Pay attention. I am not kidding. Really.

Month: July, 2014

Odd #2: Getting On With It

photo of flying stork

Mr. Stork has never been high on my list.

You don’t often hear about these blunders in the news. Even our media mavens shy away from exposing this sort of bungling. I, on the other hand, don’t mind at all. In fact, I would very much like to slip into the good old American habit of suing the pants off the responsible blundering, bungling party. I have, instead, tried to be forgiving. It hasn’t always gone well.

The party in question? The Stork – the ignominious one who, 65 years ago, made his drop at a farm three miles from a booming metropolis of a 1,000 people and a good forty miles from our state’s capital, Indianapolis. He overshot a city of around 400,000 by FORTY miles. It boggles the mind.

  • Were his geography professors incompetent?
  • Were they competent, but he wasn’t paying attention during geography classes?
  • Had the Stork School entry exam done a shoddy job of screening out a direction-challenged stork?
  • Had he passed his prime, needed vision correction, and was flying blind?
  • Was he just not paying attention?

That last one seems the only logical choice. I just can’t comprehend how Stork School Supervisors, knowing full well the grave responsibility of training storks for such impactful delivery jobs, could allow any of the other possibilities to occur.

(I’d just like to re-emphasize my profound restraint right here. I don’t have to tell you this is the stuff of which malpractice suits are made.)

When did I know?

By six or seven, I realized something was amiss. By age eight, I was fairly sure things were not as they should be, though my family seemed blissfully ignorant.

By age ten, I realized my concerns weren’t just a little girl’s naive speculations but instead, an undeniably well-founded assessment. I can tell you the exact time of my epiphany. I was sitting in the back of my parents’ ’50 Ford, gazing out the window as Old 40 snaked east through Plainfield and on into Indianapolis. (This was well before I-70 had wantonly cut its four-lane concrete swath across the state.)

We were nearing the Indianapolis city center after a four-month hiatus, and it felt so right, so like home. But, wait, we’d just left “home” 30 minutes ago. No, I argued inside my little-girl head, the city – ANY city, maybe even THIS city – is my home, the place where I truly belong. It was 1958, and it was an aha! pay-attention moment if ever there was one – the unequivocal knowledge that the stork, clearly, had made a mistake. Ever since, I have been sorely tempted to lay the blame for the origins of my stupendous oddity at his pointy-clawed feet.

What’s the pay-attention lesson here?

I am not alone, alas. Plenty of us go through life not having been dealt the hand of cards we think we should have. Suing the pants off The Stork won’t help me. Going through the rest of your life feeling shortchanged about your beginnings on this earth won’t help you either.

The logical choice? Get over it and get on with it. Laugh along with me, as I show you what I mean in Odd #3. (This quote should give you a little hint of what’s to come.)

© 2014, Teresa Bennett

red box with white text: “Trade your expectation for appreciation and the world changes instantly.” – Tony Robbins

(Well-known American life coach dude)

Odd #1: Have some laughs – at my expense.

photo of young woman laughing hysterically while seated in front of her monitor

It’s okay. Laugh with or AT me. I’m over it.

It’s time for unsparing honesty: I am odd beyond belief. Ask anyone who knows me: they’ll agree. I used to be acutely self-conscious about it. Not anymore. I’m over it. Way over it.

Fortunately for most people who’ve known me, this monumental oddity has afforded a good deal of amusement. For them. At my expense. I’m over that, too.

You may remember vague allusions to my colossal oddness on the Start Here page. In the next who-knows-how-many blog posts, I’ll show how even someone as odd as moi can stumble upon pretty decent pay-attention lessons that work for the rest of you – you who are nowhere-near-as-odd. And just remember as we make this journey together, the ability to laugh insanely at ourselves is probably the sanest way to get through life. (A poor substitute is laughing at others’ oddness. I’m certainly not in any position to throw stones at the other odd ones in my world but occasionally, I can’t help myself, as in Odd #18.)

Odd #2 post is already in place. Check it out. It explains a whole lot and contains a pivotal pay-attention tip.

© 2014, Teresa Bennett

red box with white text: “If I were given the opportunity to present a gift to the next generation, it would be the ability for each individual to learn to laugh at himself.” – Charles M. Schulz

America’s beloved creator of Charlie Brown

Making the Most of Your Time

 

photo of two birds on a branch

What do birds have to do with time? Read on.

