Last year a friend of mine loaned me Daniel Coyle’s The Talent Code, which explored how talent and excellence are developed. There was a section about a prestigious music camp where the attendees cut up their sheet music and practiced it differently. Always game to try something that might help me progress, I made copies of several of the pieces I wanted to memorize on the piano, making sure to mark each measure with key signatures if they were different than the main one or to note if they had been moved to a different clef, before I cut them up into single measures, and placed the pieces in a small ziplock bag. I placed each piece I wanted to learn in a manilla envelope according to its key signature. On days when I am doing well (okay, well for me, as in, I’m able to make it downstairs by myself and still have some energy left over- it’s been a rough month), I grab a manilla envelope, do exercises in that particular key, then pull out a ziplock bag and play its contents three random measures at a time until I can play each of the measures accurately. If I’m way tired I skip the exercises and only play a few measures total, put them back into the bag, give myself points for being persistent in my goals and dreams even on difficult days, and walk away happier.
This method is helping me memorize the music better, even though it’s all mixed up. There are a few reasons for this:
One, it keeps me from feeling overwhelmed, especially when it comes to pieces that are above my current abilities. Even on a really tough song, if you work on it one measure at a time, it’s likely something that you can do.
Two, I do try to play the tough parts of a song first, but if a small part of the music is only slightly off, I tend to blunder through it to the end because a) I’m impatient and b) I like playing music all the way through. Note: that’s playing, not practicing. Practicing one to three random measures at a time I always get caught, and I finally put in the focused time and effort in to fix it.
Something cool that sometimes happens when I practice this way is that I inadvertently play a few of the measures upside down. I’m very proud of myself when I catch this right away because it doesn’t sound like the piece. It means that really, I know the piece better than I think I do. Also, I get a kick out of playing upside down for the same reason that I sometimes brush my teeth with my left hand or take a less direct route to a place I need to go- it keeps life fresh and interesting.
You’d think practicing this way would permanently jumble the piece up in your brain, but amazingly, it doesn’t. My brain seems to take extra pains to put it back together the way it is supposed to be. I’m not sure if this would happen if I had never heard the piece before, but I’m learning these pieces because I like them, so that hasn’t been an issue for me.
My circumstances force me to work in small pieces or not at all. For those of you where this is not the case, you might give it a try anyway and see where it takes you. Break something you want to learn down into small pieces that can be accomplished in a matter of minutes and then tackle those pieces. According to Daniel Coyle, that’s how the best of the best do it whether it’s in sports or music or chess or- really any place where brain meets life.
I know you are dying to try this yourself, because the word obambulation itself is ridiculously fun and satisfying to enunciate, so I’ll get straight to it, although getting straight to it isn’t what obambulation is really about. Obambulation is the act of walking and wandering back and forth and about. I know I usually feel better after obambulating my way through libraries, museums, grocery stores and the like- and I know for a fact that I am not the only one. Perhaps that is why there is a special word for it.
To me obambulation seems to be about taking time. It’s the kind of walking you do when you are thinking and puzzling things out. It’s the kind of walking you do when you are absentminded, uncertain, happy, or in love… Like this chap, who demonstrates it so well in a delightful song that also happens to begin with the letter “O”.
My family is scattered across two continents, so staying close can be a real challenge for us. One way my family connects is through learning. This past week, four of the women in my family began taking a free Child Nutrition and Cooking class on Coursera, taught by Stanford professor Dr. Maya Adam, together. We watch the lectures and complete our assignments at our convenience, and then talk about them and whatever else happens to be on our minds via a group email. Already one of the young, worrisomely-picky eaters in our family is eating better with less of a fight. Score! I can’t recommend this class highly enough, even if you don’t have children but simply want to live and eat better. It’s upbeat, informative, and down-to-earth practical, and because it has thousands of students participating worldwide, you are able to find a wealth of recipes and perspectives in the forums. Watching some of the supplementary videos on metabolism and digestion this afternoon, I really wish I had been able to see them before I took my physiology class. Of course, it was because I’ve been baffled regularly in my physiology class that I recognized and zeroed in on words and processes that I wouldn’t have cared much about a few months ago. That aside, Dr. Adam explains things incredibly well, providing several clever ways of seeing and remembering what she is teaching you. It isn’t too late to sign up if you are interested, and it is totally free to participate. Don’t worry if you don’t have time or the will to complete everything that is a part of the class. Coursera is okay with you participating as you can. I love no-guilt learning.
