It’s okay not to win

“I need some time with my favorite cheerleader,” he said.

My friend had been having a discouraging patch at his high school teaching job in a disadvantaged area. These tough kids weren’t listening AT ALL.

“They keep asking to go to the bathroom. My class is only an hour and a half long. They can hold it! They start getting up without permission and I have to go over the rules again…”

I have been reading a book: Executive Presence.  The author talks about how important it is to present yourself properly, and how to command a room.

It is focussed on women. She gives a statistic that people are more confident in women who wear a lot of makeup.

I have to wear more makeup?

It can be challenging to keep your appearance right in a male-centric environment. One female orchestra conductor was describing how careful she is to wear the right clothing to cover her backside as she leads her orchestra through their music.

“It’s important to get it right” she says. They she sighs and adds, “I just don’t ‘know any women who do.”

Oh.

Is that how it is?

What game are we playing, in which we are supposed to meet a standard that no one can model proficiency in?

I was listening to my friend, a male teacher describe how he was re-iterating the rules for his unruly student. I heard his frustration and desperation.

“Wait, wait…” I said. “They know the rules. Every time you re-explain the rules  you are playing their game.”

“What?”

“Yeah! They know they rules! They know they aren’t supposed to get out of their seats and that they have to wait their turn.

But in their world it they have seen it demonstrated again and again that they have no power. Those teenagers don’t have any of the levers of power. Their parents don’t even have any power. These kids are sure that the best they can hope for is a fifteen dollar an hour job at Home Depot, and that’s if they are lucky.

So what can they do?

There is no point to making the effort to learn how to program a computer, That’s hard, AND a big risk for looking like a fool.  I can understand that they want to avoid that.

So they poke at you to make you dance. They don’t have much power, but they can drive you crazy. And when they make you repeat stuff they already know, every second you spend re-explaining the dumb rules they already know– they have power.  THEY changed their environment.”

I could hear him pausing on the phone line, seeing the picture I was painting.

I continued, “Spend the least possible amount of time re-telling they what they know. Yeah, they are not going to stop pulling the stupid stunts, but you don’t have to engage. Bring it back around to your game.

Talk about how coding makes their world better, and that they CAN do it.”

It’s really easy to fall into the mud hole that someone sets up. It even feels like you’re doing the right thing. Sometimes we are.

Life and learning is messy. People, relationships and the doing of things are all muddy and sloppy.

The mess comes with. .It’s a rare day that has none.

So the female conductor who is trying to find the right shoes and outfit to keep people from paying attention to her butt probably needs to come to terms with the reality that her butt will always be with her. People will always see it.

“It’s important to get it right. I just don’t know any women who do.”

I would suggest it’s important to try to get it right, while realizing that it’s the work of SIsyphus. You will not achieve the goal.

And the students will never stop poking and trying to make my teacher-friend dance to their tune.

You have to get it right.

And you never will.

And it’s important to keep trying.

 

Solitude

esoteric fraternity

Gene

Julliard composer

ALONE

spoke with him, and he was alone

In the hills  of california s met the last living member of a new-age society started after the Civil War. They had a patch of beautiful land and crumbling buildings. I understand that their beliefs included racists elements, and I never had a chance to explore what any of their faith pillars were.

I knew of it because the father in law from my doomed first marriage would hide out there when his wife would kick him out. She kicked him out because he was a drug addict. She loved him, and if his drugs could have behaved themselves, she probably would have let him stay. She would kick him out after he stole her car or other fence-able items to turn into drugs.

And he’d go to this hide-away. He would do repairs around their campus. He’d also brought his Vietnam buddy to the spot. That guy lived their permanently, because he’d divorced his wife and wanted the seclusion to compose music. He was a Julliard-trained pianist and was working on his next masterpiece.

We went to the community to look for Dad sometimes, and he wasn’t always there. Drug addicts can be hard to pin down. I met the one surviving member of what had once been a thriving community, who did not like to talk with others much.

And I met Mr. Julliard. He talked all day. It was a torrent of conversation. He was fascinating and told me all about his music, with it’s motifs. He talked about his family and his thoughts and said “I haven’t talked to anyone in weeks.”

Then went on to explain in detail about how seldom people actually talk with him.

I think of him every time I find myself realizing I’ve dominated a conversation

I takl to people. My last cell phone bill (which I use mostly for work) had 16 pages of phone call details. Yes, I talk a lot.

