Recognized, but not that way

The Daily Prompt asks, “As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? How close or far are you from that vision?”

Famous. I wanted to be famous. I blame the acting classes, and the modicum of success I experienced in the grade nine musical theatre production. Oh and I’m sure all those piano lessons were a contributing factor. To be honest, I wasn’t very specific about what I wanted to be famous at. So long as I was famous.

At some point in my early 20s I do recall pausing to reflect on how I would know when I had achieved fame, and I came up with an elegantly simple measure. For me, being famous meant that people I didn’t know personally would recognize me  and know who I was.

So thirty years later how am I doing?

To begin with, having spent so much of my career teaching in one form or another, I have amassed three decades worth of former students. One thing about being a teacher is that there is generally one of me with a whole roomful of students, multiplied by class after class, year after year. And, to be brutally honest, unless you were really exceptional (either for good or ill), the odds of me remembering your name fifteen or twenty years later are a little iffy. But you remember me, because I was the one performing at the front of the room. So when you rush up to me in the mall to say hi, I must admit that I experience that moment as if someone I don’t know has recognized me. It’s flattering, but a little disconcerting, especially when I really don’t remember any details of our time together.

Secondly, because of a series of management roles I have held, both in the independent high school where I taught, and more recently in the public service, my name has, for years, appeared publicly. I have, for at least two-thirds of my working life, been the person who is named as being officially in charge of something. Consequently, over the years there have been particular contexts in which I could introduce myself and anticipate a response of “Oh, I know who you are!”

Andy Warhol said everyone is famous for fifteen minutes, and I have managed to pull off a few fifteen minute stints of fame for my writing. Not Margaret Atwood  or Ernest Hemingway fame. Just the kind of modest fame that lets you go to bed grinning with self-satisfaction, but leaves you still needing to haul yourself off to the day job in the morning. I’ve read my work on the radio and been published in academic journals. I’ve written study guides for a local theatre and actually been paid to do it. And twice now, in the eight months I’ve been blogging here, the lovely editors at WordPress have seen fit to Freshly Press my work. I’m still riding the wave of the most recent Fresh Press, and I have to confess that it brings out in me that same impulse that long ago made me dream of fame. It’s thrilling to watch my stats spike, to count the likes (thank you!) and tally the new follows (Welcome!) Comments mean a great deal, especially the ones where the commenter has added their own thoughts,  and the biggest reward of all is when someone re-posts what I have written.

Because the truth is, I’m no longer looking for my old vision of fame. I no longer care if, when I meet you on the street, you recognize my face or know my name. What matters to me at this stage of my life is that something I did made a difference to you. When you re-post my blog, you are telling me that you thought I said something worth reading– that it mattered to you in some way, and therefore might matter to the people who read your blog.  And that matters a great deal to me.

 

 

 

Envirothon: “It’s a life thing”

I’ve just spent two hours driving down the Trans Canada highway with four 16-year-old girls. We were on our way home from a province-wide competition in which they (together with a fifth team-mate) placed third, and they spent much of the ride doing some intense debriefing. When they weren’t doing that they were, with equal intensity, already planning their strategy for next year’s competition. And then, as we drew closer to the outskirts of the city, this happened:

“Do you remember that really nice shelterbelt we saw on the way out of the city? I really want to see it again.”

“There?”

“Yes that’s it! Look at it! Isn’t it beautiful?”

Whereupon my carload of city-kids proceeded to enthuse over the characteristics of a well- planted, well-tended shelterbelt until we hit city limits. And all I could think was, “This. This is why I think Envirothon is just about the most amazing thing ever to hit high school.”

What is this is phenomenon that had my suburban crew chatting animatedly about the finer points of agricultural land-use practices? The Manitoba Forestry Association website explains:

For 17 years the Manitoba Forestry Association has offered the Manitoba Envirothon which has provided Manitoba’s high school students a unique and fun way to learn about the environment and current issues. Envirothon is a hands-on learning program which helps students develop important skills such as critical thinking, study skills and team work.

