I’ve spent a lifetime as a flexible person. Really, my hips, thighs, ankles, knees, shoulders, elbows, wrists: all of them were well oiled joints that responded to the tortures I put them through on the volleyball court, the softball field or the rugby pitch. But now, they creak. They are rusted through and through. I have chondromalacia in the one “good” knee that hasn’t needed surgery, and tendonitis in my throwing elbow. Running the bases is torture on my kneecap, and throwing the ball? Forget it. Try doing a simple ab workout…nothing works like it used to. There is nothing like getting old, and trust me, it’s not for sissies. Oscar Wilde was so right about youth being wasted on the young. I beat myself up, and now I’m paying in spades.
Aidan and I did some yardwork the other day, including putting in a new fence, and I was practically on the verge of tears because I hurt so much. Honestly, the worst part was admitting that I couldn’t do the things I once had been able to do. I felt old and used up, and honestly…worthless. But that is a choice. I don’t have to feel that way. I can choose how to reword that. I can put a new face on it. I can start getting to the part my dad was a pro at: I can be a supervisor now. I have nothing to prove except to myself, and the expectations that I talked about the other day don’t have to be lower, but they have to be different. My body doesn’t respond the way I tell it to as often as I’d like it to anymore. That’s okay. I’m 43, I’m not dead. I just have to keep working at living.
I met an old man at Wal-Mart in the birdseed section. I noticed he was taking a really long time to get back into his motorized cart, so I went to help him, but he refused it, and then he told me all about being young—not old. He used his body hard, and he doesn’t regret a single bit of it. Jumping out of airplanes, fighting forest fires, taking risks…all were the things that made him the bright eyed, albeit slow old man on oxygen today. He wants to die after eating a bison steak on a mountaintop, or after he’s had a bit of fun in a whorehouse in Mexico at 103. I can pass on that, but I plan to be 103 when I go too.
And there is hope for flexibility. It’s called drugs. Just kidding. It actually means working through the pain, which is pretty metaphorical for most of things in life. We make choices in our lives that affect everything we do next. It’s often difficult to sift through the material we’re presented to decide if we’ve made a good choice, or if the next one will be just as good. So even though a standing ab workout sucks, and it makes me realize how much I actually hurt (or weigh), it is going to benefit me as I get better at it. Just like anything else, it takes practice, and it means taking risks, and it means getting up and just doing it. Quit making excuses and put your mind over your matter.
I have been reading Barbara Stanny’s book, Secrets of Six-Figure Women: Surprising Strategies to Up Your Earnings and Change Your Life, and her message so far is that successful high earners know their own value and have a solid work/life balance. Underearners, in her estimate, tend to complicate their lives by doing multiple jobs thinking that they’re doing the best thing for themselves, but ultimately they are not making the income that meets their potential.
As a veteran Level 3 teacher in New Mexico, I am in the upper bracket of my earning potential. By working at the hotel I have been able to gain quite a lot of perspective on that, but also on my desire to make more money, along with my frustration at stagnating in my professional salary. Stanny addresses that at one point in her text by talking about how people who are underearning are essentially grinding down their hopes (and energy and time) and therefore, their ability to make more. Success is relative, to be sure, but contentedness comes from our own attitudes. The biggest question to ask is, "where is my time best spent?"
The growth process I've undertaken has also given me the opportunity to better understand my relationship with money. I sometimes take on debt as a challenge. That’s not healthy. I'm good at paying debt down, and at being smart, for the most part about what I purchase, but I definitely like to spend money on experiences and adventures. Until I make more money, or until my son is responsible for his own life, health, vision, dental and auto insurance, I probably should scale my experiences back a bit. (Kids aren't cheap, folks.)
I am currently looking at other professional jobs, but that doesn’t mean that I’m ready to leave the one I am in right now. It does mean that if I am offered a job that would pay me $20,000 more, I really need to consider taking it. I’m seven years away from retirement, and most people look at me like I’m a fool when I suggest that I'd like to do something new. Teaching is getting harder, but it’s also my own inflexibility that tends to grow as I as I get older. My frustration comes more readily. That’s not a fair translation for the students who need more from me.