But yesterday I had the chance to talk about some stuff i never talk about at work. And there was some pent up energy for sure.

inarticulate

I worked very diligently to learn Russian when I was there.

When I returned to America, I studied Russian in college. But college had to take a backseat, and I didn’t have anyone to talk to.

So. It’s been more than 25 years since I had someone to speak Russian with.

But yesterday, I was swept into a party with Russian people. And they all spoke Russian. And I remembered that I could understand it, and I really wanted to be able to speak it again.

I did…Just enough for them to believe me that I knew a little bit. And my very fond dream came true:

A lovely woman said she would have tea and speak Russian with me.

One on one, that made it a lot more serious. I couldn’t just lurk. It was time to break out the declensions.

I was never good at the declensions.

But there we were, sipping tea from Lomonosov china, and I was stumbling around for words, verbs and prepositions to talk about my life.

My head felt like it was lifting something very heavy.

My tongue felt stiff and unwieldy.

That’s the word for “language” in Russian. Tongue. So I language and my tongue didn’t work.

I had put an obstacle in my way.

I’m very good with language. English.

I am very awkward with Russian.

I don’t even try with any other languages.

Russian is my language of choice to be bad at. And as I gave myself the hurdle of this language to try to talk about myself, I had to come to terms with the fact that i looked really stupid.

I couldn’t express a thought. Every single preposition was wrong.

Have you ever thought about prepositions? They are some of the hardest working words in any language. Where to, What for, beyond that and with whom are basic and necessary concepts I was grappling with.

Have I lost you already? i acknowledge, very few human being find grammar fun. Poets and linguists and not all of them.

That was not the point. After I said goodbye to my speaking partner, I was so happy to have achieved my long desire. I had found someone willing to speak Russian with me! And I was appallingly bad at it.

God bless her, she corrected all my endings. Not everyone has the patience to do that.

And as i walked the dog, I wondered what she thought of me. I stumbled through introducing myself and telling my story.

Did I sound like an idiot? Did my life make any sense?

These questions could have been appropriate even if I had used my native language.

But I realized as hard and humiliating as it was, it was worth it. All new endeavors require a willingness to be bad at what you are attempting.

This is the challenge I want to attempt. But any challenge I tried would have the same cost.

In order to get better at anything, I have to come to terms with the fact that I’m not as good as I’d like to be.

And I might even be a complete inept nincompoop.

It helps to come to terms with that on purpose. Because i stumble into ineptitude on accident all the time. Walking up to it intentionally is pretty badass.

I plan to make a point of being foolish in something for the rest of my life.

 

Know the Territory

I’ve spent a lot of time in my career, talking people through fixing technology that I can’t see.

I’ve had to work with people all over America and in other countries too. China, Japan, South Africa, Dubai.

I had to get all the stuff working together at the same exactly time. I was the one that had to answer the questions of WHY it didn’t do what we needed it to do so that it would all sync and connect.

How was *I* supposed to know what was wrong in all those corners of the world?

I had to know the territory.

Which is to say, I had an inventory of all the equipment in each of those places. And I knew what each of them were supposed to look like, which cables were plugged into what and what color lights were supposed to blink in what sequence.

I had to know that for each and every single system in all the different countries. And I did. And we could make the stuff work.

Because I knew exactly what each person was experiencing in their room across the world when I talked to them on the phone and asked about the colors of the blinking lights.

My husband had a reason to drive across the country last week–from long island back to California. It was a straight shot, meant to cover distance as fast as possible.

He made one stop. As a person interested in American history, he wanted to see the battleground for Shiloh.

“The battle was chaos. Now that I’ve seen the battlefield, I can understand why.”

It wasn’t meant to happen there. The two armies met on accident.

No one would have chosen that spot for a battle. But then it happened anyway.

Both generals did know the territory and wanted nothing to do with it.

When Chris told me about walking the battleground, and how there was nothing distinct–how there were no landmarks and it was very disorienting

When he said that seeing what it was like there, he could understand the histories so much better

I remembered my talks with people from other cities and their technology. How they had to completely trust me about the cables and the lights

And how I had to learn to trust them. How when then described the lights’ colors and what was happening in their room, as crazy as it sounded to me

I had to believe them.

