Category Archives: writing100to50

Housekeeping

Yellow roses in full bloom. It's a climbing variety on a wooded trellis fence.
The roses went from tight bud to wide open in the span of 24 hours. I guess high 80’s and sun will do that. I can relate! But now it’s chilly-ish again. Boo.

I just spent a big hunk of time building on what I wrote yesterday so I am going to give myself credit for meeting my daily writing goal and use the computer to work on tightening and adding pictures to posts from the last few weeks. Phone posting def has some limitations. Here are some pics from yesterday, just because šŸ™‚

Two dogs lying in the grass, panting, with sticks in their paws. One is black and the other is tan and dark brown.
Rumor and her pal Porter sharing sticks during a break from running around in the heat.

stress fracture

This is looooong, but I think it’s what I have been building up to. It eventually turns to topics of forgiveness and self-worth. Two days later, I am still holding the line.

Lemme start by saying I do not, to my knowledge, have a stress fracture. It’s just a phrase that is attracting my curiosity today. Like breaking point. Buckling under pressure.

I was thinking about earthquakes and volcanos and how we keep our earsĀ  to the ground, monitoring the shifts and spasms. How building codes in vulnerable areas act as bulwarks. (IĀ  just looked up bulwark to check my usage… it lives in my brain as “something that defends, maybe related to water”. I was on point though I pictured it as something on shore but it’s the side of a ship. Either way, def a word that sounds like it means!)

Thinking about that moment when everything changes. The limits of prediction. The hurricane cuts its own line.

Thinking about hindsight (a wonderful concept and I was going to say wonderful word but now that I think about it, I imagine it’s related to behind and now I am thinking about craning my head to look at my butt and now I’m picturing butts with eyes so just no. Some digressions should not be followed.)

Thinking about butt eyes and how we don’t know the line between before and after until there’s been a lot of after. How much after? Like when I quit smoking (see what I did there? butts?)Ā  I had tried to quit before. I could not know that 11/11/2001 would be the sticking day. I’m not sure when I knew the line would hold. I do know that if I had a cigarette today, there’s a high chance I’d slide back to it. Just one. Just one more.

So maybe I am thinking about befores and afters. With tragedies it’s horrifically clear. May 24, 2022. Uvalde, TX will never be the same.

I’m thinking about Big T trauma and little t trauma. The bones we break when falling out of a swing and the ones we didn’t know were at the breaking point until after the fact. Stress fractures. How the slightest jostle can sever whatever tenuous bonds were still holding the pieces together.

I’m thinking about the limits of analogies and wondering why I take refuge in them instead of speaking plainly.

Our brain follows different rules than bones. Our thoughts are not hurricanes even though our thoughts spin and shred up and down the Saffir-Simpson scale.

I am trying to resist digressing into a blah blah about how trite and ridiculous this all is. I want to minimize. This has all been lived and said before. Nothing new here. But I promised not to apologize for taking up a wee bit of online space for writing. It somehow helps me find my footing.

OK let’s say the brain is a house. Some houses are sturdy enough to hold up in almost any setting. Going back to bulwarks. Some are more site specific. And maybe some are just one busted pipe after another and you can’t even catch your breath long enough to decide if you need to rebuild somewhere else.

I want today to be a breaking point. To be a before and after. What I’m looking for is not as clear as stopping smoking and it’s sure as hell more difficult. I cannot simply quit being me. Wherever we go, there we are.

But I can’t keep on as things are. No, that’s a lie. I can keep on, as folks do. Which is why I am thinking about stress fractures.

Maybe in a year, or five or twenty I will be able to say, yes–something shifted on May 31, 2022. Because I do know what needs to change. I need to forgive myself for real and perceived failures so I can move forward. I need to stop looking for evidence everyday to prove that I continue to fail. And–the hardest of all patterns to break–I need to uncouple my sense of worth from my perceptions of competence. Just thinking about doing this makes me queasy, shortens my breath, releases the tears.

