Does this really matter?

Does this matter?

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There are different types of weight that we carry around with us, both on the frame of our body and in our mind, heart, and soul.  Yes, there are those few extra pounds of body weight that remind us every time we step onto the scale and then there is the weight of our responsibilities, worries, and burdens that slow us down and drag behind us as we attempt to carry them through the day.  One way to lighten up our respective loads is to ask ourselves:

 Does this really matter?

This question can apply to many different things, events, and encounters throughout the day and is of greater benefit for your quality of life than simply checking to see what number shows up on the bathroom scale.  If there were a scale that quantified how heavy my heart is while carrying the various burdens and responsibilities that I lug around with me throughout the day, I would fear even stepping onto it.  Perhaps the sheer possibility to acknowledge such spirit weight would prevent me from getting out of bed in the morning. 

In an effort to lighten my spirit along with my body weight, I have begun asking, “Does this matter?  I mean, really matter?”  Here’s a good example of a recent situation where I am actively trying to turn a Yes response to this question into a No.

Yesterday, my neighbor came over to inform me that she had “accidentally” trimmed all of the beautiful green vines that laced and encircled my mailbox on my property.  I loved this entwining greenery and have admired its lushness every time I walked out to retrieve my mail.  This neighbor since moving in next door has adopted a scorched-earth policy and has been mercilessly hacking away at any living plant in her yard.  As disheartening as this has been to observe, I have accepted that it’s her yard and she can do with it as she wills.  But my property and my mailbox?  I wanted to scream!

When she came over to tell me that she had mistaken my mailbox for hers and that she had stripped away all the beautiful vines and plants to bare earth, I wanted to come completely unglued.  As I walked out to the mailbox with her so she could show me the carnage she had wrought, I had to quickly ask myself, Does this matter?  I wanted to shout, cry, and say bad words to her about the death and destruction that she has wrought on the neighborhood.  I wanted to tell her that she was a bad human being and that she had no business messing with my property.  That she had some kind of obsessive death wish on anything growing and living and that she should move to the desert.  That I was super hurt and angry.

But being a believer in the power of allowing my rational brain to catch up with my emotional brain in order to avoid an emotional hijacking, I surveyed the damage and told her that I wasn’t in a good place to talk about it at that time.  That I was going into the house to absorb.  And then gently told her to kindly stay the hell away from my property, my mailbox, and all growing plants that are between our two houses . . . and that if she had future intentions of annihilating any plants on our shared property line, to come talk with me first.  

In review, I handled the situation pretty well.  I actually delivered my message with an admirable deadpan that contained all of my frustration, hurt, and anger.  All because I paused to ask myself, “Does this matter?”  In the big scheme of life and its real global problems, the hacking away of some greenery by an obsessive neighbor is neither a global threat nor a personal tragedy.  It bugs the hell out of me, but I have to hope that I will eventually get over it and that Mother Earth will heal and replenish the victimized plants.  Amen.

One way I try to ultimately deal with annoyances of this kind and move on is to ask,

“At the end of my life, will I still be obsessing over this?”

At the end of my life, will I still be obsessing over the crazy neighbor lady with the pruning shears?  Chances are the answer is “No,” so I will let it go.  I have to let it go.  Or at least I will continue to work on letting it go.  And if I want to live an authentic life that is true to my beliefs, I have to let it go.  Otherwise my life will be predicated on another’s thoughtless actions and not on my own beliefs, thoughts, feelings, and actions.  I choose peace over strife, love over dislike, and forgiveness over a grudge.  Let the healing begin by answering, “Does this matter?”  And I send up a prayer: Please, Mother Earth send up some healing green vining shoots from this offensive massacre.  

How about you?  The next time you find yourself getting super annoyed by the daily coffee grounds scattered all over the kitchen counter by your house mate . . . does it really matter?  Or when that annoying co-worker steals the credit for your creative idea – again! – and makes it his own . . . does it really matter?  Or when you finish off that pint of chocolate ice cream at midnight while standing over the sink . . . does it really matter?  Go easy on others and on yourself.  

What is it that really matters to you?  Align yourself with your beliefs and your awareness of what they are.  Revisit them.  Journal about them.  Live them.  Share them.  Write a manifesto or a mission statement that represents your beliefs.  Know thyself and imagine yourself getting on a quantum-physics scale that weighs your spirit.  Do you want it to read “light as the air found in a bird’s hollow bone” or do you want it to read “denser than a ton of blue whale blubber”?  (No offense to the beautiful blue whales of the planet that grace our oceans with elegance and beauty, but they sure are heavy.  And the amazing thing?  They float!)  It’s your choice, your process, your control, your letting go, your destiny.  What do you want this quantum scale to read? 

When you catch yourself getting caught up in the petty, annoying, silly frustrations of life, ask yourself “Does this matter?”   If you are able to answer with a “No” and add a laugh to your answer, you just lost an immeasurable weight from your mind, heart, and soul.  Be one with your mindfulness, and do not ally yourself with another’s thoughtlessness.  Forgive and move on.  You are the ultimate recipient of any forgiveness that you are able to give. (I know.  It can feel like a hard thing to task yourself with but it’s worth your focus and effort.  Promise.)