I learned that they were the ones who could see and hear, and I had to learn to trust them as if they were my eyes.

If we worked together, we could always find the answer to get synched.

But if I didn’t believe them, we would waste a lot of time. I had to know their territory through their eyes and their voices.

Which is not the same as walking the ground myself. And seeing how the land lies.

 

 

 

the box for the gift

I’ve learned from improv that every bit of infomation is a gift.

And that the most valuable kind of inforamtion is basic.

Who what when where

AND

the relationship

because who, what when and where I am doesn’t matter unless I know how it matters to you

I am a wife and mother in 2019 in Claremont California

Or

I am a wife and a mother during the rainiest winter of my daughter’s life in Claremont California.

OR

I am a wife and mother in 2019 in the town with the last traditional-style liberal arts college.

Or

I am a wife and mother at the beginning of the twenty first century in America

…I am stretching out each part of the gift and I haven’t even gotten to the part about being a wife and mother

When I am writing, I guess the facts and the relationship are between the words and what they mean to the reader, how the reader starts making relationships between the facts

In improv, the relationship can be between two people.
But the writer is alone, or at least alone until someone comes along to keep the writing company by reading it.

So i guess I’d better be clear in my mind, what relationships i want to present to the reader

once the relationships are established, the rest can ride.

what I’ve read this year

Thank It’s march. Two months into the year

 

I’ve read

  1. The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett
  2. Looking for Alaska by john Green
  3. Skyward
  4. The age of Miracles
  5. A Hat full of Sky
  6. Crazy Rich Asians
  7. An American Marriage
  8. The Sellout
  9. Germinal
  10. Warbreaker
  11. Where the Crawdads Sing
  12. Less
  13. The Proud Tower
  14. A distant Mirror
  15. Two Years before the mast
  16. The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt
  17. Executive Presence
  18. Armada
  19. The Republic
  20. Common Sense
  21. Snowflower and the Secret Fan
  22. Is everyone Hanging out without me?
  23. What do you care what  other people think Feynman
  24. Big Pototential
  25. Gentleman in Moscow
  26. The immortal life of henrietta Lacks
  27. A mind at home with itself by Byron Katie
  28. THe Voyage of the Beagle
  29. The Rithmatist
  30. the power of habit
  31. the book thief
  32. bossy-pants
  33. the essential Martin Luther king jr nf
  34. war cross
  35. Girl wash your face
  36. any man
  37. Funny in Farsi
  38. The pleasure of finding things out
  39. the witch of blackbird pond rr
  40. eragon Nf
  41. malinche
  42. eleanor oliphant is completely fine
  43. female persuasion
  44. Complete book of the new sun n/f
  45. scrappy little nobody
  46. meatball sundae
  47. Waiting for Godot
  48. shakespeare by bill Bryson
  49. The face of Battle
  50. the cruel prince
  51. Linchpin
  52.  Big  girls don’t cry
  53. your deceptive mind: a scientific guide to critical thinking skills
  54. theft by finding nf
  55. Being mortal
  56. the subtle art of not giving a f*ck
  57. The art of possibility
  58. Pussy: A reclamation
  59. Daughter of fortune
  60.  In the body of the world
  61. The practice of education nf
  62. Clock dance
  63. little princes
  64. present over perfect nf
  65. You Can read anyone
  66. The Prince
  67. the year of yes
  68. educated
  69. hamilton a revolution
  70. Poetics by Aristotle
  71. alexander Hamilton ron chernow
  72. Animal, Vegetable, MIracle
  73. The art of Being right by Schopenhauer
  74. thinking fast and slow
  75. Silent spring
  76. young men and fire
  77. Titus Andronicus
  78. THE GLOBE NF
  79. narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass
  80. Troublemakers
  81. pilgrims progress rr
  82. the taming of the shrew
  83. dorothy day: the world will be saved by beauty
  84. the wicked king
  85. A model of Christian charity by john Winthrop
  86. The autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
  87. dorothy Day: radical devotion
  88. The Immortalists
  89. Sinners in the hands of an angry god
  90. apple yard
  91. Scarlet letter nf
  92. Rip van winkle and other stories
  93. unshakeable
  94. the mask collector s n/f
  95. Last words
  96. the deerslayrr
  97. The extraordinary life of Sam Hell
  98. The origins of totalitarianism
  99. My Brilliant Friend
  100. renegades
  101. The light princess
  102. The seagull
  103. city of girls
  104. the master and margarita play
  105. good and mad by tebecca traister
  106. The Underground Railroad
  107. the rabbit girls nf
  108. the vindication of the rights of women
  109. The autobiography of Benjamin Franklin RR
  110. Girls Burn Brighter
  111. Eugene  onegin
  112. The adventures of augie March nf
  113. plutarchs lives n/f
  114. the last of the Mohicans
  115. Compassion versus guilt
  116. hunger by Roxane gay
  117. Option B
  118. HIVE NF
  119. the surrender Tree
  120. do more great work
  121. Brazen careerist
  122. 10% happier
  123. whit fragility
  124. dazed and divorced
  125. women who run with the wolves 2x
  126. geek girls rising
  127. verity n/f
  128. Orange is the New Black nf
  1. 30  books, not all of them finished (3/30)