Am I able to say I have done the best I could, given the knowledge I had and my personal capacity? I am supposed to say yes. That’s what the professionals say. We cannot hate ourselves into change.

I do not know why I cling to self-recrimination.* It’s almost a form of grandiosity. Why would I hold myself to different standards than others? Knowing that we are fallible is Human Studies 101.

I might not be ready to say I’ve tried my best. Wasting hours playing Freecell (and now every iteration of Wordle I can find) is *not* trying my best. The list of all the things I could have done, should have done, wished I had done is long.

Maybe I can start by acknowledging that I have always approached each day with good intentions, with the desire to have a positive or at least not negative impact on those around and beyond me. I can even go farther out on the limb by recognizing that I do have a strong work ethic, even though it doesn’t always fire on demand. But I guess that’s a sneaky way of reconnecting worth and competence.

So, really, what I need to do is forgive myself and allow for the possibility that I have worth, just as I am, right now. I don’t know if I can do it. Maybe today won’t be the day it sticks. But claiming and voicing it as a goal, for real this time, is actually a big step.

*Re: where the core beliefs and self-recrimination come from. . . I grew up in a loving, supportive, awesome home with great parents who never made me feel like I was defined by my performance, used withering words or anything like that. I don’t think I had an inordinate amount of terrible experiences with peers, teachers, etc. Sure, definitely some ouch moments, but nothing horrible enough to account for my core beliefs. Maybe I just started off with some vulnerabilities that predisposed me to cognitive distortions and disproportionate reactions to the normal slings and arrows of being a human which then snowballed. And then I unintentionally made choices that deepened the rut.

two doors

This post describes a lockdown drill and discusses school shootings and violence in general. It’s also not complete.

A classroom with a red/green patterned couch, two blues, bookshelves with plants on top, a brown door
Door number 2

I’m just going to get right to it. One of the scariest moments of my teaching career was during a lock down drill.

I began my teaching career before Sandy Hook.* Some folks locked their classroom doors when they and their kids were gone for lunch but I don’t remember having keys to my room. I was probably offered and said no out of fear of losing them.

When I returned to the classroom after a ten year detour, the key was mandatory.

My 7th grade classroom had two doors. At the beginning of the year, I decided which would be the main entrance based on transition patterns between classes. But the lock didn’t work very well and I had to keep asking to get it fixed. The delay was not due to reckless indifference on the part of leadership. They were working 24/7 in an under-resourced, high-needs school. The other door also locked, but I didn’t pay as much attention to it.

During my first lockdown drill, my students knew what to do, where to hide. I checked that my door was secure. The main door. Pssst! Students were looking at me, nodding at the other door. I ran over to check it. Unlocked. I turned the lock. Within minutes, our security guard was banging on the doors and rattling the knobs. We “passed the test.”

I still can’t quite shake the feeling that I had put my students at risk. My logic brain reminds that the whole point of drills is to learn, to bake in the protocols. And even the tightest, most perfectly enacted plans can fail. My mom brain still echoes “what if?” Families entrust us with their children. What if I had been the weak link? I can’t even complete that thought.

When I weighed the reasons for leaving, I included my concern that I would not be able to protect my students. My spatial skills are terrible. I can get disoriented within two blocks from my home.

No matter how many times I studied the fire drill evacuation plans and practiced taking the correct stairs, I was hesitant about which direction to turn during every fire drill. I did not trust my ability to direct the movement of children in a crisis.

I think of all the teachers who likely share similar fears but still courageously show up for our kids in so many ways. It’s mind-boggling.

I am not quite sure where I am going with this. Maybe just feeling some big feelings about what we ask our kids and teachers to do.

*I just realized it was after Columbine. I wonder if small elementary schools remained more relaxed than high schools. Or maybe I am imagining simpler times,

April Showers

patch of garden surrounded by concrete with spring flowers and emerging perennials
The scrappy, shady, tree root congested, parkway in front of our building.

