I was watching Instagram stories this morning, and I came across this graphic shared by someone I follow:
As I sit here today, working from home because of a migraine and some wintry weather, this graphic spoke to me about the way that we normally think about Mondays. I am as guilty as anyone of starting to dread Monday on Sunday afternoon. In fact, I have seen several memes about how Sunday just can’t be enjoyable because it is Monday Eve.
This has really gotten me thinking about how much of the bad feelings about Monday are made worse by our mindset? It is interesting that I talk about mindset to my students, and even to my kids at home, but I still can’t manage to make it past those Monday blues. When I saw that graphic this morning, it really stuck with me that this would be a great way to try to change my mindset about Mondays. These are things we can do every day, but it seems like it is even more important on Mondays.
I also think it is very important to keep in mind the A from this graphic. It seems like most of us spend way too much time down on ourselves instead of acknowledging what we have actually accomplished. It has been far too easy in my life to look at the to-do list and see how many things I didn’t get accomplished during the day instead of acknowledging how much progress I actually made during the day. We so often try to give others the benefit of the doubt or try to make up the difference ourselves, when we have already taken on more than what we should have. Once we have taken on all the things, we beat ourselves down for not getting everything accomplished. Perhaps it is wanting to check everything off the list or maybe it is a quest for perfection. Either way, the tendency that we have to keep adding to the list and then beating ourselves up for not getting the list finished is extremely harmful to the way we think about ourselves overall. In other words, we really need to be giving ourselves a break instead of constantly striving for perfection. Don’t let your Monday Mindset be a negative start to your week.
Life is too hard for us to be continuously hard on ourselves. There are enough people waiting to knock us down or criticize us without us leading that charge. This week, I am issuing a challenge. Start your week with a better Monday Mindset and live the week being intentional about not beating yourself up over everything that doesn’t go wonderfully.
For roughly 2 months, I have been talking about redoing our home office. I’ve been dreaming about redoing it for years. We actually took the big step and ordered countertops to create a desk over a month ago. I bought the paint a month and a half ago. Today, it finally happened. When we decided what we were going to do, David started cleaning out the old office. That turned things slightly upside down. Little did we know how long it would remain turned upside down. I even left Christmas decorations out to put in there when we put up all the decorations everywhere else in the house. As a reminder, here are a few pics from the beginning of this craziness (September 27th was when I took these pictures).
Chaos definitely describes it, but it certainly wasn’t perfect. In fact, I couldn’t even work in here because it was so chaotic. It wasn’t always like this, but it quickly became like this when David and I, and the kids, all got sent home to do work and school in March. As fall semester rolled along, I kept having this really bad feeling that we would end up being sent home again. Luckily, that did not happen, but it made me want to get the office in shape to where we could function if we were all sent home. This particular room has served as an office, the first bedroom for both kids, and then back to an office. It is a long, skinny room, and it is hard to use as a bedroom because of that. Luckily, my husband is pretty much a saint and goes along with my crazy ideas of doing stuff with the house. Here are some pictures of the office as it looks right now, and some pictures of the process.
If I said I am loving the new office, it would be an understatement. We finally have a space that works for both of us. We will be able to work in here together, record our podcast in here (anchor.fm/perfect-chaos), have a nice place to meet with people if we need to do that (hence the blue chair), and make plans together. I am absolutely over the moon with our new setup. I know there are some things we still need to get or do, and it will get changed a little as we start using it more, but I am actually motivated to do some work again. Here’s hoping that it will provide a great place for us to work when we need to work from home.
So, I spent some time this weekend (and last weekend if I’m being honest) putting up Christmas stuff. As I was reading through social media this week, I saw multiple posts where people were fussing about others putting Christmas stuff up “too early” or people were putting their stuff up and posting pictures with the comment of “Don’t come at me for this.”
I have always wondered why it mattered to so many people when other people put the Christmas tree up, but I wonder that even more this year. You see, it seems to me like this year has been full of hard times, worries, unease, discontent, and general unkindness. I am one of those people that typically puts the Christmas decorations up early. I have done this for years. It isn’t because I don’t celebrate Thanksgiving. It is because I love the twinkling lights and happy faces of Christmas. I love the magic of Christmas. They make me happy. They make my kids happy.
