Monthly Archives: October 2018

Monday Motivator: It Ain’t Over

For some reason, this past week, I found myself talking to some friends about my goals for 2018. It was not a pleasant conversation. I only had four, and three of them had somehow fallen by the wayside (or into the ice cream aisle at Publix.)

I have to face the facts:

  • I am not going to lose twenty pounds.
  • I am not going to be able to play Christmas carols on the piano.
  • I am not going to get my 100 rejections on my writing (I am not even going to get 100 submissions out.)

I felt like a loser.

But that’s one of the reasons why I have friends. They agreed that those things weren’t going to happen, but I still had the chance to accomplish the following:

  • lose five pounds.
  • improve on “Good King Wenceslas” in my Easy Play piano book.
  • collect ten rejections before the year is up.

As Lenny Kravitz once sang, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”

And this year ain’t over yet.

Monday Motivator: Do a Maintenance Check on Your Morals

Last week I received a letter from my condo association. I was told that I needed to replace the door to the closet on my deck. For about two years, my door has refused to close. To be honest, I didn’t get it fixed because I simply didn’t think it was a big deal. Still, I want to be a good neighbor, so I put a call out on our neighborhood Facebook page asking for recommendations.

A few minutes later, a guy posted back and said he could do it. So I sent him a text, and he came by my condo. The good news was that he said I didn’t need a new door; it just needed a little shaving. And he was happy to do it for me. I just needed to pay him half now and half when he completed the job.

I was relieved, but then my phone rang. The guy was up the street at a check-cashing place and they needed some information from me. Had I written the check? How much was it for? Could I supply my birth date? I was a little unnerved. I had never cashed a check at any place other than a bank where I had an account.

I became suspicious. What did I know about this guy? Nothing. I knew that home improvement scammers were everywhere, and I had not checked on this guy’s reputation in my rush to get the door fixed. The next day didn’t make me feel any better. He said he was coming in the afternoon. By 5:30, he was still not there. At 7 p.m., he sent a text saying that he was finishing up a job and would be at my place soon. But he didn’t come.

The next day, I sent him another text asking when he would come by to fix the door. A little later, I received a message saying that it would be in the afternoon. That was the last I heard from him that day. I reconciled myself that I had been scammed.

Then on Saturday, I was about to leave for the day when he called me. He apologized for not showing up the day before, but said he was on his way. I was going out of town but left his money on the front porch. When I came home that night, my door was fixed.

And I felt like a jerk. You see, for most of my life, I have said that I would rather be tricked a thousand times than turn down someone who needed my help. And I not only say it, I believe it is part of who I am. I think of myself as a person who trusts others until it is proven that I should not.

But in this case, I made a snap judgment. Based on what? That the guy cashed my check less than ten minutes after I wrote it? That he didn’t get around until doing the work until three days after I hired him. (At that point, I had waited three weeks for an electrician.)

Later, one of my colleagues gently said to me, “You know that there are many good reasons that someone might need money immediately.” And she was absolutely right.

I am not proud of myself, and I have spent the last two days reflecting on my assumptions. But I’m not unhappy that it happened. Occasionally, it’s good to realize that you have veered off the road you wanted to be on and have to find a way to get back on track.



Monday Motivator: Monitor What Leads to Unkindness

A friend of mine sent a message last week. He wanted my personal email address because he was about to leave social media. He said he needed to save his humanity. Now he is one of the best people I know, and it is just like him to phrase it that way. No blaming others. Just saying that he was becoming a person he didn’t like, and he needed to change that. For him, that meant leaving Facebook.

For a former colleague, it was a reality show. One version featured children, but it was done in the same way as the regular show. One day, he found himself hurling abuse at a child participant and was so horrified at himself that he turned off the television, never to return to that particular show.

Social media, of course, can make being thoughtless and unkind a fairly easy endeavor, not just for the semi-anonymity of it, but because for any cruel thought we might have, there will be thousands of like-minded individuals and the very number of them can make our unkind thoughts seem normal.

But social media only magnifies our cruelty; it’s not the cause. Hundreds of years ago, wise people realized that a measure was needed to keep our thoughts in check. For some, it was a nightly examination of the conscience.

It is a simple listing of the virtues we want to be known for and evaluating how close to or how far from our goal. I like to use an outside source, because I suspect I have a tendency to think that I’m a little more moral than I am. This year, it’s the Stoic philosophers. Sometimes I return to the Beatitudes. At other times, I use books on the Jewish teaching of Mussar.

Like most people, I want to possess many virtues. I want to be brave. I want to stand up for myself. I want to be fair. And I work in a library, so I want to share only factual information on my social media accounts. But if I’m honest (and I want to be honest too!), I’m aware that there is a part of me that can too easily be unkind but then pretend that I’m just outspoken, or ‘telling it like it is,’ or being funny.

So the question at the top of my nightly examination is always the same: Was I kind today?


Monday Motivator: Choose the Right Role Model

After a bomb went off in Afghanistan, Eric Greitens, a Navy Seal, thought that perhaps he had lost his hearing. One of the things that he did in response was to read a biography. Of Beethoven. At that moment, he desperately needed the story of someone who had gone deaf and still thrived.

I wish I had known this story when I went off to college. Being the first in my family to leave home and attend a university, I was in unknown waters. My parents were great role models for many things, but they knew little about what it took to succeed in college. I found my way and went on to graduate and spend the rest of my career teaching or earning more degrees. Still, looking back, I think I would have had a much more fulfilling experience if I’d had a success story to hold up in front of me, to help me understand my options.

Later, when I became dean of the Learning Resources division, I was lucky enough to know how much I didn’t know and to latch on to those who were able and visionary administrators. My vice president, Ellen Weed, showed me what it was like to be tough and fair. She also demonstrated a skill that I didn’t realize at the time was incredibly rare: the ability to reprimand and not hold grudges. From the library world, the other deans and directors were so willing to share their knowledge and experience that I have remained grateful to this day, especially to Vicky Leather and Peter Nerzak.

As we go through our lives, our role models will change. Greitens certainly had lots of role models as he was preparing to become a SEAL. But when he feared he had lost his hearing, he needed to go outside that group. Someone who showed us how to succeed in  college might not be the best person to guide us through a rough patch on the job. Someone who was a role model after our wedding might not be able to help us navigate a divorce. That’s the not the fault of the role model, just a changing of the circumstances.

I’m now at the stage in life when people often ask when I’m planning on retiring. It occurred to me while writing this post that my best answer might be, “When I find the right role model.”