Hello from the Jolly Librarian!

The Mayfield Library is always looking for ways to let you know what’s going on with us, so we can serve you better. To better achieve that aim, we’re starting this library blog.

As we communicate with you, please keep in touch with us. We welcome all feedback.

After all, the Mayfield Library is here for you!

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Monday Motivator: Forgive Yourself But Sin No More

In the novel, City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert, two characters discuss forgiveness and the inability at times to forgive yourself. I don’t want to go into detail because part of the joy of this novel is finding out how these two characters meet and become friends.

The idea here is sometimes we are stupid. We are thoughtless. We are headstrong. We are inconsiderate. And especially, when we’re young, we don’t always think through the consequences. And sometimes, all we can do is say we were stupid and young. We have to admit that we hurt others. And then we have to move on. Sometimes we get the chance to ask for, and be granted, forgiveness. Sometimes we ask for forgiveness, and it is withheld. And sometimes fate intervenes, and we never get a chance to ask for forgiveness at all.

But in all cases, we have to find a way to move on. We can’t stay stuck in our self-hatred if we are going to have a meaningful life. We must find a way to forgive ourselves.

I have done things that make me cringe when I think of them. I told a friend about one of them that could not now be fixed. She agreed that it was not my best moment.

Then she asked, “Did you do it again?”

I was horrified. “No!”

“So you did something bad. You felt bad about it. And you’ve never done it again. Then I think it’s time to let it go.”

I realized that, while it was never an act I was going to be proud of, I had learned something. I had become a (marginally) better person.

I could stop beating myself up.

Monday Motivator: Make Things Beautiful

Recently, I heard the author Elizabeth Gilbert talk about the need for beauty in the world. She told the story of her grandmother during the Depression. During that time, there was no room for any extras. There was no wasted food. Every remnant of cloth was put to another use.  

Gilbert’s grandmother used the remnants of cloth to make quilts so that the family could be warm in the winter. Their use was totally utilitarian. But Gilbert pointed out that the quilts themselves were beautiful. Her grandmother could have made them plain and dowdy, and they would have served the same purpose. But her grandmother had a need for creativity and beauty. 

A few years ago, at a library staff meeting, someone mentioned the weedy little patch of earth in front of our building. “We should just take it over and make it look nice.” I asked the President, and he gave permission. Since that time, Sally and Charles have taken care of that area. Now, every single month, as staff and students walk into our building, they are greeted with a dancing array of colorful flowers. I can’t count the number of days that my spirits have been lifted as I walk in or out of the building. 

I agree with Elizabeth Gilbert. We need beauty in our lives. So this week, let’s make something in our environment a little more beautiful than it has to be. 

Monday Motivator: Honor Those Who Helped You

There’s a lot of talk these days about self-made people and that no one owes us anything in life. I don’t know if anyone owes me anything, but I owe a lot of people. I owe my 4th-grade teacher who decided that my love for reading was more important than my indifferent eating habits. I owe the factory where my father worked for a scholarship that allowed me to go to away to a university. I owe the professors who took time with a country girl who didn’t understand all the rules of college and helped her to fit in.

Many of these people from the early years of my life are now gone, and I was too careless to thank them at the time. Perhaps I didn’t even realize that they made the choice to help me and could have chosen not to. Perhaps I didn’t realize how different things could have turned out.

Now that I’m older and a little wiser, I am trying to make amends. Of course, there are a million good causes out there, but I make a special effort to honor the types of folks who helped me out. I look for projects in rural schools that will give other country kids the opportunities I had. In the library, we all encourage our students to come to us with their questions about how college works and how they can best fit in.

And I think those who helped me along the way would approve of this sort of appreciation.

So this week, let’s all think back to those people who gave us a chance and, in gratitude, find a way to give one to someone else.

Monday Motivator: Be a Better Customer

Friday night, I was in Walgreens, standing in line behind all the people buying beer and snacks for the night. It was a long line, but I wasn’t in a hurry, so I did some people watching. The clerk was a young man, probably a college student home for the summer.

The woman in front of me could have played the stereotypical old lady in any sitcom. She questioned every purchase, made sure that her coupons had gone through, and couldn’t quite remember her store card number as she was finishing up. Then she demanded to know that she had gotten all her discounts.

What I noticed was how patient the young man was with her. He answered every question about her discounts seriously. His tone was never impatient. You would have thought that she was the only person in the world until he handed her bag, and she left the store.