Quite honestly, one of the best Christmases we ever had was the year that I had absolutely everything (including buying and wrapping) finished by Thanksgiving. We spent the next month after Thanksgiving that year doing the fun things of Christmas. We watched movies, baked cookies, read stories, made crafts, and had time to do some of the things that just mean a little more at Christmas, too. We all 4 did Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes and we got 2 names off the Angel Tree that we got to shop for that year. We got to go see all the parades, cook special meals, have friends over, and truly relax and enjoy the Christmas season. It was the calmest and happiest Christmas season we have ever had. This was all while I had surgery, Alyssa played middle school basketball and had games and tournaments, B played Upward basketball, and we were all doing things at church.
For us, it just works to put the decorations up early. I have friends that wait until after Thanksgiving, some that wait until the 1st of December, a couple that wait until the 12 days before Christmas, and 1 that puts it all up on Christmas Eve and has it all back down on the 26th. I think that is all wonderful. Every bit of it. It isn’t what I do, but what does that matter?
Why has this become such a big deal to people? I finally got an answer from a post someone else put up that said it makes it harder for people who don’t enjoy Christmas. I totally understand that, and I am truly sorry that it has that affect on someone. I personally need it to help me get through the changing of the season. I love fall, but I hate to see the leaves go away and I don’t like the barren trees and brown grass of winter. It helps when I miss people who can’t be here because of location because I remember the fun things we have done together when I get those decorations out. It helps me feel close to my Nana who has been gone since August of 2017 because most of my decorations came from her store and I can remember her always liking the way I decorated.
This year, I have seen more people struggle with emotional baggage due to the pandemic, the election, hurricanes, fires, murder hornets, school closures, etc. I have also seen more people saying they were putting up their Christmas stuff earlier than they ever have because it makes them happy. I guess my question in all of it is simply, “Why does it matter to someone else if I put my tree up early?” There are so many thing going on in this world. So many big things that we need to work together on. So many things we can fight over that actually make a difference. So why is it the Christmas decorations that are the sticking point? What’s the real deal?
I guess, for me, it doesn’t matter if you put them up early or late, if the baby Jesus is already in your nativity or not, if the Magi are wandering around your house or have already found the crèche on the mantle, if you love the Christmas Shoes song or hate it, if you choose to celebrate Christmas or another holiday, if you do a ton of gifts or none. In my mind, do what makes you happy. None of these things are hurtful to another person. Do something that makes you smile. If that means you have pumpkins on the porch and elves in the windows, go for it. Find something that will bring a little more light to your world this year. There is definitely no reason to choose now to dull your sparkle. Yes, my tree is up and lit. The ornaments and angel will happen later this week. I have snowmen all over my kitchen. The Polar Express table is almost finished, and the mantle is done (including the nativity with the baby Jesus and magi all in attendance). I have Christmas pillows out, the tree in my bedroom is up, and there are more trees on the way. I plan on Black Friday shopping, and then wrapping everything on the next day. Then I plan on sitting back and relaxing with my family and enjoying the Christmas season. I hope you will enjoy this season, too.
Does anyone else feel like you need to start every conversation with an apology? I mean, we all know that everyone is stretched beyond the limits we previously thought we had established as the most we could do, yet I still find myself starting conversations with a disclaimer or a pre-apology if I offend anyone. You know the kind. When we start off with things like, “Today sure has been a long week,” or, “I may be a little extra crabby today, so I’m sorry if I come across as mean.”
This is an interesting phenomenon, and it is one that has fascinated me forever. I have always been one of those people that says, “I’m sorry,” for every little thing yet has a hard time when it is a big thing. This concept of apologizing when it isn’t needed is strange, but fits in with the phenomenon of the pre-apology. So today I am asking the question. I truly want an answer, because I have some theories and I would love to see if any of them resonate with anyone else.