Being successful as a teacher also means knowing when to stay and when to go. I don't know yet if I've hit that point of awareness. My advice to myself? "When in doubt, do nothing." But I don't want to just sit around and wait for something to happen, either. I want to know it before it hits me in the face. So, for now, I will read this book, evaluate my thoughts, grow as a person, and one day soon, I will know what needs to happen next.
I'll keep you posted, homies. Love ya.
What concerns me most is that there are people out there who don't know good when it is in front of them...
I want to address the idea of expectations, reality, and perception. First, we all have expectations. That's just the crux of it. Whether they are high or low, we each hold them about each and every thing we do. We expect our son to take out the trash, and he either does it or he doesn't. Will he do it immediately? Probably not, and unless I do it first, he will eventually get around to it. That is the reality. I'll ask him, and he'll probably wait to see if I'll do it first, and then if I do, great, he's free, if I don't, then eventually he will take the trash out. The perception is where it all gets sketchy. Did I ask him to do it right away? Did he perceive that it was imperative to do it right away? Was he already involved in something else, that to him, was more important at the time?
What I'm trying to get at, is that each of us goes through this phase process of expectations and results, and along the way, we go through our own realities and our own perceptions of those realities. And if we aren't careful, this process can result in some really lousy reactions--and we are the only ones responsible for how we react to each interaction.
Last night, I served a family of 10, and while I thought I gave them great service, their expectation was completely different, and therefore, their perception was completely different. They felt that they deserved red carpet treatment, and that I might fawn over them because in their mind, they were spending a lot of money. Let me tell you, people, I've learned that "a lot of money" is all relative. But I digress.
My expectation was to serve them, make sure they were hydrated, fed and could spend the time with their family in peace and comfort, hopefully with laughter and joy. Their expectation? I'm not sure. I just didn't meet them. I didn't do a song a dance, just like I don't really want to do a song and dance in a classroom. So you can't please everybody. It turned into a completely horrible experience for me, and they walked away with all sorts of gratuities that they didn't deserve.
I could wax on about all of this, but in the end, what really matters is that sometimes, some people don't see the good in the things in front of them, and in that behavior, they make others feel things they don't necessarily need to feel: sadness, angst, misery, whatever. It's real in all areas of life. Manage expectations. I am certainly not saying to lower expectations. That's never a part of my vocabulary. I am saying, however, that there are good things in everything, and if we just learn to see them for what they are worth, then we can be happier, better people.
Have a great day, homies. I love ya.
A week ago I took a group of students on a school trip to Jekyll Island, Georgia. That's USA, folks. You'd be surprised how many people ask if I took them to the country of Georgia. Anyway...while the trip was educational in nature, it was also very important for me. I was able to reset a lot of the things in my mind that were askew, and have been askew for quite some time. I was able to gain some clarity. There may be something to being at the beach, up against the power of the ocean and the shifting tide, the uneasy sands, or the rocky wall of the breakers, but there may also be something to being forced to just stop, don't work. Be thoughtful, be reflective. It was wonderful.
I was able to reset. I was able to reconsider some goals, created as much as a year ago, and as soon as six months ago, or maybe even just five months ago. There is a big difference between five months and six months, though it seems small.
This blog for instance. There are people who read it! There are people who look for it, and I am disappointing them when I don't have something for them to read. Even more mind blowing to me, is that there are some people who are even inspired by some of the things that I say in my blog. I wouldn't necessarily know that except for the simple reason that I teach, and most of the people who find inspiration in my words are students. That's pretty cool, actually. And isn't that mostly what I'm seeking anyway? To inspire students? It's pretty amazing.
I have taken some time to consider my career, my professional marketability, and the choices I've made in the last few years that are either professional in nature, or that interfere with my professional growth. I'm okay. I've had a great career, and it will continue for as long as I decide it has value in my life. Much like a man, it must make my life better, or else, why am I doing it? Caught between the high waves of the incoming tide and the rocks of the breakers that protect the sands, I realized that there it is: tumult and change, but underneath, there is a quiet place that I can return to.
