poetry

Pedal to the Metal

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photo by Samuele Errico Piccarini

We switched places at the gate

for my ultimate test of surrender

her smile and jokes betrayed her cool

take it slowly, speed limit’s 25 here

 

Am I OK?

Yes, you’re perfect

Still?

Yep, doing beautifully

 

As she drove (slowly, oh so slowly) to our cul-de-sac

I remembered my driver’s ed teacher

he was old (probably my age now) and balding

with two student drivers in the car with him

 

Emily T., tall, popular, blonde, took turns with me

She (with the perfect curls) could do no wrong

her mistakes were met with encouragement,

her proficiencies were met with praise

 

but me – with my glasses and foreign mien –

my errors were harshly judged,

and my victories gleaned silence

This injustice – as all maltreatments do – ripened into a gift

 

for his words and demeanor (and all the other abuses I’ve known)

created a wound

which turned into a scar

and thickened my skin

 

everyone knows thin skin bleeds easily

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Personal Success

Ease Up

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photo by Clem Onojeghuo

I’ve mentioned a tense relationship between my daughter and me on this blog. It has gotten pretty distressing at times and when I decided to push my ego aside, I realized I had to surrender. Pestering was not working. I had reflected on my intention. Was my primary motive to help her be “successful” in life? Was hounding her to do homework and practice her violin most important? No. But that was what I was practicing.

I set my priorities clearly. First of all, she must know I love her unconditionally. Secondly, this is her life. I trust her with it. She knows what to do and if she doesn’t do it, she will have to face the consequences. That’s how she will grow. Throughout it all, I will love her, absolutely.

What I DO owe her is a happy mother. Every time I start to resort to my habit of nagging, I redirect my energies to what I want to do: plant lantana in the backyard (even in 100 degree heat), exercise, write, cook and so on.

Since I’ve put this practice in place, a magnificent event has occurred. We’ve become closer than ever. She wanted to get into shape. I took her to a fitness club. We signed her up for a four week membership (realizing there will be NO time for the gym once school starts). The club gave me a 2 week free pass. Organically…naturally…completely unplanned…I’ve become her trainer. We work out together and laugh and (sometimes) partake in junk food afterwards. There is ease and love where angst and friction once were. And if I ask her to do something, she does it. Most of the time. And that’s OK.

The intention came first. Space (a lot of it) came next. And then complete awareness and unconditional love.  I’d say this works for all relationships.

Personal Success

Pick Your Battles

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by Annie Harrison

Today was the first day of Tetra Quartet Summer Camp for my daughters, 14 and 15. They both play violin.

The 15-year-old is a night owl. But for camp, she needs to wake up by 7:30 am, not her preferred hour of noon.

She was a sleeping angel – so cute! – who was about to become a demon. I dreaded it. I gave her a hug and kiss. Nothing.

I nudged her a little later. Nothing.

I yelled out from the hallway, “Got to get up soon!” Nothing.

My mind flashed past articles I read about not waking your children. Something about being a helicopter parent. I’m not a helicopter parent! Still…she needed to get up. My BP was rising.

At last, she woke. Grumpy. She slammed things. She packed her music stand roughly. I held my tongue. I asked her to do that last night! How dare she get angry because she didn’t prepare! But I remained quiet.

We were in the car. She wanted me to hurry, because tardy musicians must do a little song and dance for the (on time) group.

As calmly as I could manage, I said, “You weren’t prepared for this morning. Your oversight is not my emergency. I’m not going to rush and risk an accident. You have a cell phone with an alarm clock. I will not wake you up anymore. If you can’t get up, you’ll be late. Your song and dance consequence is not my concern.” Sitting in the backseat, the 14-year-old’s silence was deafening. Good – a bit of peer pressure for the older sibling.

We sat in peace for the rest of the ride.

I realized that had I said something earlier, when she was huffing and puffing, and slamming things, we would have had a “blow out.” Instead, I waited until I was calm (and she was calmer) and stated in a factual matter what was what.

Result: no arguments.

Ah! Sweet music.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Personal Success · relationships

Your “Role” Vs. “Being”

You’re a parent and you want to do a good an excellent job. Afterall, what could be more important? I’ve learned (the hard way), that to be a good parent, you have to both DO and BE.

DO – remind your kids to brush their teeth, make their beds, do their homework, etc.

BE – sit with them and just listen. 100% listening, with your eyes and ears and your full attention. Laugh with them. Ask questions and know them as people. They are people, separate from you.

You have a job: protect, nurture, teach.

But then, let them go and love them for who they are.

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Personal Success · relationships

Teens and Talent

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“I’m procrastinating,” my daughter said. She was just hanging out with me. With all her chores done, the last item on her list of “to dos” was to practice her violin.

“I don’t get it. You are so good at violin. You seem to enjoy it. Why do you always put it off?”

“I love playing. I don’t like practicing. It’s hard and it’s boring.”

“Well, it’s the practicing that makes us like listening to the playing.”

“You’re so mean,” she says as she opens her case.

 

Personal Success

Suicide in First World Countries (Part I)

Which country has the highest suicide rate?

Guyana. Experts believe it’s due to the extreme poverty rate, high levels of alcohol abuse and ease of access to pesticides. ¹ Additionally, Guyana has a shortage of social services, including suicide counselors.

The second? South Korea. Up to 40 people kill themselves each  day in South Korea, a strong, economic country. This, experts believe, is due to their extreme competitiveness and their hyper focus on “success.” In fact, suicide is the number one killer of people ages 10 to 30 in that country.

Silicon Valley in California is experiencing an alarming uptick in teen suicides. This, apparently, for the same reasons South Korea experiences suicides: overwhelming stress and competition to succeed in school and then work. “Twelve percent of Palo Alto high-school students surveyed in the 2013–14 school year reported having seriously contemplated suicide in the past 12 months.” (The Atlantic) ²

School administrators, community stakeholders and mental health professionals are rushing to prevent suicides and “suicide clusters” (phenomenon where three or more suicides occur in close  proximity for time and location (CDC)). A large part of working to prevent suicides lies in identifying the cause. Why are successful, talented teens committing suicide?

Suniya S. Luthar, Foundation Professor at Arizona State University, conducted a study of high socioeoconomic (SES) teens and low socioeconomic teens. Her findings surprised her: the high SES teens abused drugs and alcohol at a substantially higher rate. These teens also experienced very high levels of serious anxiety and depression. Why? The teens felt emotionally distant from their parents. They felt they had to achieve just as much, if not more, than their parents in academics and salary. (The Atlantic)

Social media seems to play a role in the speed with which suicides and suicide clusters appear. Students will know of a suicide on the CalTrain track within an hour of it happening and online bullying runs rampant and undetected by parents. Martyrdom of suicides is something school administrators work to avoid: students may not place memorials on school grounds.

Different cultures and countries are handling it differently. Tomorrow, a look at how South Korea is working to reduce suicides among their youth.

Citations

¹ http://www.worldatlas.com/articles/countries-with-the-most-suicides-in-the-world.html

² http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/12/the-silicon-valley-suicides/413140/