I was raised a good southern girl. I was taught manners by my mother, had them reinforced by my grandmother, and was ultimately sent to Charm School in high school. I know how to throw a party, set a table, carry on a conversation, present myself in public, etc. Along with that came a good amount of watching the people around me be hospitable to the point of walking on themselves before others could. I have seen people say sorry for the smallest things that they truly have no control over. I am absolutely guilty of doing this same thing, and have been guilty of it my whole life. I’m pretty sure it drives David nuts because I apologize for things like tonight when I discovered the power strip for the sound bar was turned off. I apologized for it, but he is the one that turned it off. What in the world am I actually saying sorry for when I didn’t have anything to do with the event? My theory on this one is that I am not apologizing for an actually occurrence, but instead I am apologizing that someone was inconvenienced or upset. It is an apology for feelings, not actions.
The pre-apology seems to be gaining ground lately, and I am watching it happen more and more around me. We are all stretched well beyond anything we are able to deal with, and tensions seem to be running at an all time high. I have also noticed that there seem to be 2 different things that happen with the pre-apology. 1 thing that I have seen happen is the person that gives the pre-apology really is over-tired or over-stressed and that person seems to be truly trying to be cordial and not snippy, but may or may not be succeeding. This type of pre-apologist I look at in much the same way as the apology for a feeling instead of an action. I don’t necessarily have a problem with what is happening, but am a little disturbed that we feel we have to start with a pre-apology. The other thing that I am seeing happen more and more often is when someone starts with a pre-apology, then continues on with words or actions that are deliberately harmful and hurtful to others under the premise of being stressed or tired. This type of pre-apology is one that I have a huge problem with and it seems to be happening more and more often as we get further into 2020.
Do you ever just wonder what happened to being kind to one another? When did it become more acceptable to give what I consider an empty pre-apology and then put people on blast? There are many arguments about what is contributing to this, and I’ll save those for another day. What I won’t save for another day is that I am tired of hateful. I am over spiteful. What happened to simple kindness? When did we forget that ALL of us are human, regardless of our different opinions?
Then there is the problem that I notice more and more in that we are able to do these small apologies all over the place for nothing, and we are also able to do the pre-apology. What we seem to have a hard time with is an actual meaningful apology for a serious wrong that has been committed either in word or action. Friendships are breaking up all over the place because words have been said and no one will come forward and acknowledge the wrong with an apology. I am not saying that everything can be fixed or even should be fixed with a simple apology, but I sure do see a ton of things that need apologies from multiple sides. When did we become people that will just pack our stuff and go home so we don’t have to see differing opinions? When did the common decency in disagreement turn into a battlefield?
I have watched friendships dissolve this week over an election. The latest thing I am seeing is an event on facebook to leave facebook for some other platform that promises to be uncensored freedom of speech. I don’t know about you, but after reading the things that have been written the past 6 months about politics, pandemics, education, and so many other things I don’t want to see what uncensored looks like.
So I have an idea. How about we stop apologizing when it isn’t really necessary and start apologizing when it is hard? What if we stopped apologizing because someone was mildly inconvenienced by something we had no control over and started apologizing for hurtful words that we said? What would happen if instead of dividing ourselves yet again so that we are surrounded by people that we agree with we decided to recognize humanity in those we don’t agree with and find common ground?
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the world doesn’t feel like people are just mean to everyone else. I don’t know how we got here, or if I am the only person watching and feeling like a lost sheep in a pack of wolves. I compared the world the other day to middle school. That time during adolescence when children/tweenagers/teenagers/young adults are cruel in the ways that they treat each other and talk to each other. I want out of middle school. I want to have discussions where I don’t have to agree with the other person and we are still friends.
As someone who is a 2 on the Enneagram, an empathetic soul, and wants nothing more than peace, this world is giving me a headache. Even worse, it is breaking my heart. To those who I have hurt in the past, whether it was intentional or not, I am truly sorry. To those who feel they have no place to turn, come find me. We may not agree, but at the end of the day we can still be friends and have great conversations. And to those who just want to fight, argue, and speak nastiness to those who don’t agree with you, I’m truly sorry that you are so unhappy.
It’s the beginning of a new semester. You have set new goals for the semester, gone into your classroom or your office and gotten organized, and determined how this semester will be even better than the last one. Or maybe you went into work and realized that this season would be harder than ever before, but decided to be positive and look at all the amazing things you were anticipating learning because of the unique situation we are all finding ourselves in this year. Perhaps you simply have great expectations for a new relationship or even when you wake up in the morning and have great expectations for the day.