I've given some of these decisions up to God. I'm doing the legwork here, but I trust that He has His eye on my prize. He knows my heart. And, we all know that I have much to accomplish in this life. I know I have much to say, to think, to do, and I'm getting pretty excited about it. See you all again soon.
Yesterday I took the day off to grade papers. It's a sad state of affairs to have to take time off from your job to do your job, but that is almost a side story. What is really important is that I was not aware that we were going to do a "stay in place" drill.
On most occasions, this is simply an easy drill. Something odd has been observed on campus, so kids are supposed to stay in their classrooms until it has been identified and managed. Usually, this means that a teacher has a Christmas present behind their desk that they were unaware of. But who knows, it could be a bomb.
Anyway, I digress. These days, it could be anything. And more importantly, after the shooting in Florida last week, or gosh, the week before, tensions have been high. And worse? I promised my kids that I would stand between them and anything that might come. And instead, the day that mettle was put to the test, I was at home, grading essays that were a month old, because no matter how I tried, I could not get them done in my day.
I was devastated when I read the email that it was about to commence. I wasn't there. I couldn't reassure my kids, or look them in the eye, or take care of them. And even a rational mind knows that the drill was, in any instance, simply a drill, and it wasn't even a serious concern, since all students could continue about their business (minus the bathroom...sorry Jared), and so they were safe, but fuck. I wasn't there. And last week, when we talked about what we need to do in the event of...I promised them I would be there.
So today, I proudly took my graded papers to them, and I hugged one or two of them because I was so fucking glad to see them, and then I got through my day until our PD meeting, where we talked about "in the event of." And I'm so fucking sick of thinking about "what we should do in the event of." I want to just love them and teach them and fight with them and get them through it, and I HATE it that evil destroys all of us. There isn't enough wine in the world to make me feel better.
So when people talk about how this is the way, or that is the way, or we need to make our teachers work harder, or carry guns, or love more or love less or that parents need to take more of a role, I say Fuck All Of You.
Look at yourself and do something yourself. QUIT passing it on, and know that each of us has to do something. And I don't know what it means for you, but for me, it means I will put myself in the way of someone who wants to hurt my kids. I've lived 43 amazing fucking years, and Emile Sande can't say it any better. MY heart beats for you.
God, I'm a fucking mess. Forgive me. Or forgive yourself, but make something change. Each of us MUST.
Presidents' Day. A day for "reflection." Which I never do. I mean, on Presidents. I'm constantly reflecting.
Today, I set up my list of "to-do's" and I haven't done much of any of them. I sure took a couple of incredible naps, though.
The wind blew through, and blew my mind. I wish it wasn't so windy in my world. And I didn't write a single thing. I simply worked, watched some television and puttered around. I am a master at puttering around.
If I want to be successful at writing, I should have been writing. All day long. Wind, rain, sun, or any other weather situation. I mean, I AM indoors. So how much do I really want to be successful?
I have a solid four or five hours left in this day. I better get cracking. I've beaten myself up enough today for not writing. Now I need to settle on an idea and get after it.
Titles are hard. Just like some emotions.
I’m a pretty optimistic person, I think. Most of the time, at any rate. Sure, sometimes I think life has just kicked me in the ass, and I’d love to make more money and be closer to my next goal, and maybe feel a little more excited about getting up for work each morning, but I can’t really complain. There are only about three people in my life who would listen, anyway. But sometimes, people can sure bring me down.
I was watching a Ted Talk about the new philosophy that people are embracing--that they are maybe “sorry” for feeling sad, mad, discordant, etc. I don’t really feel sorry for feeling those things when I feel them, although sometimes I may apologize for having expressed them. I am certainly a reactive person, but I’m definitely also a reflective person, and after my little eruption, I can pretty easily move to the next stage of processing. But I’m a little concerned that this idea of hiding emotion, or worse, denying emotion, is a trend. If anything, we are human, and humans emote. But better than that? Humans are resilient.