 

 

a story- Boss bobbing his head

I’ve accomplished somehting recently.

I lost 33 pounds. I lost it, then i gained some back then I lost what I gained plus a little more.

I’ve been working on losing some number of pounds since I was a teenager. Do this day, the smell of chocolate slim fast brings me right back to my first year of community college.

There was a hashtag a while back #yesallwomen

the hashtag was meant to be the response to this conversation “Not all men are horrible”

No, not all men are horrible. But all women have met those horrible men and have to watch out for them

And #yesallwomen can apply to even more.

Yes, all women have had a number in mind for what they want to weigh.

So much energy spent on that number. so many thoughts and recriminations and self-flagellation.

I will tell you, since I have lost my 33 pounds I have noticed more attention from men. More lingering gazes. More hugs.

Hmm.

Reminds me of a time…

 

I had just had my baby, and i was still nursing. This was not a time when I felt comfortable or beautiful in my body. Post-pregnancy I had a weird shape, with floppy skin on my stomach and piles of extra flesh on my hips.

Yes, making a life and feeding that life with my body was a revelation. But beautiful I was not.

I was stretching to hit presentable.

Right that same time, things were getting weird at my job. I was so happy to be back in my job, with something to occupy my mind and my time. But next thing I knew my boss was being fired.

Wait, what? What did this mean?

And we had a new boss.

Who is this guy? What’s he going to be like? And how ‘Interim” was this?

He worked in a different building, and i had a reason to go over there one day.

This was a day that I felt like I had tried at failed to be presentable.

To be fair, the skirt would have been a comfortable length if my hips weren’t so wide.

Now, it was shorter than I liked. I felt very lopsided and weird.

This too shall pass.

So I went down to the cafeteria and got some lunch.

As I was getting up to finish, I ran into the the boss.

“Hello!” I said.

“hi, how are you?” he responded.

And his eyes did a long peruse of my body.

His head even made a tiny nod, following his eyes.

This was far beyond the usual check-out move. Time stood still.

WHAT WAS WRONG WITH HIM? I was NOT a candidate for this sort of glance. I was not at all at my best, and what kind of terrible taste did this person have to check thisl lumpy body out?

and he was my new boss!

I excused myself, and like the classic female I am, I ran to the bathroom.

I blinked at the mirror. My eyes wide in shock. Emotionally, my jaw was dropped, and remained so for the rest of the day.

What had just happened?

He wasn’t my boss for much longer. And he never did the head bob ogle again. For the rest of the time that he was my boss, though, I had to wonder how seriously he took my contributions.

He seemed to. But who knows what lurks in the hearts of men?

 

 

Create

I want a project. but I don’t really want a project.

 

I want to create, but I am not really inspired by one thing

I used to feel a strong compulsion. I really wanted to complete the project.

but I feel a faint compulsion.

I want to get on the train of a project, to feel the vision of the thing I want to do.

I’ve had a lot of ideas. And I haven’t followed through, just dilletanting.

I have to pick one.

Maybe the thing I can pick is to go back to blogging every day. Or at least several times a week.

I want to start this moving. I have a lot of things rolling around in my head

Eleanor Roosevelt

This woman, as she was first lady of the united states, maintained a daily column.

She was the first mommy blogger.

Really, she wrote about her day, and what was happening in the white house.

Reading her autobiography has been a difference experience than I expected. It’s way more low-key.

Maybe that’s who *she* is. Way more low key that we all expected