Death and Dying

In the span of the last 12 months, I lost my father, a very close family friend, and my best friend from college.

This past year has been a deeply reflective period on mortality and legacy.

Lately, I’ve been drawn to dead and dying things in nature. They, like people, are so undervalued in our eyes. Once vibrant and colorful, they continue to feed the earth with their “bodies.”

Here are a few beautiful leaves I saw while on a walk:

 

and my interpretation:

 

I believe that the more we live in presence, the less we fear “death.”

Monkeying Around

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Daily Painting Challenge – #12

This painting is highly imperfect. The face seems to be floating around, detached. The fur is stiff and square. Painting it was not as fun as painting the hedgehog and it shows. The process reminded me of this quote:

Take chances, make mistakes. That’s how you grow. Pain nourishes your courage. You have to fail in order to practice being brave.

Mary Tyler Moore

Some pieces will be better than others. I love watching August Wren (Creativebug.com) paint because she talks out loud and often laughs at her mistakes.

 

 

What Happened?

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Day 25: 31 Day Painting Challenge

Recently, I (wo)manned a booth at our school’s International Festival. We were making maracas using empty toilet paper rolls, duct tape and (uncooked) beans and rice. Kids of all ages and sizes came to make their maracas.

After just one hour, I realized something: six and seven-year-old girls came up confidently and chose their colors without hesitation. “I want blue! And red! And green!” They taped their rolls, scooped up rice, taped again and smiled radiantly.

Teenage girls, however, hemmed and hawed, wracked with indecision. “Ummmmm. I dunno. I dunno what to choose! Ummmm…” It took them far longer to decide and even after they decided, they second-guessed their decisions and did not seem entirely happy with their results.

What happens to girls?

 

You Can’t…

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“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

― Eleanor RooseveltYou Learn by Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life

The 101 South

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photo by Taste for Life

My daughters are participating in a summer violin camp for 9 days. It’s a 30 minute drive on the 202 West to the 101 South. I’m always on the 202, but haven’t had to drive the 101 South much. I don’t like it. Drivers speed and change lanes quickly. They all know where they’re going and they’ll ride up on you if you hesitate for even a second.

I woke up in the middle of the night last night and couldn’t sleep for over an hour. I was thinking of the 101. But this time, I remembered something.

Seven years ago, I had to take the 101 South to a high school twice a week, after work. I was completing my M.A, in Educational Leadership and I was in a night class. I had just been diagnosed with early stage I breast cancer and had a radical mastectomy. I was determined to finish the degree. So I drove to my class with tubes coming out of my chest. The tubes drained excess fluids where the tumors used to be. My chest was tightly bandaged and no one in my class knew what was underneath my shirt.

So my fear of this route was not so much the traffic, but old memories. The fear of infection, disfigurement, recurrent cancer… I had those thoughts during my drive. I mourned my life pre-cancer. Here is a post from that time.

My insomnia occurred on the seventh anniversary of my radical mastectomy.

Driving today, I felt much better. The apprehension was gone. Sometimes, just identifying the cause of one’s jitters and meeting it with compassion (not over-analysis or sentiment) can be enough to overcome it.

 

 

 

 

 

Falling…

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I fall 1,000 times, I get up 1,001.

There’s a saying I like, although I might change two of the words:

“Winners do what losers won’t.”

I prefer: “Successful people do what the Unrealized won’t.” It’s more wordy … a bit clunky, but I don’t believe anyone is a “winner” or a “loser.” Some people have embraced courage and run with it.  Some people are still working on their courage.

Go on. Get up. Help make the world a better place. We need you.

 

 

 

 

I’ve Been Asking the Wrong Question

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As a recovering Tiger Mom, I’m working really hard to unlearn some bad practices. I don’t expect my kids to get straight A’s. I just want to ensure they always do their best. HOWEVER, I’m aware that I often use grades as a default metric. It’s so easy to buy into the hype: competitive college scholarships, high tuition, “name brand” universities, etc.

In my heart, I know it’s wrong. It’s the wrong place to stress priorities with my kids.

A blogger on Huffington Post bragged wrote about how he and his wife ask their daughters 3 questions each night:

  1. How were you brave tonight?
  2. How were you kind today?
  3. How did you fail today?

Aren’t these more important concerns? Won’t these values take them further than a perfect GPA? Their third question, “How did you fail today?” opens the discussion about effort and not achieving the goal. The parents wanted to stress lessons learned from this taboo subject and, to in fact, celebrate failing! The word “fail” is  leaden with negativity in our culture, but it’s really the only way we get stronger. It’s how we get resilient.

I’ve been asking my daughters a question each day, too. I thought I was being positive.  I shared my experience on FB with my friends:

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What is school for?

According to Seth Godin, school’s purpose should be to:

  1. teach kids to lead; and
  2. teach kids to try things and to FAIL.

He says, “Fine, getting an A is good. But it’s not the most important thing.”

Personally, I’ve known many “successful” (read: high income) folks who burned the midnight oil to get the excellent grades, get into the perfect college and then obtain the perfect,  high-paying job. They’re still not happy.

Don’t we want our kids to lead happy, productive, creative lives?

If you want the right answers, you need to ask the right questions. Perhaps the right question is not, “How can my kid get into an Ivy League School?” but “How can I raise my child to be a compassionate, productive, happy citizen?”

What do we need to do to be happy? Thoughts?

 

 

 

 

 

*photo from unsplash.com