I don’t think I have ever been so relieved for a month to end. Which is sort of silly because there’s nothing stopping tomorrow from being like today besides the extra minute or so of daylight.

We closed with a flourish. Heavy rain. Lighting flickering. We used to have a front seat row for big storms, but now crane our necks for slivers of sky around the outlines of the new houses next door.

grassy parkway with small patches of yellow and pink tulips
These tulips are vestiges of the sunny parkway gardening I did before the houses were built (we are the yellow building).

A cryptic weather alert tried to fill in the gaps. When the emergency broadcast whistle? static? interrupted the last few minutes of Weekend Edition, my interest was piqued.Ā  TheĀ  recording was both long winded and tentative. At first it sounded very serious, going on about tornados that have already touched down followed by talk of a tornado watch that included Cook County.

After being told toĀ  brace for hail, debris, and downed trees, I listened carefully to the long list of specific spots considered high risk.Ā  I expected to be instructed to head to the basement (this happens occasionally), but then the whirring static signaled the end of the message. What were we supposed to do with this information? Though we are not far from the listed spots, we are not close either. So I shrugged andĀ  returned to my window perch. If we were danger, I was confident the local alarms would beĀ  blaring.

close up of outside  low mounding plant , green blue leaves holding rain drops
Lady’s Mantle, catching some rain

This is probably not an accurate description of the call, but I’ve got  the gist and it is all too familiar to what we’ve been weathering all year. Big storm. Vague warnings. No directions. Me sitting on the radiator looking out the window with furrowed brow, knees hugged to chest.

And that sounds passive but the thing is that I was outside right until the storm hit. Watching. Yanking out old tulips that have beenĀ  all leaf no bloom the last few years. Moving a few plants. Doing what I can inĀ small moments.

Taking deep breaths, maybe  trying to vacuum up this month to exhale hope for better days ahead. For the first time, the dampness smelled ever so slightly of spring.

garden close up, puriple bloom, purple and green leaves
I can never get enough purple.

willful, wanna, willing

black and white photo, close up of  top half of a woman's face. Light complexion with curling bangs and a small bun.
disobedient bangs

I am a hair and shoes person. Before I was tuned in to how problematic it can be to offer unsolicited comments about a person’s appearance, I was generous with compliments (yeah that is an ugh sentence but I am not going to try to fix it otherwise I’ll just get stuck). On the bus, “sharp hair cut!” at the store, “love those shoes!”

figured hair and shoes are less fraught. OK this is not what I was intending to write about. I do want to do a hair and shoe piece but not tonight

I wanted to write about the well worn topic of behavior, self regulation, discipline, whatever we are calling the whole “do the thing you said you were going to do” skill. And I thought to use my new bangs as a symbol of defiance. Just a little hook. Here I am 30 minutes in to writing (including farting around with a photo) and again I’m stuck on the tarmac and my thoughts are already fading into a dot in the sky.

failing to board the plane is appropriate to the topic of self regulation I guess. does that even make sense? am I supposed to be passenger or pilot?

I’m vexed that I so frequently retreat to this comfy meta self aware digressive mode of writing.

It’s fake productivity. Avoidance. Splashing around in the shallow end.

OK so what was on my mind earlier?

DBT therapy uses willfulness and willingness to frame our approach to behavior. Willful is on the negative side, where we are obstinate, rigid, resistant, etc. I call it my inner 3 year old. Willingness is well, self explanatory. Even if you are a hot mess, you can still choose to be open, flexible. Halfway smiling. Not toxic positivity. Just not doubling down on negativity.

(This is a gross simplification which is why I get all fretful about writing.)

The point is that I wonder where “wanna” fits it.

The toddler stomps. I don’t wanna behave and *you* can’t make me!

The adult stomps. I wanna behave so why can’t *I * make me?

I don’t want to be willful. I wanna be willing. I guess that’s what all the skills are for, sly ways to move us into willingness.