I’m unapologetically partial to the idiomatic expression – killing two birds with one stone – which probably originated with the Chinese, ever famous for their spot-on and very pithy proverbs.

But let me be clear. Killing two birds – or three or four or five – with one stone should not be confused with multitasking. Killing two birds with one stone is simply solving two problems with a single action.

Multitasking, on the other hand, involves doing many actions, all simultaneously, in hopes of accomplishing at least a couple of them adequately. In my humble opinion, multitasking has been vastly overrated, as it yields shoddy work and a propensity for ADD-like behavior (in people who don’t even have ADD!).

The old idea of accomplishing several goals by doing one single thing, however, has timeless merit. In fact, it’s irretrievably intertwined with the concept of intentional living. When we’ve set our moral compass, composed a set of guidelines for living by that moral compass, and set goals for how we intend to live by those guidelines, we’ve started down the path of intentional living. (Plenty of people we know, though, will try to sabotage our efforts.)

As we go through our days, we pay attention to any and everything all the while keeping our moral compass, life guidelines, and goals clearly in view. When it’s time to act, we’re usually able to combine goals/reasons/projects into one activity thereby making the most of our time. And without much brain drain, I might add.

A concrete example

Since examples run circles around word generalities, here’s a concrete example using three of my goals/life principles: 

  1. Practice inclusivity: help people feel that they belong.
  2. Practice information-gathering. (Check the Gold Nugget series of posts for more on asking questions.)
  3. Practice hospitality: encourage people to feel at home in our home.

Let’s say it appears to me that some new friends of ours are on the periphery of our social circle; they don’t appear to feel very much a part of us. Let’s say they both happen to know a good deal about some subjects about which I’m astonishingly ignorant. Let’s say I invite these new friends, along with some older friends, for a simple home-cooked meal in our home.

See how this is stacking up? By simply inviting them to our home for a meal, I accomplish numbers 1, 2, and 3. I kill three birds with one stone.

Are you thinking, What’s the big deal? I already do this. So do most of us but speaking for just myself, I know I don’t do it enough. I keep plodding on though, paying attention to how many of my goals, projects, tasks, or assignments can be accomplished by one single action. In other words, I’m trying to be intentional about making the most of my time.

By the way, I’m well aware that this old Chinese proverb may not sit well with you bird-lovers. So, check out the one below, courtesy of a TickleBugs site contest, for a kinder, gentler idomatic expression.

Just remember, though, plenty of cultures and generations before us relied on birds for winter protein. This ancient proverb wasn’t referring to the habits of cruel and bloodthirsty juvenile delinquents. Protein from bird meat was a necessity. Check out the Scottish doocot or dovecot, a place constructed solely to lure pigeons and doves for easy pickings, come mealtime.

© 2014, Teresa Bennett

Selective Hyperopia

photo of a man comforting another man in despair

Big boo-boo, but his friend is hyperopic today.

How many friends do you have? Not just Facebook “friends.” How many real friends: people you regularly interact with in person?

I’ll bet I have as many as you do, if not more, since I’ve had 65-plus years to accumulate them. While I’m guessing your friends may well have this condition, I know for a fact that all of my many friends have selective hyperopia.

I know they do because they’re still my friends.

If you’re not an optometrist or ophthalmologist, you probably call hyperopia by its more common name: farsightedness. The kindergarten explanation for this state is “able to see things clearly far away but having difficulty seeing things up close.”

When friends vaguely look off in the distance when I misbehave, they’ve decided to have selective hyperopia. They’ve decided not to pay attention. That selective part makes it a bit like the selective hearing my spouse maddeningly practices. But unlike my reaction to hubby’s selective hearing, I’m ever so grateful when my friends practice selective hyperopia since, quite often, my behavior doesn’t bear close scrutiny.

How about you? Are you grateful when friends avert their eyes and kindly decide not to pay attention* to your boo-boos from time to time? In certain circles, this is called grace. Regardless of the circles in which we run or what we call it, we all crave it. But if we expect to receive grace, we need to learn how to extend grace – how to practice selective hyperopia.

Hmm. How, indeed?

