All posts by JollyLibrarian

Monday Motivator: Have Fun

I have written before about my lifelong desire to play the piano. I so badly wanted a piano as a child, and it was one of the regrets of adulthood that I didn’t learn. Then several years ago, it occurred to me that I was now an adult with some discretionary income, and there was nothing to prevent me from learning.

And I did learn. I learned that I have no sense of rhythm. I learned that, while I love music, I don’t have any musical talent. And I did give it the old college try: four semesters of group and individual lessons. I improved, but I learned that I didn’t really have the interest to do the hard work to get really good. 

And that was okay. We can’t be experts in everything. But I just gave up the piano. I forgot another lesson I learned in that period. I actually enjoy plonking  on the keys and pecking out songs. 

Luckily, a keyboard is not terribly easy to get rid of, especially during a pandemic. So it was sitting there dusty and unused when I thought about sitting down and playing a few easy songs the other week. No magic had happened in the months since I last played. I was as bad as ever, well, worse actually because I was also rusty. But I also just had a good time. And now most days, I just sit down and just have a little fun. 

So this week, think about something fun  that you no longer do, and find time to do it.

Don’t Wait (After the Pandemic’s Over)

Of course, in many ways, the pandemic is all about waiting. We have waited in our houses and not seen our loved ones to keep everyone safe. We have waited for the various stages of reopening.  And we are now waiting to see what that reopening means: a way forward or another surge of the virus.

But it has taught me a valuable lesson. Up until now, every time I have not traveled or done something meaningful, I have come up with a hundred excuses. But the truth is, for one reason or another, I didn’t want to or I was afraid to. It took weeks of quarantining to teach me what “I can’t” really means when it comes to opportunities.

I’ve made a vow that, when we’re all on the other side of the pandemic, I will take advantage of any opportunity that comes my way.  Of course, I’ve made such vows before. But I can’t ignore the lesson of a worldwide pandemic; I don’t have all the time in the world.

What is something you are going to stop putting off when all of this is over?

Monday Motivator: Imagine You’re the One Who’s Scared

Before the pandemic, one of the most popular topics in my neighborhood was the new roundabout intended to stop the bottlenecked traffic at a four-way stop during rush hours.  The problem was that no one knew how to use it, and the complaints about other people were numerous.

The other day I was at the roundabout behind a red car. If I understand roundabouts correctly, you may have to yield, but you should not have to stop for a long period of time. But the car in front of me was definitely stopped. And the driver should have been turning right. This was, of course, a recipe for disaster. I expected horns, shouted insults, hand gestures.

In fact, there was a black SUV yielding as it was supposed to do. But it appeared that the driver of the red car was afraid to venture out, afraid the SUV was going to hit her. So she sat there. And finally the SUV went on through.

I imagined that this could have gone on forever. But what happened next surprised me. The car behind the SUV must have analyzed the situation and realized the woman in the red car didn’t know when to go. So instead of pulling up, the SUV driver stayed where she was, so far out of the roundabout until the red-car driver felt safe to proceed. 

Granted, this is a long story in which nothing happened. No horns were blown. No curses were shouted. No hand gestures were given.  

There were just people who took a moment to imagine how they would feel if it were their first time through a roundabout and how they would want to be treated. 

And it added less than a minute to the journeys.

I have to admit that in the middle of a pandemic, it was nice to be able to participate in a moment where we all cared about someone else.

Monday Motivator: Eliminate Things that Make You Unhappy

In his book, Happier Human: 53 Science-Backed Habits to Increase Your Happiness, S. J. Scott discusses (spoiler alert) ways to increase personal happiness. One way, according to him, is to eliminate those activities that don’t make us happy. 

Of course, this is the sort of statement that brings out the snark in many of us. I can hear people saying now, “Yeah. Easy for you to say. But I have a job. I have to clean the house. It’s 95 degrees, and the lawn needs mowing. I can’t eliminate any of those things. Period.”

But what Scott is actually doing is asking us to look at those activities that are not necessary, but we do anyway unthinkingly. For example, the other week, I came across the television show Smothered. If you have not seen it, it is a ‘reality’ show about mothers and daughters with bizarrely close relationships. Not the way Marmee related to her daughters Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. But something that only reality television can dream up. Some are merely eccentric. Some make you wonder why everyone else in the family has not run away. 

As I turned off the show, I realized that I felt as if I had been bathing in mud for the past hour. I felt heavy and grumpy and as if the world was a horrible place. Was this a good use of my time? Obviously not.