Time for some journaling.

Be still for a moment and relax.  I mean really relax.  Sit down.  Lower your shoulders from your ears.  Empty your hands and put your hands in your lap.  Take five deep breaths. 

What matters to you?

Make a list of people, pets, qualities, things, circumstances, events, dreams . . . that matter to you.  Just go for it.  Don’t filter yourself.

Now go back through your list and circle your top three or top five or top ten, whatever circling activity that makes you happy.  Let these circled items guide your decisions, shape your beliefs, inform your reactions, and create your relationships.  Let them become the things that matter.  Embrace, nurture, and live what matters.  

a brand new year

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Pebbles in a Still Pond

water-1759703_960_720Trust the process.  Trust the ripples created by the pebble.  The ripples will travel to the right places.  They will find their ultimate places on the shore and will communicate their wants, their dreams, their source of desire. 
I will not forget to drop my pebbles in the water.  I will release my vibrational energy loose to find its vibrational match.  I trust the process.

Our Subsumed Lives

to subsumeto include or place within something larger or more comprehensive;   encompass as a subordinate or component element

When you were a child, what did you want to be when your grew up?  

seashell-754015_960_720If you are doing something quite different from what you imagined you would be doing, what happened? What swerved you onto a different path that led you away from your childhood dreams?  Or maybe you are still very much there, living the dream, without even realizing it?

There are many subsuming elements that our lives encounter, embrace, deny, or challenge.  Elements that distract us from who-we-are and steer us onto paths into what  feels to be a foreign country where we don’t speak the language and we don’t understand the customs.

When I was a child, I wanted to be Continue reading

Too Many Ideas?

nautilus_species_shellsDo you ever feel as if you simply have too many ideas?  It isn’t that life is too short to “do” or “finish” everything . . . it’s just that each moment is too tiny to absorb all of the expansion that wants to burst forth from each little second.  This gives me pause, and I wonder What am I doing with each moment?  Am I valuing it?  Living it?  Being it?

We are prompted Continue reading

Making Change

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Making change.  Eleanor Roosevelt wrote in You Learn by Living: “Do the things that interest you and do them with all your heart.  Don’t be concerned about whether people are watching you or criticizing you. The chances are that they aren’t paying any attention to you.  It’s your attention to yourself that is so stultifying.  But you have to disregard yourself as completely as possible.  If you fail the first time then you’ll just have to try harder the second time.  After all, there’s no real reason why you should fail.  Just stop thinking about yourself.”  In other words, Just Do It.

A few things that keep me focused while flowing with change:

  1. As Eleanor says: Just stop thinking about yourself.
  2. Let your history of reward and success encourage you. Remember a time when you tried something new or different or risky . . . and it really felt great while in the process or it, ultimately, led to a really fun outcome.
  3. Surround yourself with quotes that inspire you to be bold.  Words are powerful.
  4. Tape up index cards with the definitions of words like courage, brave, risk, happiness, wealth.  It is always good to see such large, sometimes seemingly unattainable, words defined into smaller, simpler parts.
  5. Write about the journey.  It secures what you are experiencing to your heart and emboldens you.
  6. Be happy. Tell your family and friends how happy you are while you are flowing with change.
  7. Don’t think outside the box. There is no box.  Let yourself slip into flow mode.
  8. Seek the company of generous people who are happy that you are happy. Stay away from naysayers who don’t share your happiness or who feel threatened by your vision.
  9. When in doubt and you feel you are at a crossroads, flip a coin. By the time the coin lands you will know what you want.  This works.  If you still feel uncertain after seeing that head or tail or if you find yourself flipping the coin again for 2 out of 3, you will know what your preference is.  Go with it and trust yourself.
  10. Extend love to others. It is always returned and it will guide you as you make change.
  11. Dissolve fear. Give it the gamma rays and zap it.  Let it go.  Silence it.  Replace fear with trust.
  12. Pay attention.  Always pay attention.
  13. Think affirmation rather than negation.
  14. Believe in CAN.

Eleanor also wrote: “Surely, in the light of history, it is more intelligent to hope rather than to fear, to try rather than not to try.  For one thing we know beyond all doubt: Nothing has ever been achieved by the person who says, ‘It can’t be done.’”

It can be done.  And it will be done if you allow yourself the freedom of choice to make change.  Follow the change.  Enjoy the change.  Be the change.

Nothing that I have written here is new.  It has been spoken, written, repeated, and recorded throughout the ages.  It has been sermonized and it has been put into song.  Repetition of platitudes is not the best teacher.  Experience is.  Embracing life is.  Taking the first step is.

But I somehow seem to need the reminders.  And it is empowering to foresee possibility and then feel the zing that coincides believing and knowing deep deep inside.  But it involves taking a ride, sometimes on the wild and brave side, to get to the good stuff.  Achieving is fantastic, but taking the ride is the true experience.  Taking the ride is the change.

