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Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

making friends with (at?) work

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Because of the upcoming move, I’ve scaled back on many activities I love, including several non-profits. Friday, the head of one I particularly enjoy asked if I was free for lunch. Sure! I responded — she doesn’t get to Tulsa that often.

I didn’t even ask what she needed, assuming there was something she wanted to discuss in person. In fact, she had a small gift for me for my ‘service.’ Note: this is a group of such nice folks that they don’t have to ask more than once for people to help out — the group is just that nice.

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Not to mention it’s a great cause. And no, I’m not going to name them; it’s a violation of their privacy.

They had a very cool mug for me, and wanted to pick my brain about some upcoming stuff they were considering. Not to sound insecure, but this is a bunch of very smart men & women, and to be asked to contribute in any way is a huge honour, at least in my book.

Again — I don’t think I’m unconfident. I know I’m fairly bright, and that I often think outside the box. Which isn’t true for all academics. And that’s probably not a bad thing — we don’t need as many odd dreamers as we do folks who can follow directions. I CAN follow directions, but like w/ a recipe, I’m always wondering, but what would happen if I did this? Or added this? Or…? 

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It’s a problem in some environments, I assure you. But it never has been for this crew, who made me feel welcome from day 1, and refused to accept my tentative (& immediate!) resignation, when I said I couldn’t really see how they could use me. Nope: they taught me to see strengths I really don’t think about having. Creativity, sure. But really? Who needs poetry at work? It turns out, though, that what powers poetry is a creativity that’s also useful in many brainstorming sessions.

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My dear friends insist they miss me, & that they were glad to see me. Plus,  on a day when it was all I could do to roll out of bed & shower (this  achey summer cold is sooo kicking my butt!), what a nice treat to walk in to a cool coffee house and have someone buy me a cold drink. AND bring me a present! Who could ask for a nicer afternoon break?

As I left, they were interviewing someone to join the ‘family.’ I didn’t stay — it wasn’t my place. But I wanted to tell him: you do realise — these are just the NICEST folks? And that if you accept this job, you’ll have friends as well as colleagues?

I figure he’ll find out soon enough. I did. :)

 

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temper temper

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I’m probably going to get a LOT of pushback on this, but at least in my family, men have worse tempers than the rest of us. And they don’t believe it!

Sheesh.

Give a guy a cold, a fever, too much work, too many things to do, and he plotzes. Loudly, w/ a LOT of casualties. Women? For the most part — and I realise I’m generalising here — they ask for help, juggle, push through, or go to ground. They normally don’t punch the person next to them.

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I say this as the mother of sons, the aunt of nephews, the happily-married-for-decades wife of my beloved, and teacher of many.

Here’s the deal: men evolved to erupt: in action, in fierce protection, in defense. It’s hard-wired beneath a relatively thin veneer of communal cooperation and politesse. Women evolved to collaborate, not to go rush mastodons.

As a card-carrying feminist mother, I swore my sons would have dolls (they did — could have cared less), Hasty Bake ovens, other gendered playthings. They wanted guns (not allowed in play form – they made them from Legos) and books on poisonous spiders. Now here’s the catch: so did I, as a little girl. So I’m well aware that generalisations should never become stereotypes. But I think we ignore our biologies at our own peril. Those times when my beloved would ask (very carefully, from a distance) if my ‘hormones might be running’? He was correct far more often than not. That’s biology, as long as he doesn’t use that as an excuse to ignore legit issues.

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via wikipedia

via wikipedia

(He almost never did.)

Biology isn’t destiny, of course. It’s predisposition, or predilection, or an easy four-lane instead of the off-road scenic route. We don’t HAVE to give in to what we’re programmed for. There are so many examples of this I probably shouldn’t even bother going here, but a few come to mind: decisions to stay single, not to have children, not to have biological children, to remain celibate, to live in solitude and/or silence. None of these would serve the species well biologically — they almost certainly aren’t, in other words, hard-wired in. They’re conscious choices we make, according to our contemporary lives, needs, desires.

Like not punching the person next to you when you’re upset. That’s another good one to cultivate. Just sayin’…..

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In Praise of Teachers Under Attack, reprised

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I am so sick of anti-teacher ignorance that I could spit, as my Aunt Bonnie would have said. “It’s nearly impossible to fire a bad teacher.” No. No, no, and no, it’s not. But you don’t REALLY know that, do you, businessman David Welch? Or Time editor Nancy Gibbs? What you know is one small piece of ersatzeducation reform: your own agenda.

I’ll come back to hatchet jobs on teachers (such easy victims, aren’t we?) in a moment. Right now, I hope you’ll stay w/ me for a couple of short stories.