There are two components to the Envirothon competition, a field test and an orals competition. The trail test is a hands on activity, students apply their knowledge to answer questions in the field. The oral competition combines public speaking with the students’ learning experiences to develop and present a solution to a current environmental issue.

I  have twice been fortunate to be able to accompany my daughter’s team to the provincial competition and view first hand the tremendous talent that kids from across the province bring to this activity —  as well as the equally tremendous effort and dedication on the part of the team of organizers and volunteers who toil year-round developing curriculum, designing field tests, and planning multiple events in order to maximize the number of kids who are able to benefit from participation.envirothon

When I talk about my daughter’s experience with Envirothon, I get every bit as excited as my young passengers did about that lovely shelterbelt (which, even without their level of technical knowledge, I could appreciate was quite spectacular.) I’ve watched these kids grow, not only in their knowledge of how to responsibly manage the world they live in, but also in how to strive for a goal, care for your team-mates, and think on your feet. I have witnessed these young women learn together to approach their defeats with perspective and resolve, and their victories with humility and grace. It is, as one of the organizers reflects in this video, “a life thing.”

Motherhood: What the “What to Expect” books failed to tell you

You will never get it right. You will twist yourself into knots to be there for your child in every way and at all times, until your child says, “That’s enough! Let me do it myself!” And when you do step back, they will rail at your callous abandonment.

You will be faced on a daily basis with impossible choices. Your life will frequently feel like that moment in the crowded shopping mall when one child ran ahead and one trailed behind, and you felt torn apart at the atomic level trying to cling to two small hands moving in opposite directions at the speed of light. Each child will have a completely different set of lessons to teach you, and the lessons you learned with the first child will help you only marginally with the next.

You will long for them to grow up faster and wish for them to stay small forever, all at the same time. You will watch with pride a young woman drive off at the wheel of your car and still see a tiny hand clutching the handlebars of that brightly coloured tricycle you assembled at midnight one long-ago Christmas eve. You will listen to your teenager belt out a spectacular vocal solo, and hear the faint echo of a kindergarten music concert.

You will discover that any anger you ever felt at any personal hurt or injustice was a mere ripple compared to the tsunami of rage that arises in you over any hurt or injustice directed at your child.  You will understand at a cellular level why it is never wise to step between a mother bear and her cubs, and why a loon will charge a boat many times her size if it threatens  her nest. You will also learn how to hold back the tsunami  when what they need most from you is the right to fight their own battles.

You will be thrilled and astonished when they develop the same interests as you, and astonished and thrilled at all the things they know that are strange to you. You will realize that they will grow up having experiences that you are not a part of, even as babies. This will terrify you. You will learn to live with this terror as though it is simply part of the air you breathe.

You will discover strengths and skills and inner resources you never imagined you possessed. You will question everything you believed about yourself, and everything you believed about the world, as you begin to see it all through they eyes of your children. Things that you previously took for granted will become strange and wonderful. Things that you previously rejected will become comfortable companions. You will think the unthinkable, bear the unbearable, and get up the next morning and do it all again. You will be Alice’s White Queen, doing six impossible things before breakfast, while feeling for all the world like the Mad Hatter.

You will be constantly caught off guard by moments. The random hug. The unsolicited “thanks Mom.” The bouquet of clover picked lovingly while the rest of the six-year-olds were chasing the soccer ball. The bittersweet role reversal of the first time your daughter immediately drops what she is doing because you are sick and need a ride home.

Nothing will be anything like what you expected. In fact, you will learn early on that the mere fact of expecting anything is sure to guarantee that something wildly different will occur. Chances are, even what I have said here will be wrong for you, with your particular child, in this particular time and place.

It will be so unlike anything you could possibly have expected, that most of the time you won’t even be able to talk about what it’s really like. For fear no one would believe you.  For fear you’re the only one who is experiencing quite what you are experiencing. For fear that some might think you crazy for thinking that something that tears you to pieces day after hour after minute is the one thing you would not give up for anything in the universe. Ever.