The same happens to me on social media. I can scroll through posts and feel absolutely awful when I finish. So why do I do it? Because I don’t think about it. Instead I plan to check on my friends and an hour later, I have been sucked into some fight that does me no good.

Let me clarify that these are things that I need to eliminate. But they could be the very things that make you happy. I have one friend who likes nothing better than a good Facebook fight. It energizes him. And for others, reality television is just the respite they need from a crazy world. 

For me, however, those are activities that can make me very unhappy. So I have resolved to cut them out of my daily routines. Not completely. For social media, I am still checking it, but I now have a self-imposed time limit before I put my down my phone and move on to something else. For Smothered, I wish those ladies well, but we are parting ways.

So join me this week in finding the things that don’t spark joy (sorry for mixing book themes here) and eliminating them.

Monday Motivator: Don’t Put Off Celebrating

The son of a colleague got married this past weekend. Because of Covid19, it was not the wedding that they had planned, but they decided they did not want to wait. And from the photo, my colleague shared, it looked like a good time was had by all.

All sorts of events are being canceled or modified at the moment. Our college’s graduation, like many others, will now be virtual. Graduations, weddings, vacations, and anniversary parties just aren’t going to happen as planned for the foreseeable future.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate. In fact, Covid19 might actually give us the chance to think about what is really important in our celebrations and focus on those elements. We may not get to take a colleague out to dinner to celebrate a new job, but we can have a happy hour over Zoom. This is the perfect year to remember to send cards to graduates, letting them know how proud we are of their achievements. 

And let’s also celebrate ourselves. For most of us in education, we managed to survive a cataclysmic disruption of a semester and learned some important things about ourselves. We deserve more than a sigh that says we are grateful we survived it. We deserve a celebration.

Monday Motivator: Be Gracious

 

 

I’ve been thinking about some lines in Don Henley’s song, “The Heart of the Matter” recently:

These times are so uncertain
There’s a yearning undefined
People filled with rage
We all need a little tenderness
How can love survive in such a graceless age?

They could certainly speak of our own pandemic age. Like you, I’ve seen the news where store employees have been spat on and even shot for asking someone to wear a mask. That sort of behavior wears me down, and I think that maybe I’ll never leave my house again.

But, ironically, all I have to do is leave my house to be reminded there is a lot of graciousness in a ‘graceless age.’ Just last week, I was waiting to check out at the supermarket. Standing the requisite six feet behind the customer ahead of me, I still witnessed what happened.

The woman was masked and had bought her own shopping bag. She had used it instead of a basket, so she was unloading her items from it as she was being checked out.

Then she looked at the bagger and asked, “What makes you safer: using the bag I brought or the plastic bags here?”

Probably, from a scientific perspective, there wasn’t much difference between the two. But I bet it made those employees’ day, to have someone ask them about their comfort level.

And I made a promise to the universe to follow her example: even after this pandemic age is over.

 

 

Monday Motivator: The Jolly Librarian’s Thoughts for Graduates

 

At this time each year, I write the Jolly Librarian’s Thoughts for Graduates. The post is a little sad for me this year since we will not have a face-to-face ceremony due to the pandemic. To be honest, I only attended one of the graduation ceremonies for my various degrees. Still, I know it is meaningful for many students, especially for some of our nontraditional students. Also, as a faculty member and now a dean at our college, I find it especially touching as I see ‘my’ students go through the line.

Still, I want to share my graduation thoughts. I have three pieces of advice.

  • You may be disappointed that you will not participate in a live commencement, walk through the line, hug mentors, take pictures with classmates, and cry with families. It is perfectly okay to feel disappointed. It would be a little strange if you didn’t. So don’t feel bad about feeling bad.
  • BUT remember the ceremony is not the degree. The work has still been done. The lessons have still been learned. And the skills learned will still transfer to the next level of education and/or to a career. You did it!
  • We are living through a historic time. Scholars and scientists will study this period for generations. This is a time to document. Later scholars will want to know how we modified our lives, what we feared, what we dreamed, and how we coped. Leave a written record for your children and your grandchildren.
  • A comma is not a period. These past few months have felt strange to us all. It seems that normal time has stopped. We have had to adjust to new ways of doing things from going to class to walking into Costco. In some ways, because this virus is a new mutation and we don’t understand it yet, it can feel like this time will never end. But sometimes clichés are clichés because they hold true: The only thing constant in life is change. This too will pass.