Some Humble Suggestions
for Practicing Selective Hyperopia

  • Consider what we know about the person’s current circumstances. Given her current situation, she might be doing as well as anyone could reasonably expect.
  • Consider what we know about the person’s background. My mother-in-law used to say, “Everyone’s carrying their own bag o’ rocks.”
  • Consider we don’t know ALL about his background or circumstances. Regardless of how transparent and open we try to be, each of us keeps some things hidden, usually the ones that are too painful to expose to others – or even to ourselves.
  • Consider we might well act the same way if we were in his shoes. This hearkens back to that Indian walk-a-mile-in-another’s-moccasins adage.
  • Consider our own most recent unfortunate and unbecoming behavior episode. Ick! That should make us a whole lot more hyperopic, eh?

Whether you call it not paying attention, grace, plain old good will and courtesy, or my newly minted term of selective hyperopia, aren’t you glad when your friends decide to practice it? And aren’t you equally glad that on your best days, you do, too?

I’m looking for more ideas for practicing selective hyperopia. Got any?

*Yes, yes, I know. I’m shamelessly advocating NOT doing something that I harp on in every other blog post. Even the best rules should be broken sometimes and when our friends need us to cut them a little slack, that’s the time for NOT paying attention.

©2014, Teresa Bennett

red box with white text: "The meaning of life. The wasted years of life. The poor choices of life. God answers the mess of life with one word: 'grace.'" – Max Lucado, Grace: More Than We Deserve, Greater Than We Imagine

God gives us grace. Shouldn’t we give it, too?

red box with white text: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Jesus, Luke 6:31, NIV Bible

We can’t go wrong taking our cue from Jesus.

red box with white text: "Grace isn't blind, just selectively hyperopic." – Teresa Bennett

Late to the party, but in very good company.

Living Thankfully, 4

photo of Mail email thank-you message

Takes five seconds, max. I am not kidding.

Living Thankfully Tip #4:
let your face and mouth know when your brain
is thinking thankful thoughts,
else the point of Living Thankfully, 3
may not hold true for you.

 

This is just common sense, so I almost didn’t include this post. But since common sense is not so common and thank yous are a bit thin on the ground these days, I decided to soldier on.

When I do something nice for someone who can’t even acknowledge my nice gesture, much less say thank you, this does not give me warm-and-fuzzy feelings for them. It also makes it hard to continue doing nice things for them.

I know. I know. How shallow. But, come clean: don’t you feel the same way? Of course you do. We all do. It’s a hard-wired thing. When you don’t let your face know you’re thankful and you can’t be bothered to say or tap out even a one-sentence thank-you, how are others supposed to know you’re grateful and thankful?

Bad news: they can’t know.

Good news: expressing thankfulness is not hard.

  • It’s painless. Contrary to what you might have been told, thank-yous and compliments won’t burn your lips as they pass over them. (I know 50-100 people who give compliments as if there’s no tomorrow, and not one of them suffers from lip burns.)
  • It takes almost no time. Verbosity is unnecessary. Short-and-sweet works.
  • It’s easy. Forget brain-drain, lyrical gushiness. Simple sincerity is sufficient.

So, choose from:

  • texting “THANKS!”
  • Facebook-ing “Big thank-you to ______ for _______!”
  • Tweeting “Big thank-you to ______ for _______!”
  • emailing “_____, thanks for the _______. It’s just what I need!”
  • calling (you know – two people get on their phones at the same time and talk to each other?) and describing how much you appreciated his help on ________.
  • writing a hard-copy note or card (yes, you can still buy stamps and yes, the USPS will still deliver your mail) with two sentences: “Aunt Anne, the photo from France is SO cool. It’s on my dining room wall. 🙂 Thanks!”

See how easy this is?

Pay attention: I don’t care – and neither do the do-gooders in your life – which one you use. JUST PICK ONE.

THEN DO IT.
DO IT NEXT WEEK,
AND THE NEXT WEEK,
AND THE NEXT WEEK,
TILL IT’S A HABIT.

Living thankfully will be even yummier, I promise, once you start TELLING people you’re thankful.

Have you thought of other reasons living thankfully is just plain good for us? Thought so. Why not share them with the rest of us?

© 2014, Teresa Bennett

red box with white text: “Silent gratitude isn't much use to anyone.” – Gladys Bronwyn Stern

Take time to TELL people you’re thankful.

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