For those more interested in nutrition as it relates to adults, Coursera has an introductory nutrition class taught by Jaime Pope of Vanderbilt University that started this week as well. The Vanderbilt class is more of a time commitment because it goes into greater depth over a longer period of time. I love how the professor mentioned in this class that over half of the American population believes that it is easier to figure out their taxes, than it is to know how to eat healthy. With so much information and conflicting information out there, it can be difficult to know who and what to believe. I read and study about positive health practices on my own, but there is something special about being able to learn more about these things in a class setting, studying and interacting with others.
Personally I believe one of the best ways to improve your nutrition is to aim for “healthier”, rather than “healthy” or “healthiest”. There is a great deal of intelligent (and let’s be honest, not-so-intelligent) debate over what is healthy and healthiest, but I think it’s fair to say that nearly everyone knows of at least one way they can be healthier- like swapping water for a soda every once in a while, or adding an extra serving of vegetables to your typical dinner, or eating off a slightly smaller plate. If we actually did that one simple thing that we already know is better for us, we would be a success. It may take months or years to become the healthiest we can be, but it only takes a few minutes for us to become healthier than we were an hour before. Do that one thing. Then, when that one thing has become an established habit that you don’t have to sweat or even think about anymore, do that one other thing you know will get you even healthier. It’s that simple.
So why take a nutrition class? Because healthy attitudes and lifestyles can be caught. Hang around a place where people genuinely care about their health and well-being and a little of their enthusiasm, knowledge, and resolve is bound to rub off on you. Also, if you’re like me, it gives you something to blog about, email about, think about, and bond over… I guess I’m a little weird that way… but watch out- I’m also slightly contagious. *wink*
“I was born in Warsaw, Poland, in 1935. The Warsaw blitz occurred in 1939, when I was four years old. I remember streets caving in, buildings burning or crumbling to dust, and a bomb falling into the stairwell of our apartment building.”
It was these words and the ones that followed them in the back of Uri Shulevitz’s How I Learned Geography that kept his story in my head for days after I first read it. I have strong interests in WWII, Poland, and how people move forward from difficult experiences. This book addressed all three in a way I found incredibly moving. You can listen to the author/illustrator discuss his book briefly here.
The story depicts the magic that enters this young refugee’s life in the form of a map his father buys for him one day instead of bread- as in, the purchase of the map meant that the whole family went to bed hungry that night. I don’t think most of us understand what that is really like. We take so many things for granted.
There were times when my family didn’t have much. There was a time in my life when my parents couldn’t afford shoes, but I was never as destitute as Uri was. I was blessed in the books and globes and maps I had access to because my dad was a teacher. One of my brother’s and my favorite games to occupy ourselves while my dad graded papers was to take the old globe he had and spin it with our eyes closed. We would take turns reaching out one finger and running it gently across the whirling sphere until the spinning stopped. Wherever in the world our finger ended up, that was the place we traveled to together in our imaginations.
GPSs are convenient in many ways, but I think there is something special that happens when you sit down with a map and simply allow yourself to absorb and explore all the wealth it has to offer.
Like Uri, maps, more than once, have lifted me out of my surroundings into a magical world of exotic locations, colors, tastes, textures, and possibilities, which is why, when I felt slightly imprisoned in my life recently, I turned to maps for a little freedom.
I haven’t been able to do ballet for awhile. I still need to exercise as often as I can in order to keep the use of my hands and legs. I was banned from walking outdoors after I had a heart episode that left me in a bad way on a walking trail that took forty minutes for my family to find me on. My mom’s edict regarding the subject is understandable and justified. Lucky us, we have a treadmill. Unlucky me, I happen to find walking on treadmills to be one of the most mind-numbing, soul-crushing ways to exercise.