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Several years ago, my mother was ill. She had broken her hip (osteoporosis) in a fall. Her primary care physician put her on anti-inflammatories. Please note: this same doctor had been caring for my mother throughout her previous long-term bout w/ ulcers. Still, he gave her NSAIDs, which totally tear up your stomach. And my mother became very, very ill.

At work one day, my sister’s phone call: Come quick. She’s hemorraghing. I made record time. They had to do a snipping of my mother’s bile ducts. Between the hip — he mishandled that as well — and the blood she lost, and the recovery? She spent 3 months in the hospital. And she never went home again — moving into assisted living as her Alzheimer’s spiraled heavily, following all the health disruptions. A note here: that’s what Alzheimer’s does, folks — it drops in function w/ each health (or other) disruption. My mother lost large pieces of her mind, as well as mobility and her bile ducts. It was a downward spiral into fœtal position from there.

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via wikipedia

That doctor is still practicing. No firing, despite criminal negligence.

Years earlier, we fought w/ my father’s family, who wanted total control of his monies. My father’s lawyer lied on the witness stand, conveniently ‘lost’ my father’s last will, and sided against my mother. Who ended up without a cent, and w/ all the debts my father had run up. Had we not been able to help her, she would have become homeless. She had nothing. I repeat: NOT. A. CENT.

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That lawyer practiced until his death.

Each of these are, while isolated anecdotal cases, not untypical of ‘bad apples’ in other professional barrels. And there is little recourse for such mishandlings. Witness the many wrongful deaths for black Americans at the hands of supposed ‘officers of the law.’ Re: officers of death, if you’re a black male.

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moving toward light: opening up and letting go

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via wikipedia

Photographers have a term for when there’s not light to shoot a picture. It’s called ‘opening up': you increase the aperture — the hole through which you shoot the picture — to allow more light in. Otherwise, you get a dark picture. The problem w/ opening the lens up is that you have to hold it much steadier, or you get a blurry picture. It used to be — in those long-ago, analog days — that you could buy film for such predicaments: so-called ‘fast’ film, that meant you wouldn’t have to open the aperture up so much, so you wouldn’t need a tripod (or the steadiest of hands!). Now? It’s digital, and you use tripods. Or flash. Or just blur.

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the author's

the author’s

Here’s where you have to bear with me: my beloved mother-in-law is opening up. As she moves toward her final days — however close or distant — she is letting in more and more light. This isn’t always pleasant for those around her: her veneer of politesse (a very thick one, previously) is wearing a bit thin. She wants what she wants, and perhaps it’s her sense of time passing very quickly that underlines how much she needs it NOW. She is both stronger and far far more fragile, standing up for herself in areas where she used to adapt to the wants of others (husband, children, friends). But also terrified of solitude, this woman who could sit for hours on her porch, watching birds.

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Now she often forgets my name, although her face still lightens when my beloved and I appear to her. If she’s sleeping, she has the child-like happiness of a surprise that’s given her. Awake, she may ask where we’ve been…:) For her, the pictures are blurring as she opens up: names float away, and only the immediate now matters.

My beginner’s heart is glad to see her so open to the world, but I also worry about her. Having watched my own mother cross whatever threshold lies between here and wherever, I’m aware that her absence (even though she is so often ‘absent’ now) will hurt deeply. But I also know I am watching life w/out pretense, w/out protection. Mom is what she is, and she’s only (but also so MUCH) that. Mom is — as always — teaching me: how to let go, how to live in the now.

Time passes, and the light remains. You just have to open to it. Even when it hurts.

 

Previous Posts

making friends with (at?) work
Because of the upcoming move, I've scaled back on many activities I love, including several non-profits. Friday, the head of one I particularly enjoy asked if ...

posted 5:49:17pm Jul. 27, 2015 | read full post »

temper temper
I'm probably going to get a LOT of pushback on this, but at least in my family, men have worse tempers than the rest of us. And they don't believe ...

posted 12:36:21pm Jul. 24, 2015 | read full post »

In Praise of Teachers Under Attack, reprised
I am so sick of anti-teacher ignorance that I could spit, as my Aunt Bonnie would have said. “It’s nearly impossible to fire a bad teacher.” No. No, no, ...

posted 1:52:52pm Jul. 23, 2015 | read full post »

moving toward light: opening up and letting go
Photographers have a term for when there's not light to shoot a picture. It's called 'opening up': you increase the aperture -- the hole through which ...

posted 1:42:11pm Jul. 22, 2015 | read full post »

dog days
The heat index lately has been in triple digits: 105º, 108º, even 118º! Hot, in other words. Coming from beach breezes, a pool, and a glorious beach, ...

posted 5:18:43pm Jul. 20, 2015 | read full post »

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