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This is the week to be thankful. Like most folks, I am grateful for the big things, like family and health. But I think it helps to also remember the smaller things that make our lives fuller and happier.
Here’s my list of such items:
- Colleagues who are not afraid to challenge me and make me think through my decisions.
- Friends who share my warped sense of humor.
- Cats on the internet.
- People who stay kind despite the fear rampant in our world right now.
- Librarians with a sense of humor.
- Finding new books that make me long for reading time each night, currently Death and Mr. Pickwick.
- Jon Snow might be alive!
- The fact that I get to spend my working days helping students.
Happy Thanksgiving to you all!
Psychiatrist Michael Bennett wrote that if you want a self-help book on how to change other people, the book you should buy is how to perform at-home lobotomies.
This makes perfect sense, but we spend way too much time wanting people to change to make us happy. Add in the fact that we also don’t want to tell them what to do to make us happy (they should just know), we spend a lot of time blaming other people for our unhappiness and waiting for them to change to suit us.
At this moment, I want:
- a friend to at least pretend that he has some interest in my life as he gives speeches on how everything in the world shakes him up.
- certain Facebook friends to not use the horrible events in Paris as a platform for (what I consider) cruel and heartless views.
- at least three people to not give me an argument every time I make a suggestion.
- Chipotle to play more soothing music.
I am not going to get any of those things:
- My friend has been self-centered for twenty years now. He’s not going to change.
- I have friends on all sides of the political spectrum on Facebook, and unless I block them, I’m going to have to see some upsetting things.
- Unless I want a puppet government, I need people who question my decisions.
- Chipotle does not make its musical decisions based on their one librarian customer who wants to read quietly in the corner.
So the choices are all mine. I stay friends with certain people because they are more than their annoying habits. I hire people who will ask questions and challenge me because I believe that’s the way an organization stays strong. And Chipotle serves a fine chicken bowl.
At some point, I might make a different decision, but once again, that will be on me.
Unless that self-help lobotomy books becomes a reality.
On Friday night, after a group dinner, four of us stood outside the restaurant chatting. We were discussing a recent controversy, and as one person was expressing an opinion, another asked, “What do you mean by they?” And her tone strongly indicated that she was not terribly happy with him.
“Why are you mad?” he asked.
So she explained how it sounded as if he was blaming two or three people for having an agenda when that’s not what happened at all because she was part of the group that made the decision.
I stood there listening in amazement. Because here’s what happened next. The two people did not yell at each other. They didn’t run to their respective cars and not talk to each other again. They did not call each other names. Instead, they listened to each other’s opinion. And at the end, one said, “I didn’t know that. And I need to apologize.”
It’s not that one convinced the other over to the ‘right’ side. It was just that they understood that they were both decent people who happened to see the issue in two different ways. And they both agreed that almost everyone involved in the conflict was a decent person who thought he/she was doing the right thing. And while they were not going to agree on this issue, they were going to continue to respect each other and remain friends.
I watched in amazement because, unfortunately, this is not usually how the story plays out any more. If someone doesn’t agree with us, we tend to jump way too quickly to the conclusion that there is something fundamentally wrong with them. On my Facebook page, my liberal friends are quick to label those who disagree with them as racists or uneducated buffoons. My conservative friends are just as good at labeling, although they tend to choose words such as anti-American or socialist.
I suppose that when we care about something deeply and see clearly how things are supposed to be, it is hard to even comprehend that others can’t see it. So we, perhaps without thinking, assign a reason to that: a reason that has something to do with their intelligence (or lack of) or with their evil intentions.
It happens everywhere. One only has to read the various comments on social media to see that the hasty judging and closed minds are on all sides of various political issues. But sadly, it can also be found closer to home. And it’s sad when friendships and working relationships become frayed. (Coincidentally, as I was writing this, my Timehop app reminded me that six years ago, two of my best friends stood in a parking lot yelling at each other about Sarah Palin.)
But Friday night was an example that this doesn’t have to happen. It reminded me that we can disagree, even get a little snappy with each other, and stay friends. We can actually talk through our disagreements. We can disagree strongly and still see the angels in our opponents.