Walking on a treadmill is safe and effective, and when you walk on a treadmill and you get too tired or your heart acts up, you simply step off, and you’re already home and there’s a couch waiting for you to rest on and the weather is never a problem. There was still a massive problem for me, however- walking on a treadmill doesn’t GET you anywhere and, unlike ballet and ice skating, walking doesn’t get me out of my head (unless I’m walking with a friend or walking outside).
Something had to be done.
I went to Google Maps and charted a walk across Europe, tracking the miles between small towns and landmarks and making a plan. I would use the miles I walked on the treadmill to take me to places I’d always wanted to go. Each time I reached a town or a landmark, I would study something about it. It was the closest thing I could manage to being there.
So I started in Killarney, Ireland and walking, even on a treadmill, became a joyful experience for me because my mind was focused on somewhere beautiful and fascinating. I found myself pushing a little harder to reach each destination a bit sooner so I could “discover” it on the internet.
I told my sister about it one day and she decided she wanted to play and walk the way with me from several states away. I started emailing her about the places we were seeing and the people we were meeting along the way. She loved it. She shared our “travels” with her husband. He was interested in it too, and wanted to do it as well. I shared our excitement with a friend, who, it turned out, had family roots in Ireland and had always wanted to visit the Old Country herself. Could she come along? Certainly.
And that is how this imprisoned princess walked her way out of a dark cave, bypassing a cruel, unmerciful dragon, out into the sunlight where she met up with family and friends who were ready for a little adventure and a lengthy journey in their lives.
Maps have the power to transport you to wonderful, magical places. Uri’s father understood this. Thankfully, my loved ones do too.
I failed swimming lessons three times. My brother just younger than I, was all fish. We both had to keep swimming until finishing at least one year of swim team. My parents made this rule for several reasons. One, we lived in Southern California and my parents wanted us to be safe in the water (my parents’ had friends who had lost children to drowning). Two, swim team was an inexpensive way to keep us occupied, fit, and to wear us out over summer. So I swam on the community swim team. Outside of the butterfly stroke, I would come out of every competition last, last, last. (Unless another swimmer false started.)
Oh! the humiliation, right? Perhaps. But I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing to have to struggle your way through something you are not naturally good at, and where, even after years of effort, you still come in last- because even if you are last, you still get there.
So I’m not a champion swimmer. I can still enjoy being in a pool or the ocean. I learned enough to be able to help teach my youngest siblings how to swim, and to be able to keep them safe as they did so. Swimming doesn’t scare me. What a blessing that is.
I’m a punctual person. I actually prefer being early. I like being the same way in all aspects of my life, but, as you can see, my posts are late. Everyone else at ABC Wednesday is currently up to the letter “P”! Ideal? No, but I don’t want to miss out on the joy of exploring all of the letters. So, barring another serious bout of illness, the plan is to write a little more each week, hopefully catching up before “Z”.
I didn’t use to be able to be this tranquil about this type of thing- born perfectionist, you see- but I reached a point in college where I was faced with a tremendous difficulty: I could finish, not up to my standards, or I could add “college degree” to a list of things I would accomplish someday, but only if I could do it “adequately” (as in, with an “A”). I chose to do my best with what I had at the time. I continue to make that choice every day.
Because of that, while I’m hopelessly behind in physiology, I successfully completed an online class in physics. Me, in physics?! Ready for even more of a shock? I loved it! And guess what? I’m still learning a great deal in physiology, even without being able to pass it this time.
Here is where a really interesting aspect of learning comes into play. Introductory classes can be some of the hardest. Why? Because everything is new. You are given loads and loads of information, with not a lot of time to find a good place to store it correctly. Tests can be like last minute clean-up at home for company: the beds may be made and the dishes may be clean, but if you didn’t have a lot of time, there’s bound to be a box, a drawer, or a closet that would scare the monster out from under your bed, clean out of there! When that kind of stress is continuous, you tend to get ill-tempered. Then, if it goes on significantly after that, I don’t know about you, but my brain goes on vacation. That’s how pencils end up in the refrigerator and milk ends up in the cupboard. It can be amusing if you think about it, but it can also be a mighty chaotic mess.