We are a society of expectations. We set them high, and hope to get there. I spend my days teaching students how to set high expectations and get their students to rise to meet those expectations. We call our expectations all sorts of different things: SMART Goals Expectancies Prospectives Targets
You can search the internet and scour the library and you will find all sorts of information about setting expectations. Everyone and their brother has an opinion about it. How high should you set them? Should you write them down? How will you achieve them? You should set them higher. You should set them lower. You will never reach that goal. Don’t push so hard to achieve so much, you will never be able to top what you just accomplished.
But what do these expectations actually mean to us? Are we setting small goals that can be accomplished or are we setting huge goals that are going to take a while to finish? Are we setting expectations for ourselves or for others? Have we set an expectation for ourselves that will push us to success or push us to frustration?
There are a few things that we need to remember when we are setting expectations that will help us avoid excess frustration that could have been avoided. Make no mistake, I am not saying to set low expectations or to accept mediocrity, just that there are sometimes other things to think about when we are setting expectations. Remember, the piece that never changes, but can confound everything we try to do, is our our humanity.
So what can you do to help yourself set realistic expectations, regardless of if you are setting an expectation for the day or for a lifetime?
Think logically about the circumstances surrounding the expectation We all have desires and wants to improve ourselves in some way. Sometimes, our want is so large that the expectation that we set is not something that can logically happen. How many of us have decided we are going to start going to the gym only to be looking in the mirror and frustrated after only a few days because we don’t see a difference yet?
I have a friend who I am constantly telling to look at the entire situation and not just the momentary issue. If you are setting expectations based purely on your desires without looking at your life circumstances, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. For instance, if your expectation is for weight loss or toning, it is setting yourself up for disappointment if you are expecting results as quickly as they used to get them on that show The Biggest Loser. Logically, we know it doesn’t happen that fast. If you are setting expectations for your semester, you have to take into account what else is going on in your life. As a student, don’t set the expectation that you are going to study for 4 hours a day when you are also an athlete and working outside of school. There aren’t enough hours in the day. If you are setting expectations for a date, don’t expect to fall in love and to have that movie moment within the first hour of the first date. I’m not saying it never happens (one day I’ll blog about how David and I met), but I am saying it isn’t a healthy expectation to have. If you are a student, think about the whole of your life before you get upset about a grade. Perfection cannot be your expectation or you will always be disappointed.
Remember the Humanity Aspect of Your Expectation Most of the time when we set expectations, we are setting them surrounding something that involves humanity. The interesting thing about this is that it is one of those things that we absolutely cannot control, especially if our expectations involve someone other than ourselves. Humans, by their very nature, are not exactly predictable in every situation. If our expectations involve humanity, which most of them do, then we have to keep that in mind when setting them. Perhaps that looks like setting different levels of expectations based on outcomes. Perhaps it looks like doing a lot of self-reflection to determine if we are expecting our own qualities to show up in other people. We have to remember the qualities of the other people when we include them in our expectations or we are setting ourselves up for disappointment. So, what does that mean? If you are setting expectations for a date night with your significant other, remember who that person is at their core. If your SO is not romantic by nature, then having the expectation of flowers and a hugely romantic evening is probably setting yourself up for disappointment and will potentially lead to feelings of resentment.
Your expectations are your expectations, not someone else’s One of those things that has happened as social media has become more prevalent is an increase in comparing our lives to the lives of others. When you set expectations, they cannot be based upon someone else’s situation. It is okay to set your expectations and goals based on things that are inspired by others, it is not okay to set expectations to become another person. Remember that your expectation has to go back to what is able to be accomplished in your situation, not someone else’s. This is a great graphic that I found on verywellmind.com that speaks very well to this thought process and how to avoid making expectations based on comparisons between your life and someone else’s life.
So, why is it so important to keep these things in mind when we are setting expectations? Am I telling you that if you follow these three things you will always meet or exceed your expectations? ABSOLUTELY NOT! I simply want to encourage you in this time of craziness when almost all of us are having to reevaluate the ways in which we do things to set realistic expectations that have the greatest chance of being accomplished. The downward spiral that we can find ourselves in based on not meeting expectations is just one more thing that most of us don’t need to be feeling right now as the world spins around us. Setting those realistic expectations can help us gain control in a life that sometimes feels as if we are a pinball subject to someone else’s control of the pinball machine. Setting clear expectations can give us direction when we are floundering to find our way. Setting logical expectations can help us realize when something really is disastrous and when it is just something that is not the way we wanted it at the moment.