It will change you. That, you can expect.

me and girls

To my students: Why I won’t be handing out copies of the slides

Someone’s going to ask, so we might as well clear this up right at the outset. No, I won’t be handing out copies of the PowerPoint slides.

I recognize that, in the minds of many of you, that statement is tantamount to academic abuse. That it is evidence of some dreadful mean streak or profound character flaw on my part. That clearly I must have missed Lesson One of Teaching 101.

You are welcome to think whatever you want.

In fact, that’s exactly my point.

Part of my teaching philosophy is that I need to always be able to provide you with a reason for what we are doing in my class and how we are doing it. (You don’t have to like the reason, nor do you have to agree with it. But I have to have one, and I will always give it to you when asked.) So let me explain the rationale for this act of pedagogical treason.

First, if I am using PowerPoint effectively – something I don’t profess to be perfect at, but I do try – then my slides will largely be designed to provide speaking prompts and visual interest. If there is significant, detailed content that I think you really need to have in writing, I will give you a handout or provide you with a link.

Secondly, there is some evidence that writing notes the old fashioned way, by hand on a piece of paper, actually helps you learn. Of course if there is some genuine reason why taking your own notes will disadvantage your learning, I will happily accommodate you. But the vast majority of you will not be harmed by being expected to flex your note-taking muscles.

Besides, if all you are doing is trying to transfer what I am saying onto the page, you aren’t, in my view, taking the kind of notes that are going to be of much value to you when you walk out of my class.

Remember when I said “you are welcome to think what you want”?

That’s what you should be writing notes about. What you think. If this class was just about the information coming out of my mouth, I could type that up and send you a file and it wouldn’t matter whether you showed up or not. But since you did show up (and I’m glad you did!) it’s my job to make sure you get the most out of this course while you’re here. And that won’t happen if I do all the work.

You are here to engage with the content of the course, not just to record it for posterity. If I were to read your notes, I would hope to find that they contained a lot more than what I said. I would hope to see questions. Comments. Musings and ponderings. Angry little rants. Diagrams and arrows and words with circles around them and symbols that mean something to you alone— that mean things like “look up this author” and “possible essay topic!”

I’m far more interested in seeing margin notes that say “yuck” and “wow!” and “why???” than I am in seeing my own words parroted in neatly bulleted lists. I want your notes to say as much about what you were feeling about what you were learning as they say about the curriculum.

So no, I won’t be handing out a copy of the PowerPoint slides. And I won’t be emailing them to you after the class either. You are welcome to complain about this gross injustice on the course evaluation. Be sure to provide a detailed explanation of how your learning suffered due to my failure in this regard.

At least you will be writing about what you think.

Evaluating evaluation

We are always evaluating.

“I enjoyed the movie, but the ending was kind of stupid.”

“This salad is really tasty! Can I get your dressing recipe?”

“You should read this book. I couldn’t put it down.”

Book and movie reviews are evaluations.  So are restaurant reviews. So, in fact, are all those annoying Facebook comments exhorting you to support this cause or check out that article.

The problem is that we often don’t make it clear what criteria we are using as the basis for our evaluation.

For example, the other day I was reflecting on the fact that both my children have reached their late teens/young adulthood without having had the opportunity to visit any of Disney’s iconic theme parks. For that fleeting moment I found myself evaluating my success as a parent against a marketing-driven upper-middle-class standard of Experiences Your Children Ought To Have. My daughter swiftly brought me back to me senses by pointing out that, according to her criteria I was doing just fine:

“Well, let’s see Mom– I don’t enjoy rides, I hate waiting in line, and I prefer to avoid crowds–so really I’m OK with that.”

I was reminded of her insightful bit of reframing today when I read through the evaluations for a workshop I recently instructed.  Out of 24 participants, 23 seem to have thought the workshop was interesting, engaging, relevant, important, etc. The other one thought it sucked.

You can please some of the people some of the time.