But so much of my willfulness is due to lack of urgency and immediacy. I have two speeds, sloth and super hero. I need to save embers from the fires I put out to keep me warm and limber for the less dramatic days.

This is apparently a classic ADHD trait. Insert recognition that many most all folks drag their feet sometimes (hence my imposter syndrome). However, there are degrees of severity and whether it’s due to adhd or something else, *egads * I have a serious Jekyll Hyde situation when it comes to productivity.

I have written versions of this so many times. So frustrating.

87% glum

Gonna give myself permission to be brief because I just spent time editing what I wrote yesterday and I can barely keep my eyes open. If I was going to spend time properly writing, I would talk about the dreaded 87% mark, Ā  ie where I tend to get stuck.

I’ve been wanting to share this project with more folks but I won’t do it until I have alt text for photos, have fixed the categories, etc. Stuff I should have been doing with each post from the beginning.

added 4/25

It’s related to perfectionism, paralysis, hyperfocus, scope creep, haste, transitions, insecurity… the familiar stew that fuels my work? the creaseworn map that directs my movements throughout a day?

When I take on a project, I inevitably make it more complicated than it needs to be, especially given real or created barriers to execution. I start to falter or fall behind. Guilt and overwhelm take over, sharpening an edge of doubt?  slowing mometum like ankle weights?

Then the snowballing follows but I guess it’s the opposite of snowballing which evokes movement and force. Maybe more like a damĀ  that thickensĀ  as distractions are less able to flow through. Ugh these metaphors.

I am remembering making a photo album for a dear  friend’s  wedding. Not ready by the big day. Technically have a year, right? And this way I could include pics from the wedding. First anniversary passed. Embarrassment took over. Then it was time for a baby shower and a reunion. I buckled in, probably stayed up all night before the flight. Had to be worthy of the delay. But there were gaps. I had wanted to do more. A gift delivered with apologies.

Of course it was well received with befuddlement about how heavily it had weighed on my consciousness.

I have so many examples of that creative process.

Scattered

Had a successful rabbit hole visit earlier today. Was trying to clean up how I categorize these posts and could not figure out how to do batch edits. Although I am not a tech whiz, I can be tenacious about finding short cuts. If I think there’s a better way to do something, someone else has probably already solved the problem. After exhausting the right click options (kind of like looking under the sofa cushions), throwing key words at the search bar (because I don’t know how to describe what I am looking for), I hop around reddit and user forums until I discover a solution or that I am not alone in wishing for one. When a solution requires going deeper under the hood than I am comfortable with, I back away carefully and decide maybe my “problem” isn’t so bad.

Sometimes these searches exceed their original purpose (because ooo that article looks interesting) and derail me from the original task.

Today’s research detour didn’t shake my focus but egads my struggle with the task of organizing my writing is pretty much the story of my life. So much overlap! What about parallelism? Gah, I don’t like that phrasing. I get so easily tangled before leaving the gate, like my shoes are tied together.

I wasn’t even planning on devoting a long paragraph to tech sleuthing.

I know that being a lateral?, digressive?, nuanced? meta? indecisive? thinker has benefits too but blargh I am a little demoralized right now and need to transition to another project that’s much more important than how to categorize this blog post. So. . . I guess that’s it for today.

screen shot showing a section of this blog's organizational hierarchy

sharks and magnets

closeup of a hand, light complexion, with sparkling blue nails, against a blue background.

So I’m thinking about what I wrote re habits and other types of choices I make day to day (not everything falls into the habit category). I guess it all boils down to change which is what I keep writing about, circling around it like a shark. Hmmm maybe not a shark because that implies I’m about to sink my teeth into all these juicy goals. Maybe I am more like a magnet pointing in the wrong direction. Pushing my goals away. If I could just turn around, align the poles, would they stick?

I started writing this last night because I try to “get ahead” when I can or the muse hits and I am glad I did because today was something else and I almost forgot to write.