Do you know what one of the perks of being willing to submit to this kind of stress and chaos a second time is? Even if you blew it the first time, the second time around you’ll recognize some things. “Oh yeah,” you might say to yourself as you take a minute to sift through your brain’s junk drawer. “A-ha!” you crow triumphantly, as you grasp hold of a fact, idea, or a concept, knowing it for the first time. “I knew there was something like that in here!” And guess what? Now you have a better idea of its usefulness and where it should go. It’s like installing a closet rail in your consciousness that other cool learning can now hang on. If ideas and facts are like your clothes, you now have the option of keeping them neat and organized up where you can see them and where they are easily accessible, rather than mussed and hidden over and under each other in a massive pile on the floor. It’s LIBERATING!
Even an imperfect encounter with physiology has blessed my life in so many ways. I explained it to two dear friends of mine in this way:
I’m hopelessly behind in my online physiology class, but I keep hacking at it as I can. Last week I finally managed to watch all the lectures on the heart, which I knew would bring up a lot of issues for me. It was super-hard and I cried a lot, but I learned something important that is helping to take some of the bitterness away.
I think I’ve told you both that one of the hardest things about this whole business was the heart damage that came in large part because I was not treated the way I was supposed to be. Had I been a sixty-year-old man, it is likely that my first EKG at the age of 13 would have been taken seriously. As it was, according to most of the doctors I encountered as a teen, teenage girls did not have heart problems; we were pregnant, had heartburn, or were seeking attention.
These doctors didn’t just upset me. The comments and manner of doctors like them disturbed my first heart surgeon because he was a Christlike man. He listened to their rude comments about their teenage girl patients and noticed that the stories and the symptoms were remarkably alike. He began to study those patterns and discovered that what was troublesome for these teens was becoming deadly by their early twenties. I was one of his early patients after this discovery. He used my records, along with the others, to help teach and train cardiologists and heart surgeons… The problem with us early ones, is that what could have been fixed with minor measures if it had been caught and taken seriously early, had already done too much damage for us to ever really be healthy, even after multiple surgeries.As I watched the lectures on the enlarging of portions of the heart, and why it happens, I began to think about some of the damage that was done to my heart a little differently. My heart damaged itself in order to keep me living. It is one of the heart’s ways of compensating to make sure the important organs keep getting the blood that they need under less than ideal circumstances. My heart was damaged because it was being heroic, trying to save me. And it has.
The chemical elements and processes that make hearts beat and muscles move still baffle me, and if you quizzed me, you’d quickly find me incredibly ignorant in oh-so-many things. But “failing” this class was hardly a waste of the time and energy that I’ve been able to give it. This class has opened my eyes to some of the many marvels about the body that I previously did not know enough about to appreciate. With that appreciation came the blessing of perspective in how I view and treat myself, and hence, how in the future, I will also treat others.
Knowing about the wonder of the human body doesn’t guarantee compassion. I’ve been around too many doctors in too many hospitals to believe that. But for those doctors who choose to see it as a wonder, who make a conscious decision to pay attention to what seems trivial or doesn’t make sense, who listen, and who never stop learning or trying, compassion and miracles do happen. I experienced it in two operating rooms: one in a burn unit in Georgia, the other in California where a heart surgeon who valued all life as wondrous and precious, helped save mine.
I am so grateful for people who value some things above being first and early. Here’s to all of you who, for a good cause, are willing to be last and late, and who never stop learning.
I love gardens- the kind other people work to make and (lucky me!) I get to visit and wander through. Gardening myself? Not so much… until now.
Traditional gardening is hard for me. Working in the heat exacerbates my heart problem, I have allergies, I’m not that fond of bugs, and with limited uptime, I prefer to spend my energy in other ways doing other things. I kinda bite at gardening, except for the time we lived in Fresno (where you can grow practically anything without having a clue about what you are doing- the plants love the place so much!). Fresno spoiled me for gardening anywhere else; anywhere else making me work too hard for a few weeks of hope and a brief patch of green that rains rotted, the sun baked and burnt, or the squirrels and bugs ate before my plants were ready for me. But being in bed for long periods of time makes my list of things I want to do grow disproportionately, along with the belief in my ability to actually do them, given half the chance.