The thing that makes it so difficult to interpret these evaluations is that even though they all answered the same questions, they clearly aren’t all approaching those questions from the same set of criteria for what constitutes a good workshop. Sometimes when I read feedback comments I have to wonder if we were even all in the same place at the same time. Someone thought the workshop was too “lecture heavy,” while someone thought there was too much group “brainstorming.” Someone thought the workshop should be a mandatory part of the program, while someone thought it was a colossal waste of time.

The are probably all correct. If I could sit down and have a conversation with each of them, I would likely be able to determine why they responded the way they did. Everyone approaches experience with different expectations — different criteria against which they measure just about everything around them.

Truthfully, sometimes it’s just not the workshop for you — not because there’s anything wrong with either you or the workshop, but because it’s not the right fit. I hate horror movies, but that doesn’t mean other people can’t enjoy them. I am, on the other hand, a big fan of dystopian science fiction, which I recognize is not everyone’s cup of tea. The problem comes when we try to evaluate the horror film using the criteria that make for good dystopian science fiction, or vice versa.

I will dust off the evaluation report next time I prepare to offer this workshop. I may tweak a few things as a result. But given that the overwhelming impression was positive, I won’t sweat the details. What I might do is add in a few more explanations of why we are doing what we are doing as we do it– not because I think I need to justify my instructional design decisions, but so that my students and I can come closer to being on the same page when it comes to how to evaluate the workshop. If I’ve made it crystal clear that I’m only offering hot fudge sundaes, you can’t complain that you didn’t get a banana split.

Well you can, but it won’t change the menu.

IMG-20130714-00304

 

Gym class not-so-heros

Some days the daily prompt is easy to answer. Today’s question is: Which subject in school did you find impossible to master? Did math give you hives? Did English make you scream? Do tell!

I was that kid. The one who liked school. The one who put up her hand to answer all the questions. The one who obsessed about handing in her homework on time. The one who got teased by the other kids for always having good marks. The one who adored her teachers. Even the sort of scary ones.

But then there was gym.

Since I started school in the mid-1960s, both teacher education and the Physical Education curriculum have evolved a much more appropriate stance towards accommodating the needs of the differently abled. But when I entered school with a full-on case of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, “accommodation,” when it happened at all, typically meant one of the following:

  1.  Sit on the bench and watch. The best that can be said for this option was that it was crushingly boring. It could have been redeemed by modifying it to “sit on the bench and read a book” but I can’t recall that being an option. Presumably by watching I was going absorb some gym-related knowledge vicariously? More likely it just never occurred to my teachers that there might have been more worthwhile ways to spend my time.
  2. Do some benign alternate activity on the sidelines. I spent a great deal of junior high gym class listlessly lobbing a badminton birdie back and forth with my best friend who conveniently had asthma and needed to sit out even more activities than I did. You might be forgiven for expecting that this experience resulted in me becoming a badminton ace, but you would be very wrong. Since, in the mind of the teacher, I was never going to be an athlete, this activity really was just about killing time. Consequently I was never deemed worthy of any coaching or instruction that might have resulted in actual skill development.
  3. Try to participate as much as you can. This was the worst, by far. Because as soon I left my exile of the bench or sidelines, I stepped into the arena where, like it or not, I was up for comparison with everyone else in the class. And compare they did. I was the classic “last kid picked” for every team. And for some reason in that era it never dawned on the teachers that there was anything problematic with ALWAYS letting the most athletic kids (generally boys) select the teams. I was always the slowest runner, when I was enough in remission to run at all. I couldn’t catch a ball to save my life. To this day I still “throw like a girl.”

Even during the good times when I was fully in remission, which was the case by the time I reached my early teens, gym was unremittingly awful, because in all those years on the bench I had missed out on a lot of basic skill-building. This wouldn’t have been an issue for some activities, but most gym teachers at the time did not seem to possess imaginations capable of stretching beyond the  tried and true triumvirate of volleyball, basketball, and baseball.

