I was eating in a Phoenix cafe at an open window. A very good-looking family of five walked past the window: mother, father, three small children. The father, dressed in expensive athletic wear (his shoes alone must have cost at least $300), stopped and pointed at a man across the street.
He gestured at a homeless man who was walking and muttering to himself. The wife nodded in agreement to whatever her husband said to her and they laughed as they went on their way.
The young father was judging a man who was clearly struggling by society’s standards. Why? Because the father’s ego was projecting a defense mechanism. Somewhere along the way, this man suffered an emotional injury. He hasn’t worked to defuse his pain (and accompanying anger) and is now spewing his garbage onto his family.
According to Mindful.com, the cure for the critic is to sit and examine your judgmental thoughts. Be aware of your thoughts. Take responsibility for them. Get to the heart of the matter. Defuse your pain and focus on gratitude. You’ll be happier and your loved ones will, too.
When I was eight years old, my teacher, Ms. Meretta, told my mother I was one of the hardest working kids she had ever had. Until then, no adult had ever said anything positive about me. Really. My parents were concerned that I showed no genius academically. They compared me to other kids (always unfavorably). My other teachers were either distracted by personal problems, or they just seemed mean (maybe they weren’t, but they seemed unapproachable). One teacher said she liked me, but I rushed through my work too quickly to get to the “book table.” I liked reading too much.
I loved Ms. Meretta. I worked even harder after her comment to my mom. But this time, I worked hard not just for myself..but for Ms. Meretta, too.
When I was a young adult, I worked as a summer camp counselor for the YMCA. It was a fun and rewarding job. I loved the energy the kids brought each day. I loved thinking of fun activities and working with them. I laughed every day. I laughed every hour.
I’ve held different jobs but none have had the creative opportunities or the intrinsic rewards of teaching. One of my favorite gifts from a student was a short letter. I had recommended him to go to a school for high-achieving students. He had older siblings who attended a school closer to his home. He always assumed he’d follow their footsteps. It was easy to hold the fastest track time there. It was easy to be the best student. I told him I knew he would succeed at the Academy, a school that was more rigorous and offered both Spanish and Mandarin. “Besides,” I told him. “if you go and you don’t like it, you can always go to the other school.” He went to the Academy and he loved it. He wrote a letter thanking me because he’s so happy and he’s learning so much. His younger sister now attends the Academy, too.
Helping kids is endlessly rewarding.
It’s Teacher Appreciation Week. I wish the media and politicians would stop with the negative talk about teachers and public education. Why pick on educators? Of course not every single teacher is highly qualified, but not every doctor, nurse, accountant, or politician is, either. For every lousy teacher you hear about, there are easily 1,000 fantastic teachers. I’ve had to handle a sixth grade student who slashed her peers with a razor. I’ve had to handle a fourth grade student who crapped his pants every week. I’ve had to handle students who complained of verbally abusive parents and who cried of hunger.
It’s that time of year again…when students who want to vye for a Student Council Officer position run their campaigns: create posters, prepare speeches, record them and hope for the best.
As I recorded several children giving their speeches, I was touched by their earnestness and jitters. It’s impossible for all who run to win, yet they are all – each of them – winners.
If there’s one thing I think we don’t teach our children enough (at home or school) is that it’s OK to try, to take a risk and not reach our goal. That it doesn’t mean we’re failures or that we ought to be ashamed.
It might sound like common sense to you.
Yet the words “loser” and “ashamed” are so pervasive in our culture. And “risktaker” denotes a type of reckless stunt person.
Risk-taking is the only way we grow, and it often includes some degree of pain.
Our guide informs us about American history and politics, sprinkling jokes and anecdotes as the bus rolls from one museum to another.
He’s always smiling with a light in his eyes.
On Day One, he asked me how to pronounce my name. Ever since then, he has called me by name (voice booming with cheer) when he addresses me.
He loves his job, you might surmise.
He loves his life.
Undoubtedly, you’ve met someone like him. Always smiling, never complaining. Joyful.
It’s an attitude that pervades his life and affects every person he meets. The common cold… the flu and attitudes are all contagious.
Naturally, clarity of your life’s ambition will help you get there. But lucidity of your vision will also foster creativity and cultivate resilience. For example, I want to help people (children and adults) feel empowered and be the best they can be through my writing and teaching. I applied for a job that would have helped me reach even more (students) than the 90 I help now. I received a letter of rejection and felt pretty awful. Until…
I realized there are many other ways to achieve my ultimate goal. I’m excited and energized all over again. “Failing” is just another way to readjust your road.
As Robert Frost infamously wrote:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.*
His point: know that there are more ways to get there and whatever you choose, you’ll be just fine.
*from Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Less Traveled”
I’m a teacher with a limited income. (How’s that for redundant?)
I contribute to my retirement funds, pay my bills, pay for my daughters’ violins, symphony fees and lessons. After that, I don’t have much left. And I don’t feel like I can treat myself to a manicure or purse. I just put the little morsels in savings, paycheck after paycheck.
But I’ve been finding myself feeling a bit empty. Do you know how Stephen Covey says you need to be mindful of emotional bank accounts in your relationships? I believe this pertains to the relationship you have with yourself, as well.
I decided to invest in myself and I have not felt this good in a very long time. I’m taking a class. It’s not cheap. But I believe it will help me achieve a lot more than if I didn’t take it. I feel empowered. Invigorated. Optimistic.
It might take just a small visit to a cupcake shop. It might mean you check yourself into a local hotel for a night or two to have peace and quiet to work on your screenplay. Or maybe it’s time for you to pursue that degree you’ve always dreamed of. Only you know for sure what will make a deposit into your own emotional bank account. But do it. Do what it takes. It will not only raise your spirits, but it’ll raise the spirits of those you love and who love you.
Two days ago, a car was t-boned right in front of me. My daughter was with me, sitting in the front passenger seat. The car flipped and landed upside down just 8 feet from my car. When it was in the air, I thought it might land on us. It didn’t. I realized at that moment – life is really short and unpredictable. When you’re on your deathbed, will you have regrets? That would be the saddest thing of all. It’s up to you. What are you waiting for?
My husband, daughters and I frequent a gelato place called Dolce Vita. It’s owned and operated by an Italian immigrant and his wife. They sell authentic Italian groceries, and prepare food from scratch, including the BEST gelato you could ever eat. Walter is the quintessential snob. He’s not afraid to be snooty with you and if you complain too much, you’ll be kicked out of his shop for life.
He mocks some of his troublesome American customers:
“Hm, what does this pear gelato taste like?”
In his thick Italian accent, he answers snidely, “Vaneeela!”
Another stupid question: “Which one is better, the Nutella gelato or the pineapple gelato?”
“It’s no better, just diffeh-rant!”
This reminded me of so many times I hear parents compare their children. I was compared a lot, to my siblings. It never made any of us feel good.
How can you compare human beings? It’s like comparing Nutella to pineapple gelato!
We do this alot, don’t we? We compare ourselves to others. How’s this working for you? You’re comparing an apple to oranges! Suggestion: stop comparing. If you’re going to be in competition so that you can improve, compete against yourself. Be better tomorrow than you were today. Simple.