The hardest part of this time for me professionally is that I did not get the chance to say goodbye to the graduating students who are library regulars.  And even though I didn’t get to say this year, I hope they know how proud I am of each and every one of them.

 

Monday Motivator: Set a New Goal

Last week, I entered the Virtual Race Across Tennessee. Starting in Memphis on May 1, we are to run the equivalent distance of crossing the state in three months.

This was not my best idea for several reasons:

  1. I am not a runner. The best I manage is a mile on the track at the Y in an environment that has no inclines and is climate controlled.
  2. Since the stay-at-home orders, I have not been to the Y since mid-March.
  3. In the past year, I have had several injuries: a bout with plantar fasciitis and a tumble on some downtown marble that left my knee a lovely shade of purple and in residual pain.
  4. I am old.

In short, I have no chance of completing this race. So why did I do it?

Because in the midst of this pandemic, I needed a new goal. I needed something new to achieve. And I needed some sort of external motivation to help me achieve it.

So I paid my money and went for long walks on both May 1 and 2. And I checked my progress on the runners’ list. Sadly, I seem to have gone backwards and now am in Arkansas.

But I don’t feel like a loser.  I am using the race to set a reasonable goal for myself:  to up my 10000 steps a day to 15000. If I can do that, I will be healthier, I think. So even if I don’t make it to virtual Virginia by the end of the summer, I will be a winner.

And in the meantime, I am enjoying the posts from the other participants as they run across their own states and counties. I appreciate being part of a community. And it has given me a little extra motivation that I badly needed in the sixth week of being at home.

Monday Motivator: Channel Your Inner Cat

I am going to be honest; I have forgotten what week it is. I know that I started working from home in March, and it is now the last week of April. So it’s either week 5 or week 6. And we’ll continue on for a few weeks more at least. The only thing that I know for sure is that my goal to maintain a strict work/home routine has fallen by the wayside.

That’s not quite true. The other thing I know for sure is that this is a good time find role models to help us get through these days. Personally, I am looking  to cats for guidance:

  • Cats are experts at social distancing. You rarely see a cat in a crowd. They are solitary animals and are just as likely to greet a stranger by hiding under a bed as invading his personal space. My colleague Charles has a cat, and he swears he can go for days without a kitty sighting at all.
  • Cats know how to isolate without feeling isolated. A cat can perch on a windowsill and stare contentedly at the world outside. If it does get bored, a move from the windowsill to the cat tree fills the void.
  • Many cats know how to snack wisely. (This does not apply to all cats. My sister’s rescue cat will eat an entire day’s food before my sister leaves for work in the mornings.) They know how to eat a few bites out of the bowl and then leave some for later. That’s a wise habit to pick up now that we’re all home, and some of us have stuffed our cupboards full of snacks.
  • Cats know how to sneak in a workout. Sure, cats sleep around twenty hours a day. But they know that’s it good to get the heart pumping.  Maybe it looks like they’ve gone mad as they dash up and down stairs and chase invisible creatures, but they don’t care. (A good lesson for me when I’m doing a workout on Netflix and my neighbor walks by the front window.)

Cats are great role models for pandemics, but there are a few cat habits that should be avoided:

  • Don’t knock things off shelves.
  • Don’t try to jump on counters.
  • And, most important, don’t shred the toilet paper.

 

Monday Motivator: Think about What You’ll Miss

In our second month of self-isolating, people are getting a little weary, even among those of us who firmly believe this is the best way of flattening the curve. People want to be doing things. And it’s natural to be a little stir crazy.

But one of my neighbors on our community Facebook page asked a different question. Instead of wondering what we were looking forward to when all of this is over, she asked what will we miss about our time in quarantine.

The answers were enlightening:

More time with family.

Commute time cut in half.

Money saved.

The generosity of neighbors who donated toilet paper, Clorox wipes, and masks to those with medical issues and were afraid to get out.

Time for gardening, cooking, sewing, etc.

It took me longer to come up with my own list. For one thing, my family is in another state, and I worry about them. And most days, I chafe to get out and just run a simple errand. But I was able to come up with some things:

Seeing my neighbor’s toddler ignore the tiny bicycle and pick up rocks instead.

Expressing appreciation to the folks working at the grocery stores.

Wearing t-shirts every day.

Not wearing makeup.

Getting up five minutes before a morning meeting and no one noticing.

Having virtual writing group meetings.

I’m sure your list will be more inspiring than mine. Still it doesn’t matter what’s on it, as long as it cheers you up.