It turns out that half a chance is all you need to do kitchen-scrap gardening.
It was this post on growing celery from the part you normally throw away that first got me thinking, “Hey, I can do that.” I had celery. I had a custard cup, water, and a windowsill. I had two minutes uptime. To my delight, it grew. Once it grew it took me five minutes to plant in the back, tops. Five minutes I can do. It takes a few seconds to water every few days. A few seconds every few days I can do.
Success breeds… more projects. I noticed our fancy lettuce had a similar base to the celery. “What am I out?” I thought. “If it works, fabulous. If not, I was going to throw the ends out anyway.” Guess what? It worked. Well, on three of the five ends anyway. And out they went to join the celery, which still takes only a few seconds to water, even with the new additions.
Kitchen scrap gardening is no-guilt gardening because anything that grows is bonus- you’ve enjoyed the fruit or vegetable it came from already. It’s way easy, it’s very inexpensive, and it’s downright exciting. After the celery and lettuce successes I took to planting anything I fancied in tomato and berry packages that conveniently had drainage holes and lids: instant greenhouse. Most of it grew- popcorn kernels, red pepper seeds, mango.
It’s the mango that’s been the coolest. I looked for advice on how to plant it on YouTube and found directions on opening the case to reveal the mango seed with a butter knife. I did not stab myself, but I did puncture the seed accidentally (which you are not supposed to do). I planted it anyway. (What was I out, really?) For a few weeks it didn’t look like it was doing anything. It was planted in a nice “greenhouse” that I could use for something else. I pulled the seed up. It had grown a root. A very cool root. A root so cool that I couldn’t not show it to anybody who happened to be around when I was thinking about it, or to examine it all by myself. My mom told me I was going to kill it. I started to behave myself and left it alone for awhile, but even if it had died, it had given me a ton of joy and I wouldn’t have felt cheated in any way- I had learned so much through the experience.
The mango lived. It grew. It sprouted. It unfurled leaves.
I love my mango plant. It reminds me of what I try to be: someone who in stressful and less than ideal conditions sends out roots, tries repeatedly, and blooms anyway.
(Just so you know, my brother-in-law dried a mango case, cracked it open easily, and sprouted his mango in water. Don’t be afraid to experiment and see what takes and what doesn’t. Nature will surprise you with its resilience, sometimes in direct proportion with your own. Besides, growing something tends to help grow you too. )
I’ve not been doing well this week so my post for ABC Wednesday will of necessity be brief (and I probably will not be able to respond to your comments). Never fear, however, I come sharing some moments that bring me joy in one of my favorite Judy Garland movies. (My all-time favorite being Presenting Lily Mars. Judy Garland and Van Heflin are marvelous together in it and Spring Byington is pure delight- reminding my sister and me of our own beloved Momma.)
If you want to know what I looked like when I was learning to ice dance and what I look like now when I am able to make it to my beginning ballet class (minus the additional mirror-induced left-right chaos), you need look no further than this:
And for those of you who desperately want to please those around you at the expense of who you really are, here is a jocular reminder that by trying so to do, we often end up looking and feeling more or less like this:
When really, the best love happens when we give others the opportunity to truly know and love us, for us. Like here:
Have a joyous Wednesday!
One of the hardest parts of having a series of heart episodes is not the pain or the exhaustion, it’s the inertia. (You know, that principle that an object at rest stays at rest.) It isn’t just that you lose the time you’re down; it’s that it takes a while to get back up and into the swing of things again. Practice, however, makes quicker; and I’m learning to become a pro at it.
Once I realized that I was going to be in for a long stretch of bed rest a few weeks ago, I made a decision. I was too sick to read much beyond a few minutes, but I desperately needed a distraction when it hurt too much to sleep. Solution? I started listening to college lectures on subjects that interested me, pausing them when I felt myself starting to drift to sleep. The internet is a modern marvel that way. So is my local library that allows digital checkouts.
I also continued my project to trace my way through an anatomy coloring book for med students that I picked up at my sister’s university bookstore. I traced one small section after another after another over a period of weeks, working my way through cells and various forms of tissue. Why? you might ask. For several reasons.