I was never wired for team sports, but for most of my gym career they were my only options. Even as an adult, I shy away from any athletic activity where my lack of skill and prowess might impact on another player. In my 40s I enjoyed going to a “master class” in swimming where we mainly did laps. One day the teacher decided to switch things up and teach us a bit of water polo for 5-10 minutes at the end of each workout. I dreaded those minutes so much I stopped going.

Grade 10 meant switching to the high school. It meant, at that time, the last year of mandatory physical education. It also meant the first time that gym would be a graded course, as opposed to something in which I would get a pass just for showing up.

Fortunately, grade 10 also introduced me to a new breed of gym teacher. She was young. She was easygoing. She was a she. And her philosophy was that since this was our last year of gym class we should be exposed to physical activities that we could do when we were no longer in the high school world with its obsession with volleyball and basketball. So we went swimming — which was always the one physical activity at which I was both competent and confident. We went horseback riding–which scared the beejeezus out of me, but had me on a level playing field with all but a handful of my classmates. We went bowling (OK) and cross country skiing (yes!) We did lots of things I sucked at, a few things with which I could sort of cope, and two or three things I actually liked. But nothing we did lasted more than a couple of weeks, and the main thing was you had to try everything. When I brought home my mid-semester report card, my parents and I were elated. I had pulled off a C+.

My gym teacher also happened to be my home-room teacher, so when my parents arrived for the parent-teacher interview, the teacher had seen my report card with not only my gym mark, but also the A’s I had received for all my other courses. When my parents introduced themselves, they could see that the teacher was very nervous. She began talking about my progress in gym class in the most defensive of tones, which confused my parents greatly until they realized that she assumed they were coming to berate her for “only” giving me a C+, when clearly I was a far better student than that. “Oh no,” my mom exclaimed when she finally put two and two together. “We’re absolutely delighted with Anna’s grade in gym. She has had the best experience in your class of any gym class she has ever taken!”

Gymnasiums can still make me break out in a cold sweat. I don’t see myself ever joining an athletic team. Fortunately I got enough “team” training in band and theatre to consider myself a fairly well-rounded adult. In spite of the inadequacies of my physical education, I have found ways of being physically fit and active that work for me. I still love to swim, and you know, dear reader, how much I love to walk.

In fact, it’s time to go for a walk right about now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creativity, Bakery Bread, and Hating the Internet

Two true stories.

 ~   ~    ~   ~   ~   ~

First story. Guy loved to bake. He baked all sorts of things — cakes, cookies, muffins — but he particularly loved to bake bread. And he was good at it. After considerable practice he had mastered the mysteries of yeast. He had learned how much kneading is enough and how much is too much. He knew just the sound a “done” loaf of bread makes when you tap it on the bottom. He learned the ways of bread well enough to be able to experiment with ingredients — to combine things in new ways to create new recipes.

And that bread was good. Sure there was the odd doorstop in the early days, but Guy developed a reputation as someone who could produce good bread. When friends gathered for pot luck, Guy baked the bread to consistently rave reviews.

But there was one friend whose idea of a rave review was always some variation of this statement: “This is so good– it tastes just like you bought it at a bakery!” This particular “praise” always felt to Guy more like an insult. Even though he recognized that the statement was intended to mean “This bread is of a much higher quality than the processed stuff they sell at the supermarket, to Guy it always felt like, “This bread that you produced from scratch with your bare hands and brought to the party still warm from the oven is no different than the stuff I can buy from the bakery shop on the corner.”

~   ~    ~   ~   ~   ~

Second story. Gal had been playing music all her life. Piano. Guitar. One day she started playing around and before she knew it she had written a song. Then another. She started writing music all the time, and then she worked up the courage to start sharing her creations with friends and family. Everybody acted impressed and said nice things about the songs.

One person whose opinion Gal valued consistently praised Gal’s songs with the statement, “That one’s great. It reminds me of [insert name of famous song written by real composer here].” After hearing various versions of this feedback applied to song after song, Gal began to think perhaps her work wasn’t that original after all. Eventually she got busy with other projects. She hasn’t written a song in years.