So. My fraught magnetic field might still be off, but I am going to salute 1) getting started on something before it’s “due” (even though we’re only talking a 24 hour window) 2) coming up for air long enough to remember to keep this streak going and 3) being OK with not writing more than this. But since I am logged on, maybe I will revise some more old posts.

Also, kind of random, but it’s been interesting to compare writing via my keyboard/PC/big screen and my phone. Most of these posts were drafted on my phone and, well, I have a lot of profound (but nuanced, of course) thoughts about that related to education, writing, and, apparently, manicures.

Right now I am at my computer and finding my nails to be a bit of an impediment. Although I am terrible at phone typing, I guess it’s a finger pad kind of situation where the nails are horizontal ie not much of a factor. Keyboarding is more of an eagle diving, talons first attack. And these talons are not good at catching prey.

Oh well. Like this writing project, indulging in nail bling is giving me some cheer during some challenging times.

And oops, I guess I ended up writing a bit more so I am calling it a night and not revising anything else.

Revision Week Day 4

Well, today I ended up noodling with what I wrote yesterday. I think I am OK with that esp because of what’s going on personally. Has another upending morning. Just trying to get by.

Blargh. That is the problem. I spent a big chunk of time today in a mild panic. Frozen between the time I dropped my kid off and left to pick them up. 4 1/2 hours. Plenty of time to be “productive.” Part of the issue is that I hesitate to dive into something due to fear I will get sucked into hyper focus and fail to leave on time.

But seriously? 4 1/2 hours. Yes, we are dealing with some bigger than usual stuff but still. I need to climb out of this hole.

willpower and/or effort

scrap of paper that says write, with underlining

4/18 edit: this took a different turn than I was expecting. I had intended to simply express some excitement about keeping up with the writing streak. Going through past posts to add image text helps me see that I’ve actually written a fair bit. On a day to day basis, I am often frustrated by the product so it has been a great exercise in being OK with muck. I am surprised that I haven’t skipped a day. It helps that word press gives a little congrats for keeping a streak going.

Just had one of those duh epiphanies about the difference between stopping and starting a habit. The first requires willpower. The latter, willpower *and* effort.

This is a gross simplification. Not everything is within our locus of control. And both can require a lot of scaffolding, an exoskeleton of other behavioral logistical and emotional supports.

But it’s relevant to my habits. Some things I want  to stop or decrease, others start or increase.

Booze. I’ve got a relationship with it. If alcohol was not unhealthy in so many compounding ways, I would savor a bottle of red wine every night.  Last summer, I made a commitment to take a break from drinking until the end of the year. Mission accomplished.

Not drinking required willpower. I don’t like to admit that it was hard and tonight’s not the night to write about that. But abstaining from alcohol did not technically require me to *do* anything. 

Going on a run, building my business, cleaning the house, making and sticking with a plan… these require a push. Once I get going I’m fine. Breaking free from a standstill is the issue. I have to force my body to take action.

Hmmmm. My little lightbulb moment is dimming.  It’s not that stopping a behavior requires less effort than starting one.  It certainly isn’t always easier. And when we have to take  action to facilitate  resistance to the  undesirable behavior,  it gets fuzzy fast.

Maybe I’m splitting hairs and just trying to understand why it’s so hard for me to take action. Not drinking for five months was a challenge. Lacing up running shoes a few times a week should not be.

Ugh. I think I do know one reason stopping is in some ways easier  than starting. It’s a clearly defined success. I really wanted to get a donut this morning but marched past Dunkin. Success. When I put on the tea kettle instead of popping a cork? Gold star! Quitting smoking (11/11/2001) was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in terms of willpower, resolve, impulse control. Whatever it’s called, it stayed in the daily win column for a long time.

Blargh I need to pick this thread up again another day. In summary, change is hard. Thousands of books and talk show hosts have already covered this territory. I just have to keep plugging away to find something that works for me.