Obstacles for Change

obstacle9.jpgI have been sick this week with a never-ending virus…   I’ve had an on going fever and headache, and haven’t felt up to doing much of anything.  Luckily, I’m off from work in the summer and can rest.  It got me thinking about something though.

The last thing you want to do when you feel terrible is go to a bright crowded place like the grocery store.  My sweet brother did bring me some essentials for the first few days that I had a fever (soup, pop-cycles, etc).  When that ran out and I was still sick, I didn’t want to bother my friends or family that are near by too much.  (side note: living alone is mainly wonderful, until you are sick)

I decided that I would have to make do with the food that I already had at home until I felt better.  I’m sure you’ve said it before too, “I have nothing to eat”.  And sometimes that truly is the case, but most of the time not.  Instead of convenience, I decided to finish up cooking my veggies, made rice and beans, and tried out that butternut squash soup.   PLENTY to eat!

This is just a small example of something special about obstacles that push us towards something better for us.  Whether that be more awareness, softness, appreciation, drive, creativity, invention, etc.  The thing about these obstacles is that we have to be more allowing of them, instead of being resistant or getting taken over.

When things are easy or always go smoothly, we don’t have to learn.  We can stay in auto pilot mode.  This safe and comfortable mode of being is fine and needed, but I think that we become our best and most resilient self, when we face challenges.

These challenges don’t have to be terribly difficult things, but sometimes they are.  And sometimes the challenges we bring on ourselves, and other times we have no control.   Did I forget to put gas in the car and now I’m stranded?  Now I can learn how important it is to be responsible for myself and be aware of my surroundings.   Did someone I love lose their job?  Now I can be supportive in whatever they need.  Instant increase in awareness and empathy in those situations.

This openness to learning from obstacles allows for the greatest and most genuine growth.  It’s the resistance that I mentioned that constricts the mind and body and tries to keep you from being in the reality of the present moment and keeps you from moving forward.

This week I had no control over being sick (Obstacle #1).  I did however create a new obstacle for myself of not going to the grocery store (Obstacle #2).  I could have very well dragged myself to the store to stock up, but part of me knew that I needed to use what I already had.  I wanted to see if I could do it.  Instant increase in self reliance and appreciation for what I have.

Can we create obstacles in our lives to help us grow?  Would we even want to do that?? Would we decide not fill our car up with gas, so that we were forced to ride our bike to work? Would we decide not to use the internet for a week (maybe just outside of work if that is needed) so that we can choose genuine interaction?  Would we be willing to initiate a difficult conversation with someone, in order to help move things in a more positive direction?

Whether you have an obstacle in your life that you did or did not put there, it’s important to remember that the goal is to be open to learning from them.  Take a deep breath and allow yourself to find your way through.  You are still you, but you are a stronger you.

 

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A Love Affair with Mugs

mugs

If I had to pick a “thing” that brings me great pleasure, it’s ceramics, more specifically, mugs.

I think they are so lovely to look at and hold.  I feel grounded when I hold a mug that was crafted by a local artisan. One that is not perfectly shaped, but fits the contours of my hands and fingers.  I breathe a little easier, heart beats a little slower ~ my hands were made to hold this life giving vessel.

uiiiiiiii8 (Miles, my cat, contributed this part)

When I am out and about, I am drawn to mugs.  I can’t help but notice their beauty.  Each one has its own history and uniqueness.  They tug at my heart, but I am reminded that I don’t really need any more.

What is this heart tug about?  I know that I have plenty of beautiful mugs.  I know that I will acquire more once I donate ones I no longer want.  But the heart knows what it needs and wants.  It seems to be about this feeling of staying connected to the earth.   

I don’t feel this way about many other “things”.  I certainly don’t breathe easier when I am holding my cell phone.  In fact, my hands tend to cramp up or fall asleep.  I find this difference quite telling about what my body knows it needs.

Whether it is an actual “thing” or something abstract, I’m going to keep listening to what my body is drawn to and what makes it happiest, and I hope you will to!!

Extended Quiet

I’m tired of scrolling through social media and feeling not up to par with everyone else. Most of the time I am happy for others and the joy in their lives. Today, I’m kind of over it. Not over others being happy, just over wasting time soaking in others’ lives, instead of living my own life in that moment.

I am thankful for my friends and for connections with others, but I truly do not get any real joy from scrolling. Sometimes I might get an idea of something I want to do or laugh at a funny animal video. I am somewhat happy to see that a high school friend is having yet another child 😉 All okay, just not fulfilling. Yet this is the way of life. This is how people stay connected. This IS what most people do, right?