~   ~    ~   ~   ~   ~

One of the fun parts of my current job is that I get to teach a workshop in Creative Thinking. We start that workshop talking about our Inner Critics — those voices we all carry around in our heads that call down our efforts at creativity. Sometimes those voices sound like the voices of real, human critics who were part of our upbringing. Sometimes those voices are less specific. Some of us are better at shushing those voices than others.

Ironically, even though I can teach others how to manage their own Inner Critics, I tend to be less successful at taming my own. I tend to second guess myself. I tend to assume that any great idea I have has already been done, a hundred times over and more successfully than anything I could produce.

And I’ve decided that when it comes to talking myself out of my own creative ideas, my biggest enemy is the internet.

It happened again this morning. I woke up with a fantastic idea for a new blog theme– maybe even a whole other blog. And then I made the fatal error. I thought to myself, “I’ll do a little search and see who else is doing something like that.”

Bad idea. Bad. Bad. Bad. BAD.

source: http://wisdomheart.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/inner-critic-1-300x254.jpg
source: http://wisdomheart.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/inner-critic-1-300×254.jpg

Of course I found dozens of blogs. Granted none were doing exactly what I was planning to do. But enough were doing related things  that I began to question the originality of my idea.

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the information at our fingertips. It’s easy to convince ourselves that there is nothing new under the sun. That it’s all been said. That there are no new ideas.

But that’s not true. Because creativity can be as simple as putting two things together that have not been put together before. And by that standard, an idea has creative potential as soon as it is something that has never before been put together with me.

Or you. Or anyone. We all have the capacity to be creative, and what makes our creations truly new is that part of them that comes from within the creator– from within us.

Guy’s bread was nothing like bakery bread. Gal’s songs were her own. And my new blog idea? I think it has potential. I’m going to give it some more thought–maybe work up a bit of a plan. What I’m NOT going to do any more is short circuit my idea by holding it up to other people’s ideas for comparison.

 

On tea bags, time, and running away to join the circus

I forgot to buy tea bags.

I could have bought tea bags at any number of points throughout the day. I knew when I went to bed last night that I was using the last one. But I forgot. And now, bedtime is looming without my usual cup of cranberry herbal tea.

This bugs me, just a little.

On the other hand, it bugs me a lot that the lack of my favourite bedtime beverage bugs me at all.

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that I talk a lot about how much I value change. So much so, that the word change looms largest in my cloud of most frequently used tags. So I admit to feeling considerable irritation at being forced to face the uncomfortable fact that I am a total creature of habit.

And now this small thing– this lack of a tea bag– has me reflecting on all the other too-comfortable habits on which I rely. My far-from-adventurous diet. My homogeneous wardrobe. My evenings spent in pretty mundane activities. My holidays spent at the same family vacation spot every summer.

Do I really love change as much as I say I do? Or am I just a great pretender?

Am I a creature of habit because I’ve reached the stage in life where I know myself and what I want, or because I’ve settled into a nice, safe rut. This question is causing me a great deal more consternation than my lack of cranberry tea.

Deep down, the changes that I crave the most are big changes. Quitting-your-job-and-running-away-to-join-the-circus changes. Dramatic changes to how I live and how I make a living. Substantial changes to the way I spend my time and the people I spend it with. But they aren’t the kind of changes that just happen. They need building, step by tedious step. Perhaps I need to run out of tea bags more often to jolt myself out of my cozy patterns into taking actual steps toward the big dreams.

Sometimes I fear that it’s too late for big changes. I worry that I’ve reached the age where I should be happy just to settle in and appreciate my comfortable habits and my nightly cup of tea. But then I see other people, older than me, courageously strike out in new directions– new businesses, new relationships, new homes in new cities. And I have to believe that there’s still time for a grand adventure.