So give yourself some grace, create some expectations, and meet those goals. You’ve got this!
I let a couple weeks go by without a new post, but nothing felt right when I wrote it. You see, for all of my posts about taking care of yourself, I wasn’t taking care of me. I was just as weary and exhausted as ever, but still pushing to keep moving as fast as I could. In my mind, I needed to pick up all the pieces that I felt like were falling. I just happen to be one of those people that has great advice that I never listen to myself.
The truth is, I am still exhausted. In fact, I slept 13 hours last night because I had let myself get so tired. So if I’m exhausted, why do I feel better? I did some self-care this week, but maybe not in the way that is typically expected. This week, I was able to help with the competition at our gym (Mossy Creek Fitness) to benefit Tyler’s Voice. You can find more information about Tyler’s Voice here. It is a joke between the owners of the gym and myself that I am “scary organized” and since I have that quality, I love to offer my help when we have events. The competition was originally supposed to happen in May, but had to be postponed due to the pandemic. So my self-care this week just happened to have me busier than ever.
For me, the opportunity to spend some time organizing, creating to-do lists, making (and re-making) scoring sheets, and crunching numbers on a spreadsheet system with some of the most lovely people around. I even got the opportunity to figure out how to run a silent auction using Google forms. I know, this doesn’t sound like rest. In fact, I agree, it wasn’t rest. It was super hard work put in by a ton of people to have an amazing event.
I also got the opportunity to workout twice this week for the first time in months. I have been in PT working on some stuff in my back and hip, and super busy, so getting in 2 workouts this week was wonderful, although also hard mentally, but I’ll talk about that in my next blog post.
All of the activity this week has left me exhausted, but exhilarated. Tired, but energized. Sad, but excited. I finally realized that maybe my self-care can sometimes not be about sitting still, but instead be about the motivating factor behind my movement. I still think we all need to take a break.
I still think I need to take a break. I’m still dreaming about a long weekend away from everyone and everything with a fireplace, a hot tub, and a great view. But those forms of self-care may not necessarily fix it all. They would give me rest and help me heal physically. They would give me peace and quiet to work on my mental health. They would give me free time to work on my stress levels. The opportunity that I was given this week was the opportunity to work on who I am as a person. The opportunity to toss all the cynical feelings about all the things going on in the world went out the window when I got to see Tyler do such amazing things in the CrossFit Total. This week, amidst the chaos and hard work, I got to do some self-care to heal emotionally. The toll that none of us like to think about. The toll that happens when you are a natural caregiver. When you will gladly work yourself to death if it will make other people happy or take away a burden.
This week, I got to see our gym (with a ton of help from others) do Tyler’s Voice competition. I got to see people of all types working together on something. I got to work with people that I am so lucky to call friends, and have amazing conversations with people that inspire me. I also got to be affirmed by someone that I didn’t expect to be the person to give me affirmation.
So, you see, I am absolutely exhausted. I slept 13 hours and could quite honestly go back to bed. I’m on the couch in pajamas and pretty much planning to stay there for the day. But, I feel better than I did because I was able to give my talents to something bigger than myself for no reason other than wanting to help. Lots of people talk about filling the bucket and taking care of yourself. Getting enough rest, finding time alone, disconnecting from the world for a few minutes or longer, eating healthier, working out more, communing with nature, enjoying a good meal, etc. are all great ways to do self-care, and are all things we should try to do every once in a while. Don’t be afraid to do something that maybe makes you busier, and even a little more stressed for a moment, if it will also give you the opportunity to give of your talents and gifts freely. The work this weekend was something I took on freely, just wanting things to be organized (I may be a slight control freak), but the repayment I got from this weekend is something that will help me get through the next few weeks.
Yes, I am exhausted, but it is a different form of tired. It is one that is like being wrapped in a warm blanket. It’s a happy tired. I hope you can find a way this week to find your happy tired.