One, I want to improve my ability to draw. Masters have imitated and copied other masters for centuries. Masters like da Vinci also studied anatomy.
Two, I want to have a better understanding of, and more control of, my body.
Three, studying the way the human body is put together and how it works makes me more grateful for mine, even when it isn’t working correctly. With all of the things that go wrong, there are still an amazing number of things that go right, each and every day, without me consciously thinking about them.
A friend of mine who suffers from a chronic, sometimes life-and-death medical condition, understands this also. In fact, to our surprise, we found out that we have each been studying anatomy on our own for the past few months, in large part, for that third reason. It’s been a huge blessing for both of us.
Now my friend was a science major in college, so her version of studying anatomy was actually taking a college course in physiology. In case you don’t know the difference- physiology is much, much harder. How do I know this? Because while I was looking for college lectures to listen to I came across a site that offers college-level classes taught online by professors from places like Duke and Stanford Universities, for free. ( https://www.coursera.org/courses in case you are wondering.)
They had this course coming up this summer called Exercise Physiology: Understanding the Athlete Within, that looked super-interesting. What did I need in order to take it? A course in physiology, which Coursera was offering; the only issue being it had started in late February. As my mom would mention once she discovered what I had done, I have had to catch up on university classes loads of times before. I missed the first week of my studies at UC Santa Barbara when my dad died and several weeks during other semesters because of my heart acting out, partial paralysis, and internal bleeding. There are benefits to having such a history- it helps to kill excuses.
You’d think being stuck in bed would kill goals and aspirations, but with me, it tends to heighten and expand the dreams I want to pursue, which is why I didn’t just sign up for physiology, I signed up for a physics class for non-physicists too. Also late. But part of the class was on the physics of skating. Think of that- a way for me to understand and progress in skating while I get myself back to being able to do the stairs at home on my own regularly again.
These classes are a huge challenge for me. Science is not my area of expertise. But even though it’s hard, and even though I still have to study in short bursts, resting a lot in between, in two days I’ve completed the first week in both classes and I’m making my way steadily through the second. If I can be patient with my pacing, but diligent, I should be up with the rest of the class in time for the first big test next week. That’s my goal. Now understanding everything… probably not going to happen. But those little tracings from the anatomy book I’ve been doing for weeks? They laid a foundation for me that I’ve been able to build on. When a professor has talked about Golgi, I’ve known what it looks like and where it is located because I traced it. Knowledge comes in little pieces and little steps. No learning is wasted.
In high school I had a teacher who told me that you haven’t really lived until you’ve failed a college-level class. Accelerated Chinese was nearly that class for me, but according to my high school teacher’s standard, I haven’t really lived yet.
Physiology may be that really-living class for me. I think that’s great. Coming from where I’m at, even if I fail, I can’t fail in learning a ton of things. I already have. They’ve made me grateful for the wonders of my body, excited to learn more, and they are helping me to live the second portion of the principle of inertia: an object (or person) in motion, stays in motion.
That’s my secret to recovery. Even when I’m only awake for a few minutes at a time, I use that time to think about things, especially small ways I can do something to build a strong foundation for my dreams. My brain’s in motion. Like Scooby-Doo in the old cartoons, my legs may whirl frantically in place for a bit, but as soon as my body catches up with my brain, I take off!
Remember, even small acts keep you in motion. Once you’re in motion, it’s easier to stay that way. Pick a direction. Keep thinking. Keep dreaming. Keep moving. Leap when a great opportunity presents itself. It isn’t failing when you do. It’s living. Really living.
This post is part of ABC Wednesday.
When I was a little girl I read voraciously. I thought that if I read enough, and studied enough, when I was young, by the time I was an adult I wouldn’t have to make mistakes. I’d already know how to handle everything.
I remember one day when I was in elementary school and my dad was trying to get me to do something that I didn’t want to do. This was no easy feat for either of my parents- I was a very strong-willed child. My dad, trying to be wise, attempted to use tactics from one of his college psychology books on me. “I read the book that came from,” I informed him calmly, “and it isn’t going to work. I know what you are doing.”