With or without cranberry tea.

imagine

 

 

Strive to thrive

Today’s Daily Prompt asks, “Do you thrive under pressure or crumble at the thought of it? Does your best stuff surface as the deadline approaches or do you need to iterate, day after day to achieve something you’re proud of? Tell us how you work best…. show us PRESSURE.”

Do I thrive under pressure? Frankly, I’m never sure how to respond to this question. Do I handle myself well under pressure? Absolutely. I have a reputation for being able to do good work quickly. I’m good at improvising solutions. In a crisis, I’m the one who copes.

The truth is, I put a lot of pressure on myself. I have high expectations. I’m apt to hand things in ahead of the deadline– sometimes just because I worked quickly and got the task done early, and sometimes because I set my own deadline, earlier than the real one, so that I could be absolutely sure I would be done on time.

I was in grade four when I first appreciated the tyranny of my own high standards. I had a big social studies project due: something along the lines of “Everything There Is to Know About Australia That Can Be Derived from Back Issues of National Geographic.” (This was, after all, pre-internet.) I had done a fair bit of work, but I had also done a fair bit of procrastinating. The project was due on Monday morning. Sunday night rolled around and I wasn’t done. I went to bed with my stomach in knots. I had never failed to hand in an assignment on time unless I was sick. I didn’t know what the teacher would say, but I could imagine no  consequence more horrifying than Miss Miller’s disapproval.

Morning came, and I got up and got dressed for school with the demeanor of one preparing for execution. By breakfast, I had worked myself into such a state of anxiety that I was feeling physically ill.

My mom was astute enough to see through the root cause of my ailment. She gently suggested that if I wasn’t feeling well I should probably stay home for the morning, and we would see if I felt better after lunch. I asked her if it would be OK if I worked on my project. She just smiled, nodded sagely, and said that would probably be OK — if I felt up to it.

By lunchtime the project was finished and, miraculously, so was my mysterious stomach ailment. I went off to school for the afternoon, vowing to myself that I would never again put myself in the situation where I was late with an assignment.

There, have, of course, been times since then when I have had to ask for extra time to complete a task. I learned that I could ask for extra time without making myself ill over it. But I still don’t like it if I can’t meet a deadline, no matter how legitimate the reason. The truth is, I think I’ve learned to cope well under pressure by taking control of the pressure — by exerting the lion’s share of the pressure on myself.

Do I thrive under pressure? I’m not sure thrive is the right word. I get a lot done under pressure. I do good work under pressure.  But thrive?

A better path
A better path

When I was on leave recovering from my hip replacement, I had a glimpse of what life would be like without the kind of pressure that has become my norm. I was in better physical shape than usual — in spite of just having had surgery– because I was exercising more  than usual every day. I was more creative — and more creatively productive– than I have been in a long time because I had time to focus, and because the daily walks fuelled my imagination. In short, I experienced something far closer to what I would call thriving than I have ever encountered under even the most exhilarating pressure.

At least now I know what I’m really striving for.

She stepped out

steppingShe stepped out into space. It was hard to take that first step, but in retrospect it was a bit like jumping out the window of a burning building. The jump was terrifying, but staying in the fire was not an acceptable alternative.

She stepped out, not knowing if the ground would rise up to meet her feet, but believing that it must. It was easier to trust the universe than it was to trust herself. In stepping out, she discovered she could do both.

She stepped out, because no imagined outcome could be worse than the slow soul-destruction of staying where she was.

She stepped out, because she had forgotten what it was like to breathe. To think clearly. To feel whole. She stepped out in search of the person she remembered being, in flight from the person she had become.

She stepped out because it was the healthiest thing she could do.

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This post was written originally in response to a WordPress Daily prompt from several days ago: “Walking on the Moon,” asked “What giant step did you take where you hoped your leg wouldn’t break? Was it worth it, were you successful in walking on the moon, or did your leg break? Photographers, artists, poets: show us RISK.  It took more than a day for me to be happy enough with it to post it. Seriously, WordPress, some things just can’t be rushed!