 

 

 

Stumping Miz Grammar

We learn best

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It was once my privilege – and challenge – to take over teaching mid-year in a 7th/8th grade grammar class at a very small public school.  This school was the classic one-room schoolhouse, located in a remote, road-less area in the North Cascades of Washington state.  The children there had grown up navigating the trails of the high country, floating the rivers, jumping in the glacial-fed lake, and tearing up and down the dirt roads on their bicycles.  It was a land of no cell phones, video games, and Facebook – a place of isolated enchantment that could not and would not be fully appreciated until these students grew older, moved away, and worked in cities that involved the many technological trappings now associated with modern living.

You can well imagine that the students did not feel a passion for this grammar class – my predecessor having resorted to dry lectures and long homework assignments, and it was my job to take over and to inspire some interest for the subject.  Being a grammar nerd myself, I wasn’t prepared for the level of apathy that the students expressed.  I remember telling the students on the first day of class that I loved the subject of grammar so much, I took grammar workbooks with me on vacation so I could relax and just enjoy the fun of language.  They thought I was weird, maybe a little insane . . . but that was all good because I was committed to understanding why they weren’t more interested in the foundational components of their native language.  After all, this is grammar that we are talking about?!

We started the class by getting to know each other a little better.  Every Monday, we would each recount stories from the weekend while I grabbed key words from their telling and then write these words into the eight parts of speech grid that I had graphed out on the board.  Then we would play The Synonym Game and erase the word on the board with a different word that might convey the story’s meaning a little more vividly.  They began to see how word choice mattered – how you could use the adjective great and maybe use the word fabulous or resplendent instead.  It was a small step but it made sense to take what they knew – their experiences – and translate them into a Grammar Stew on the board that they shared.  I knew that we were growing stalwart grammar-ites when one student used the adjective ebullient in his re-telling of how happy he was that his grandma had come to visit.  It made me feel positively ebullient!

For homework, each student was to bring one question each day to stump me – Miz Grammar.  I wanted to demonstrate how remarkable grammar actually is . . . that no one has all of the answers – not even Miz Grammar!  I wanted them to see how language is an evolving work in progress.  Just ask the Apostrophe Protection Society!  We can’t stop language!  The biggest advantage in Stumping Miz Grammar was that this was a rural school and there was zero access to Google or the Internet.  This meant that the students had to use their textbooks to find the questions and answers to stump me.

I don’t know how I managed to stay ahead of the students, but it quickly became apparent that it was going to be tricky to stay ahead of their questions.  The students would see me at the post office on mail day and ask, “Miz Grammar, what is a gerund?”  “What is a dangling preposition?”  “What is an antecedent?”  They were becoming a team of grammar experts without the students even knowing it.  And how could they know if I knew the answer if they hadn’t done the proper research and found the correct answer themselves?

I kept all of their questions and, at the end of the school year, the students compiled the questions into categories and organized a community-wide, grammar-themed game show.  Parents were the contestants and prizes were donated.  In an effort to alleviate grammar anxiety – which was prevalent, I might add, what with their children being grammar experts by this time – the parents wore costumes and adopted various personalities as game show contestants.  It was a bonding experience for the community, and it was a source of great fun and pride for the students as they led the community down the road of grammar enlightenment.

It is funny how one little crazy idea can grow into something larger than imagined possible.  One of the students went on to become a published poet.  Another student majored in journalism and was the acting editor of a Chicago university’s newspaper during his tenure as a student.  Another student went on to become a freelance writer.  The pleasure that these students took in dissecting language into its most primitive parts gave me great joy as a teacher and as a grammar lover!

Learning objectives are important.  They are the brass ring on the carousel, the t-shirt at the end of the marathon, the cake from the cake walk.  But what I had intuited as necessary at the beginning of this grammar journey proved to be true: you have to build a learning community before learning can happen.  These amazing students created a Culture of Grammar.  They built a team first and then, without even realizing it in the process, mastered the actual objectives of the course . . . and had fun while doing so.

Am I proud of these students?  Yes!  It is our goal as educators to infuse a love of learning while learning.  Like metacognition, or meta-anything for that matter, it’s all about being within the moment while being in the moment.  These students taught me far more about life than I ever taught them about grammar.  They taught me about community and to trust myself when in the midst of a challenging and seemingly dismal situation.

It’s good to know that we don’t know everything.  We are refreshed and invigorated when we enter the unknown territories in which we find ourselves and embrace the evolution of learning and growing.  Just ask Miz Grammar!  She knows!

13 Steps to take when you don’t know something that you’re expected to know:

  1. Just say it.  Admit that you don’t know.
  2. Research. Find your answer.  
  3. Look for new sources and ask experts.
  4. Lean on your community.  Like a 3-legged stool, every “leg” in the community is essential.
  5. Learn more than you started out wanting to know.
  6. Share your knowledge.
  7. Share your passion for knowledge.
  8. Offer your knowledge and experience to someone else.  
  9. Be a mentor.
  10. Laugh a lot.  Laughter doeth good like a medicine — especially when you are feeling stressed about a deadline or an expectation.
  11. Don’t give up.  There is likely an answer available.
  12. If you can’t find the answer, create one based on all of the above.
  13. Become The Expert!   
become the expert

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