Category Archives: Personal Growth

One Small Thing…

 I’ve tried to “embed” a short TED presentation for you to consider… it’s only about three and half minutes long.

Many of us have heard that it takes thirty days to form a new habit. This is not about that. Well, not exactly.

What I love about this presentation is the simple elegance. We don’t need to do extreme makeovers in order to change. We just need to commit to trying something for thirty days. I found, for example, the presenter’s example of committing to take one photo every day for thirty days interesting, because I often find myself “whining” (to myself anyway) that I’m not using my camera more. Should I commit to taking one photo everyday for the next thirty?

 

Irene the Dream or Irene the Nightmare?

“I’ll see you in my dreams!” I suppose your age will affect whether the blog title reminds of a song or the current hurricane.

Fear is a powerful emotion. By their own admission many people are “freaking out” over the possibilities Irene is offering. 

On a somewhat analytical level it’s interesting to see how people are reacting to the threat. It’s reassuring when the reaction is relatively calm planning. It’s disconcerting when the reaction is “freaking out.”

First of all I’m really sure what “freaking out” is.  Apparently it has something to do with a “heightened emotional state” according to the Free Dictionary. I gather it can apply to different emotions: fear, anger, excitement.

Understand that I’m not making fun of people who are, perhaps, reacting strongly to this threat. (Notice I did not say “over-reacting.” I think folks are pretty much entitled to react as they please, up to and including freaking out.) I do think that ultimately it’s about perspective and I’m afraid I do not totally understand the value of freaking out.

I do understand the value of emotion. But as human beings we have a wonderful if mystical ability to balance emotion and logic.

How often do we say (or hear said) something about needing to accept things we can’t control? We certainly can’t control a hurricane; we can only control how we think about it–and what we do about it.

In the song about Irene the promise is “I’ll see you in my dreams.” While it wasn’t the intent of the song to imply that a dream-based visit to Irene was going to be better than a real one… well, suffice it to say there are some questions here–just as there are questions about the impending visit from Irene the hurricane.

It is easy (and in an odd way, fun) to be afraid. This Irene is not in our dreams, but we may find ourselves thinking she’s going to be our worst nightmare. Focusing on the dream or the nightmare moves us out of the natural order of things. This Irene is just a hurricane.

By the way, if you’d like to escape from worrying about Irene the Hurricane for a few minutes, you might try researching Irene the dream. I’ll bet you didn’t know (spoiler alert) that the song includes a component of using suicide as a coping mechanism.

Whatever the events taking place in our lives, there are plenty of options besides freaking out or considering suicide. We may not be able to control those events, but we sure can control how we think about them and what we do about them. Controling how we think and what we do has the power to create that balance between emotion and logic.

No dreams, no nightmares. It’s a nice place to be.

The Ecology of Your Mind

While this may not be about writing, it might be a brain leak. I recently found myself intrigued by some of the thoughts of Sir Ken Robertson. In order:

Here is a link to a 20 minute video of a Presentation on School Creativity. Some of the jokes are bit worn, but he speaks in an entertaining style and will make you think. I’m hesitant to offer a synopsis, but you’ll be challenged by his point that our current model of public education was designed to meet the needs of an increasing industrialized nation. You have to wonder: does that model still fit?

Two years later he offers some thoughts on valuing creativity. Here we follow a young girl who went from being diagnosed with a learning disability that hadn’t been invented yet to a highly successful dancer and owner of her own company.  How do we encourage things like this to happen? “I believe our only hope for the future is to adopt a new conception of human ecology, one in which we start to reconstitute our conception of the richness of human capacity.”

Just last year, Robertson encourages us to bring on the revolution. A follow up to the 2006 presentation on school creativity, this will definitely get your blood pumping. If you’re interested in improving education, don’t miss this one!

I do love the concept of “human ecology” and will likely be writing about it some more… the way we use the term “ecology” these days is actually the third definition. In a larger and perhaps grander sense, we are talking about the relationships between humans and their environments. School (education) is as much an environment as it is a process. Those of us who teach need to understand that.

Lesson on the Mountain

        As I stopped to catch my breath, I found myself contemplating whether or not I was really having fun yet. It started out simply enough. A little walk in the woods while visiting my hometown. I was doing fine, ambling along the abandoned road until I saw a new sign. It marked a new trail and promised a number of wonderful vistas for those who hiked a mile up the mountain.

        I was feeling spontaneous and adventuresome. I had some time to kill. I chuckled a bit as I considered whether or not to “do” the trail. Mountain climbers are often quoted as explaining they climbed a mountain because it was there. I was alone. To whom did I need to explain my decision? I could, after all, just do it simply because I wanted to.

        Naturally, the box containing the “trail guide and map” was empty. I must have been feeling philosophical, too because I actually considered that something of a blessing. I’d have to discover things on my own rather than follow the numbers. Why do we so often need to have things ordered and mapped out? Why do we look at the things someone else has decided we should see?

        My first “breath catching” stop came a lot sooner than I’d hoped. As I pushed on, thoughts seemed to be rolling down the mountain, threatening to over take me. “No one knows where I am… This would not be a great place to have a heart attack… Continue reading Lesson on the Mountain

My Hero!

I’m very selective when it comes to identifying mentors and role models. I can only think of a handful of people who I’d give that label. One guy who gets a lot of credit for whatever writing skills I might have is my high school English Teacher, Tony Russo. Tony not only taught me to write, he taught me to think. I’ve occasionally speculated that he might have regretted doing so during some class discussions and debates on topics ranging from Hamlet to academic freedom. Fortunately here we are some 45 years later and he and I are still in contact.

One of the running amusements we share is that after all these years I still have trouble keeping analogies, metaphors, and similies straight. So it perhaps will come as no surprise that when I recently reported being as “busy as a one-armed paper-hanger with diarrehea,” I also confessed that I wasn’t sure which it was. Here is Tony’s response:

Here’s the thing, you have created an analogy to describe your current situation, i.e. you are currently as busy as, but you are not actually, a one-armed paperhanger with diarrhea. On the other hand, metaphorically speaking, you have replaced yourself with the one-armed paperhanger with diarrhea, thus creating a metaphor. I’ll bet you had no idea that you were so agile with turning a phrase. My advice, don’t sweat the small stuff. 99 and 44/100ths% of your readers will never know the difference anyway, and even if they do, they really don’t give a shit, no pun intended, but I must admit that if one were intended, it wouldn’t be all that bad.

I would observe that I am not the only one who is agile with turning a phrase… and I’m a bit relieved that I apparently no longer need to worry about whether I’m using a metaphor, analogy, or simile.

But I’ll bet I do.