So my experiment this week is to take a break from it all. I am on spring break, having a staycation. For a while I have wanted to try a silent retreat, but decided that I could have my own silent retreat for FREE!

I’ve told a few people that I want a silent retreat for the week and I have not really gotten the supportive reactions I assumed I would get. It’s more like, hmmm that sounds boring, or no reaction at all, or so I guess that means you don’t want to hang out? Etc. Makes me wonder again, am I crazy for feeling like this would be beneficial? Is this something that only completely burned out people would think of?

Regardless, I’m looking forward to the experience. It’s so easy to get distracted by others’ requests, needs, dramas, etc. I feel like I have neglected to truly listen to what I need and want. With the pace of our society and the work load that never seems to end, it feels like an impossible task sometimes to let go of it all and hone in on what is next for me. The world will overwhelm you, if you aren’t very careful.

I’m an introvert and talking is not my preferred mode of communicating anyways, so I’m pretty certain that I will not struggle with keeping quiet this week.

By not talking, by not scrolling social media, I hope to accomplish the following things~

-better sleep

-limited input from others

-time and space for deep reflection

-permission to not care too much

-mental rest and clarity

-focus on next steps/plans

As I write my broad goals for the week of quiet, I feel like I must find a way to honor these needs on a more regular basis. But for now, I’m excited to give this a try and see what I learn.

Hope for Public Education

I’ve worked a while now in public education (10 years), and I think things need to change.  Things absolutely have to change actually.  I am not bashing public education by any means.  I grew up in public education and believe that being surrounded by diversity and being aware of the challenges we all face, contributed to the empathetic person that I am today.  Do I think public education failed me in some ways?  probably.  Do I think public education is able to help kids who need it most?  we try really hard.  With the push from current administration to increase the privatization of schools and to take money from public education and give families the option to use private school vouchers is absurd in my opinion.   Why do we not instead truly work to upgrade what we already have?  Can’t we continue to improve in order to be the ones who help children to see life differently than what they currently see. To have hope for themselves and for their futures.

Working in an elementary school is by far one of the most exhausting jobs there is.  Most people don’t even have a moment to use the bathroom or to breathe.  This is what I see on a daily basis:  I see some happy teachers and lots of hard work.  I also see a staff that is burned out.  Teachers who are regularly disrespected by students.  Students who are mean to each other and have no idea how to communicate with each other.  I see staff who are completely overloaded.  It can be difficult to have a conversation without being interrupted 5 times.  It is rare to have the calmness of mind to have a conversation that is truly productive.   I see unrealistic expectations.  Teachers work 8-9 hours a day, and then are expected to work all evening long.  If you do, yay you get to be put on the good list! If not, well you are a slacker.  It’s not okay to have a balanced life.   This is not meant as a complain-fest, because I would gladly list as many positives that I see.  But I cannot pretend that the way our education system works is enough.  It’s not enough for progression to happen the way we need it to in order to give our children the best education possible.  But it is possible to make changes, it’s really all about priorities, isn’t it?

  1. Class sizes must be smaller.  There is no possible way to truly help all kids, when there are 25 students or more in a classroom.  It is running around like a chicken with your head cut off.
  2. Schools must higher additional mental health supports.  With the current mental health needs of kids in our country, this should be at the forefront! The ratio for school counselor to students is supposed to be 1:250.  At my school and at many schools it is 1:650.
  3. Consider what curriculum is truly needed for students.  By now, shouldn’t we have required classes at the elementary level that are based around life skills?  I mean on a daily basis allowing an hour block to talk about how to be a 21st century learner, social skills, finance, etc.   A 15-minute responsive classroom meeting and teaching about test taking skills isn’t going to cut it.  Students need to learn the basics of how to be learners and how to get along with others before they can do anything else.
  4. Parents and teachers must work together better.  This doesn’t happen enough.  I’ve seen it so many times, but it’s still a shock to me when parents blame teachers for a child’s bad behavior or poor performance.  It’s a group effort to raise and educate children.
  5. Provide teacher aids for teachers in K and 1 all day long, everyday.
  6. Let staff decide what professional development they currently need.  Give them some autonomy.  Life isn’t cookie cutter.
  7. Occasional breaks to take a breath and use the bathroom go a long way.
  8. Stop piling on more and more.  No one can do their best job when they have too much on their plate.   It’s time to get back to basics, and stop with all the show.
  9. Look at how much people in the medical field are paid for example.  We are educating the children of our nation and we get paid barely enough to purchase a house or pay off student loans.  Go to the doctor and they don’t offer much help really other than prescribing antidepressants and antibiotics, yet they have no worries of paying their own bills.  In schools we provide differentiated  interventions that actually work, but the compensation is not there.
  10. Not until adults stop bullying, will our kids ever stop bullying.   This is a learned behavior.