Well, if not angels, flawed but decent human beings, just like ourselves.
Today I noticed that everyone seemed to be in a bad mood. Maybe it was that Halloween was over, and we were all suffering from a sugar overload. Maybe it was that daytime savings time has ended, and people are dreading the early nights. Maybe it was because the Commodores, the Titans, the Packers, and the Mets all lost this weekend.
At our college, November also starts the most stressful time of the semester for both faculty and students: papers to write and grade, tests to make, take, and grade, worry about grades, worry about grades getting turned in on time, etc.
So it may be that none of us started this month in the best of moods. But there are many reasons to love November. Here are five:
- November 7 is Book Lovers Day. With the early nights, what would be better than making a cup of tea, snuggling under a blanket, and reading a book on your to-read list? Here are some books on our recommended and to-read lists.
- Maybe you don’t just want to read a novel, but write one. Well, November is National Novel Writing Month. Take some time out each day and finally get started on that mystery, bodice ripper, or THE Great American Novel that’s hiding inside of you.
- In these stressful times, it’s always good to practice kindness. Luckily, World Kindness Day is November 13. Sure, we should be kind everyday, but sometimes we need a reminder.
- November is also Native American Heritage month. Let’s celebrate the cultures of the first citizens of our country.
- And, of course, Thanksgiving. Enjoy the time off, appreciate your family and friends, and cheer on your favorite football team. And take some time to consider the times good fortune has come your way in 2015.
Happy November, all.
All the Light We Cannot See
by Antony Doerr
This is a beautifully written novel full of characters I loved and rooted for. It is fully deserving of the Pulitzer Prize it won.
See Colette’s tribute to the novel here.
Today, as I was eating lunch, I overheard a regular customer discussing his church with a waitress. They were having some trouble, he said. People were complaining about the minister. Then he added, “Of course, if they had to come say it face to face, there would be no issue. It’s only when you complain anonymously online that you think you can say the meanest and most hateful things and get away with it.”
I gave up reading comments sections to articles a while back, because, frankly, they gave me a bad attitude about my fellow humans for days. The nastiness, the snarkiness, the personal attacks. Life is too short to put up with such things. Still, although I suppose I should know better, I was still a little saddened at what I heard. I guess I’d hoped that churches could still be above such things.
Of course, hateful, back-stabbing, personal attacks are nothing new. They have just become easier to deliver in the virtual world. It’s one thing to ignore them when they are about celebrities, politicians, or anyone who happens to be in the news. But what about when they are aimed at you?
Well, here are my suggestions. (But with the disclosure that, more than once, mean remarks have put me in a corner with a packet of powdered sugar donuts, trying not to cry.)
- I think the man at lunch nailed it. If there is a problem the person should come see you and talk about it. As far as I’m concerned, if it’s an anonymous attack, then it automatically doesn’t merit my attention.
- Deflect tattle-tales. I’ve had people say, “X thinks you’re (fill in the blank), but don’t say anything because she’ll be mad at me.” I would anguish over this until I realized I couldn’t live this way. So now if I can stop the statement beforehand, I do. If not, I answer, “Then X needs to come talk to me about it.” (I’ve also come to realize that this is often a way for people to complain about me while blaming someone else for the complaint. But the same theory applies.)
- Realize the only people who never get criticized don’t do much with their lives. There will always be people who think our beliefs and our choices are stupid. In most cases, unless you’ve asked for their opinion and/or they are bankrolling your dreams, they don’t get a vote.
Years ago, when Madonna divorced her husband, her hubby, in a less-than-gallant moment, reportedly said that making love to her was like “cuddling up to a piece of gristle.” There was one perfect celebrity response. (Unfortunately, I can’t remember who said it.) She said that men hated women for being too fat. And then Madonna was mocked for being too fit. The lesson was that women were always going to be judged unkindly, so the best bet was to just be happy with your body and live your life.
Anyone can make nasty comments. There are times we’re all going to be judged unkindly. Ignore the haters. And if you can’t ignore them, go ahead and eat your powdered-sugar donuts in the corner, but then get up and live your life with no regard for the comments section.