My dad looked at me dumbfounded. Poor Dad, none of his psychology books had prepared him for a child who would read his psychology and child development books for fun as a kid.
I didn’t necessarily understand what I read. Looking back, a lot of things that I read at that time went over my head- but I certainly tried. I remember taking a biography I was reading to my mom and, pointing to a word, asking her what it meant. She looked at the word and told me it meant ignorant. What a fabulous word! I thought. I immediately set out to put it to good use. There was one slight problem, however. When I had pointed to the word, I should have asked her how to pronounce it correctly first.
For weeks that word was my favorite word and I used it commensurately. That is, until my mom called me over to her one afternoon while I was playing with my brothers and the neighborhood kids. “Melanie?” she asked, “Why do you keep calling everyone knave?” “Because they are, Mom,” I replied. “Are what?” she asked. “Nave,” I answered. Obviously.
“Melanie,” she asked me gently, “What does knave mean?” I came closer to her and lowered my voice conspiratorially as I answered, “You know, Mom. You told me when I showed it to you in the book. It means ignorant.” She stood puzzled for a moment. Then it hit her. “Naive, Melanie. It’s pronounced NY-eve.”
You know how they say that every time you point at somebody else you have three fingers pointing back at you? Yeah. Guilty. I haven’t used that word outside of telling that story ever since.
Something I’ve had a harder time letting go of, is the expectation that reaching adulthood would make me all-powerful and wise; that I could stop making mistakes by mid-to-late adolescence. Yeah. That didn’t happen.
Last November I was walking the mile from the apartment to campus to meet my sister after her last class. It was a gloriously beautiful day, one of those days when it is easy to pray because in order to take all the loveliness in, your soul just naturally has to spill out. It was on that walk, when I was looking up into the sky through the spire-like branches of a tree, sharing all the random bits and pieces of thought that were spilling out of me as I prayed in my heart to Heavenly Father, when I felt him talking to me.
“Do you know what your problem is, Melanie?” he prompted. That caught my attention and I was listening, really listening. He then replied, “Your problem is you want to be an angel.” I considered it for a moment. “Yes! You’re right,” I told him excitedly. I felt his tender love for me as he continued, “But you’re not here to be an angel, Melanie,” he told me gently, “You’re here to be human.”
I haven’t forgotten that. I remind myself of that moment often, especially on the days when I am struggling with my all-too-real and inevitable humanness.
It’s comforting in a way. Certainly I’d like to get everything right the first time around- life is so much easier that way (and probably much more pleasant for those I live and interact with). But that is way beyond my current abilities. The best I can do, now, is to give it my best shot each day and learn and grow through my mistakes. Because I will make them. It comes with being human.
This post is part of ABC Wednesday.
When life gets me down and I want to quit, I can delve into my genealogy and come up with a family story that helps me to do difficult things and keep going. I don’t know of any time period in the history of the world that hasn’t been challenging in some way, which means that even if it requires some digging on your part, several generations back, if you look, you are bound to find a story of a family member of your own who can inspire you. This story belongs to my grandfather.
At the beginning of WWII, the ship that my grandfather was serving on was bombed directly in the front and the back, and attacked by a kamikaze pilot (who was shot down just before he hit the ship). Because of the extent of the damage, the ship should have sunk. The Japanese declared it sunk. Newspapers all over the world declared it sunk. My grandfather’s family held memorial services for him.
But the ship wasn’t sunk. Several members of the crew did die, but for those left, they bailed water. They bailed water with buckets and anything they could get their hands on, and the ship that was declared sunk on good authority and for valid reasons, sailed anyway. In newspapers throughout the world the day they announced the fall of Corregidor, when things looked particularly bleak for the allies, many of them carried a story alongside about a ship that had been declared sunk, but had sailed into harbor in the United States.
My grandfather left me the legacy that even if people in authority and with good reasons declare you sunk, you bail water and you do what few, if any, believe you can do. When I get discouraged and want to give up, I remember that story. His life taught me that Boudwins bail water and we don’t stop until Heavenly Father says so.
This post is part of ABC Wednesday.