I am hopeful that things will improve for our students.  It starts with each of us doing what we do every single day.  More importantly,  It starts with not allowing status quo.

Desire

I’m back at peace now–

But for days, what seemed like years, I felt I needed this “thing”.

This desire felt so strong, and I was certain that this would be the next step.

It would definitely propel me to increased happiness and fulfillment.

However, this excitement transformed into a strong wave of anxiety that was about to engulf me.

Which is how I knew this couldn’t be decided now, not because I was giving into fear,

but because in that moment I realized that I am truly at peace with what already is.

The wave receded, for I knew that I didn’t need anything else.

I gave myself the opportunity to explore this desire, and listened when my soul said, I am full.

Becoming Unstuck

As I drove home from work today, completely exhausted (the pollen isn’t helping things), a smirk of delight and of peace came across my face “I can’t wait to write this evening”~ I said to myself, for the first time with no hesitation at all (i.e. it will actually happen this time, NOTHING will take it’s place).  So here I am.  I’ve been thinking about doing more writing for a while now.  Like…years.   “I love writing, I should do more of it” ~ “I really think that I should figure out a way to get writing into my life” ~”I want to write, but there is NO WAY I’m going to wake up earlier than I normally do”~ “I have so much to say, but people probably already know about things I want to share” <—– this thought right here is the thing I realized has held me back the most.

I not exactly sure where this assumption originated, but I’m thankful that I was finally able to hear it, get a really good look at it, then transform it.  I realized today that my insights are like none other (I could mentally say this before today, but at my core it still didn’t feel true until now), and that many people will truly benefit from them. Yay me, for getting unstuck.

I have a bit of a commute to work, and sometimes this is beneficial for time for productive thinking and other times it turns into unproductive thinking loops.  Today was the former kind of commute.  One of my first thoughts this morning was, how you do anything, is how you do everything.   My old way of thinking tells me you have probably heard this quote, but the new way says, perhaps not.  I love this quote and remind myself of it frequently.  (If you happen to know the origin of it, let me know 🙂

If how I do anything is how I do everything, then I was adhered like gorilla glue.  If I am stuck with writing, then I’m stuck with everything.  If I’m stuck with something that I am passionate about, then I’m stuck with all things I’m passionate about.  And that’s not how I want to live my life.

Here’s to reminding oneself that it is of utmost importance to listen to what you truly want and are passionate about ~ stop the second guessing, and procrastination. If you are stuck, figure out what assumptions are holding you back, and work on ridding yourself of them.

I’ve generally thought of myself as a free spirit kind of person, go with the flow, and all that jazz.  But you know, now I know that wasn’t really the case.   It won’t be until I unstick all that needs to be free.   But today how I did anything, was how I did everything and that was all kinds of freedom.

I’m hopeful that this will work for you too.

 

 

 

 

 

“Sell” me something I don’t know.

Wise consumption is much more complicated than wise production~ Leo Tolstoy

 

In the last few years, I’ve become extremely conscious of what I consume.   Perhaps it’s the result of responsible adulthood, but most likely it’s the result of being completely sick of what society dumps on me/us.  Either way,  I am paying attention society, I just want you to know that.  I’m more powerful than you think.

I was checking my 2016 year in review bank statement yesterday, as I completed my taxes.  I was pleasantly surprised as to what I spent the most money on this year.  What industries did I support, you might be asking?

I bought my first house, so cheers to you and me, real estate industry.

I also supported the music industry with a fair share of concert tickets.

Transportation expenses ranked up there.

There were interspersed payments for Jcrew and DSW, but they were so few, not even enough to count on two hands.

I love fashion and shoes and all the cute stuff, but I didn’t need much of anything new this year.   As a matter of fact, I gave much of my clothing away to goodwill over the last few years, and made sure to only bring with me what I wear on a regular basis to the new house.

In 2016, my biggest contribution was made to the food industry.   Not to restaurants necessarily, but to local farmers, and organic food purchases.

I had made a concerted effort to support foods that are healthy and sustainable. And this pie chart from my bank, reminded me that I met that goal.  yes!

I am asking you to think about what you are consuming each day.   Pay attention. Which industries do you support?  What changes does our society need for people to be healthier and happier?

Today I went to a craft store, so that I could purchase supplies to hang up a picture I painted.  When I said politely “no thank you” to providing her my email address, she despondently looked at the ground as I left.  Are all salespeople like this? Of course not.  It’s just an example of this consumption driven, more more more, society… that is ultimately unfullfilling.

Pay attention to who and what you support, smile, be free. I am hopeful.