Stop working so hard! Have I gotten your attention yet? Before anyone comments that I am promoting laziness, please know that I am definitely not doing that. I am just telling you to make sure you are taking a break every now and then. With the movement of so many people to working from home due to the pandemic, a lot of the lines between work and home got blurred, if not erased all together. If you are leaving work every single day and you are feeling like your gas tank is permanently running on fumes, there is something wrong.
We are all guilty of it. We work just a little longer to finish up the day’s tasks. I hate having things on my to do list that don’t get checked off by the end of the day. I have a need for there to be no notifications on my phone or iPad because that signifies that something needs my attention. I will repeat: Quit working so hard!! I have to say it to myself (and I’m a horrible listener when I tell myself something). I am writing tonight, from my office, because I just finished teaching and wanted to finish up a couple of things. Writing a blog post has been on there for several days, so I decided to mark it off the list tonight.
Why are some of us so driven? I know the reasons for motivation and drive. I get intrinsic and extrinsic value. But what makes us push beyond normal limits? Is it a fight against perception? Sometimes I really think it is. Maybe it is that we don’t want to be perceived as lazy or expendable. Maybe it is because we like to feel important and needed. If we just work a few more minutes, or maybe another hour, we prove how helpful we can be. When we prove ourselves, people need us more. Or at least that’s a theory.
I have another theory for the push to keep moving. I think sometimes we are afraid of what will happen if we stop. I do realize that could go with what I just wrote as well, and there is some fear of being not needed if we don’t keep proving our worth. Think about it though, how many times have you heard the saying, “I will rest when I’m dead,” and how do you relate that to your life? Is the motivation to keep going synonymous with a fear of what happens when we stop?
How does that fall in with this pandemic? Does that add another layer of if I keep moving, it means I am healthy? Are we turning our homes into this?
Who suffers the most when we lose the boundaries between our work time and our home time? The argument could be made that it is our children, and it is a very good argument. The argument could be made that it is our relationships with our family members or the ways in which we deal with stress when stress is present in every aspect of our life. I think it is changing us in ways we don’t even think about. For instance, have you emailed someone over the weekend and gotten irritated that they didn’t respond? Does everything seem like an urgent situation to you? I have heard the term surge capacity several times over the past couple of weeks. At first I thought it was a crazy term being used to make excuses. I’ve done a little more research (just a little, don’t have time to do much), and I am a believer. I think most of us have hit or exceeded our surge capacity limits. The world feels upside down and topsy turvy, and it seems to be getting crazier by the day.
I don’t know how to solve the problems, and I’m really not even certain I know what all the problems are at this point. I do know this, we have got to take a break and get off the merry go round every now and then. We have got to start reestablishing the lines between work and home life.
There are some great resources out there to help you re-establish those boundaries. I found the graphic above, along with some really great ideas for both work and home, at https://themostefficient.com/50-ways-to-take-a-break-infographic-brain-breaks-for-adults/. There are a ton of things that I don’t understand, and what is going on in the world is right up there near the top. I do know one thing for certain; if we all keep working this hard, we are all going to end up broken.
So give yourself some grace, set some boundaries, and look up from your work. These things can only help you feel better.
So, every once in a while, you have to step out on a limb. That is what David and I are doing, stepping out on a limb. He came up with this idea (which i honestly thought was half-baked and kinda crazy) this summer for us to do a podcast together. After putting him off for a couple of months and us kind of batting it back and forth, Perfect Chaos is now well on the way to being a reality.
Last weekend, I created a logo and we recorded the first actual episode, in addition to creating a schedule that gets us through the end of the year and David creating the account to publish the podcast. We recorded our first episode with one microphone and while we were sitting outside on the deck.
Through the process of recording the first episode, we determined that we needed to not record outside, and David determined that we needed to change the way we had things set up for recording. He ordered some more equipment, cleaned up some of the stuff in the office, and set us up to record our second episode this weekend.
We have now recorded 2 full episodes and 2 trailers, and are now making plans to redo our office (which we have been talking about since we were all sent home in March to work and learn together). Stay tuned for more pictures of the morphing of this space which was the first bedroom for both of our kids, has been an office at multiple different points, and is now going to morph into an office/podcast studio that fits both of our tastes and is comfortable for us both to work in consistently. It should be a fun ride, and I will document it all on the blog. So, in the interest of truth, these before pictures were not taken until this afternoon, so he has already done some work in there. By the end, pretty much nothing you see will look like it does now, and most of what you see won’t be in there at all anymore.
