughter will always be her father’s child!

The Reality

She’ll also always stay grounded in what really matters–being herself. Sure, she cared about the occasion. Sure, she was embarrassed by the disruption–it was actually unintended, but it also represented a very real part of her personality that I respect.

While the other kids had impressive quotes, many had looked theirs up on the internet. They had aligned themselves with an expectation and a standard rather than thinking for themselves. For all the “criticism” my daughter received for her quote, most were actually impressed by her authenticity–it became the catch phrase of the evening!

She may have been unorthodox, but she was true to herself.

Her quote may not have been eloquent, but her point was well made. When it’s all said and done, what matters most in life–what’s really going to get you through–whether it’s academics, or other aspirations–is being true to you! If you’re worried about what others think you’ll always be hampered. So, if you think about it, her simplicity is actually quite profound.

I love it.  Do you, boo.

Happy Monday!

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In case you were wondering…yes! I’ve used this image before, in an earlier post, but I decided to revise it with my daughter’s catch phrase which captures the essence of what I was saying in “A Lesson from My Unruly Curls” even better. Less is more!

Mayhem Monday: Are You Stronger Than You Think?

They had no idea how afraid I was.

I could hear their voices down below, encouraging, cheerful—and their laughter. For them, this was all fun and games, but I was terrified. I wondered why I had agreed to do this. Why did I think I was up to the task? But I was stuck now. It was too late to turn back, yet I was uncertain of the way forward. I was in such a narrow spot and couldn’t see the top from my vantage. My heart was pounding and I regretted keeping on the flannel-lined hoodie.  The heat crept up my neck like mercury in a thermometer. Then I heard his voice beside me.

“Do you want to quit?”

In my mind I screamed “Yes!” But I couldn’t bring myself to say so out loud.

“Come on, you can do it!” I heard them saying.  Their confidence shocked me.

“You can do this.” He added to their assurance with his own quiet push.  “All you have to do is…”

Of course, “all I have to do”—easy for him to say. Everything is easy for him! I’m the one who struggles. I’m the one who lacks confidence. Now here I am, on the brink of something, wavering and uncertain.

It’s so typical of me.

To linger in that liminal space is always dangerous. While you waver you give yourself time to rehash all the reasons why you should quit.  You recount all the things that are against you and all your weaknesses that make this present challenge impossible.

How many writers, or artists, start their great masterpiece with great excitement only to hit a wall and convince themselves that they aren’t talented enough to complete it? How many projects have you started, then quit because it got too hard? And when you get to that point, how easy is it to get distracted by the success of others?  “It’s no use, we think to ourselves. Why did I ever think I could do this? How did I get here anyway?”

“Do you want to quit?”

“Yes!”

But, there’s a crowd of people waiting for your book, your article, your story, your song, your poem, your gift—you can’t quit now!

“You can do this” says the quiet voice right next to you. That soft, encouraging voice that you love. “You’re stronger than you think and you’re closer to the end than you realize.”

No, it’s not easy, but you’ve come too far to turn back—you might as well muster the strength to push forward.

I finally decided to push past my fear.

And when I did, something amazing happened. I pulled myself over the ledge! It had been just above me all along.  The cheers of my supporters erupted all around and I had to fight back a little tear–I made it!  It wasn’t just a physical challenge. It was a mental challenge, symbolic of every mental battle I’ve ever fought.

Perhaps you need to hear this as much as I do: the success that you think is out of reach, is not. You just have to be brave enough to go for it. Your insecurities may be drowning out the assurances of loved ones, but you can decide to push past the fear.  Move first and the mind will follow.  Stop doubting and start believing that you ARE strong enough! It is at the point of your greatest despair when you will find that you are the closest to a turning point—if not the very summit that you’ve been seeking! Just. keep. climbing.

Happy Monday!

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Photo by Tommy Lisbin on Unsplash

Mayhem Monday: Why We Should Be More Understanding

“I can’t tell you what’s in this folder” she said tapping the file on her desk.

“But just trust me when I tell you that even the expression on your face spoke volumes.”

The disabilities coordinator was explaining to me how my perplexity at a student’s question had caused an explosion. The creases in my forehead were a live wire that ran straight from my brain to her trigger and lit the fuse.

I wanted to defend my response, but I realized there was no defense. Nothing I could say would change the student’s perception. Whatever I said or didn’t say was wrong. It was enough to make her feel inadequate. She had left the room defeated and heated.

I replayed the scene several times in my mind and wondered how I might have done it differently. It’s so much easier to find the right words after the fact! But in this case, it wasn’t even as much about what I said as how! The reality is, I might have spoken the exact same words in a different way and there may have been a different outcome…

Hmmm…

How often have I heard someone say, in their own defense, “I don’t know what the problem is, all I said was…”

I thought about her words: “I can’t tell you what’s in this folder.” The contents of that folder are protected by privacy laws. They contain the details of the student’s past experiences. Her medical history and all the things that would likely explain the inner workings of her mind. Yet they are protected by her right to privacy and would only be revealed if the student were to discuss them with me. As I reflected on this, it occurred to me that this student isn’t the only one.

We all have a file.

It may not reside in a metal cabinet or be managed by a disabilities coordinator, but it certainly holds all the details of our past experiences and history that would explain the inner workings of our minds. Those who interact with us don’t have the privilege of knowing what’s in our files any more than I did when interacting with this student. The best that we can do is guess as we interpret each other’s words and actions. Yet, how much are our actions and reactions the result of our own past experiences? How much do our own sensitivities come from the files each of us has that determines the lens through which we view the world? Our perceptions are always skewed by our files. We register every experience according to the experiences we’ve had before. We judge every new relationship according to our personal card catalogue of previous relationships. We recognize verbal cues, facial expressions and physical gestures because of those we filed away in our memory bank of painful or pleasant engagements. So when we see or hear them again, we respond accordingly.

“What, am I supposed to be a mind reader now?” was my sarcastic retort.

She smiled.

“Not at all. We simply need you to be aware that she’s not like every other kid. You have to be a little more considerate of her feelings.”

It’s all about consideration and accommodation. Thinking about the other person’s point of view first. What might she be thinking? Rather than standing apart from her I have to try to stand under her—literally understand.  It’s an intentional act that requires intention and forethought. It’s not something that will come naturally, but I feel like it is something that could be transformative.

If I can learn to respond to people—not just my special students–with an attitude of accommodation, assuming that there’s something in their file that I can’t see which causes them to say or do things that I may not understand, perhaps I can at least delay judgment.  Perhaps I can avoid conflicts and frustration.  Because, if I could see inside the file I might have a different perspective on their behavior. I might not judge at all. I might even understand them. Not knowing what’s in the file, I should at least give them the benefit of the doubt.  At least.

So, the word for today is understanding—to stand under—because  everybody has a file that you don’t have permission to see.

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Photo by Amanda Bear on Unsplash