So, I think the key is to figure out how to best handle that in your life. I’m not offering advice, because I’m definitely trying to sort it out for myself, but I do think we each have to do our own thing. And I’m past the point in my life where I’m looking for someone to understand me. I think what’s most important at this point, is figuring out how to understand myself. I’ve finally realized that in the game, that’s what I’ve been trying to do all along.
What I learned at Owl Creek Bridge
Tonight in class I was happy to be teaching "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge." What a fun story to tear apart. It messes with the reader, and one has to ask, does the gimmick work? There isn't really that much to the story after all, but oh, what twists and turns it takes. Poor Peyton Farquhar. Or is he?
I assigned this story, thinking it would be a nice change of pace. It is not difficult, and it does some really interesting things with detail and sensory articulation. It's fun to break apart.
One of my students insisted that she hated the story. Another said he'd read it a time and a half, because he read it as a kid. And both of them had completely incorrect "takes" on it. That's what happens when you don't read it for reading's sake.
The girl insisted it was about suicide. Hmm. No.
The boy was blown away by the details that he'd overlooked. When he was 13. I'm telling you, folks, teaching young people is occasionally a challenge. He is now 20 and still taking shortcuts.
The idea of suicide evidently came from a mistaken HS analysis. She insisted her teacher presented it that way.
Now, I'm the first to know that students don't always report teacher commentary faithfully, so I take that with a grain of salt, but if that teacher IS teaching this story as a suicide story, I weep.
But most importantly, what I thought about after class tonight, was that I am expected to do my job, and that is to present, enlighten, articulate, draw out and help students polish their own ideas about literature. And TRULY, you CAN have original ideas about literature. But sometimes, you can also just be flat out WRONG. So, when your instructor assigns a reading that perhaps you have read before, you might want to re-read it anyway--even if you have it memorized. Trust me on this. And that is the student's job. Do the work you are paying to do. Your instructor truly is not there to torture you, but is, hopefully, there to help you become a little more thoughtful.
I've learned so much in the last two weeks about writing, publishing, cover art (and the lack of it), and myself.
I like Peaky Blinders FAR too much, and will watch and rewatch the seasons in a bingeworthy fashion far too many times, because most of Netflix is boring.
But mostly, what I've learned is that I can still surprise myself.
Writing is easy enough--until I determine a goal and then realize that I've set a difficult bar. My most frustrating moments in the last few weeks were when I realized I could not achieve what I had set out to do--at least not in the time I had allotted myself. That was hard to recognize, come to terms with, and move past.
So, I've done some hard work this last couple of weeks.
I have achieved more goals in this year than I give myself credit for, but not as many as I'd hoped. That's what 2018 is for, I think.
But, to organize...
Self-publishing as a business decision for myself was the right thing to do. But I made a lot of mistakes. I've had to backtrack and fix some of them, and I've had to take a little more time to move to the next platform--Kindle. Finding an agent for the longer, more substantial books is really rather intimidating, but I'm looking forward to the process. The self-publishing route is preparing me to write to these people to try and sell those books. On that note, taking that time has also made me aware of how many problems there are in my novels. I've got a lot of work to do there too.
In my relaxed moments, I believe I could write all day long. Then I sit down to do it...and I realize I was wrong. Writing is hard work. Creating a beautiful cover is easy enough, but not at first. My learning curve has been long.
At any rate, lessons were learned. I know much more about me, and I'm glad of it. 2018 is going to be beautiful for so many reasons, not the least of which will be my decisions about realizing my author potential.
I hope you look forward to these words and to 2018 as much as I do.
My friend called me at 7:52 this morning...and she never calls. But I didn't answer it because I was snoozing. So then, I check my messages when I get up and all I hear are thunks and static for 30 straight seconds!
I call back and no answer.
So, I do what any other person would do, and I text her.
"You're not kidnapped, are you?"
About thirty minutes later, she sent a note that her phone was in her back pocket and she butt-dialed me.
"What a relief!"
Wait...prove it! What if the kidnapper texted that!
I definitely have a plot twist.
Back to Chattering Swallow. Notes to People will hopefully be up today. I'll keep you posted!
Wanted: a good set of sentences to grab you from the depths of the internet. I keep trying to catch your eye.