This room is a very narrow room, so it will definitely be interesting to do what all we are wanting to do in there, but the vision is a change in color, a desk that goes along the whole window wall, a shared table coming off the desk where the card table is currently, and some seating. Wish me luck as we navigate this while still trying to keep all the other balls in the air. Hopefully, when we finish, we will have a nice area that works well for both of us individually and works well for us to do projects together as well.
Are you unnerved by silence? I have been for years. I could be really funny and blame that on the fact that I have kids or the fact that I did band for so many years. I was never traumatized because of or during silence, so it isn’t anything that has happened in my past that caused this. I just don’t like total silence.
I have always heard people talk about meditating or praying and doing it in silence so they can hear the response, and I tried that, at least 2 or 3 times. I used to get so frustrated with myself because I couldn’t do “the thing” correctly. I have finally, at almost 40, figured out why I don’t like silence. You see, the problem is that I am one of those people that doesn’t like to pause. I genuinely like to be busy. It makes me feel alive. It helps me to know that i am doing something that is contributing to my world.
I can remember many basketball games with the UT pep band or UT Alumni pep band where the arena has gotten totally silent and someone, usually a trombone player, screams, “Awkward silence!” We all laugh and noise starts back up but, for me, that brings a sense of relief. It is like I can breathe again.
The strange thing about this is that I also love to be at peace, with not a lot going on. My favorite places are out on the boat in the middle of a cove or on my back deck listening to it rain. I am writing this very blog post sitting outside under the awning with the fire pit going and listening to the rain while I wait for the sun to rise.
So, if I don’t like silence, why do i crave quiet? I think I have finally figured out why the quiet brings me such peace. I actually crave the stillness. Yes, I love to be busy, and I love to work and think, and I actually love to go and do the things. However, when I can sit and just listen to the small sounds around me, I can work on things (like writing a blog post), recharge my personal battery, appreciate the amazingness of where I live, and, for just a small moment, find my peace.
In the Southeastern United States, many of us are living in areas that have entered into “first fall.” Now, if you aren’t from around here, we have multiple seasons (all 4 of them actually occur here) but sometimes those seasons decide to come and go like a pendulum swinging. First fall is a wonderful time of the year when the days are finally getting cooler (the high on a sunny day has gone from being in the 90s with 85% humidity to a lovely forecast of 71 today with rain stopping around noon), the air starts to get a little crisp, if you live near the mountains, you wake up to see lots of fog, and, oh yeah, it’s football season. For me, although I love summer and spending time on the lake, and I love Christmas with the glitter and glitz of the holiday decorations, Fall and Spring are my favorite times of the year. You see, these are the seasons when I can really sit outside and enjoy my version of silence.
So, why did I write all of this? Because sometimes, what we are needing in this hectic and crazy world is just the sound of silence. Whatever that is to you. For some people, it is true silence, and that is wonderful. For others, it is the sound of animals rising to greet the day or their sound of silence is waterfalls or traffic sounds. Sometimes it can be the sweet sounds babies can make or the peace that comes from watching a movie or listening to music with family.
I think the word silence could use another definition. I think, perhaps, silence is not just the absence of auditory noise, but perhaps the absence of the “noise” that goes on around us continually. Maybe, just maybe, the silence that we are looking for is much less about actual sound and much more about pressing pause on the world around us. For now, try to find your silence, no matter what that sounds like, and take a few breaths. There is nothing more vital than that at this moment in time.
Weary, exhausted, tired, and worn out. These are all words I have heard in the past week from some of my students who are teachers. These aren’t the only thing I have heard, though. Disconnected, stressed, alone, anxious, overwhelmed, and spinning are also words that I have heard from these same students. Amazingly enough, not only are my students who are full-time teachers expressing these sentiments, my undergraduate students are using some of the same words and phrases.
I have lost count of how many times a student has been in my office in the past week worried about a family member, or how many teachers I have talked with that are concerned about the lack of engagement in their classrooms. A small group of us had a conversation the other day about it feeling like our students aren’t really “awake” for what is going on in class, even when they are right in front of us and doing an activity.