On my neighborhood Facebook page, there are often posts complaining about bad service at restaurants, stores, banks, etc. And don’t get me wrong; I think customer service is important.

But as I watched that young man at Walgreens, I wondered if we sometimes get it backwards. Maybe we need to be the sort of customer who deserves good customer service. Let’s treat the people at service counters the way we’d want them treated if they were our children in a summer job. Be patient. Unless you are truly on your way to conduct emergency brain surgery, is it really necessary to be impatient and angry if you have to wait for a few moments?

A few months ago, I returned some clothes to a store. The clerk, who was obviously new, was nervous and thanked me for being patient. I laughed and said that if waiting a few minutes in a nice air-conditioned store was the worst thing that happened to me that day, it was going to be a good day indeed. I was surprised when she looked sad and said that she wished everyone felt that way.

Maybe the message for this week is simply this: Just be a nice person, even when you’re a customer.

Monday Motivator: Start Anew

Last Tuesday, I was running reports when one program on my computer froze. It wasn’t a huge problem. I could open other programs, check my emails, and write documents. But after a while, when it became clear that this program was not going to run, I decided to shut down my computer.

It shut down. It came back on. Just like normal. But then it made a weird beeping sound (a noise that Jeff, our IT wizard, would later identify as ‘the sound of death’) and asked me to press any key to reboot. I did and a few seconds later found myself being asked to reboot again. Not one to give up, I pressed again and again with the same result.

A few hours later, when Jeff came back from setting up the HR offices, he took one look at my computer, shook his head, ran a diagnostic, and announced the death of my computer. Then he asked a question:

“Have you backed up your files?”

I had not.

These are some of the things that I’ve lost:

  • 2 SACS reports
  • Catalog copy
  • 17 years of evaluations
  • Email strings (Lost the email archives as well)
  • Business office documents such as sole source forms, requests for bids, and contracts

A colleague said that I was less stressed about this loss than she would have expected. And I suspect that I won’t be really upset until I actually have to use some of them.

But there’s nothing I can do. There’s no one to blame but myself. And it occurred to me that this is a chance to start over. Like most people, I have too much stuff, and that includes stuff on my computer. I have evaluations of people who haven’t worked here for more than a decade. I have documentation for equipment that’s long gone.

So maybe my computer’s death was a message for me to start again. Or maybe it’s just a lie I’m telling myself. But either way, I think it’s better than crying.

But I am starting to back up my files.

Monday Motivator: Be Like Ash

At the ladies’ French Open semifinal, Ash Barty seemed to have run out of luck. Starting strong, she won the first five games. But then, her opponent made an incredible comeback winning the first set in a tiebreak. Barty then lost the first three games of the second set. It looked like the Australian would be going home. But then Barty won the next six games. And won the next set for a chance to play in her first French Open title. (Spoiler alert: She went on to win the championship.)

But what I found most inspiring about Barty during that amazing win was her attitude. She must have felt dispirited about being so far ahead, only to find herself three games from a loss. But you would never have been able to tell. There were no expressions of disgust or angry outbursts. She didn’t throw her racket. She didn’t look despairingly at her coaches up in the box. She simply put her head down and went to work.

There are times when things seem to go wrong, and failure is in sight. And we can rail against our lot. Or we can be like Ash, put our heads down, and do what we know we need to do.

Even if I don’t win, I prefer to be like Ash.

 

Monday Motivator: Roll with the Comings and Goings of Daily Life

Last year, I received a letter that our condo dumpster was being taken away.  The land next to us was up for sale, and our dumpster was on ground that was necessary for trucks to bring materials for the planned construction. Instead we would get bins.

Obviously, this was not a huge problem. In fact, some of my neighbors welcomed the bins. They were closer to individual condos, and we would always know whether or not there was room in our bins to add garbage.

But I didn’t like them. I’d had a routine. Each night, I would take my daily garbage out to the dumpster. It wasn’t like the happiest moment of my day, but it gave me a small feeling of accomplishment. But since the individual bins were deep, I had to almost do a handstand to grab the bag and add the daily garbage. So I soon took out my garbage only twice a week.

Still, I realized the dumpster was not mine. The condo made the decision, and I adjusted.

Then last month, as I drove in our parking lot, I saw that the dumpster was back. The land next door had not been sold; in fact, the owner had taken it off the market.

Now, once again, I take my daily trash to the dumpster. When I’m on my deathbed, I doubt I’ll remember the dumpster as one of the highlights of my life. But I’m taking the time to appreciate its return and to remember that this return may not be permanent. And I’ll be just fine.

Monday Motivator: Celebrate What Doesn’t Happen

On Saturday, on I65 from Alabama, I started to pass a car. Unfortunately, I didn’t see the car coming up on my left. I have an older car with no blind spot detector. I swerved back into my lane but was going so fast that I thought that I was going to lose control and plunge off the side of the road or that my car was going to flip over. Luckily, I managed to gain control and proceeded home, going a little more slowly and checking at least three times before passing any other cars.

I admit to being pretty shaken up. I could have wrecked my car, hurt or killed myself, and/or hurt or killed some other innocent motorists on the road. But once my heart rate neared normal, I took a moment to be thankful and grateful that none of those things happened.

We tend to remember the bad things that occur: the wrecks, the scary diagnoses, and the heartbreaks when lovers or friends desert us. And that makes sense. But it makes as much sense to take a moment and just be happy on those days when the wrecks don’t happen, the checkups are normal, and lovers and friends just make us laugh.

In general, I am not a Pollyanna. I don’t think life is always good; horrendous things do happen. And I generally don’t like to say that God was watching over me since that seems to imply that He was not watching over those who do suffer misfortune. But I just think it makes sense to celebrate those little days when the darkness passes us by.

Monday Motivator: Learn the Right Things from Your Mistakes

According to Mark Goulston, the author of Get Out of Your Own Way, most of us learn from our mistakes. Unfortunately, many of us learn the wrong thing. He gives the example of a young lawyer who was completely embarrassed in her first trial. The lesson she learned: that she was not cut out to be a lawyer. Goulston argues that a better lesson might have been to look for mistakes in her preparation and fix them. He also cites unfaithful spouses who seem to learn only how not to get caught next time.

Coaches and teachers tell us we all make mistakes and the only bad thing is not learning from them, but most of us don’t like to make mistakes. I’ve known people whose identity is so tied up in being right that you can present proof of an error right in from of them and they’ll still deny the mistake was theirs. Hey, I’ve been that person, although I have to admit that age and the sheer number of mistakes I make on a daily basis helped me get over that particular problem.

But I still face the issue of learning the right thing from my mistake. I have a tendency to beat myself up, which doesn’t help me learn how to improve my situation but does allow me to wallow in self-pity for days on end. I also tend to ruminate on my mistakes, remembering them and feeling a special rush of shame for each one.

There is no simple rule about what to learn from a mistake. But I think a good guideline is something like this: If you want to hide from the world, blame other people, or hate yourself, you’re not learning the right thing.

Monday Motivator: Commencement Speech

Each year, I think about what I would say to graduates if I’m ever asked to speak at commencement. Since this is unlikely, I will take advantage of my blog to do so.

My message to graduates has four points this year:

One. Do not complain without taking action. There are enough complainers in the world. I am one of them. This week, I have complained about the weather, meetings, lack of sleep, and bad traffic. And that doesn’t include the things going on nationally and internationally. We all like to complain. But here’s the thing. Complaining is a sneaky devil. It makes us feel like we are accomplishing something when in fact we’re not. If I complain and then go out and do something to make my life or the lives of others better, that’s one thing. But for many of us, complaining takes the place of action.

Two. Always be ready to make a new beginning. Many of you are ready to go on to the workplace, ready to start the career you’ve been studying so hard for. But what if in a couple of years you realize that this is not what you were meant to do? What if it sucks out your soul everyday? What if you find that you’re being asked to do something that doesn’t make the world better, but actually worse? I tell you exactly what you do. You start again. You find another job. You go back to school. As the old saying goes, you are not a plant. You do not have to stay where you are. Gather your resources and get out there.

Three. Be a force for good. There’s so much nastiness in the world. (We like to pretend that it’s worse today than at any other time in history. I’m not sure that’s true, but what is true is that if you’re a nasty person, you can spew venom across the world in a blink of an eye.) But here’s the hopeful part. If you can post anger and hatred, you can also post reconciliation and love. If we all did that, the hatemongers wouldn’t stand a chance.

Four. Laugh at yourself at least once a day. Notice: not at others. Yourself. Your own foibles will be more than enough to keep you entertained throughout your lifetime.