It would be easy to throw a Bible verse out there during these conversations. Matthew 11:28 comes to mind as one that may typically be said to someone with these feelings. I mean, I do work at a Christian university, so that would be a perfectly acceptable response to my students and colleagues.
I just don’t have the heart to give that as a response right now, though. I still believe it, but right now I don’t even know that we can find the rest He gives because of all the other “stuff” and all the noise coming at us from every direction. I think He is trying to give us rest, I really do. Man, it sure is hard to stop and listen, though.
I started this semester with huge hopes, big goals, and a ton of thoughts about how this one would be different. This semester was going to be the one where I stayed on top of grading, thought more out of the box (I mean, we are all still teaching in a pandemic, so out of the box has to happen, right), and even managed to plan ahead more in an attempt to work less when I am at home. We are now 5 weeks in, and instead of those thoughts towards greatness and student engagement, I am starting to have the same feelings my students are having.
So, how is it that my own children in middle and high school, my undergraduate students, my graduate students who are also full time teachers, my doctoral students that I am still advising, and my colleagues are all saying and feeling the same things? There has to be a way to stop this, right? There has to be a way for us to all start to feel like we are on the other side of this thing and we finally have it figured out. Oh, how I wish that was what this blog post is about. I wish with all my heart and all my soul that I had the secret for us all that would make this year be everything we had hoped for when we were all so excited to see our students and colleagues again.
So no, I don’t have the answer that will make everything right again. I honestly am struggling just as much as everyone else. And while I can’t make it all go back to “normal,” I can give you a couple of ideas that should help things feel a little better.
So, here it is, my list to take a little bit of the edge off of this crazy year, whether you are a student or a teacher, or both.
1. Schedule some time each week (at least each week, but it would be great if you can find something each day) for some self-care. This doesn’t have to be something huge, maybe it is 15 minutes outside drinking coffee in the morning before everything gets rolling. Perhaps it is a short yoga flow (I kind of like Yoga with Adrienne on YouTube for short yoga stuff, but I’m not very bendy) or a workout (I like to lift the things – can’t right now due to a back issue but, if that works for you, own it). Perhaps it is 30 minutes before bed with a good book, some music, or even practicing your own instrument. It can be any number of things, just spend some time that is solely yours. I know this is hard, but it will absolutely change your day, that I can promise.
2. Eat somewhere other than your desk. I set a goal to stop eating lunch at my desk about 3 weeks ago. Some days it has been a quick 15 minutes with a co-worker at a table in my office, but I have managed to not eat lunch staring at my computer screen in my office. I have even had some working lunches, but always away from my desk. If you can get out with a good friend or co-worker and actually leave your job for a few every now and then, that is even better. I have a co-worker who is my person at work. When either of us are overwhelmed, all it takes is a text that says Queso date and we immediately find a day within the next week to do lunch at our favorite local Mexican restaurant. It is nice to be around someone who isn’t depending upon you for anything other than nice conversation.
3. Give yourself some grace. This may be the most important of the three things. We all had expectations for what September of 2020 was going to look like, and I am betting it doesn’t look like any of our expectations. I’m pretty sure no one got it right in 2015 when they were asked where do you see yourself in 5 years. There are things in this world that we cannot control. Trust me, as an admitted control freak, I get that this is throwing us for a loop. It is ok that we maybe haven’t hit every goal we set for the week or checked everything off the to-do list for the day. For most of us, the work can, and maybe even should, wait until tomorrow. Unless you are putting off some life saving emergent procedure, cut yourself some slack.
For many of us, our energy banks are depleted, ideas are slowing down, circumstances seem overwhelming, and the world seems to be closing in around our heads. I “gently reminded” a co-worker today that she is no good to anyone if she isn’t taking care of herself.
This isn’t my normal thing to write about, and I promise to get back to good old sarcasm and crazy educational stuff next time. I just felt like maybe this needed to be said tonight more than anything else I could say to you.
So, until next time: ~Remember that everyone is trying their best ~Give yourself and others grace ~Choose joy in the morning when you start the day, it won’t keep crap from coming throughout the day but it will help you deal with the crap that happens.